By: Maralee McKee
Using outdated etiquette rules can make us seem stuffy and out-of-sync with the expected norms of today. Here are ten old-school etiquette rules you’ll want to retire so that you’ll come across as current, confident, and gracious in your interactions!
“Here today, gone tomorrow.” It’s a cliche we know well, but one that until the last twenty-years-or-so didn’t apply to etiquette and manners. The rules of etiquette were always slow to change. Often, they would change only when the new generation took over from the former generation.
With the impact of technology and social media on society, manners and etiquette are evolving fast to keep up because people need the best practices for these new norms and technologies now.
As a society, we move fast. We can no longer wait 20 years or more until the next generation gets around to writing the rules.
The good news is that manners evolve and change to meet the needs and sensibilities of the current culture. It’s one reason using good manners will always make us more approachable, likable, and confident. By using the most up-to-date best practices for interactions, we’re most likely to show ourselves in the best possible light.
Let’s take a look at the top ten etiquette rules that a generation ago (twenty years or less when we’re talking about etiquette and manners) were the norm of polite social and business interactions that are now considered outdated.
Outdated Etiquette Rules You No Longer Want to Use
1.) Remaining seated during an introduction. A generation ago there were only a few exceptions to the rule that a lady never stood up to shake hands or while being introduced.
Today, especially in a business setting, a woman should always rise (literally!) to the occasion of meeting or saying hello. For more information on this cornerstone of modern manners, check out this post: When to Stand and Why.
2.) Waiting to extend your hand, or extending it in a “princess-like” fashion, instead of offering a correct handshake. Our handshake is our olive branch and nonverbal invitation to “Come on over and join in!”
Have you ever received a handshake that just didn’t feel right? It was as if the other person was afraid you had cooties or didn’t want to commit to fully connecting with you. That doesn’t leave you with a great impression of the other person, does it?
If you’ll notice in the photo above in this blog post, the lady is extending her hand in what’s commonly referred to in etiquette circles as the “cold fish,” “princess,” or “finger-tip” handshake. While girls and ladies were once taught to offer their hands in this dainty way, offering a hand in this fashion keeps the other person from being able to shake it properly.
There is a best practice for shaking hands, and you’ll find it in this post on How to make a Great First Impression — The Five-Step Formula.
3.) Gentlemen, you no longer need to wait until a lady extends her hand. You’re free to offer your hand first. While this is now the proper modern etiquette in the United States, it does vary from country to country. You’ll find it safer to wait for the lady to extend her hand in some European countries and in all Muslim nations where it’s best not to initiate touching, including handshakes, with a woman.
4.) Kissing a lady’s hand is now considered pretentious instead of polite. People should be greeted with a handshake in business situations and a handshake or a hug, depending on your relationship with the individual, in social situations.
Hand-kissing has always been more Continental than American. Did you know that it was only considered proper to kiss the hand of married ladies? Single women were simply offered a slight bow in the olden days!
Today, hand kissing is too formal for our everyday encounters. So gentlemen, when in Rome, help yourself! But, when in Chicago, or Boise, or anywhere else in the USA, extend your hand for a proper handshake!
5.) Men no longer have to enter the backseat of a cab or Uber first. Here’s an outdated etiquette rule that a lot of people never knew existed. While it’s common for ladies to go first in most social situations, this never applied to entering the backseat of a car.
The gentleman would open the door for the lady, then step in front of her and enter the backseat of the car first, leaving her to close the car door.
Because more often than not, the lady was wearing a dress, and it’s difficult to slide graciously to the other side of the backseat of a vehicle in a dress.
We now take a more commonsense approach because other drivers on the roads have become less patient. The person who can most quickly navigate to the seat behind the driver enters the car and scoots over, allowing the other person just to enter and close the door. That way, the car spends the least amount of time stopped and blocking cars behind it.
