I have a real thing about etiquette.  I have my own personal rules on etiquette which I hoped I have passed on to our kids.  I have found that etiquette is something that is seriously lacking these days.  Not sure why.  At the end of the day etiquette equals proper manners.

In this day and age, it is beyond easy to shoot someone an email thanking them for anything.  A hand written note is generally over the call of duty in todays world but for some things, it is essential and an added bonus.  Anyone who has proper etiquette in my book, soars to the top of the list.  People who should have acknowledged something and didn't with a short note can change my perspective on them.  I have a few friends who are in my etiquette hall of fame.  They always write a hand written note and go beyond the call of duty.  Most of those people also happen to be in the non-profit world (but not all of them) where etiquette is the key to relationships. 

For what it is worth, here are my rules.

Always send an email after having dinner at someones home thanking them the next day.

If someone gives you a gift out of the blue for favors you have done for them, send them an email thanking them

If someone gives you a birthday gift at a huge party (Xmas bash or cocktail party) and it is among a huge pile of stuff – not necessary to send a note.  Also not necessary when someone comes to your house with a gift for a party you are giving to send a note.

Not necessary to send a note to family members who gives gifts.  A big hug, kiss and a phone call is ample.

If someone meets you for coffee, lunch, dinner or whatever to give you advice it is essential to sent an email the next day thanking them.   If it was larger than life advice – sometimes a small gift is nice to send too.

Big events like 50/40/30 year old bdays or Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or small bday parties (like kids) should always send handwritten notes thanking people for their gift.  These notes should be timely too.  When Jess and Em got BM'd, I'd have them write out a note the day that got the gift so it didn't pile up or they would have ended up having 50 to send out which is overwhelming.  Also, that way it actually resonated with them what each person gave them.  After the event, the other gifts were sent cards within 1 week. 

If you went to a party and didn't bring anything, it is nice to send something with in a week or so to acknowledge the event. 

Baby gifts should happen quickly. 

Weddings must send out hand written thank you notes. 

I have noticed that kids who have birthday parties (the 5-13 year old crowd) have started to make copies of a computer generated card or a mass email saying thanks.  Not appropriate.  Get your kid to sit down and hand write out a thank you note to everyone that is personalized about the gift.  Never too early to learn how to say thank you.

You have a year to get someone a wedding gift which I have done on occassion but try not to.

If you want to meet with someone, like a donor to a non-profit or a supporter of something you are doing or just a meet and greet and get advice – let the person you are meeting with choose the spot and location.  Don't get them to fit it into what is most convenient for you.  That is a huge no no and frankly just pisses me off.

Kids should be taught from the time they can walk and talk to shake someones hand, look them in the eye and say hello, nice to meet you, I am so and so.  I used to line my kids up and make sure they learned how to have a strong handshake and make eye contact. 

Fred has meetings with people all the time that he has met through an introduction or got on his calendar by the luck of the draw and never send a note thanking him for his time.  I have also had meetings with people who never sent a note saying thanks for meeting with me.  Makes me really never want to meet with them again. 

Proper etiquette is something that should be part of our education system.  Although I am rarely amazed at anything these days, I shouldn't be so blown away when someone has proper etiquette.  I remember them and they surge to the top of my list.  I also remember the people who don't take the time out to say thank you or want to meet with me but on their terms.  In a world where everyone is connected, in my book, proper etiquette goes a long way. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Gotham Gal

    My pleasure. It is definitely a topic I have been thinking a lot aboutlately. My list might not be perfect but it works for me. Hope it worksfor you.

  2. c.zehner

    Thank you! this is a wonderful shortlist/guideline.

  3. Gotham Gal

    I did see that article. Thanks Another one to add to the list is let kids order their own food at a restaurant. Teach them to engage and behave when going out. Also, when you sit down at a restaurant, napkins go immediately on the lap.joanne [email protected]

  4. rachel

    Great list!! Thank you as always! We went to dinner with a couple and their two boys, 4 and 8 over x-mas. The boys ordered for themselves with please and thank you, and shook our hands hello and good bye – “so nice to meet you…”. It made me want to hang with them anytime. I think manners are as critical as brains, makes you want to be friends, do business, help people with manners.I know you are a NYT addict, so I’m sure you saw their piece.

  5. Gotham Gal

    Thank god. Gotta practice what you preach.

  6. Gotham Gal

    That¹s awful. I have a friend who never acknowledged my kids events with agift (bat mitzvahs¹ she was invited to) so when she had children of her ownand sent out the baby notices, I didn¹t send a gift. What goes around,comes around.

  7. CCjudy

    let me tell you something interesting hereI read your and Fred blogs follow him on twitterIm in SF (former NYC) i read twitter that he was here for meetings with twitter and zyngaI wrote him twit saying I would like to take him to a great restaurant hereHe returned my message! I was really touched and very gratefulJudy

  8. Gotham Gal

    Agreed. Love the story about your kid. So true. Kids who behave well aregiven respect from their elders.

