When it comes to being a lady, there are some must-have manners we all need to make regular use out of. I thought I grew up learning all the manners I needed until I was required to take a manners class for a modeling job I had once. Surely I had learned everything I needed by age 22, right? I found out I was quite wrong. Since then, I’ve kept these must-have manners on hand to practice on a regular basis. While these might not seem necessary for everywhere you go, they are definitely important if you’re out for a dinner with your job, on a job interview, meeting your boyfriend’s parents, or anywhere else you want to make a top notch impression. After all, there's nothing more appealing than a lady with real genuine class!
1. Extend a Hand
Whenever you meet someone, one of the must-have manners that I learned was that you should extend a hand to greet someone. This may be a little strange considering we live in such a germ-fearing world these days, but it is one of the best ways to seem personable, kind and professional at the same time. Don’t shake the person’s hand off, but offer a small, polite handshake. This breaks down barriers when first meeting someone, and it lets them know you’re personable at the same time.
2. Show Respect
One manner every lady should remember is that no matter whom you’re speaking to, be sure to say, “Yes ma’am,” or “Yes sir” if the person you’re meeting, dining with, talking to, etc. is older than you, or you even suspect they’re older than you. You should also use this professional gesture if the person is someone in a higher position than you, such as in a place of employment or an organization. This shows that you’re respectful and that you acknowledge their authority or seniority over you. Even if it seems outdated, or unnecessary, it is actually very important and will be appreciated.
3. Use Good Table Manners
I thought I knew how to properly sit at a table with others until I took a manners class. What I learned was that I just thought I knew how to eat like a lady! Using good table manners is one of the best ways to show you have manners. To do this, be sure to keep your napkin in your lap, chew with your mouth closed, don’t talk with food in your mouth, don’t start eating before anyone else at the table does so, offer to pay for your own meal, and don’t reach over someone else’s plate when reaching for the bread basket, salt and pepper, or anything else on the table. Instead, ask the person closest to the item to pass it to you. If you need to use the restroom, ask everyone if they mind you being excused for a moment. Don't announce you need to go to the bathroom! Just ask if they mind you leaving the table for a moment and place your napkin in your chair when you get up to leave, not back on the table, which can appear as unsanitary.
4. Send a Thank You Note
One thing I learned was how much thank you notes are appreciated, no matter whom you’re dealing with. Whether you have dinner with someone’s parents, at a neighbor’s house, with a potential or current employer, with a client, or have an interview with a potential employee, be sure you send a thank you note afterwards. Even if you’re just thanking them for their time and company, people appreciate getting an old-fashioned thank you note by snail mail in today’s high tech world. It shows you take time to appreciate others and make the extra effort to send an official thank you note. Even if it seems old fashioned, trust me, it works!
5. Don’t Chew Gum
I love chewing gum, but learned quickly that I would need to get rid of my habit when around others at a formal occasion, or anytime I was trying to be on my best behavior. Chewing gum can be seen as sloppy, rude and can be distracting if you’re at an event like a speaking event, dinner, etc. It is fine to have an after dinner mint if you wish, but leave the gum smacking to nights out with your friends.
6. Don’t Overindulge in Alcohol
If you’re out at a dinner party and at the age to drink, be sure you don’t overindulge yourself. Having one too many will not only make you seem rude and disrespectful, but it can also take away your integrity and professionalism to those that don’t know you well.
7. Don’t Interrupt Others
One last manner that is important no matter whom you’re with or where you’re at, is not to interrupt others. Interrupting others can make you seem rude, disrespectful and could even make others hesitant to talk to you in the future.
8. Have Money on Hand
A lady never goes anywhere without having enough cash to pay her own way. If someone ends up picking up the tab for you later, then great. But never assume someone will lend you money or pay your way or you could end up stranded and embarrassed!
9. Be on Time
Being punctual has become somewhat of a rare quality in people. I know we all mean to be on time, but sometimes things just don't go as planned. Traffic, family obligations, transportation issues as well as some random occurrences can keep us from being where we said we would be. Clearly, the simple solution is to leave earlier. No one ever loses face from being too early!
10. Open Doors
Opening doors for someone isn't just reserved for gentleman, ladies can do it, too! You don't have to open the door for every person that walks by, but it's always nice to keep the door open for people behind you. It's thoughtful, polite and people appreciate it.
11. No Gossiping
You can't turn on the TV, your computer, phone or open up a magazine without celebrity gossip being practically thrown in your face. While it might be entertaining to read about the latest celebrity breakup, gossiping is bad manners. Gossiping about co-workers, neighbors or frienemies can hurt relationships both personally and professionally so it's best not to engage in it. It can be fun, but honestly, the people you gossip to might eventually lose trust in you and it can make you appear petty.
These manners might seem outdated or a little uptight, so don’t look at them as rules, but more of a courtesy to other people. You’re not supposed to be perfect by any means, but these rules will help you offer a great first impression each time you use them. Others will be reminded that you have true grace when it comes to etiquette skills and that you have social class. I can tell you that this is one quality that will make you stand out above the crowd and in the minds of others for a long time to come. It also helps you be more confident around others, believe it or not. What is the one manner than you try to abide by?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Lisa Washington