Social etiquette generally refers to proper behavior in everyday interactions with other people, but not etiquette at the table, which is referred to as dinner etiquette or table manners. It is extremely important to demonstrate good social etiquette, but the good news is that it is very simple to learn. In general, one of the best tips for proper etiquette is also the golden rule: treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Social etiquette begins when meeting someone for the first time. It is polite to stand to greet someone, and offer the right hand for a handshake. Previously, men would not offer to shake a woman's hand unless she offered it first, but this is no longer the case. Anyone can and should offer to shake hands with someone they have just met. A handshake should not be too firm or too loose, and the palms should touch, not just the fingers.
It is also important to make eye contact and smile as sincerely as possible. When beginning a conversation with someone, try to have some interesting topics to discuss, or ask some questions. Make an effort to make follow-up comments or ask questions while someone is talking to demonstrate interest, but do not interrupt. In general, it is good etiquette to avoid hot-button issues like politics and religion unless there is a very good reason for bringing it up.
Social etiquette extends to technology as well. When having a conversation with a person face-to-face, it is considered very bad manners to answer a cell phone call or even to look at or send a text message. If it is absolutely necessary to take a call or respond to a text message, make a polite excuse to leave the conversation, and return the call or text privately.
Some of the most basic rules for social etiquette are the most effective. Being polite by always saying "please" and "thank you" goes a long way. Another important point is to make an effort to remember people's names. If invited to a dinner party, it is polite to bring a small gift for the host and hostess unless specifically requested not to. Remove a hat when indoors, and cover the mouth and nose and excuse yourself after coughing or sneezing. When confused in any situation that calls for good social etiquette, simply remember that common kindness will go a long way, and people are much more likely to remember favorably a genuine attempt to be polite and respectful.