Etiquette Q and A- Etiquette Questions Answered

I get asked all sorts of etiquette questions via email and my phone. This is just a sampling:

Q- I’m dating a great guy with only one flaw.  He insists on choosing my meals for me when we are out dining. I usually don’t like his choices. Help!
A- A great guy will certainly understand if you ask to reverse roles every now and then.  Offer to choose for him.  Maybe he’ll get the hint.  If he doesn’t, be direct yet polite. Explain that you really prefer to choose your own items.  Possibly something you’ve been craving lately.  If he bristles at your revelation, he isn’t all that great, he has control issues.

Q -Is it ever okay to e-mail an RSVP or thank you note?  My plate is too full these days for snail-mail correspondence.
A -Not unless the gift was emailed to you or the invitation was sent using email. If you do start the practice of e-mailing responses to weddings and notes of thanks, your plate will quickly  be less full. Fewer friends, gifts and invitations will free up your time.  Not everyone is glued to their computers. They can crash, things get lost and e-mail misdirected. A hand written note shows you’ve cared enough to take some time to write, thus giving importance to the matter. Friends are friends generally because you make them feel important to you. Mere acquaintances are those we don't give any importance.

Q -The busy and tall office building I work in has elevators that are very slow. It seems that the same people see me rushing on a daily basis to catch the closing doors, yet know one tries to intervene and allow me in.  I have to wait for several minutes to catch another.  What can be done to get them to be more courteous?
A -First, consider being in less of a rush by getting to your building earlier, as the others have done. They may interpret your constant rush as rudeness. Second, ask around. Do others in the building have the same problem?  If they do, then you can pass a petition around requesting that the building manager either post some “elevator etiquette” or speak to the Human Resources professionals throughout the building for some relief.

Q -What’s the polite way of telling another car pool mom that I want my kids buckled up properly in the car?  Occasionally extra kids ride along and some are belted in together.  She considers herself a safe driver and good mother. I need her to help and don’t want to offend.
A -Under no circumstances should a child’s safety be at risk just to fit more kids in. This mom needs to be politely asked to call you if she doesn’t have seat belts for each child. Your insurance agent will back me up. Making her aware of the risks involved may stop the practice. If not, find someone else to car pool with pronto.

Q -I can never remember what RSVP stands for on an invitation.  Am I only supposed to call if I can attend. or if I can’t?
A -An invitation usually requires a response of whether or not you will be attending.  RSVP is short for “please respond”.  An invitation with “Regrets Only” is asking for you to call if you will not be attending.  In my book, all personal invitations require a “thank you for the invitation” phone call or letter,  including a response as to whether or not I’ll be attending.

Q -I notified the waitress while waiting for my luncheon companions that we would be needing two separate checks.  She informed me that the computer wouldn’t allow it.  Does this make sense to you or was she just lazy?
A -She probably was telling you the truth. Most computerized restaurant systems use the table number for the order and check. If it is a slow day in the restaurant this can be circumvented by using the number of an empty table for a second tab.  Next time, ask the server manager if this can be done. Most managers will allow it to please the customer.

Q -How do I handle rude friends and business associates who take and make cell phone calls while we are having lunch or dinner in a restaurant?
A -That depends. If the client is someone you wish to continue doing business with, grin and bear it. Any associate trying to woo your business needs to think twice. An obvious glance or two at your watch should send a message. Or suggest making another appointment when there will be no distractions. Tell your friends how uncomfortable you feel. They should understand. If listening in on phone conversations was desirable, the tables by the pay phone would have been in big demand back when I managed a restaurant. They weren't!


  1. Great tip on the restaurant separate checks. Nice restaurants seem to be empty after initial lunch rushes, and we always notice empty tables. Now I know what to say when we get the 'the computer doesn't let us' response from the servers.



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