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Tips on Etiquette from the Younger Generation

Updated on February 22, 2009

Most times, it's the older generations who give advice to the younger ones about etiquette. This time, it's the opposite. All of these examples are from personal experience. It's not just Grandma and Grandpa talking to children; all ages can make mistakes in manners to anyone even five years younger than they and make others feel uncomfortable.

Letting "younger legs" do the walking

If you or someone else needs help moving or carrying something, ask those around you to help when they get a chance. Often, younger people are singled out to run errands all over the house, church, etc., because they can move quicker and carry more things. If someone else is already making a trip to wherever you need the object delivered, then great. When in a large group of people, singling out a younger person to do something for you just because of their age shows disrespect for that person's conversations, tasks, or time.

Do this instead:

Ask the people immediately around you if they would help, if you yourself cannot do the task.

Inviting someone/sending cards through others

Especially at holidays, invitations can get overwhelming. Remembering everyone you want to invite isn't easy, or finding all the addresses for invites or cards (or phone numbers if you are calling). Many people end up sending out one invite or card to an extended family, i.e. sending to a couple, their kids, and grandkids all at once by sending one card to the couple. Your invitees are as frazzled as you are. Seeing one invite creates confusion on who it is actually for. Is it for the addressees only? The addressees and anyone living at their house at the time? If it's addressed to the family, are grandkids included in "family", or just adults (and adult kids)? Are adult college kids included (since they might be home for the holiday or occasion)?

Do this instead:

Make a list of everyone you want to invite or send cards to. If you are unsure about the addresses of any adult children, call their parents to get their current address. On the envelope and the card, write out the names or titles (children, grandchildren, etc.) of everyone who is invited. If guests are welcome, say so in the card. If you are inviting people by phone, get the phone numbers for your adult children guests and call them as well.

Inviting dating/married adults

Today, it is tough to keep track of who is in a relationship and who isn't. When inviting people to dinners or special occasions, don't just assume people know that you are (or aren't!) inviting their significant other. Even if their date/husband/wife always comes along, it is considered polite to mention them in the invitation. If the other person doesn't come, and you don't want them to be there, mention that the invitation is only for the one person.

Do this instead:

Address invitations to the couple, to the person "and a guest", or make it clear that it is a single invitation. Same goes for phone call invites.

Dropping in for a visit

I cannot count the times when I have gone to the grocery store at the exact time that someone in my family (or a friend) has "just dropped by to chat". They are then very disappointed that I was not there. Remember the person you want to visit has a social life too, and may have other obligations. If they don't know you are coming, they don't know to be home when you arrive.

Do this instead:

Call before you come over to see if it is an acceptable time. If you can't talk with the person when you call, leave a message saying you would like to spend time with them, and leave some times for them to choose from and call you back. This way, the visit can be enjoyed without rushing, on both sides.

Running errands

If you are going with someone else to run errands, be mindful of their time. Do they have the whole day to spend with you? Is there somewhere they need to go as well, that's on the way between your errands?

Do this instead:

Be honest with them on where you want to go and how much shopping you have. Ask them if they have anything they would like to do when you are out with them. Offer to pay for gas if going multiple places (even a dollar is appreciated) or offer to pay for lunch, even if they turn it down. Before going to the checkout line in a store, ask them if there's anything they need there.

Many of these tips require only a little bit of courtesy on everyone's part; the same courtesy as opening a door for someone, helping someone with steps or groceries, or offering up a seat. Younger people are usually very helpful and courteous when older people need something; so it is only polite to give the same respect back.

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