9 Things Polite People Always Say

Are these words and phrases part of your everyday vocabulary?

Southerners know the importance of proper etiquette and good manners. It's essential to treat everyone with respect and put your best foot forward in word and in deed. We start learning these lessons from a very young age, and we take these rules with us through life. Some of them require practice, and others become second nature. If you're practiced in holding doors and shaking hands but still have questions about the essential tenets of a vocabulary of good manners, let us offer you building blocks for proper etiquette, words, and phrases that you should know like the back of your hand and use freely. Ensure these phrases are the foundation of your daily interactions, and you'll be on the path to proper manners when interacting with others, be they friends, family members, or strangers—the last of whom are just friends you haven't gotten to know yet.

Thank You
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This one is a no-brainer for most of us, as it's typically one of the first words we learn. It's central to good manners and should be used all day, every day. Need someone to pass the gravy? Please. Requesting a response or making a request? Please. Using this word regularly is etiquette rule number one.

Thank You

If not tied for first place, "thank you" is certainly etiquette rule number two. Beyond expressing gratitude, it's also a nice way to soften a "no" when declining anything from a passed hors d'oeuvre to an informal invitation. Plus, there are also self-serving benefits to practicing gratitude (which is inseparable from using the phrase "thank you"): It's scientifically proven to be linked to better mental health.

You're Welcome

When someone says "thank you" to you, there are a few appropriate responses. Our preferred phrase is "you're welcome." Acknowledging someone else's expression of thanks is just good manners. (As we've learned from the world of fast food, "my pleasure" is also an acceptable response.) There's one sticky response to "thank you" that, according to etiquette coaches and customer service experts, is not always viewed as gracious: "No problem." of course, if someone responds to your gratitude with "no problem," you should skip being offended and instead assume sincere intent.

Pardon Me

When life inevitably brings an awkward situation, an accidental elbow, or a need to scoot around someone in a line, all you need to do is say, "Pardon me." It's a simple way to connect with someone, let your presence be known, and smooth over any awkwardness that might arise.

Excuse Me

A more casual version of "pardon me," this phrase is an equally polite way to ask forgiveness for causing a disruption of any kind, whether a sneeze or a request for someone's attention.

"Saying 'excuse me' moves people back into social equilibrium," according to etiquette expert Candace Smith. "These two words can smooth over a mistake, get someone's attention, or provide an exit."

I'm Sorry

This shouldn't be a default replacement for "pardon me" or "excuse me," as overuse detracts from its true intent, but sometimes a genuine "I'm sorry" is the perfect response. Save it for when you're acknowledging wrongdoing (like accidentally cutting someone in the check-out line) or you're expressing sympathy.

May I Help You?

Reaching out a hand of assistance, verbally or otherwise, to someone in need is also an important facet of etiquette—and of being a good citizen of humanity. It just takes one gesture to make a difference, and sometimes it only takes a phrase as simple as "may I help you?"

I Would Like... / May I Please Have...?

Whether placing a to-go order at a local cafe or ordering the fish special at a white-tablecloth restaurant, it's crucial to make requests, rather than demands, of your barista or waiter. That's why "I would like" or "May I please have...?" are better options than "I want."

A Person's Name

Once you know someone's name, be it a coworker or a customer service representative, use it. Not only is it courteous, but calling someone by name also makes a person feel recognized and respected. Dale Carnegie says it best: "A person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

What phrases are part of your etiquette guidebook? Are there any phrases essential to good manners that you don't use but would like to put into practice?

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  1. Harvard Health. Giving thanks can make you happier.

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