These days, most of us think we have it figured out when it comes to being polite. We hold the door open for others, say “please” and “thank you” when our waiters bring us something, and generally just try not to be a jerk to the people around us. What happens, though, when the answers aren’t as simple?
Whether it’s how to split a bill with grace, planning a play date you don’t actually want, or dealing with the aftermath of not getting an invite to a party, we have all the answers you need for any modern-day etiquette conundrum you can think of.
To Split or Not to Split?
It really is a thought that comes up fairly often, though not many people actually vocalize it—how you ensure you only pay for what you ordered after an expensive dinner out with friends.
Thankfully, Archelle Georgiou, a businesswoman and doctor in Minneapolis, has come up with an effective solution. “I’ll tell the waitress at the beginning, ‘We’ll have separate checks for this bill,’” she told Reader’s Digest. “It’s between me and the waitress, but they all hear it, and that’s worked out quite well.”
What about when it comes to a date, though? A 2013 poll by T.D. Ameritrade and LearnVest found that 55 percent of men surveyed said they believe men should pick up the bill on a first date. However, 59 percent of all who participated, both men and women, said the woman should pay if she asked the guy out.
The general rule? Always offer to pay, especially if you’re the one who arranged the date, but let the other person pick up the tab if they really are insistent on paying it.
I Tip, You Tip, We Tip
Tipping is a big part of the service culture today, mainly at restaurants. However, it’s still a murky subject, especially when it comes to standard tip amounts and if someone always deserves a tip. Not only that, but there’s even more confusion when it comes to who else we should tip when we interact with them.
For restaurants, the suggested standard tip is 20 percent of the bill or even higher when you feel like the staff went above and beyond. When it comes to bad service, first take into consideration whether or not the server was actually rude or if they were just a little slow because the restaurant was busy.
If they truly gave you poor service, leave a smaller tip than you normally would instead of nothing. “Believe me, a $1 tip will be noticed much more than no tip, since your server may think you just forgot,” former waitress Jamie Simmerman said on MoneyNing.
When it comes to haircuts or spa treatments, 20 percent is still recommended, divided over all of the services you’ve received. This becomes easier if the salon distributes the tip for you but, if you see multiple people in one trip, just ask them how much their particular service costs so you can figure out their share if you need to.
Tipping at hotels doesn’t really require a set percentage of money, but it is recommended that you tip as you go for different services—when a valet driver brings you your car, when the concierge helps you to your room with your luggage, or just if someone brings something to your room that you requested. A couple dollars for each thing is all you need, but make sure to check the bill for any room service you order before tipping, as they often add gratuity ahead of time.
Dining with Dieters
Most of us have gotten together for dinner with friends, only to find out that one person in the group is trying to lose weight or just eat healthier. It’s a discovery that can often send us into a tailspin, trying to figure out where to go and what they can eat there.
It’s not surprising—research done by the American Heart Association confirms that being in a social setting makes the temptation to overeat that much stronger. Though they’ll probably appreciate your efforts, the best thing you can do is to just let them be. Speaking from experience, most restaurants will have some offering for any diet, whether it’s a salad, some grilled chicken or fish, or even just getting a sandwich without the bun.
The one thing you should truly never do, though? Remind them about their dietary commitments while you’re all eating. You know, constantly teasing them by asking if they want some chips and salsa or offering “just one bite!” of cake because “it won’t hurt if it’s just one bite!” Changing your eating habits is hard enough, and it’s even harder to deal with when your friends think it’s funny to try sabotaging you.
Your Phone Isn’t a Guest
In our digital age, it’s easy to bust our phones out without even having a good excuse to do it. Whether you’re on a date, at a party, or just sitting in the park, our phones are always with us and often serve as a convenient source of entertainment or information. However, one study found that 92 percent of American adults wished they had better manners when it came to using their phones. How can we tell when it’s okay to use them in social situations and when it’s not?
The answer lies in the context. If you’re at a work function and are either expecting a call or have to be on the lookout for anything unexpected, keep your phone out but don’t stay glued to it. If you’re on a date or at dinner with friends, don’t even keep your phone out on the table—only bring it out if you’re showing someone something or looking up a piece of information relevant to the conversation you’re having.
“Meals are for bringing family and close friends together to enjoy storytelling and to revel in each other’s company…. Even if it’s on a Monday evening, with takeout!” says Cristina Soriano for said on MarthaStewart.com. We couldn’t agree more.
About That Play Date…
If you’re a parent, you and your child have undoubtedly been invited to a play date before, whether you know the family well or not. Whether it’s because you just don’t want to sit through it or you know the other child is too rough or kind of a brat, it can be tough to figure out a way around it all, especially when that kid belongs to a good friend of yours. Sure, you can make a million excuses as to why the kids can’t get together, but there are other things you can do, too.
One route is to do things that don’t require much interaction, such as going to see a movie. However, as there are only so many movies out there, the best thing to do is lay down some ground rules, especially if the play date is at your house. Georgiou suggests starting out with, “I just want to make sure you know the house rules so nobody gets hurt,” and then following it up with a suggestion like, “We have a lot of glass here. If you ran into this table and the glass broke, you would have to go to the emergency room and have all these ugly stitches!”
Etiquette consultant Melissa Leonard also suggests taking a “three strikes, you’re out” approach for kids or parents that you no longer want around your family. She said that while any child or parent can have an off day, “If you’re ready to give up, avoid making future plans by saying something like, ‘Our schedule is crazy at the moment. Can we touch base at a later date?’ If you say that enough, all but the most socially inept person will get the message.”