You’d have to be living under a rock or taking a break from social media to not be aware of the hubbub surrounding the New York magazine article, Do You Know How to Behave?, which lists rules on “how to text, tip, ghost, host, and generally exist in polite society today”. Some of their rules are fun and very on point. Others sound incredibly snarky and a bit tone deaf. So I put together my own list that I try to live by every day.
- Please and thank you go a long way.
It’s amazing to me how many times a person on Instagram asks, or demands, something from me and never says please. Or the times I’ve gone out of my way to reply with very specific information and never receive a thank you. If someone holds the door for you, say thank you. Don’t drop the door on people behind you. When a clerk hands you your purchase, say thank you and look them in the eye. If you need something, someone is more likely to help you if you are nice and polite.
- Give people your full attention.
There is nothing that drives me crazier than people who are talking on the phone while they are in the grocery check out line. It takes them forever to unload their cart and pay because they only have one hand, thus holding up everyone else behind them and ignoring the checkout person. Give the people in front of you your full attention and treat them like people. Don’t use your phone at the table. Take the photo but wait until you get home to post on Instagram. The person live in front of you is more important than the family, friends, and followers on your phone.
- Get to know your neighborhood.
I visit the same UPS store to drop off my online shopping returns and mail out packages. I have gotten to know the staff and always chat with them. It’s a pleasure to do business with them and when we see each on the street we wave and say hello. Get to know people’s names. I always think of the scene from The Holiday when Kate Winslet’s character leaves the house and says good morning to the gardener and housekeeper using their names and then says hello to the mail carrier. One of my friends who is incredibly nice told me that she always missed getting the new issue of World of Interiors at a certain newsstand. The owner started keeping a copy behind the counter for her without her even asking. Being a friendly regular, can often get your special privileges and make a big a big city feel like a small town.
- Be self-aware and aware of others.
If you are stopped to have a conversation with someone on the sidewalk, move to the side so people can get around you, especially if you have giant strollers. Don’t park in the crosswalk. Take your Instagram picture and them move aside so other people can take a photo at popular places. Does someone look they are lost or need help? Ask them politely without scaring them. The Lenox Hill post office door used to be extremely heavy. I was walking up one day and passed two older women so when I got to the door and had to use all my might to open it, I stood there are waited for the older women to walk up and enter. They were so thankful. Sometimes a small gesture goes a long way.
- Carry cash and tip generously.
I have always tipped generously even when I made a lot less money. I joke that I like to make it rain when I travel but I also tip delivery people very well in NYC. Tip in cash because the delivery people might not see tips from online apps until they get their pay check. Also try to tip in cash instead of Venmo at salons. I asked my stylist and this is what she said they prefer. I recently gave $20 to a Fresh Direct delivery person who delivered a few heavy bags even though I have an elevator and he said I made his night. You never know when someone might really need that extra cash.
- Be thoughtful.
New Yorkers get a lot of things delivered so I always try to be thoughtful when it’s bad weather or the busy time of year. I always give out cold bottles of water to UPS and FedEx delivery guys who bring my packages upstairs when it’s hot. I also hand out handwarmers when it’s cold. If you have a snowblower and your neighbor doesn’t, clear their sidewalk too. Send secret admirer Valentines to every unattached person you know. I read a post about a man who would leave $100 at a pharmacy every month to pay for people’s prescriptions when they didn’t have enough to cover them. Another woman would leave unsigned gifts outside her elderly neighbor’s door every year for the holidays. Do things for other people without expecting anything in return and maybe good karma will be your reward.
- Have the door open when someone arrives.
So many of my rules deal with delivery people because they are the people coming most often to my apartment on a regular basis. They have to be buzzed into my building because we don’t have a doorman. I know it takes 30 seconds for them to come up in the elevator and the buzzer is near the front door so I’ll stay there so I can be ready with the door open when they get off the elevator. That way they can hand me the item and get back on the elevator to go back down. My neighbor was never ready with the door open so they had to knock and wait for her. The extra time she took meant the elevator would automatically go back downstairs. I thought it was so rude of her to waste their time when they probably get paid by the delivery. But it’s also nice to be in the hallway to greet any guest. Interior decorator Albert Hadley used to do this and he’s a good person to emulate.
- Don’t use your phone on speaker in public.
No one needs to listen to your conversation or terrible taste in music on the bus, subway, plane, waiting room, or wherever. And no watching videos of any sort without headphones period. It’s just plain rude.
- Tone it down.
I find extroverts to be utterly exhausting. The loud talking and need for attention is not everyone’s cup of tea so instead of asking why someone else is so quiet, maybe you should think about whether you are too loud. Introverts have rights too. Instead of doing all the talking, make sure you are asking other people questions. If you are quiet and curious once in a while, you might just learn something.
- Be kind.
I really wish I could give some of you access to my Instagram DMs for a day. You probably wouldn’t even last an hour reading some of the awful messages people send me. Do you really want to get blocked by a stranger on the internet because you wanted to tell them they are ugly or spend too much money or you hate their house? Is that really the kind of energy you want to put out in the world because chances are it will come back to you. Don’t take your issues out on other people. Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.