18 Etiquette Mistakes That Are Easy to Make But Hard to Forgive

Etiquette is all about creating a smooth, mutually enjoyable social experience for yourself and those around you. While often unwritten, it’s a set of guidelines that ensures everyone acts in a way that is respectful and positive. Failing to meet these standards can leave a lasting negative impression. This article explores the 18 social faux pas that are often hard to forget.

No Thank You Note

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It doesn’t need to be a long, handwritten work of art—a simple text message or email can make all the difference in how grateful and appreciative you seem. Failing to send a thank you note after receiving a gift, attending a dinner party, or receiving unpaid help shows a lack of respect for social rules and can make others question your character.


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Psychology Today states there are multiple reasons why people interrupt others, but it is rarely okay to do so. Interrupting someone shows a lack of respect and interest in what they’re saying. Although it can be tempting (especially when emotions are high), try to actively listen by maintaining eye contact, acknowledging them, and waiting for your turn to speak.

Talking Loudly on the Phone

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Using your speakerphone in a public place or having a loud conversation while walking down the street is invasive and disturbing. While it may seem inconsequential, others will instantly label you as loud, selfish, and socially clueless. Be mindful of your phone’s volume and only have personal conversations in private spaces.

Hogging Public Table Space

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Spreading out your belongings over an entire table at a coffee shop or restaurant is thoughtless and inconsiderate, especially if the establishment is short on space. Other people see such behavior as selfish, so try to be more aware of your surroundings and the needs of others—like those who are waiting for a place to sit!

Failing to RSVP Properly

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Events take time, planning, and money, so it’s particularly rude to turn up without RSVPing or to flake out at the last minute after promising to attend. Unexpected arrivals or absences impact the host’s enjoyment of their event and even deny others the chance of attending (if space is limited). If you can’t make it for a genuine reason, tell them ASAP and always apologize.

Expecting Gifts

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Gifts are a token of someone’s thought or appreciation, not an entitlement. If you’re invited to a wedding or baby shower, it’s perfectly acceptable not to bring a gift if you’re genuinely unable to afford one. However, the Columbia Chronicle asserts that shaming someone for failing to bring one or negatively commenting on the quality or cost of a gift is unforgivably rude.

Misremembering Someone’s Name

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Names are important to people’s sense of self and as vocal identifiers, so an ongoing failure to remember someone’s name can be offensive. While asking again is okay (at least the first few times), constantly calling someone by the wrong name is beyond rude and paints you as dismissive, disrespectful, and lazy.

Constant One-Upping

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Ever heard someone described as having the trait, “If you’ve been to Timbuktu, they’ve been to Timbuk-three”? A conversation is a back-and-forth dialogue, not a competition of who’s had the most challenging life or most impressive achievements. Constantly trying to one-up someone else’s experiences makes you seem self-absorbed and socially clueless.

Snapping Gum

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Loud gum chewing is not only unattractive and childish; it’s inappropriate and distracting in most social settings, especially formal occasions and workplaces. If you must chew gum, do so discreetly and dispose of it properly afterward. Otherwise, you may get a reputation for being overly casual and lacking class.

Poor Table Manners

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Sloppy table manners can be very unappealing to other people, especially if they’re eating simultaneously. Habits like chewing with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full, or reaching across the table are all bad habits that can be easily avoided. Take small bites, chew quietly, and use your utensils properly, especially when dining out or in company.

Unprofessional Office Wear

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While a relaxed dress code is becoming increasingly common in workplaces, there’s still a line between business casual and unprofessional. Chron Small Business claims clothing that is revealing, wrinkled, overly casual, or plastered with offensive slogans doesn’t make you edgy or cool—it makes others see you as inappropriate and immature.

Borrowing Things Without Returning Them

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Even genuine forgetfulness isn’t a valid excuse for keeping someone else’s belongings after you borrow them. Giving them back late or in poor condition is bad enough, but keeping them forevermore is the worst. Even if the other person doesn’t mention it, they will remember the slight and consider you careless and untrustworthy.


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Personal details about yourself, your relationships, or your life problems are best shared in private with trusted individuals. Anyone using public forums, like social media platforms, to share such information can seem unprofessional and make others uncomfortable. Keep discussions about sensitive matters appropriately discrete, no matter how ‘open’ you are.

Hitting “Reply All” Every Time

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The “reply all” function on emails should be used with caution and not as a selfishly convenient way to handle correspondence. Replying to everyone in a large group of recipients when the matter is between you and one other person is a major faux pas. Financial advisor Rickey Shneyder says colleagues won’t appreciate the wasted time and cluttered inboxes because of your laziness.

Being Rude to Waitstaff

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Restaurant workers, especially those in busy establishments, have a challenging job and don’t deserve to be treated poorly by entitled or impatient customers. Disrespecting wait staff reflects poorly on your character. Decent, socially aware individuals don’t need to vent their frustration on others or put others down in order to feel good about themselves.


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While regifting can be acceptable in some situations, you must be careful which gifts you reuse and to whom you give them. Regifting something that was clearly meant for you (or is blatantly unsuited to the receiver) can make the act all too obvious. Most people will consider this a sign of thoughtfulness and a lack of effort.


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Breaking into a professional event or concert is naughty enough, but showing up to a personal event uninvited, even with good intentions, can be awkward and disruptive for the host. There may have been a very good reason you weren’t invited (like a personality clash or insufficient space), so you should always respect the host’s guest list.

Not Listening

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Giving someone your full attention when they’re speaking is a sign of respect, and being inattentive makes you seem self-absorbed and disinterested. Put away your phone, make eye contact, and avoid interrupting. If you are pressed for time, politely explain that you have a commitment and request to hear all about it later.

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