Etiquette Chics: Has COVID made us a ruder or more well-mannered society?

As we continue to navigate these choppy Pandemiquette waters, some new etiquette issues have risen to the forefront.

Susan Vernick, Anna Vernick and Lauren Vernick

We can all agree remaining healthy and keeping our communities safe and well is in the forefront of fighting this pandemic. But, we all still have social interactions (no matter how socially distant or awkward) that we still need to navigate. 

We wrote a column titled “Pandemiquette” a few months ago, and we talked about etiquette changes and how to embrace those changes. As we continue to navigate these choppy Pandemiquette waters, some new etiquette issues have risen to the forefront. As we address these, remembering the wise words of etiquette expert Emily Post has never been more relevant, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners. No matter what fork you use.”

Rule No. 1: Rudeness is not OK. 

Let us be clear, we certainly want everyone to be safe and healthy. And asking others, should you choose, in a polite manner to abide by safety guidelines is etiquette-a-OK. But, rudely telling and even yelling at people to “cover their noses” or “move back” or “wrong way” (in the grocery aisles) is most likely counterproductive. Politely asking is fine. Suggestions are okay. Being the mask-wearing patrol or safety-distancing police that act in aggressive manners is not OK. 

We had this happen to us at a hotel we were visiting this summer on Seneca Lake. There was a large outdoor fire pit and the chairs were spaced at a safe social distance and we all had masks. Two very rude couples yelled, as we went to sit by the fire in a large public space, “No! No! Get away! This is our area!” Rudeness is very unattractive and they certainly were not model etiquette citizens. (Amy Vanderbilt and her counterparts would have been mortified!) 

We will not bore you with the details. Yes, we ended up enjoying the lovely fireside on Seneca Lake without our rude guests joining us. But, we did not handle rudeness with rudeness. We told them how inappropriate their behavior was and then we simply solicited help from management. Always remember, if ever faced with a similar bout of rudeness, “Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength.” — Eric Hoffer. 

Rule No. 2: “Personal space” just simply got bigger.

Pushing past people, cutting through and being aggressive is not just a poor safety practice, it is not smart social behavior. Most likely, the increase in this activity is due to increased stress levels. But, even before COVID-19, personal spaces were alive and well. Now, it is just a bigger space. 

So, be mindful of those in line, those around you and be aware of social distancing with a healthy dose of patience intact. In today’s world, regardless of how perfectly you are wearing your mask, keeping personal space/social distance firmly in place is an important safety guideline.

Rule No. 3: The foundational phrases of etiquette are still in style.

Saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” are still the foundation of etiquette. Use them often, graciously and generously.

Rule No. 4: Handshakes are a thing of the past, at least for now.

As you all well know, air high-fives, waves, nods and smiling eyes are the best we can do during this pandemic. But, do not stop greeting others. Keep doing so often and regularly to keep us all connected and pulling together during these challenging times.

Rule No. 5: Virtual learning etiquette.

Flexibility and patience is key for all involved — parents, students and educators. Flexibility as well as patience and allotments are all virtues and kindness manners that need to be fully embraced by all involved in virtual learning or hybrid learning.

We have virtual learners in our home and finding that new normal is a process that will be most successful when everyone embraces these qualities. Especially be mindful of the stress our students/children are feeling. They need extra doses of understanding while still staying true to school schedules and disciplined learning. And for our educators in our community, a big “thank you” or “we appreciate you” are in order. You will not find better etiquette suggestions than the ones that revolve around kindness and gratitude.

Rule No. 6: Find joy in new normals.

Certainly, there is so much sadness and grief surrounding this pandemic and that cannot be overstated. This is such a difficult and sad time for all, and especially for families who have lost loved ones. But, finding those things that bring you joy is a simple step to finding a new normal. Being kind to yourself, giving yourself time to adapt and even finding new interests and hobbies can be immensely helpful. 

Whether it is sketching, biking, painting or walking, all these things exercise your mind and body and help you find joy in this season. Keeping yourself connected spiritually is another good step to helping yourself cope and deal with change. Seeking help if you find yourself particularly struggling is wise on your journey. But, embracing the change instead of fighting it is a good first step. How is this related to manners, you ask? Kindness … is the core of etiquette. Kindness toward yourself and others makes for a joyous journey.

So, as we write this follow-up to our first Pandemiquette column, we join you in hoping that there is not a need for another pandemic column. We look forward to the days where COVID is a rarely used word. But, until then, keep you manners fully intact and stay true to those things that ground you. Don’t allow the choppy pandemic waters to overtake, rather, enjoy the journey no matter how stormy the seas. Remembering no matter how difficult the days are, “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side of things.”

You can find more etiquette and techiquette tips and view our videos on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and our Youtube channel, “Etiquette Chics.” Feel free to email us at etiquettechics@gmail.com. We love hearing from our readers!

The Etiquette Chics, from left, are Anna Vernick, Susan Vernick and Lauren Vernick.
The Etiquette Chics offer etiquette tips and guidelines for the modern world.