Many of us question our mastery of etiquette – be it social, business, phone, or email etiquette – and wonder if our manners measure up to what is expected of us. As in other areas of life, an awareness of both etiquette and good manners is beneficial in college and graduate school, too.
While etiquette is a prescribed set of rules that take time to learn, manners are easier to acquire. According to Etiquette Queen Emily Post, “manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”
Keeping that in mind, we can all work on our manners by asking ourselves “would this action hurt my feelings if it were done to me?” For instance, if I were teaching this class, would a student showing up late, forgetting to mute her phone, smacking gum, checking the time repeatedly, putting his feet on the table, grooming herself in class, falling asleep, or leaving early hurt my feelings? If the answer is yes, good manners and common decency dictate not doing it.
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In addition to the above obvious examples of rudeness there are several faux pas that could make you look disrespectful to your professors.
1. Side conversations
Imagine talking to a group at a party. You are in the middle of sharing a story when you notice one of your listeners turn to another and start a private conversation. How would you feel? Exactly. If you must say something to the person next to you write it on a piece of paper and seamlessly pass it to them, then get back to learning.
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2. Using electronics
Unless a professor specifically says so, do not do this. You risk looking rude, because your professor knows that chances are good that you are not “just” looking at class material and taking notes about his lecture. He will assume that you are browsing online or checking your social media accounts. Why risk that perception? Leave your laptop, tablet, and cell phone in your bag and take notes by hand. It may also help you retain more of the information
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3. Putting your phone on vibrate instead of silent
You might think that you are being discreet, but your professor, as well as those near you, are likely to be bothered by the incessant buzzing of your phone. Yes, everyone can tell where it is coming from, at the very least by the annoyed looks on your neighbor’s face. Set your phone to silent, and unless you are expecting a call from a hospital, or something equally urgent and serious, do not look at it during class time.
4. Eating during class
Some professors allow their students to eat during class. You should not take this as an invitation to unwrap a bag of candy one by one, crunch on chips loudly, or chow down something that will stink up the whole room. Courtesy dictates keeping your in-class snack break short, quiet, and non-offensive. It goes without saying that if the professor does not invite you to snack away you should wait for a break or step outside if you must.
5. Yawning during class, especially with your mouth open
Is there a more blatant way to signal boredom? Yawning into someone’s face is the equivalent of rolling your eyes, or giving your professor a look of pure condescension. Yet, many students do this. Please, try your best to suppress your yawn, or at the very least cover your mouth.
6. Doodling in your notebook
Some say doodling helps them concentrate, others use it to chase away their boredom, but ask yourself how you would feel if you were trying to teach a group of students and instead of paying attention they were drawing hearts and clouds in their notebooks. Doodling shows disinterest in the same way other activities unrelated to the class material do.
7. Packing up your pens, stacking up your notebook to signal the end of class
Some students have the habit of playing timekeeper, and as soon as their watch signals the end of class (or a few minutes before, to be sure), they begin slamming their textbooks closed, packing their notebooks away, and before you know it they are halfway out the door. Not only is this incredibly rude to your professor but also disruptive to your classmates. Sometimes your class may run over by a minute or two. Try your best to deal with it like an adult. If you must leave to get to another class on the far end of campus or to catch your bus, let the professor know beforehand and sneak out quietly.
And a bonus bad behavior: Kicking your shoes off under the table
You might be in the habit of wearing uncomfortable shoes and kicking them off at every chance you get. If you are sitting at a table that is open and there is a chance that someone can see you lounging around shoeless, beware. Displaying one’s bare feet in a professional setting is considered bad manners.