You hold the door for people behind you and you always stick to the right when you're standing still on an escalator. On the surface, there's no doubt about it: you're not only considerate, you're polite. Unfortunately, while you may be adept at staying on the right side of Emily Post in some situations, chances are you're inadvertently making decisions every day that are so rude they leave others aghast. With the help of etiquette experts, we've rounded up the rude behaviors you're doing on a regular basis without even realizing it. And if you want to be more polite, make sure to ditch these 50 Things You Do Every Day That Annoy Other People.
Your conversation may be fascinating to you, but it's a distraction to everyone around you.
"No one needs or wants to hear your private conversations," says licensed etiquette consultant Rachel Wagner, founder of Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. Not only is it rude to the people who overhearing, "You are disrespecting the privacy of the caller whether it's a business call or personal matter," says Wagner.
Checking your phone at stoplights
Not only is this behavior potentially dangerous, it's downright rude, too.
"It's annoying and discourteous to drivers lined up behind you when you seem inattentive to traffic lights," says Wagner. And if you want to up your etiquette game, make sure you know—and avoid—The Most Annoying Text You're Sending All the Time.
Talking on your phone when you're ordering
If you're not giving your full attention to the person taking your order, you're being undeniably rude to both them and the people behind you in line.
"Paying your bill should be the focus, not making social plans," says etiquette expert Lisa Grotts, AKA the Golden Rules Gal. And for more great stories delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Texting and walking
While that text message may feel like it merits your immediate attention, if you're responding in the middle of a crowded sidewalk or in the doorway of a busy store or supermarket, you're being rude to those around you.
"Stopping to check our phones is safer, but [it's] rude to do so in the middle of the walkway," says etiquette expert Diane Lee, founder of Street Smart Etiquette. If the message can't wait, step out of the way of others and answer it somewhere you're less likely to cause a traffic jam.
Taking phone calls in public bathrooms
This one's pretty rude in multiple ways: It's gross (and disrespectful) to the person you're on the phone with, and it also holds up the line for those who might need the stall you're occupying. Lee says that whatever you're doing other than attending to nature's call can—and should—wait until you're somewhere private.
Not saying "please" and "thank you" to people in service positions
You probably hear tons of other people barking, "Can I get a large Americano?" at baristas so often that it seems like a totally normal thing to do. But this is the kind of trend you want to buck in order to avoid being impolite.
"Many of our 'please' and 'thank you' opportunities are overlooked," says Lee. Not only does taking the time to add these pleasantries to your conversation make it more likely you'll get what you want in a timely fashion, it also can "take the stress out of everyday interactions"—and believe us, people attending to the needs of hundreds or thousands of customers a day are stressed enough for the both of you.
Passing just the salt
Sure, someone may have only asked for the salt, but if you want to avoid being perceived as rude, you should be passing them the pepper, too.
"They are passed together like a couple," says Grotts. "Even though one person on your right may just want the salt, someone halfway around the table may want both," she explains.
Wearing too much perfume
Your personal fragrance preferences aren't everyone's cup of tea, and they may even be a serious headache to sensitive individuals.
"A little goes a long way, so do a perfume check when you leave the house, especially if you'll be riding on public transportation," or spending time with others in confined spaces, says Grotts. And if you want to avoid a major faux pas, This Is the Most Annoying Way to Start an Email, Research Shows.
Requesting a tour of someone's home
It's natural to be curious about what a friend's new home looks like when you're invited over for dinner. However, asking for a guided tour is nothing short of rude, according to Karen Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette. "The biggest faux pas people make when [visiting] someone else's home is asking for a tour," she says—especially because not everyone has time to tidy up their entire home before hosting company.
And that doesn't mean you should go snooping when you're off in the powder room, either; the only time a tour is appropriate is when the host insists upon it, Thomas says.
Using the words "actually" or "just" in conversation
These two words may seem innocuous, but they can come off as mean when used casually. Consider the difference between "Our boss needs the report by Friday" and "Actually, our boss needs the report by Friday." Similarly, one small word packs a big punch when you look at "You need to pick your head up" versus "You just need to pick your head up." Without adding much to your message's content, these words minimize the position and concerns of the person on the receiving end.
