The ‘Awesome’ Posts Suggest You Keep Doing Nothing

Our resident etiquette experts Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning co-authored "Emily Post's Etiquette: The 18th Edition," and now host the (awesome) podcast "Awesome Etiquette."

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

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week, you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this week are our champion etiquette experts, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post. The great-great-grandchildren of Emily Post join us once a month to tackle problems of politesse, including pronouncing ‘politesse’. Lizzie, Dan, welcome. How are you guys?

Lizzie Post: We’re awesome.

Daniel Post Senning: Awesome, and learning a new word.

Lizzie Post: I know, right? I like ‘champions’, too. I like that.

Daniel Post Senning: I think of you having medals.

Lizzie Post: I know, right?

Brendan Francis Newnam: If our honor was besmirched over etiquette, you would be our champions. So, I asked you guys, how are you? Because, I really care.

Lizzie Post: Oh, thank you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But, lately – I’m being serious – I’ve been getting hung up on this. When I encounter a bank teller or a security guard, my default has been to say, “Hi, how are you?” but it occurs to me that that’s kind of disingenuous. I don’t really want to know. Not that I’m a bad person.

Rico Gagliano: He wants to be pleasant.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I just want to be pleasant.

Lizzie Post: Totally valid.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But, if they engage me, it’s not an efficient of anyone’s time.

Daniel Post Senning: “Good morning.”

Lizzie Post: Well, before we answer that, I love the sincerity at which you’re coming at this. There’s a sincerity with it. If I’m not going to really care how you are, then I shouldn’t be asking you that. I should be saying some other form of greeting. We have a lot of other greetings. So yeah, like Dan just said, “Good morning.” You can just say “Good morning” to someone. You don’t have to ask them how they are.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, sir.”

Lizzie Post: Then, say “Good afternoon”.

Rico Gagliano: Or just, how about that head bob? How about the little, you tip your head back a little and you’re like, “Yo, man.”

Lizzie Post: Yeah, do a little head nod. Acknowledging someone else’s existence can be as simple as eye contact and that little head nod, and a little bit of a smile. You don’t even have to say anything.

Daniel Post Senning: Put the smile in your eyes.

Rico Gagliano: All right. Well, let us acknowledge the letters that have come in from our listeners.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They send you questions that they want to hear the answer to.

Taking the Fall (for Leaves)

Rico Gagliano: Exactly. Here’s something from Thomas in Spokane, Washington. Thomas writes: “I have several trees on my property that drop dying autumn leaves onto adjacent lawns. Should I be cleaning up the leaves because they fell from my tree, or should my neighbors be keeping their lawns clean on their own, because that’s just part of life in the inland Northwest? It is worth pointing out, no one has complained about this yet.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: A timely question.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s so beautiful here right now.

Lizzie Post: I know. We’re dealing with this. I’ve heard of this being a problem for some people. I’ve heard of people going so far as to cut the branches that are overhanging into their yard off.

Rico Gagliano: It seems wrong to make the tree pay the price, though.

Lizzie Post: I agree with you. Personally, I think, you clean up whatever falls in your yard. The wind blows, and you might not even have a tree in your yard, and you wind up with leaves in your yard. You clean them up.

Daniel Post Senning: Before you intrude on someone else’s property, you would talk to the person, ask or offer.

Rico Gagliano: I just imagine scrambling over the fence, and you’re getting shot at by the neighbors. Leave the leaves.

Lizzie Post: No, totally.

Daniel Post Senning: But, it might be a nice offer to make. I’ve got a fruit tree. “I don’t want the limbs shaved off. Could I help get those apples off your yard?” Or, leaves, in this particular situation. “If I could ever help, let me know.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: While you’re drinking a beer, sitting here, trying to look at them rake leaves. “Hey, if you guys ever need anything, let me know”.

Rico Gagliano: “Give me a shout”.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, Thomas, there you go. Keep doing nothing.

