Modern Etiquette: 11 Simple Ways To Show You Care

etiquette tips

My daughter and I were talking the other night about how fast-paced our modern society is. Due to the instantaneous nature of texts, emails, and social media, it often feels as though we need to accomplish everything RIGHT NOW.

In our perpetual hurry, it’s easy to let social etiquette fall by the wayside. But I’m not talking about the sort of etiquette my grandma felt strongly about, with rules like “no elbows on the dinner table.” I’m talking about a modern sort of etiquette, one that involves slowing down, prioritizing relationships, and being a good neighbor. I would argue that we need this kind of etiquette now more than ever!

With as many tragedies as we see in the news today, it can seem like the world is full of hatred, evil, and misery. But rather than focusing on negativity, we should remember the eloquent words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I think we all need to take it upon ourselves to put more light and love into the world, in whatever ways we can. The “modern etiquette rules” I’m sharing today are simple things you can do every day to make the people in your life — whether they’re family, friends, or members of your community — feel seen, respected, and loved.

By spreading your light and love around whenever you can, you’re helping to create a better, safer world for all of us.

11 Etiquette Tips For The Modern World

etiquette tips

1. Put Down Your Phone

Plan an evening with friends or family where everyone puts their cell phone into a basket upon arriving. Talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company! (If you want to put a competitive spin on it, eat out with a group and have everyone put their phones in the center of the table. The first person uses their phone has to pick up the check!)

etiquette tips

2. Write A Card

Writing things by hand is becoming increasingly rare as technology progresses, and that makes it all the more meaningful. If you’re giving someone a card for their birthday or a wedding, make sure to include a handwritten sentiment inside the card. (Or better yet, make your own greeting cards!)

You could also carry around a few blank cards so that you can jot down a quick message of gratitude for people who help you or brighten your day. You could use them to thank clients, bosses, coworkers, teachers, or the employees at your favorite stores and cafes.

etiquette tips

3. Be On Time

Punctuality can be a real struggle for some people, but it’s worth the effort. Being on time on the job shows professionalism and competence, and in your personal life, it shows consideration for others and an eagerness to connect. If you’re the type who’s always running 5 minutes late, try leaving 10 minutes earlier than you normally would!

etiquette tips

4. Hang Up At The Register

Swinging by the grocery store on your way home from work may be a convenient time to return that missed call from earlier, but you shouldn’t be talking on the phone when you’re at the register. Whether you’re at a grocery store, coffee shop, or anywhere else, the person behind the cash register deserves your attention and respect.

etiquette tips

5. Avoid “Dropping In”

There was a time when a surprise visit from a friend may have been a welcome interlude to your day. Today, however, we not only have a lot going on, but we’re all reachable by call or text. Rather than assuming someone has time to visit with you if you show up unannounced, send a text to confirm whether they’re available before heading over.

etiquette tips

6. Don’t Stoop To Someone Else’s Level

When someone is rude to you, it can be tempting to match their rudeness and give them a “taste of their own medicine.” But doing something wrong just because someone else did it first doesn’t make it right. Instead of stooping to their level, remind yourself of what you believe is right and stick to it.

etiquette tips

7. Take Care Of The Sick

If you hear about someone in your family or neighborhood struggling with their health, see if you can find the time to drop off a simple get-well gift. Social support not only reduces stress, but it has been shown to actually improve our physical health.

etiquette tips

8. Welcome Newcomers

Welcome newcomers in your neighborhood with a thoughtful gift that speaks to what you know or like about your neighborhood. I think a treat from a local business, a map of the area with your favorite spots highlighted, or a stack of menus from your favorite take-out places would all make great welcome gifts!

etiquette tips

9. Sit Down To Chat

If you’re calling someone to catch up, take the time to sit down and focus on the conversation. I know it can be tempting to squeeze those calls into your commute or while you’re doing chores, but even the most skilled multitaskers are likely to be less engaged in a conversation if they’re doing something else at the same time.

etiquette tips

10. Send A Postcard

Send postcards to friends or family when you travel. They may not be the only way to keep in touch when you’re away from home anymore, but they’re still a fun and affordable way to let someone know you’re thinking about them, and they make a great keepsake.

etiquette tips

11. Keep A Guest Book

If you host guests frequently in your house, get a notebook to serve as a guest book and leave it in your guest room (or wherever your guests typically stay). You’ll get a book full of fun memories of your guests, and your guests will feel good about the fact that you want to remember their stay!

