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In a manner of speaking: Why being polite matters

Whether you’re heading out on a hot date or hitting the town with your workmates – manners and etiquette are highly important. Becci Stanley finds out more. . .

We all strive to make the best impression we can on others, but it’s not always as simple as holding doors open and passing compliments. No matter what your situation, Woman has some top tips to help you navigate even the most difficult social situations...


A first date is an opportunity to showcase your best features, and not your worst. Although old-fashioned first date etiquette will tell you to spruce up, be polite, and cross your legs, there’s so much more to it in the modern dating scene. To help sparks fly during a date, always endeavour to turn up on time. In order to make a great first impression, ditch your tracksuit bottoms and baggy shirt in favour of something a little smarter. Put your phone away and give your date your full attention. Make eye contact when you’re in conversation and ask plenty of questions rather than focusing the conversation solely around yourself - listen and learn what you can about your potential partner. Offer to pay at the end of the date, or if they simply won’t let you foot the bill, offer to get dessert or cocktails at a new venue. Avoid getting intoxicated, and absolutely do not dwell on conversation about ex.


Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is a monumental moment, and it can make or break a budding relationship. To win the family over from the off, consider bringing a small house-warming gift to the first meeting. When dressing for the occasion, consider the family dress code. If the family tends to be formal, ditch the skinny jeans and graphic-tee for something more conservative. Praise your partner, but don’t engage in graphic public displays of affection - a simple arm around the shoulder or a peck on the cheek will keep the atmosphere comfortable. Offer to help out if you meet at their house, such as clearing the table or lending a hand mixing drinks. Ask family members about their interests and passions, and engage in conversation about them rather than just telling them about yourself. This will also help you feel comfortable too as well as help you get to know them on a personal level.


If you think getting to know the parents is difficult, being introduced to the kids from a previous relationship is even harder. Meeting stepchildren for the first time can be overwhelming not only for the child, but for the adult, too. To help the first encounter go smoothly, take the time to learn about their likes, dislikes and interests before you meet. You and your partner should have a think about how you might greet the children during that initial introduction. Forcing the children to hug or kiss you might make everyone feel uncomfortable, especially if they shy away. Don’t overload the children at once and respect the fact that relationships take time to form - instead, gradually build-up the amount of time you spend together. Don’t put the children in a position of having to respond positively when it may not be a positive experience, such as asking them if they ‘like’ you or if they are having ‘fun’. Most importantly, never try to jump straight into being a parent or disciplining the kids during that first meeting.


When you start a new job, you’re going to need to make a good impression on your co-workers and fit into the existing team fast. To ensure workplace bliss, always ask before you borrow anything – whether it’s a pen or even a post-it note. Try your best to remember people’s names from the get-go, and don’t get too familiar with them too quickly. Offer to make drinks for your colleagues, which is a great way to break the ice and be seen as a ‘team’ person. Don’t get involved with office arguments, and don’t put down your co-workers or workplace. Even when you’re out of the office, if you’re with anyone connected to your job, keep it to yourself - that includes criticising your boss or company on Twitter or Facebook. These things have a way of getting back to the people concerned and that off-hand remark could cost you dear.


For those like myself more accustomed to a night at the pub or a takeaway at home, a formal dinner can be a daunting prospect. If you’re heading out for a posh lunch, remember to place your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting down. When at a dinner party or restaurant, proper table manners dictate that you taste your food before seasoning it - so put the ketchup bottle down before you sample a bite. Scraping a plate or loudly chewing is unpleasant to listen to and considered impolite, and smacking and slurping food is just as unappealing. If you have more than a few words to say, swallow your food, rest your fork on your plate, and speak before you resume eating. And lastly, remember to excuse yourself from the table, rather than leaving without a word.


They say don’t mix business with pleasure, but going out with your work colleagues is a great way to get to know each other better and become a close-knit team. To avoid an awkward work environment the morning after, relax but keep professionalism in mind. Our brain makes split decisions about others based on their appearance, so dress in a way that does not send red flags to your colleagues. Have authentic conversations that don’t just centre around work, and find out more about your co-worker’s personal interests. Remember however, to avoid sensitive topics like money, politics, and religion. Pace yourself, even if your boss is drinking heavily, to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Also, keep in mind cultural norms. There are some clients and co-workers from other countries and backgrounds that would find raucous behaviour on a night out shocking, which in-turn would affect their perception of you. It all depends on the circumstances, so take note, and read the room.

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