There comes a time in every man’s life when he could use a brush-up on basic etiquette. But if you’re waiting for him to hit the books himself, don’t hold your breath. Whether the man in your life is a young self-starter looking to make his way in the world, or just a busy dad who’s forgotten which hand to cut with, Peter Post (the great-grandson of manners maven Emily Post) has the answers in “Essential Manners for Men.” Now in its second edition, “Manners” is a candid guide to gentlemanly etiquette for every situation–be it work, home, vacation, the gym, or even the world of online dating. On top of classic instructions, Post looks deeper at the daily habits that can, over time, make or break a relationship or influence one’s standing among peers. Here’s how to fix 10 gaffes common to gents.
1. The All-Important Handshake
According to Post, men have a tendency to employ either the “Bone Crusher” or the “Limp-Wrist.” Shaking hands shouldn’t be demonstration of machismo or superiority, but it’s important to show warmth and confidence. Proper etiquette calls for a “Goldilocks medium”: a firm grip, with two to three pumps.
2. Leaving Messes in the Kitchen
When Post asked women which kitchen mishap irked them most, it was men’s habit of not cleaning up after themselves. Post admits his own guilt here, and says that sticking to one strict rule helped him overcome the habit: Whenever you fix a meal for yourself, clean the dishes and put away the ingredients before you eat. You’re much less likely to clean up during halftime (as you’ve promised) than before you dig in.
Spitting may have earned you kudos in grade school, but women list it as one of the five worst things men do, according to Post. His advice: If you need to clear your throat when in public, excuse yourself to the bathroom or spit discreetly into a tissue and discard. Spitting is OK, though, Post says, when playing sports or in the exclusive company of guys.
4. Road Rage
Aggressive driving or cursing at others on the road makes passengers feel uncomfortable and puts everyone in a bad mood for no reason, Post writes. The key is to craft a cooler response to traffic woes. Screaming, obscene gestures and always assuming that you are in the right are behaviors to watch out for (and change).
Post offers wisdom on a rather touchy matter for guys: adjusting your junk. When an uncomfortable position compels you to rearrange, Post writes, turning away and taking care of it discreetly usually suffices. The problem is that the habit becomes automatic for a lot of men, and they don’t realize they’re doing it in plain sight. “Start realizing,” says Post.
6. Email Don’ts
Email may not be the most formal mode of communication, but the missives are public documents and should be treated as such, says Post. “If you can’t post it on a bulletin board,” he writes, “don’t send it.” He lays out a few core guidelines: Let hostile emotions cool before sending email; always proofread; limit acronyms and textspeak; and take time to craft a compelling subject line: it’s more important than you think.
7. Chauvinism at Work
In interviews with female professionals, Post found that disrespect towards women in the workplace persists. According to interviewees, male workers were apt to use patronizing tones, assign female employees menial tasks beneath their capabilities, assume that women in other offices are assistants or secretaries and “look south” of the face when having conversations. “If you see yourself in any of these,” Post writes, “it’s time to do a careful assessment and change your behavior.”
8. Leaving Traces at the Gym
An endorphin haze is no excuse to leave a pool of your own sweat on the gym’s exercise bike, Post chides. In interviews with the author, women consistently named this oversight as a top manners mistake. His rule is simple: Wipe down every machine, every time, even if it means making the person behind you wait while you clean up.
9. Chairs and Doors
Holding doors and pulling out chairs for women has never gone out of style, and yet Post quotes statistics that say it’s largely fallen out of practice. In his 2011 survey, only 14 percent of women said that men always held doors and pulled out chairs for them, and 40 percent of women claimed that men never did it for them at all. At the very least, the disappointing stats open “an opportunity for you to look awesome to your wife, significant other, or date,” Post writes.
No matter how distracting an attractive acquaintance or colleague may be, staring pointedly is never OK, says Post. Concentrating on the knowledge and information that person is bringing to the conversation will help steer your focus to what’s important and save you from embarrassment.