Although it might not be true that people were more polite fifty years ago, than they are today but there are certain things about our busy, hectic, tech-filled lives that makes it easier to drop the ball, when it comes to being kind and showing some old-fashioned politeness. These charming gestures are quickly becoming a thing of the past as we rush around, bury our faces into our phones, and flake out on plans at the very last minute.
But there are ways to turn these habits around and be more polite, especially since the extra effort is always worth it. "Practicing polite gestures is a way to show respect for the people we encounter," etiquette expert Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, tells Bustle. "When we hold a door, smile, and remember to say thank you for even the smallest gesture, it makes us feel good ... Engaging in polite behavior is a healthy way to maintain a positive attitude."
But politeness also helps us connect to people, which is more important now than ever. "Politeness boils down to connecting and respecting other people," Youst says. "Bringing back some gestures from the good old days isn't about going backwards in time. It's about showing people we care and are willing to invest time and energy into our relationships." Here are some tips from the experts on how to do just that.
1. Remembering To Respond To An RSVP
After receiving a wedding invite in the mail, some of us might respond on the little RSVP card that's often included, and pop it in the mail. But the rest of us simply text our friends to say, "Yeah, I'll come!" Or, we forget all to reply altogether.
And for obvious reasons, that's not very cool. "With texting and other ways of communicating, we are not conditioned to respond to an RSVP," Youst says. "It would be better and [more] polite to respond to an RSVP the way they are intended to be responded to."
Responding to the RSVP in a timely matter, and in the way requested, will make it easier for the host, who's likely scrambling to get a head count for their event. So put it in your calendar and mail that card back, ASAP.
2. Using More Caring, Charming Language
It's possible to be and sound more polite, simply by changing up your language and peppering in words and phrases that have that old time-y charm. For example, "when someone thanks you for something you've done, instead of just saying 'you're welcome' try saying 'my pleasure,'" licensed psychotherapist and communication expert Karol Ward, LCSW tells Bustle. "It's such a warm statement and reflects genuine caring."
You might also ask, "how's your day going?" instead of "how are you?" As Ward says, phrases like these aren't just polite, but they open us up to socializing with people in little ways throughout the day. And that's definitely something we should bring back.
3. Standing Up To Greet Someone
Back in the day, when people were introduced to a group (say, at a dinner party) everyone would stand up to greet them. So let's go ahead and bring that back, since it's oh-so-polite.
"[T]here is something very respectful about greeting someone eye-to-eye," says Ward. All you have to do, if you're seated and they're standing, is stand up briefly as you shake their hand. "They will appreciate this non-verbal way of being welcomed."
4. Being Extra Polite On Elevators
It's easy to forget "elevator" etiquette when you're tired, stressed, or running late. And yet just a few kind gestures can go a long way. "Sounds silly but offering to press the buttons for those around is really considerate," etiquette consultant Julia Esteve Boyd tells Bustle. "As is letting elderly people enter/exit first [and] letting people exit before trying to squeeze in." By doing so, you'll make the whole process smoother, and make everyone's day a little better in the process.
5. Getting To Know New Neighbors
Whether you live in a town or an apartment building, if you spot new neighbors moving in, go ahead and welcome them. "Whenever you have a new neighbor, you want your relationship to start off on a good foot, and what better way than to surprise your neighbor with a small gift," author and lifestyle expert Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. "Making someone feel comfortable when they've moved to a new place is a wonderful thing to do, and it will be remembered."
People tend to keep to themselves more these days, but by reaching out to neighbors, we can bring a little bit of that charm and connectedness back.
6. Calling Instead Of Texting To Ask Someone Out
When it comes to dating, it's fine to text as you get to know someone. But there's something really great about the closeness that comes from actually speaking on the phone, too.
"Hearing someone’s voice is very intimate, and such a turn-on to help keep you connected between dates and meetings," dating coach Jenna Birch tells Bustle. "Since you have to be much more plugged into the conversation than if you’re simply texting ... integrating phone calls into your relationship indicates how much you care and that you’re willing to invest actual attention in your romantic partner — a clear indicator that you want to escalate the relationship."
7. Clarifying Where You Stand As A Couple
If you've been dating someone for a while, it's always polite to have the "are we dating?" conversation as soon as you can, instead of just leaving each other hanging and wondering.
"Defining the relationship, or clarifying where you’re going as a couple, is so important," says Birch. "More [people] than ever complain to me about how romantically vague we are these days." So if you're into your current partner, and want to make things official, sit down and have a heart-to-heart about where you stand. They'll really appreciate it.
8. Going On A Date Sans Technology
Let's bring back the simplicity of enjoying each other's company, sans technology, just like couples did back in the day.
"Once a month a couple should spend a couple of hours together without distractions," counselor Benjamin Halpern, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Before all technological advances and disturbances, people were more connected and less lonely. Re-enforcing a undisturbed human connection will do wonders to help strengthen and re-solidify a relationship."
9. Slowing Down When Interacting With Others
Busyness is nothing new, but there's no denying the world seems ever faster today. And because of that, it's so easy to speed through your day, and kind of ignore the people you interact with — like your barista, Uber driver, etc.
If you want to be more polite, it can help to slow down. "When you are ordering your coffee, sandwich, asking for directions, or interacting with anyone who is helping you; give them your full attention," Ward says. "There is nothing worse then being on your phone or texting while talking with another person. Unless you have an emergency, smile, make eye contact, and answer politely."
Not only will this help you be more present, but it'll help you form connections. "In the past there were less distractions and people interacted more," Ward says. "If you were on a line, on a bus, or waiting in an office, the opportunity to make chit-chat was more available. This was a great way of unofficially networking, sometimes flirting, and also making new friends."
10. Sending Handwritten Notes
Handwritten notes can go a long way in helping you stand out from others, while also making you look super polite. Think along the lines of sending out real wedding invitations, notes to potential bosses, or thank you cards when someone sends you a gift.
"It was always exciting to receive a card or letter in the mail that you know the sender took the time to express their thoughts," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "Receiving emails or texts may be immediate, but looking at a card ... with a few well thought out sentences tells the recipient that you really made an effort to reach out to them to thank them or tell them how much you miss or care about them."
11. Visiting A Friend When They're Sick
There's something so nice about visiting a sick friend in person, instead of just sending them a text. "Why not offer to make them chicken soup or pick up food or medicine for them? If they are in the hospital, call them if you are unable to visit them. Send them a get well card," says Rappaport. "There is nothing more thoughtful than doing something for someone when they are unable to do it for themselves because they are under the weather."
12. Calling When You're Running Late
Texting makes it easy for us to flake out on our friends, by saying things like "I'm on my way" even when we're so not. But just because it's easy doesn't mean it's OK.
"If you know someone is waiting for you and you are running late, call or text them to let them know so they will not worry about you," Rappaport says. That'll also give them the chance to rearrange their plans, if they want to.
13. Canceling Plans Well In Advance
If something comes up and you can't make it to an event or party last minute, that's totally OK. But if you know well in advance that you're not going to attend, or that you don't want to go, let the person who invited you know as soon as you can. And this goes for friends, as well as things like doctor's appointments. "Call them as soon as possible to cancel so they can ask someone else to fill your slot," Rappaport says.
By integrating some of these old-fashioned polite gestures into your life, experts say you'll begin to notice that your daily interactions are more meaningful, and you might even feel happier as a result.