You likely don’t think of yourself as rude. Maybe you hold doors for others at the store, say “please” and “thank you” and carefully park between the lines at shopping malls. You may not even be aware that you’re doing things people may consider rude.
No one can be perfect — and some people’s ideas of what is considered rude are unreasonable. I’ll never forget being chewed out by a man at a shopping mall ATM because he thought I was standing too close to him in line. (I still don’t think I was.)
Diane Gottsman, an international etiquette expert, author and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, shares with us some of the rude things that people may do without even realizing it.
1. Cellphone misuse
Cellphones are a boon in so many ways, but it’s also easy to go wrong with them. Gottsman points out multiple problems with their use, generally based around talking in public.
She calls out using the speaker-phone feature in public, blabbing on one’s phone while going through a grocery or coffeeshop line and also texting while on a busy street, which can cause a pedestrian traffic jam.
2. Chewing with your mouth open
Since childhood, you’ve probably been admonished not to chew with your mouth open. But even adults sometimes forget. No one wants to see or hear your food being mashed up.
“Even though we all know it’s rude, people don’t realize they are doing it,” Gottsman tells Money Talks News. “Make a conscious effort to be aware of how you chew your food. Also, pay attention to the sounds you make when you are eating and take smaller bites if you find yourself making a great deal of unnecessary noise.”
3. Having the last word
The key to a good chat? Sometimes, not overdoing it. Think about whether you always get the last word in any conversation, and whether you could allow someone else that privilege.
“A good conversationalist doesn’t need to weigh in on every thought,” Gottsman says. “Sometimes it’s better to let a topic die gracefully, rather than getting in a word war over how to make deviled eggs.”
4. Too much scent
Perfume ads make it seem as if you’re practically naked without a fragrance. Yet no one will notice if you don’t wear scent, and they might be annoyed if you overdo it. And many people have allergies or are otherwise sensitive to strong scents.
“If you find that people consistently comment on your fragrance, it’s probably not a compliment,” Gottsman says. “It means your cologne is strong.”
5. Calling people sir and ma’am
Gottsman’s thoughts on this might surprise many Southerners, who grew up believing that using such honorifics were the proper thing to do.
“While it’s a respectful gesture for young children, calling a grown woman ‘ma’am’ when you are the same age feels dismissive and may offend someone who may think you are assuming they are older,” she says. “Instead, use their name.”
6. Forgetting to make introductions
Say you’re chatting to a friend at an event, and another person walks up. Even if you think these two have met before, there’s only so much room in all of our brains for names. Take one for the team and make the introductions.
“When you have the opportunity to connect two people to each other, make sure you introduce them by first and last name,” Gottsman says. It’s rude to tell them to introduce themselves to each other or to do nothing at all, she explains.
7. Asking personal questions
The internet demolished some of the barriers between us. Now, if I know your address, I can easily look up how much you paid for your home, and if you’re a sharer on Facebook, I can see your latest vacation photos or read about your kid’s grades. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to pry when we chat in person.
“Some people believe if they get personal, they are building a bond,” Gottsman says. “On the contrary, asking too many questions too fast feels invasive and nosy. Don’t ask someone if they are married, have kids, how much their car costs or any other question that would potentially make them feel uncomfortable.”