6.) We no longer need to call other adults who are approximately our same age by Mr. or Ms. and their last name until they ask us to call them by their first name. Unless it’s your corporate culture to do otherwise, as an adult you’re safe to call someone you’ve just met by their first name. Be aware this is not the case in some European countries where people do not use a first-name basis with co-workers, clients, vendors, and others.
In the United States we tend to call each other by our first names as soon as we’ve met, but if you’re not sure, err on the side of formality. It’s never wrong to call someone Mr. or Ms. and their last name.
For more on this important subject and on the use of titles vs. honorifics, you’ll want to check out this post on proper modern usage: Should We Still Say “Yes, Ma’am!” and “No, Sir”?
7.) You no longer have to offer a toast with wine or champagne. There are many reasons why someone might choose not to drink alcohol, including wine or champagne. In fact, it’s now considered rude instead of polite to offer someone an adult beverage who is already drinking something else. Why someone chooses not to imbibe is a private matter.
You can raise your glass no matter what you’re drinking, including water.
8.) You don’t want to wait a year to send a wedding gift. In the days before gift registries existed and there was no such thing as express delivery, it was considered appropriate for wedding guests to deliver their gifts to the happy couple any time before the newlywed’s first wedding anniversary.
Now that gift registries tell you exactly what the couple is hoping to receive, and companies like Amazon can deliver items in a matter of days, wedding gifts should arrive before the wedding!
Yes, before the wedding.
At the least, if you’re attending the ceremony, you should bring the gift with you. Here is where you can find out the modern must-knows about the etiquette of giving wedding gifts and how to be everyone’s favorite wedding guest.
9.) You no longer have to return a dish full of food when you’ve been gifted food. Not too long ago, you were never supposed to return an empty food container to someone who brought you food.
This manner never made sense. While it’s a nice thought, the fact that you had to return the dish full meant you had to work for your gift. In fact, now it’s kind to place the food in a container the recipient can keep as part of the gift, or at least a recyclable plastic container that you don’t expect the person to return.
Nowadays, a thank you note is all you need to give to show your appreciation for the person’s kindness. The easy formula for writing heartfelt thank you notes is in this post.
If you find yourself providing meals for friends or on the receiving end of meals due to having a new baby or perhaps surgery, illness, or a personal setback, you’ll enjoy knowing the tips in this post, which covers all the basics of giving and receiving food from friends.
10.) You no longer have to change conversational partners with each new course at a dinner party. There was a time when, following the lead of the host or hostess, you would first talk to the person on your right, and continue talking to that same person throughout the first course.
When served the second course, you would turn your attention to the person on your left and engage in conversation until the third course arrived.
While eating the third course, you would go back to talking to the person on your right. It was called “turning the table,” and it was done to make sure no one was without a table mate to talk to during dinner.
These days we like our conversations authentic, not mandatory or staged, so we let them flow naturally throughout the meal.
Talk to those around you without regard to rigid formalities. Just make sure to invite anyone sitting near you into your conversation if you see that the person isn’t talking to anyone. Being left out is a horrible feeling, and it’s one we can make sure no one at our table ever feels!
Outdated Etiquette Rules
Because etiquette has evolved so much in the last twenty years to keep up with our fast-paced and techno-savvy culture, I could have included another 20 outdated etiquette rules.
Most of them would have dealt with the changing roles of men and women in dating and social situations. However, in these areas, it isn’t so much that something is technically right or wrong (from an etiquette standpoint). It has more to do with how a couple chooses to live out the traditional roles. So I’ll save those outdated manners for a different post!
What etiquette would you like to see included on our list of outdated ones? Or what great old manner would you like to see used more often? Let us know in the comments! Our comment section is a private Facebook page for subscribers only. Join us! It’s a fun place of friendship and fellowship! You’ll find the Family Room Fellowship by clicking this link. Be sure to answer the question Facebook will ask while requesting to join, and also know that this group is only for blog subscribers to build community within our group.
Thank you for being here today! Until next time, keep doing what only you can do. Make your corner of the world better by being you at your authentic best!