Relating others' stories back to yourself
While you might think you're being helpful by telling your friend or significant other that you've "been through the exact same thing," doing so can come off as rather dismissive. As much as someone may appreciate hearing that they're not alone in their troubles, that kindness is outweighed by the sense that you're being self-involved. "Remember to listen to hear… rather than to immediately reply," says Thomas.
Offering up an opinion without being asked
Saying what's on your mind can sometimes be helpful, notes Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Flower Mound, Texas. But it's important to know when it isn't the time or the place to do so. To be safe, it's best to only offer your opinion when you're asked for it. Otherwise, you run the risk of being unkind by chiming in despite "the non-verbals from those around you that what's being said is hurtful," McBain says.
Even if what you're looking at doesn't actually merit strong disapproval, your face may be accidentally saying otherwise. "Having a default face that looks mean, angry, or concerned when you really are not can cause trouble," says Lee. Her suggestion? When you catch your reflection and notice you're making a not-so-pleasant face (or if someone mentions it to you) put on a smile—after a while, it'll be like second nature.
Not accepting compliments from people close to you
For many people, accepting compliments can be a challenge. Whether it's due to modesty, a lack of self-esteem, or simply the feeling that the praise isn't deserved, hearing nice things about ourselves from members of our inner circle can be difficult. But rejecting a compliment outright not only perpetuates those insecurities, it also comes across as rude. (That doesn't mean every compliment merits a grateful response, though—if it's inappropriate or a stranger's yelling it at you on the street, you're under no obligation to express gratitude for it.)
Making people feel bad about not knowing something
Most people have a skill they truly excel at, whether they're a coding genius or they make a mean German chocolate cake. However, having expertise doesn't give anyone license to make others feel bad about their lack of knowledge in a specific subject.
Instead of scoffing at their questions, try taking a second to think about how you'd want them to respond should the two of you switch places. It's called the golden rule for a reason.
Not allowing others to merge
Few people relish being stuck in traffic. That said, not allowing other people to merge into your lane isn't making the problem any better—and it's pretty mean, to boot. "You are in traffic with no way out, so how much does it hurt to let the next car merge into your lane?" asks Lee.
Bringing pungent food to work
If you want to stay on the right side of your co-workers, Thomas says it always pays to say no to onion-heavy dishes and reheated fish in the office. After all, for folks who are particularly sensitive to smells, that delicious meal for you could mean a raging headache or bout of nausea for them.
Not making introductions
When you know two or more people who are meeting each other for the first time, it's not only dismissive, but downright rude, to fail to introduce them. Of course, it may occasionally slip your mind, but it's important not to prioritize your own enthusiasm about seeing an old friend again over making others feel comfortable.
You shouldn't need to be reminded constantly about the names of people in your life. Forgetting the names of those whom you interact with often signals to them that they aren't worth the small effort it takes to connect a name with a face. And no, blaming it on your bad memory is never a valid excuse.
Telling people to smile
Though you may be having a great day, that doesn't mean everyone around you feels the same. By demanding a smile from someone who looks blue, you're not only imposing your unwarranted opinions on them, but you may also be making whatever's going wrong in their lives seem a whole lot worse.
It's normal to sigh in response to distressing stimuli—but doing so may be compounding the stress of whoever feels like they're on the receiving end of those noises. The fact is, even if what another person is saying or doing does offend us, there are better, less passive-aggressive ways of letting them know than openly sighing.
Crossing your arms
Crossing your arms can be comfy—or even keep you warm on a cold day—but it can also make you appear standoffish. Before unconsciously telling others with your body language that you want nothing to do with them, consider adopting a more open posture. Putting your hands on your hips, in your pockets, or at your sides can make you appear instantly kinder and more approachable.
Asking people if they have children
Sure, it might seem like an innocent question, but inquiring into another person's family situation crosses the line into rudeness. The fact is, there's no reason to be asking someone whom you are not that familiar with whether or not they have kids. Besides being none of your business, you never know who's struggling to get pregnant, had a recent miscarriage, or doesn't want to have to defend their decision to remain childfree, yet again. Worried you're not being as polite as you could be? This Is the Rudest Thing You Can Ask Someone, Etiquette Experts Say.