Etiquette on Call: Pocket-Dialing The Posts

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post-Senning, who are feeling pretty blunt today, are co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition,” and Lizzie recently collaborated on “Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, 6th Edition.”

This month they advise our listeners on times when haircuts are more important than family, making offers you don’t actually intend to follow-through on, and using children as scapegoats – but it’s all in the name of politeness. Really.


Brendan Francis Newnam: Here to tell us how to behave this week are etiquette experts, advocates, and crusaders Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They join us once a month. Lizzie and Daniel, welcome back.

Lizzie Post: Thank you.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s so good to be with you.

Rico Gagliano: With your crusader capes in tow.

Lizzie Post: I’m loving the crusaders. We need to start using that in press.

Rico Gagliano: I want to know what your costumes would look like.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Instead of the bat signal they show someone not opening the door for someone. A silhouette of that.

Rico Gagliano: Or instead of a cape a white table cloth.

Lizzie Post: Nice.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Guys, I want to start by asking you something. I’m tired of the weather, but I’m tired of people talking about the weather even more. What are the rules around this? I thought talking about the weather was not okay.

Lizzie Post: Well, it’s like that safe topic you’re supposed to go to when you don’t have anything else to go to. And then it turned into that thing where it’s like if you’re talking about the weather that means there’s nothing better to talk about which is, like, ouch. At this point, I’m totally with Brendan on this one. I’m sick of hearing people complain about it. Like, we have seasons, they change, sometimes that takes longer, get over it. It’s not going to do you any good to just you know, cry and moan.

Rico Gagliano: That doesn’t sound polite, what you just said, though.

Lizzie Post: I know.

Rico Gagliano: ‘Get over it’ doesn’t seem like the Post way.

Lizzie Post: I’m feeling really blunt today.

Daniel Post Senning: In Vermont you can’t talk about Spring until the end of March, that’s sort of a rule.

Lizzie Post: Dan, we’re almost there.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I set the trap and we fell into it. I don’t want to talk about the weather. What are alternate things we can talk about, for people who haven’t listened to our show?

Rico Gagliano: Right, because we give them plenty to talk about.

Lizzie Post: Can we talk about haircuts?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sure.


Knowing When to Break-Up – With Your Hair Stylist

Rico Gagliano: We actually have a question about haircuts, should we start with that?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, let’s do it, that’s a great idea, go ahead.

Lizzie Post: Segue!

Rico Gagliano: Alright, here we go. Here come the questions. This is Amanda in Saint Paul. She wrote “I just got my hair cut by one of my daughter’s friends…”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Hopefully her daughter’s over five. Left handed scissors, kind of crooked line across her bangs.

Rico Gagliano: “This daughter’s friend was incredibly nice but sadly I don’t like the haircut, even after some fixes she tried. I would never go back if I didn’t have this personal connection. What to do?” Does she go back?

Lizzie Post: No, she doesn’t go back.

Daniel Post Senning: No.

Lizzie Post: You don’t continue to see someone that, even when you’ve tried to get it fixed, it doesn’t work.

A lot of people ask, “When I’ve had a regular hair stylist do I need to tell them that I’m switching?” It’s up to you, but for the most part, no, you don’t. My hair stylist is actually one of my best friends and I always ask her about this whenever the question starts coming up and she says it’s great to try other stylists and see if something else works for you, so I say don’t bring it up.

Just go see another stylist. You were seeing somebody else before and that was working for you and if she questions you about it you can just say that.

Daniel Post Senning: Maybe break up rules apply.

Lizzie Post: Break up rules?

Daniel Post Senning: I was thinking break up rules. Sometimes you know, one party wants closure but it just gets more painful the longer you drag it out. It’s not always the best case to go into every reason that you’re separating or ending things.

Not Putting Guests to Work When They Come Over

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, this next question comes from Julia in Waco, Texas. It’s a simple one but it’s a great question. Julia asks, “Who should clear the table? Hosts or guests? Or whoever cooked?”

Lizzie Post: I love this question. What, you should make your guests clear the table when they come to your house for dinner? No! Absolutely not. You’re the host. If you don’t have someone who’s serving the meal for you then yes, you clear. It’s wonderful if a guest offers to help but there is no reason for the guest to be expected and the host should never be expecting the guest to be the one to clear the table.

Rico Gagliano: I think maybe this is more aimed towards guests though. Is the polite thing to do to chip in? Because I actually kind of feel bad if I don’t chip in.

Lizzie Post: So it’s great to offer, but bear in mind some hosts really care about hosting you and not having you jump up and try to do all the work. Offer, and if you’re turned down, don’t worry about it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I will say that clearing the plates is the easiest thing a guest can do, right? It doesn’t require knowing anything.

Daniel Post Senning: In fact it’s so simple it’s the example that we use as the teaching point to illustrate host/guest relationships. That’s the dance. One person offers, the other person politely declines, but you offer to do something you would be willing to do if the host were to say yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I see.

Lizzie Post: Okay, but hold on one second. We went to the ‘easy’ comment and I’m just going to throw out there people do sometimes use their nice china or they use their silver and they would rather be the one to break it than to have a guest break it.

Rico Gagliano: Dan nods his head in shame.

Lizzie Post: Or, or are you going to carry the dishes, you know, either one in each hand to the table and not stack them up on top of each other which can scratch the patterns. It gets more food onto the bottom of the plate, that sort of things.

Rico Gagliano: Man these are some picky hosts that you’re talking about.

Lizzie Post: Right?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m just going to say “That was delicious” and clear my throat until someone moves my plate.

Lizzie Post: Exactly. You could snap your fingers a little, like, “Hey, garcon.”


Apologizing for the Pocket-Dial

Rico Gagliano: Alright, here’s something from Caleb in San Francisco and, not surprisingly, he has a tech question. Caleb wrote, “I went on a hike Saturday and my cell phone must not have been screen locked. I butt dialed ten different people. Some of them multiple times. Kind of funny, maybe a new record,” writes Caleb, “but some of the call recipients were work associates and freelancers. People I have no business calling on the weekend and with whom I’ve only had professional contact. How do I make this right?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Is there a polite euphemism for butt dial? Because I don’t like that phrase.

Rico Gagliano: Let’s get that out of the way right now.

Daniel Post Senning: Pocket dial or purse dial.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Thank you, done.

Rico Gagliano: Perfect. So what is post-pocket-dial etiquette here?

Daniel Post Senning: A quick follow up email apologizing for the pocket dial or purse dial entirely appropriate, particularly if it went to work contacts. Very simple answer to this one and people will appreciate to know that you didn’t intend to call and that you even care enough to follow up.

Lizzie Post: Do you want to text them or do you want to email them since they’re work contacts? I don’t know, I’m just curious.

Daniel Post Senning: You don’t want to escalate it too much but if you really did multiple pocket dials, purse dials during the weekend you genuinely feel bad about it contacting them in the medium that you’re most comfortable talking to them in is appropriate. Often times for work that’s email. Sometimes for work colleagues, a text is just fine, gets the message there quickly in a way they’re going to understand.

Rico Gagliano: And of course the larger question here, though is did you pocket dial them and then the speaker turned on and then they heard something really awful. What do you do then?

Brendan Francis Newnam: You blame it on your child.

Rico Gagliano: Alright, Lizzie and Dan, thanks so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Lizzie Post: You’re welcome.

Daniel Post Senning: You’re most welcome, it’s a pleasure.