As we navigate raising children and grandchildren, one of the most important lessons we impart on younger generations is simple - always be kind. Being polite in a world that isn't always sunshine and rainbows can go a long way. But sometimes, we as adults fall short.
It's important to be polite to cultivate meaningful relationships and to grow as individuals. And though our lives and friendships might change as we get older, the desire to be the best versions of ourselves should not. Here are easy things to do if you're aiming to be more polite.
Say 'please' and 'thank you'
One of the best life lessons we learn from our parents at an early age is to always say "please" and "thank you." This is a rule that stands the test of time. Thanking someone for an act of kindness or for simply doing their job can brighten their day and yours in return.
Hold the door for strangers
Should you still hold the door for someone? The answer to this modern etiquette question is yes. Holding the door open for the person behind you is a simple, yet kind, act. We all have places to be, but if you see someone behind you, especially someone with a stroller or limited mobility, taking a few extra seconds to hold the door open is common courtesy.
Tip when dining
There are plenty of things customers can do that servers might hate. But refusing to leave a tip after sitting and dining at a restaurant goes beyond being impolite - it's just rude. If a server does their best to guarantee each dish is top-notch and everyone is satisfied, the least a customer can do is leave behind a tip to thank them. So, the next time you're rummaging through your pockets wondering how much you should tip a nice barista or pizza guy, follow this tipping guideline.
A neighbor can be someone who lives next door or a co-worker who sits nearby. Either way, saying "hello" is a great way to be polite and potentially make a new friend. Making small talk like a pro is a gift for some and an acquired skill for others, but asking someone about their day is a great place to start.
Participate in conversations
Some people prefer to keep to themselves, and that's fine. If brainstorming the perfect thing to say at a social gathering makes you anxious, there's no need to stress yourself out. But if you're included in a discussion or someone asks for your opinion on a matter, you should try your best to add a few thoughts to the conversation.
Put your phone away
We get it. It's the 21st century, and it's harder than ever to put the phone down. But scrolling through your phone while at the dinner table or on a date is one of the most common etiquette mistakes you can make. If you absolutely have to take a phone call, excuse yourself and step into another room to avoid disrupting others.
It doesn't matter if your playlist includes every chart-topping song, no one wants to hear it played aloud on the elevator or on public transportation. The same goes for phone calls. Plug in a pair of headphones and enjoy your personal matters privately to avoid being rude.
Be on time
William Shakespeare said it best: "Better three hours too soon than a minute too late." Three hours early may be a bit overkill, but the message is clear - be on time. And if you're running late, give the people you're meeting a heads up so they know your whereabouts.
When we see someone who looks different than us, our first instinct might be to stare. Someone in a wheelchair or with a common skin disorder might draw looks, but don't join the crowd. More often than not, starting a conversation with the person is the best route to go. Just be thoughtful in what you say, because there might be questions you didn't know were rude.
Don't talk about others behind their back
Other than being one of the many habits of toxic people, gossiping and talking about people behind their backs is just wrong. Making up lies or spreading another person's information is a breach of trust and is sure to ruin any friendship.
Return phone calls
In this day and age, phone calls are rare. Sending a text is a quicker way to get a message across, and it's usually just as efficient. But if someone does give you a call, it's polite to make the effort to return it.
RSVP to events
If someone is asking you to RSVP for an event, chances are it's for an important reason. Whether it be to gauge the amount of food needed or for seating purposes, knowing who can and can't attend an event just makes planning easier. The most polite thing you can do is RSVP before the suggested confirmation date. Wedding etiquette isn't what it used to be, so RSVPing for a wedding might be as simple as clicking yes or no in an email, but if you're asked to mail your reply, plan ahead and consider how long it might take your response to reach their doorstep.
Write 'thank you' notes
Writing a "thank you" note for someone who bought you a gift or joined in your celebration might seem like an etiquette lesson our grandparents held near and dear, but it's just as important today. It takes time (not to mention money) to pick the perfect gift for a friend or to travel to a party. Sending a note shows how much you appreciate them for taking the time to think of you.
Offer guests refreshments
The rules when you're a houseguest are simple: Don't overstay your welcome, respect the homeowner's wishes and make sure things are just as tidy when you leave as they were when you arrived. But as the welcomer, it's just as important to be polite and courteous. When guests arrive, offer them a drink or a light snack, especially if you were the one who invited them over.
Keep your hands to yourself
Keeping your hands to yourself is one of the many manners every child should learn and adults should never forget. A pregnant woman with an adorable baby bump or a happily squealing child might inspire you to reach out in a moment of excitement, but it's rude to touch anyone without their permission. It's also a quick way to spread germs, especially during flu season.
Be courteous when sick
If you're one of the few people who never get sick, you're winning at life. For everyone else, catching a cold is just part of the norm given the changing seasons. If you've got a case of the sniffles or an uncontrollable cough, excuse yourself for a few minutes to have a glass of water and clear your nose without disturbing those around you. And if you're really feeling sick, it might be best just to stay home to prevent spreading germs.
Tip mail carriers
During the holiday season, mail carriers are living and breathing Santa Clauses. They assist in making sure your packages arrive at your doorstep despite poor weather conditions or a few barks from your dog. If you're not already planning to buy a gift for their hard work, tipping them a few dollars is a nice way to show your appreciation for making the holidays even more special.
Bring packages for neighbors
If you notice a delivery truck dropping off a package for someone in your building who's not around, bring the package to their door. Not only will you spare your neighbor the grief of having their items stolen or damaged, but it's a great way to show gratitude, too.
Give up your subway seat
An easy way to be polite every day if you travel by train is to offer up your seat to a pregnant, handicap or elderly passenger. They most likely need it more than you do, and you can save them from having to navigate any rough bumps or sudden turns.
Open car doors
Chivalry isn't dead, in spite of what they say. Opening a car door for a date is a rule taken from an older playbook, but it remains a great way to show kindness even today. Being kind from the very first date to years after the "I do's" are spoken is just one of the great tips from our grandparents on how to make a marriage last.
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