Cutting Off Restaurant Rudeness

Rico Gagliano: Here is something from Matthew in Kansas City, Missouri. Matthew writes: “I’ve got a friend who likes to out to lunch and catch up. The problem is, she’s incredibly rude to the wait staff. She one called the restaurant on her cell phone to make a complaint while we were still in the restaurant. I feel uncomfortable ever returning to these places because she’s been so rude. What can I do?”

Lizzie Post: You do not dine with this person again.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It seems pretty clear.

Lizzie Post: I would not be able to stand that.

Daniel Post Senning: What is it with people mistreating wait staff? That, to me, is such an alien thing when it happens.

Lizzie Post: It’s a sense of entitlement, and it’s so awkward.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s so awkward, and a difficult thing to deal with, and it’s hard to correct someone else’s behavior, particularly in the moment. Something that’s as egregious as this, you might even bring up as it’s happening, just to save them some embarrassment. Think of it as the ‘broccoli on the tooth’ rule. You mention something that’s awkward to save them the difficulty.

Lizzie Post: I’m definitely like, when a friend’s been out of line, I’ve been like, “Listen, I’m not comfortable with you treating someone that way when we’re out together.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: And they’re like, “Who are you to tell me this, Lizzie, but… oh.”

Lizzie Post: Eh, no. That’s enough.

Rico Gagliano: That is a good question, though, because you are who you are. Are people especially polite in front of you?

Lizzie Post: No.

Rico Gagliano: I would think it would be like being a police officer, where everywhere you drive, people go the speed limit.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s like a super power.

Lizzie Post: I had it bite me in the butt the other week. I had someone get ticked off. They dropped the “Aren’t you the Heiress to Etiquette?”

Daniel Post Senning: They expect you to be thoughtful and polite all the time.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re like, “Let me hold the door open for you while you leave.”

Lizzie Post: Please. Yes, I’m the ‘Heiress to Etiquette.’ Give me a break. Heiress to Etiquette?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I like it. That could have been an alternative name for your podcast. “Heir and Heiress to Etiquette.”

Lizzie Post: That is not what I want to be known as.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Etiquette super power!

Rico Gagliano: So, Matthew, either ditch this friend or correct him or her in the moment.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, no, guys. I have one other possibility for Matthew. Matthew could call his friend while the friend is calling the restaurant, and they could switch over to call waiting, and you could just say “You are a jerk”. Like that.

Lizzie Post: Why don’t they just send a text, mid-call, and it’s all caps.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly. Just text and then call, say “You’re being a jerk”.

Rico Gagliano: And hang up.

Aging Into Birthday Organizer

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. This next question comes from Shannon in L.A., California. I believe that’s Los Angeles. Shannon writes: “My 21st birthday is coming up, and I would like to celebrate by attending a 21-plus concert or show with a few close friends. As the inviter, should I cover the costs of their tickets and/or parking, or should the invitees pay in lieu of a gift?”

Rico Gagliano: Good question.

Lizzie Post: So, two things. One, as we get older, it’s more often that you’re going to host your own birthday. Or, if you want to do something for your birthday, you’ve got to be the one to speak up and say “Hey, this is what I want to do.”

I would say, to my friends, I act more as a ‘group organizer’ rather than a ‘host.’ I would say “I would love to go this concert. This is how much the tickets are. This is how much parking’s going to be. So, this is what the total night will cost. Anybody who’s in, let me know.”

Daniel Post Senning: But, remember, as you shift subtly to that organizer role, where you’re telling people what you’re up to and letting them know enough information so they can come participate, that you don’t take offense if people choose not to come, because you’re not covering their ticket. You’re not covering their parking. You’re asking them to get on board.

Lizzie Post: You may only get one friend who comes to the concert with you.

Daniel Post Senning: And, not to take that personally. Everyone’s got to make their own choices.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Welcome to adulthood, Shannon.

Lizzie Post: Everyone has a budget.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You pay at the door.

Lizzie Post: But, happy birthday!

Rico Gagliano: Happy birthday – and if you go out to eat, treat the wait staff with respect.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Lizzie and Dan, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Lizzie Post: Hey, thank you.

Daniel Post Senning: You’re most welcome. It’s good to be here.