What tips or rules would you add to this list?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • I love these ideas. What really drove me crazy at my last job was all of the kids and adults who were checking their phones. I know some people have a genuine reason like using it for a watch or needing it on them if they have young kids . But a lot of it was just excessive and rude.

  • This probably has already been commented on, but never go to someone’s home empty-handed. If you were invited over, even for coffee/tea to catch up, bring something even if it’s store-bought. Also, be on time. :)

  • Great ideas. Working in retail
    sometimes it seems like people don’t have good manners. I hate to say this but it someone is on their phone the whole time- we’ll just bag their stuff however. It sends a message- what their doing is more important than being nice to us.

  • In regards to using chia seeds–I find by taking a few tsp. in a glass of water–drinking it down before it gels–keeps bowel movements regular. May not be fun to talk about but very important!

  • Several years ago, that is exactly what I did with all cell phones when my family were gathered for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is when I would give out gifts for everyone, rather than Christmas. I made a pretty little box and had everyone drop their phone in it but let them know they did not have to but then they were not welcome to stay in the room where presents were to be given out.

    Also, if someone came to visit me and had their nose in the phone constantly–I would announce that I would be in my computer room and when they wanted to visit to simply let me know and I would visit. I think they got the message!

  • I always say I’ll be early for my own death. I would rather be an hour early than 5 minutes late. I just can’t tolerate tardiness. There is hardly ever a good excuse. When my grandkids travel they always get to pick out postcards and send them to someone. During the school year it is often to their teacher. My daughter has also taught them the importance of thank you notes. We get them almost weekly from them! They are always so sweet whatever they are thanking us for, a gift, dinner out, an excursion or just a fun time!

  • Just new to your site. Thanks for all the wonderful wisdom you share with all of us. I have shared so much of the info from your site with many, many friends, family and neighbors. Wish I had thought about the guest book idea for all the dinners I have given for the many missionaries that have come to dinner or for an evening of fun and fellowship. Thanks so much!!!

  • I love the idea of a guest book, but to take it to a new level (for those of us who don’t have a guest room) have that book for holidays! How I wish I could read the writings of some of my relatives who are now gone.

  • As a new member to your Website just want to let you know how much I
    Enjoy your daily writings. I have already put into practice lots of your ideas.
    Keep up the good work. June

  • these are all great ideas. the one about the first person to use their cell phone having to foot the dinner bill is too funny. i made handmade cards & stationary not long ago and it is so much fun. i also made a cold & flu basket like the one you pictured to give my mom before the flu season hit. i added cough drops, lemon-ginger herb tea, cold-eeze and other items she tends to run out of but really needs/likes. love the addition of something light to read/do for when you’re all stuffed up and just lying around.

    i’ve also seen these gift playing cards called “box of blessings” on amazon that have great quotes or scripture on them that can be added to cards/letters/gifts to encourage others. i’ve been wanting to buy some and make my own too.

  • I recently lost my husband and I have mounds of cards and handwritten notes to give me comfort. I feel truly blessed. Unfortunately , some only sent a note on Facebook. I think Facebook is fine to wish a Happy Birthday but not to acknowledge a loss. Would not do that, too personal. Can’t write well? Lots of beautiful cards to do that for you or even a quick phone call shows you really care.

