Besides, bad behavior is getting seriously played out, thanks to celebrity overkill in the form of Russell Crowe, Brandon Davis, et al. “It’s now so boring and predictable for cool people to be rude and selfish,” says Lynne Truss, author of Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door, “that I can’t believe there won’t soon be a backlash.”
If you want to be ahead of that curve—and if you want to avoid alienating people without even realizing it—it might be useful to review the rules of modern manners that you can’t afford to break:
Stay. Okay, you’re a little attention-deficit--disordered—it’s 2006; everybody is—but that doesn’t mean you get to constantly excuse yourself in the middle of dinners or other seated events to grab a smoke or check your messages. Jimmy Neutron is not your best friend; you no longer get to be an ants-in-your-pants toddler.
Watch not only where you’re going, but where those around you are going. Not just in the traditional, hold-the-door-for-ladies (and anyone else you’re with) sense, but to avoid signaling that you think you’re the top dog who automatically leads the pack. “I can’t stand it if I go out with a guy and he walks in front of me,” says Patti Wood, an Atlanta business consultant and body-language expert. “It says, ‘I’m not conscious of other people in my universe.’”
Respect other people’s space. No matter how crowded the place is, you don’t get to reach across a person, or stretch your armpit over his or her head, to wave a 20 in a bartender’s face. If you need to reach past someone to get something, you actually do have to say, “Excuse me.”
Turn it off. “People with BlackBerries think there’s a force field around them,” Solomon says. “They think nobody can see them, because they’re not seeing anybody. It’s a bizarre twist of reality.” The only solution is to shut down e-devices entirely when you’re in a meeting or a social setting.
You’re not on Entourage. Look, we’re all glad you’re getting laid. But don’t advertise it like Turtle or Johnny Bravo. Keep explicit sex talk—whom you’ve “done,” what kind of head she gives or doesn’t give—out of social settings.
Bud out. You have to take your iPod earbuds out of your ears when you’re in conversation with someone—even the counter guy at your deli. (Turning down the volume or muting isn’t sufficient.)
If you say you’ll be there, be there. It’s officially not okay to RSVP with “yes” knowing you’ll probably cancel. Or, for that matter, to hold off on RSVP’ing because you’re convinced something better will come along.