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10 Straightforward Ways To Handle The Awkward Situations You Live In Fear Of

Turns out, you can kick people out at the end of your party.

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I love rules. I like when someone tells me how to do something and then I can just comply and be successful. But I've always been 🤔 about etiquette.

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I've always thought it was either for people who want to know what weirdly formal shit to do in very formal settings OR to reinforce the social order a bunch of made up secret rules you have to have a certain amount of privilege to even know exist.

But after flipping through Etiquette: Manners For Today (written by the great-great grandchildren of etiquette czar Emily Post), I learned that etiquette can also be about establishing processes that help you navigate situations with grace — not just for the sake of having good manners, but to avoid burdening others and yourself with awkward or inadvertently unkind words or actions. Granted, you have to pick and choose the etiquette you follow, because some of it pretty retrograde. But I found a few nuggets of wisdom that broke down exactly what's happening in certain situations I can never seem to get right, and offered logical, common sense suggestions for how to handle them.

Here are all the situations I'll now handle more confidently.

1. When you throw a party and it's late and your guests won't freaking leave:

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I've believed for my entire adult life that as the host, you have no say about when your friends leave your place because what's ruder than asking people to leave your home? But it turns out that not only does the host get to decide when the night is over, as the host you can actually do several things, both indirect and extremely direct, to communicate this.

If you want to signal that the end is nigh, do each of the following things (in this order):

• Close down the bar

• Turn off the music

• Start cleaning up

• Yawn

• Be direct ("Well, gang, it's getting late. Let's call it a night.")

• Start turning out the lights

• Go to bed

(Turning out the lights and going to bed seem like the nuclear options here but, hey, drastic times.)

2. When running a little late throws you into a complete panic:

kappit.com

I have a deep fear of being late because I've always believed that showing up more than a minute late is a sign of poor character and deep disrespect for the social contract. It turns out — and this shocked (and thrilled) me — not only is it OK to arrive up to 15 minutes late (FIFTEEN AMERICAN MINUTES!), it's better than showing up early, which is something you must never do.

The Posts do say that if you're going to be more than 15 minutes late, you should update your hosts with your estimated arrival time so they can decide if they want to get started without you.

Also, two caveats where the above doesn't apply. First: If you have tickets or a reservation for a thing, arrive on time. Being 15 minutes late to events with a hard start time is basically a gateway to mob rule. Second: if you're always 15 minutes late to every hang, that's a different thing, and I bet your friends are mad at you.

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3. When you're hanging out with people for a few days and desperately need a break:

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Another thing I just always assumed is perceived as a violent shredding of the social fabric: momentarily checking out of a long weekend group hang because I just need some me time. How are you supposed to excuse yourself? And are you even allowed to?

Good news: Not only is it perfectly acceptable to take some space, the Posts say that hosts will probably appreciate it so they can have some down time, too. They recommend that you don't bounce during a group activity or in the middle of dinner prep, but that you wait till a window of downtime and say something like, "I'm exhausted. Would it be alright if I went and took a nap?" I'm considering booking a weekend away with friends just so I can try this.

4. When you'd like to kiss someone hello without having a fender bender to the face:

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If physical contact during greetings and goodbyes were suddenly outlawed today, I'd be totally cool with that. THAT SAID, there are some people in my life whose custom it is to kiss hello, and honestly, I find it pretty endearing and am happy to get involved with it. But I've never been able to execute it smoothly. Luckily there is an actual strategy for a bump-free cheek kiss!

What you do is turn your head slightly to the left, which will cause the other person to instinctively turn their head to left, which paves the way for a collision-free right cheek to right cheek kiss.

I've tried this since reading this tip and it works.

5. When you're just not sure if you should do a hello handshake or hug:

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The Posts explain that it's often impossible to know where a new acquaintance is at with touching. Some people's religious or cultural customs don't include touching, and other people just aren't into physical contact. They say "it's best to limit touching to the offer of your hand unless you're absolutely sure a person will welcome more intimate gestures."

Read it and weep, huggers! I don't have to touch you.

6. When you want to make it clear that you're not a hugger:

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Here's what the authors say to do: "You can extend your hand with a fairly stiff arm, shake hands, then take a step back." You're basically creating space with your body language, and the authors say that most people will respect it. They don't address whether it's considered polite tuck and roll away from them if they don't. (I say go for it.)

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7. When someone mispronounces your name and you are wondering if you should correct them:

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It turns out that it's perfectly acceptable to correct someone in the moment. (Because if you don't do it quickly and casually, it just turns into a whole big thing which you probably don't want to deal with.) So just be cool and kindly say, "Actually, it's pronounced Tuh-MAR-kin" and then move on.

8. When someone is behaving badly* in public:

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Every single day is a battle for me not to give someone back the litter they threw on the ground. But when you try to combat people's anarchic social behavior with snarkiness, you basically just up the ante, and who knows what kind of reaction that will provoke?

So the Posts’ first rule is to pick your battles when you call someone out. If they are just being rude in general and you happen to have a front row seat to the chaos, maybe don't get involved. But if the rudeness affects you personally — they’re in your seat, cut you in line, etc. — it’s open season.

But if you do intervene, they say that you shouldn't be rude back. Instead just point out the error: "I think you're sitting in my seat" or "Excuse me, I think I was in line before you." And you can also just ask kindly: "I know it's tough for little kids on long trips, but can you ask your son to stop kicking the back of my seat?"

*I'm talking about general, low-grade rudeness here. If you see someone being bullied, or you're witnessing hate speech or harassment that's a different thing entirely.

9. When you're trapped in an endless conversation and need an exit strategy:

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I recently asked people how they deal with being trapped by chatty people in conversation. I didn't think I'd be the only person who can't figure out how to extricate themselves, but I didn't expect 45% of people who took my poll to have the same "just deal and hope it'll end" strategy as I do. But it turns out, there is a better way!

According to the Posts, the best conversational out — and you'll notice this is pretty aligned with most of their social strategies — is to be direct. They suggest something like "This has been nice [or whatever adjective feels right], but please excuse me. I'm going to [get back to my book / mingle / whatever activity you were doing or can plausibly say you're going to do]."

That feels a little too formal for me, so I'd go with "It's been awesome to chat, but I really have to go make a phone call" or "I don't mean to cut this short but I really want to get back to reading."

10. When you forget someone's name:

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I recently learned that you when you can't remember who someone is, you should definitely not say "I'm bad with names" or anything that makes an excuse for or a big deal out of not remembering who they are.

Instead of putting the other person in the position of having to engage with you about your so-called inability to remember names, just say you're sorry and let them know you've forgotten, and keep it moving. A simple "I'm so sorry; I've forgotten your name" will do.