    • Betty, I realize that I am writing to you six years, after the fact, but I still wanted to tell you that I am so sorry for your loss. Your comment was lovely, and others should/could learn something from it! We have become such fast-moving people and we have even begun using the first letter of each word, combined, to shorten what we have to say to each other!! )I hope you know what I mean…I don’t remember what they call that! ie: BTW for by the way, etc.) I do not think that some of our young really understand how meaningful and deep a relationship, “in the old days”, could really be. The pain of losing a soulmate can hurt for many years. God bless…

  • I bought a few little books from Amazon like “You Are Doing a Freaking Great Job.: And Other Reminders of Your Awesomeness” and those “Me and My Big Ideas” cards. I took the books (they are small 4.25 X 4.25) and ripped them apart. Then I took some of those and some cards and have some at work and at home with envelopes and stamps handy and then when I am thinking of someone, I go thru my pile of uplifting quotes, jot a little note on the back and put it in the mail. I feel like everyone thinks their too busy to write out a note card but anybody can do this!

  • This morning, prior to reading this article, I wrote out 5 birthday cards to friends who are celebrating their birthdays this month….some in their 80’s. It’s always a pleasure to know that someone still remembers your birthday! It’s sad to think of how many have no contact with their families at all. That’s what friends are for! Really enjoyed your article. Hope lots of readers are taking your advice. Thanks!!

  • I so enjoyed reading this & realizing that, yes! there like minded people…
    All are great & I enjoy practicing often. Especially the cell phone basket!

  • All wonderful ideas! Thankyou!!
    Your comment about not-so-great handwriting put me in mind of a long-ago memory: my 4th grade teacher, a robust and passionate dear lady named Violet Khromer, gave the class a particular homework exercise to be done every evening. We were to take a page of newsprint (yes, back in the day everyone had a newspaper) draw 1″ lines across it, then take pen in hand and fill the rows with spirals and circles: forward, backward, concentric, whatever. We all thought she was crazy! But after a couple of weeks, our handwriting improved tremendously; the practice helped with our fine-muscle control. Helped me to get into calligraphy a few years later! Even when doodling today, I find myself drawing spirals and circles. Now in my 60’s (and how the heck did THAT happen?!?) my handwriting is still crisp and elegant. Thanks for letting me share!!

  • Sadly you didn’t hit on one thing that truly annoys me. PEOPLE NOT SAYING PLEASE AND THANK YOU. It annoys me do bad. What happened to just plain nice courtesy. This is why things are falling apart. How many people can look at a newspaper and see something that someone did something nice. I gave up reading the papers or listening to the news, too depressing.

    • Sounds like a conversation I had just yesterday with a friend who was going over all the ills of the world , I stopped her tirade with my comment that I am aware of the stuff going on , but refuse to contribute to the bad energy by discussing it . Many don’t realize that when you think and talk about anything you reinforce the energy pro and con.
      As for please and thank you it surprises me how many look at me in shock when I offer it, even a simple excuse me when I pass in front of someone in the grocery store is met with surprise .
      Blessings
      Leslie

  • Jillee, these were wonderful ideas. I actually have a folder of about 40 cards that I bought over time, planning on sending them, and never did. They were put in a drawer and hidden. I recently took them out, bought stamps and made myself a promise that I would mail at least one, to a random friend every week. On a recent trip, I also sent a postcard to a little girl we know, and to my mom. They both loved it. I know that I love getting mail from friends. It seems, now all we get is bills and junk mail.
    This is not really etiquette, but I also love to give positive feedback for customer service. Whether it was a phone call, online chat, grocery clerk or at the doctors office. If they have gone above and beyond, or even brightened my day in some way, I will call or write a letter. Managers are often very surprised to hear compliments. Their days are often full of complaints. It only takes a couple of minutes out of my day.
    Thank you for everything you do for this site everyday Jillee!

  • Who knew? Postcards are not always easy to find anymore! Several times we have looked for them on our travels and there have been none . . . “the cupboard was bare.” :(

  • A lovely post Karianne. Sadly, we live in the Orlando area and the tragedy hit very close to home.

    I have always been one who loves to write personal notes and send cute little “have a nice day” cards to friends and family but, unfortunately, I suffered a stroke in January. While I am Blessed that the only lasting effect is a weakness in my right hand, it also means I no longer have my pretty handwriting. I can still write, but often it is less than perfect. Lately, if I must do more than a signature, I have resorted to typing and I always feel that is so impersonal. But…sometimes we have to what we have to do. ;)

    Always love reading your wonderful writings!