  9. ellen

    One of my daughters- in -law never sent a thank you note, after I bought and sent a number of gifts for her and the children. It made me crazy, but I did not want to call, since I always sent a signature comfirmation and knew that she received the gifts. My sister thought I should telephone her, but I did not want to drag a thank you from her. If it wasn’t given voluntarily, I did not want one. Finally after I had chosen some beautiful bally accessories and wonderful children’s clothing and an Aron Basha baby shoe charm for my daughter-in-law in one carton, I called. I found that she had mistakenly thrown out the baby shoe charm with the packing not realizing that it was among all the items. From then on I decided to only send items to the grandchildren and not my daughter-in-law. and I put a list of every item that is packed so she won’t throw out anything inadvertinely.againThe other daughter-in-law has perfect manners.

  10. chefbikram

    hooray. teaching manners is at the top of my parenting list. in fact just last week i took my 2 1/2 year old on a dinner date, and i made a big deal of it. she already orders, makes eye contact and says thank you on her own most of the time.And i see the difference in how SHE is treated when she shows manners. i read in one of my parenting books that the cold hard truth is that those children who can be “mannerly” will be treated better by other parents and teachers.we have started young and it’s worth it.

    1. rachel

      it doesn’t come naturally and I’m sure takes such hard work — your daughter is so lucky. My mom made such a fuss over manners and I know it has made life so much better and more fun for me.

  11. chefbikram

    Oh, one more for the list:let people get OUT of the elevator before getting in!!!

  12. denmeade

    You are teaching your kids a great lesson. Some of my friends occasionally tease me about my enthusiasm for thank you notes but I am very glad that my mother taught me those lessons when i was younger. Good manners are a lovely thing.

  13. An alien

    Great post. Very helpful for people (like me) who recently came from another country/culture. Manners are important everywhere, but what’s considered a must in one culture isn’t the norm in another.In any case, I’m happy you posted it (and I now need to think how to handle some mistakes I did which might be misinterpreted as rude behavior).

    1. Gotham Gal

      There is definitely a difference of etiquette from culture to culture.

  14. Aviad Pe'er

    Dear Gotham Gal,I wish Fred shared your strong opinions about etiquette. My name is Aviad Pe’er. I’m a professor of entrepreneurship at the Stern school of business who has sent two emails and called once to Fred’s office. Reading his blog for several years, I was under the impression that he will be a terrific guest lecturer in my class. I believe that he holds strong and correct opinions about his occupation, and unlike the norms in his industry he seems to be really helpful to the founding teams he has worked with (I’ve talked with two of them). Regretfully, I have not got a response. Proper etiquette is also about saying no politely with or without an explanation. I hope that you will not perceive this comment as an example of an Israeli chutzpa. Aviad

  15. Gotham Gal

    I totally agree with you. As much as he said he would love to have lunchsometime, I am not sure he was being completely honest. Your efforts shouldhave been rewarded.

    1. Melissa

      I loved your post and could not agree more with you.Question: Is an invitation (wedding or otherwise) or a birth announcement an obligation to send a gift?My husband and I have avoided the “gift wars” with some success. If it is a distant friend or colleague, I often just send a congratulatory note. We are blessed have many friends and to be included in all kinds of events, but we can’t afford to send a gift every time.Additionally, there is nothing worse than when an obligation (innocent or not) is created. Some of us can’t accept and in some cases even respond to every invitation. Not that we aren’t appreciative, but sometimes it’s overload. Thanks, Melissa

      1. Gotham Gal

        Distance friends and colleagues are tough. Sometimes people just sent outas many invites as possible just to send them out. Sending out acongratulatory note is perfectly fine, same thing for a birth announcement.Distance people who connect with you through announcing their celebrationsbecome more distant as the years pass. A card is perfectly fine.

  16. Bostonianigirl

    If you want to meet with someone, like a donor to a non-profit or a supporter of something you are doing or just a meet and greet and get advice – let the person you are meeting with choose the spot and location. Don’t get them to fit it into what is most convenient for you. That is a huge no no and frankly just pisses me off.I ran into someone at a booksigning event who had known my grandfather (whom I never knew) and said that I’d love to have lunch with him sometime. He remembered my family well, and I wanted to learn some history.He told me to call his secretary. I did, and it took some time before I was able to set up an appointment, because this professor is somewhat famous. The secretary suggested that I go to his weekly tea, but I finally explained the situation to her.I asked her for suggestions as to places he would like to be taken. She gave me the name of one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. I said that that was a bit pricy for me, so she offered another restaurant which is not inexpensive either. I talked to a friend who knows this man who pretty much said that that’s the way this man works.In the end I had to bow out, because I just couldn’t afford to take him out to the sort of place he’s accustomed to going to. I was perfectly prepared to organize things around him, but I do think that it would have been appropriate for him to have a favorite inexpensive spot as well.