How many times have you gone to a kid’s birthday party, and gotten a mass email as a thank you? It seems like this is norm lately, and I have to admit, it bugs me. If I bought your child a present, wrapped it threw it into a five dollar gift bag with tissue paper, and then endured screaming kids for two hours on a sugar high at the indoor bouncy place, I think I can expect, at the very least, a personal thank you. This isn’t my only beef (no offense, vegans) with the lack of etiquette nowadays. Granted, when I first moved to the U.S. from Canada, I realized that I was apologizing a lot, even when I wasn’t at fault. Some of my uneasiness with this topic might be cultural, but Canadians have a reputation for being polite for a reason!
I realize that we all have busy lives, but our lazy behavior in showing gratitude or appreciation shouldn’t be slipping so fast down this text and email slope.
Here are five ways we can still have manners in a world of technology and instant gratification:
1. Never Show Up Empty Handed. A mom from school invited your family over for dinner, and while you know she’s just going to order-in pizza and salad, don’t let that fool you. Guaranteed, she shoved about a week’s worth of laundry and a basket full of toys into the hall closet, and threw all the backpacks and smelly shoes on top of it. She probably ran to the store to get those baby carrots and hummus too. Point is, she tried to make it look like she has actually got a clean house under all the legos, dirty clothes, notes from school and bills that are scattered all over the place. Depending on your budget, you can bring flowers or wine. An orchid is always a crowd pleaser and will cost you about twenty dollars, and you can get one from the floral section of your grocery on the way over! If you bring a bouquet, get one with a vase. It’s a nice touch and doesn’t send them off to look for one, and eliminates the need to cut the stems too. If your budget doesn’t permit store bought goods, I love bringing homemade cookies wrapped in parchment paper and secured with twine. The thought of baking might sound daunting, but after the first couple of times, it will be like you’ve been doing it your whole life and it you’ll wonder why you only started now!
2. Always Write a Thank You Note. Generic or blank thank you cards are very affordable and it’s quite easy to find a type that suits your personality or mood (target.com has 50 cards for $9.99)! It’s so tempting to just plop down on the couch and write a quick thank you email while you’re catching up on the latest episode of your current favorite show, but while you’re relaxing, your hostess/host are probably still cleaning up or putting the kids to bed and then cleaning up. It takes about five minutes to write a quick and thoughtful note, address and stamp it.
The same goes for someone that’s given a gift. The only exception is if it’s a hostess gift. But if someone has gifted your family or child a present, set aside the time to write them a card. Teach your kids to write thank you notes for themselves. We spend all this time reading articles on how to not raise entitled kids, well, this is a good start.
3. Leave Your Phone at the Door. Be present with your present company. How can we honestly connect with each other when we’re constantly interrupting our interactions with, “hang on, I’ve got a call” or “let me just reply to this text.” Remember when we were kids and our parents said no phone calls during dinner? Yeah, let’s make that a rule that we keep. The only exception should be for babysitters, spouse or emergencies.
4. Offer to Help Clean Up. Even if you don’t really mean it (girls, remember all those fake reaches for your purses during the dating years?!), the gesture goes a long way. Besides, clearing dishes into the kitchen or tossing toys into a basket might not seem like a big deal to you, but to the hostess/host, it’s a few items crossed off the to do list.
5. Reciprocate The Invitation. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride…It can get frustrating for your friends if they always have you over but never get an invitation to your place in return. Even if you have to be the one that just throws everything in the hall closet and orders pizza and salad, it’s the thought that counts, and everyone loves to be thought of. Besides, when was the last time someone brought you flowers??