    • Julie,
      I am sure your friends and family would understand if you need to type something, and then signed the bottom. Or if you hand wrote a note, and you don’t think it looks like your old beautiful handwriting….I bet it still looks beautiful to them. They are thankful you are still here with them. :)

    • Julie, I sympathize with you. I am gradually losing the use of my writing hand and, I too, was one who enjoyed sending written messages. A couple of things I found that have helped is to use different fonts, cut and paste, and also to use a rubber stamp to personalize my notes. I even have stickers that I can use on the back of the envelope. Messages that can be held in the receiver’s hands hold a special significance. Kudos to you for giving those sweet notes!

  • Very nice post. Your suggestions are spot on. My grown girls still exchange written letters with their friends. They don’t have to be often, but boy isn’t it nice to go the mailbox and see that someone took the time to write a personal thought. The internet is easy, but just not the same. Old fashioned can be hip.

  • I like the idea of carrying the cards with you for servers, etc.
    Your column is an inspiration to me. I tell everyone who has interest in your ideas about it.
    Susan

  • Thank you so much Jillee. I look forward to your great ideas and suggestions. You continue to be an inspiration to alot of us. Be good to each other is what I try to pass on to my community. A smile for a stranger doesn’t cost us anything but the rewards can be life changing. Keep up the wonderful work you do everyday. Thank you for being there for all of us.

  • Great ideas. I’ve actually made a few cards using some of the ideas from that blog. We’ve made our own cards with my nieces with these ideas. They had a blast. I agree, very few people send out handwritten notes these days.

  • I love to make cards and send letters and they are quite often saved by the recipient as it makes them feel special. I quite often write to my father In law in Ireland and he says it’s like going back 20 years. You can always re-read letters and cards. I have a cards written to me by my dear nan when l was at Sunday School Camp in 1978.
    I do find it hard to put my phone down incase someone is taken ill suddenly or the kids need me. If we are out for a meal l will keep it on my handbag but l check it. I also run an online business from my phone.

  • Thank you, Jillee! Today’s post was so pertinent. As a senior I bemoan the poor etiquette of folks today. (Do they even teach etiquette is schools today?) It seems people are too focused on rushing! I find that taking the time to smile and say a kind or pleasant word to people makes such a difference. I’ve had even the grumpiest of sales clerks change their attitude after dealing with my “sunny” personality for a few minutes. I’m hoping they pass along their new attitude. That’s my contribution to my community and the world. And it requires so little effort! All of your suggestions were right on and I hope folks listen – I especially like the one about putting cell phones down. At home parents should require all cell phones be turned off during all meals and for two hours in the evening so the family can talk to each other! Here’s hoping your readers heed your advice!

    • Please don’t blame teachers for not teaching etiquette!!It would be nice if etiquette was taught at home. Why should teachers have to teach something that should be ingrained by the time they start school?

  • What a lovely thing to leave for us to read! It is truly a blessing to stop and take notice of other people; an old person resting on a seat outside a store, waiting for a relative to finish their shopping and pick them up to go home again. They love for you to stop and chat for a minute. Now we can make cards on computer, it is such a good idea to make some up ahead of time so you DO something when you feel prompted, instead of thinking, “I should do that when I get home..” and never think of it again. How wonderful our world would be, despite all the sadness in it, with people who are interested enough to take the time to enquire, “How are you?” We only pass each other perhaps once in a lifetime, who knows how many opportunities we have missed to brighten someone’s day, or smile at a little toddler trapped in a trolley at the supermarket. I remember how exciting shopping used to be in my day. We could get much closer to the ‘stuff’ on the shelves, but we were never allowed to ‘touch’ – our eyes did the ‘touching.’ Sigh! It all passes so quickly, doesn’t it. Make it count!

  • All great ideas. I, like so many others, hurry through life trying to fit in as much as I can. There is something to be said about that old saying, “Take time to smell the roses.”. I really enjoyed your post today and will definitely will adopt some of your suggestions. Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put in providing us with great ideas.

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