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Etiquette and Social Graces in Relationships

by Jill Avery-Stoss

Many relationships that could be successful are doomed by misunderstandings and poor communication. Couples in these relationships are often unfamiliar with the characteristics of healthy relationships, states Hara Estroff Marano in her article titled, "Relationship Rules" in PsychologyToday. Although every relationship is unique, relationships share certain universal tenets of communication, and using these principles can minimize the chances of miscommunication. You can apply these ideas to any type of relationship -- whether business or romantic, committed or casual -- brand new or decades old.

Consideration and Respect

All relationships should be based on consideration and respect. For instance, if you have agreed to a date or are obligated to attend a meeting, be punctual. And unless there is an emergency, it is rude to keep someone waiting. If you are going out to lunch or dinner, always be prepared to pay for your meal -- even if you don’t think you'll be expected to do so. It is particularly important to be aware of another person’s feelings and belongings. This means that you shouldn’t assume that it's acceptable to eat from your friend's plate or comment on how ugly her earrings are. Most people do not eat from another's plate unless they know that person very well, and the earrings might have been a gift from her late grandmother.

Sensitive Communication

Communication should be courteous and assertive. In polite conversation, saying "Please," "thank you" and "excuse me" are necessary. Conversely, bragging and gossiping are in poor taste, just like making condescending or degrading comments are in poor taste. Remember, too, that you should not always be the focus of discussion. Take an interest in what your counterpart has to say. Listen carefully and ask reasonable questions, according to information distributed by the Etiquette Scholar, an online dining etiquette resource. Instead of asking, "How much did you earn from that project?" you might ask, "What was the most rewarding part of the work?"

Boundaries and Conflict

In any type of relationship, conflict is inevitable and healthy. For a relationship to succeed, however, you should address conflict appropriately. Estroff Marano warns that you shouldn’t avoid conflicts, either, because avoiding conflicts is not productive and will cultivate resentment. Instead of making assumptions, openly acknowledging your concerns. A relationship also requires that you are willing to negotiate with your partner and to empathize with what your partner expresses. For problem-solving to be effective, it is critical that both of you discuss what actions and behaviors you find acceptable and those you do not find not acceptable. You might agree that indulging in a heated argument is OK, but an argument that includes name-calling is not OK, for example. With personal boundaries in place, each of you will know what to expect from the other.

Mind Your Tech Manners

Society's dependence on technology is convenient, but indulging in it is not always considerate, warns Anna Post in her article for the Emily Post Institute titled, "Managing Mobile Manners." For instance, it is rude to respond to texts and emails during a coffee date. You shouldn’t accept phone calls unless they are of the utmost importance -- such as calls from a babysitter or from school. If you are expecting a call you cannot avoid, warn your date of the possibility and apologize ahead of time. In such cases, excuse yourself, respond to your phone elsewhere and keep the conversation as brief as possible.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

Photo Credits

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