As we start the New Year, now is the best time to renew our appreciation of gentility in all situations, and place our best foot forward, according to our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I received a text while waiting alone to meet a friend for dinner: Hey. There in 20 min. Is it okay that my friend did that, and what is the appropriate amount of time to wait for someone to show up before leaving?

Waiting At Dinner

Dear Dinner Partner,

What caused your friend’s delay – was it an emergency? Is this a pattern? It’s important to be prompt for any event, whether meeting family, friends, or business colleagues. In time-conscious Western cultures like the U.S., the acceptable waiting time may be shorter than in more flexible cultures like Latin America and Eastern regions, for example. Even subcultures within the U.S. have differing standards for waiting; 10 minutes may be the norm in New York, while it may be 20 minutes in Texas. In the U.S., after waiting 30 minutes, it’s fine to depart without apology. Best practices include fully charging your cell phone and exchanging cell numbers, and confirming the appointment the day prior.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

What’s your policy on lending a favorite book or a similar item? I love sharing things, but wonder if they will ever be it returned.

Book Lover

Dear Terrific Tome,

As William Shakespeare noted, neither a borrower nor a lender be. Sharing books or personal items with friends can be a great way to form a connection and follow up afterward. However, it’s important to be transparent and clarify that the item is for borrowing and not keeping. When a friend or colleague asks to borrow something, it may cause feelings of discomfort. If you have a cherished item, family heirloom, author signed book, or brand new unworn item, that you don’t wish to lend, say no. If you do lend, use these tips for a borrowing-lending agreement to clarify the terms and to increase the likelihood of the item being returned:

  1. A specific use for the item (the other person agrees how the item will be used and not abused.)
  2. A specified time frame the item will be in their possession and then returned; if not returned by that day and time, ask for its return.
  3. If lending money or a high value item, draft an agreement with your signatures.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

My wife and I love our pets, as well as others’, too. Lately, I’ve noticed some individuals taking liberty with pets being brought to restaurant patios, stores, and other public venues. Do I find the manager to have the errant pet curbed, or should I mention it to the owner myself?

Loves Dogs & Cats

Dear Pet Lover,

In restaurant patios, stores and other public venues, it is the professional staff’s responsibility to maintain the establishment’s decorum. In that light, the manager is in the position to diplomatically request that the pet owner tame their miscreant. If you find yourself in this position again, quietly ask a higher power at the establishment to speak with the pet owner. Social graces include knowing it is inappropriate to correct a pet owner’s lack of manners—unless you are being paid to do so. That being said, it’s crucial for pet owners to know and follow the establishment’s pet policies, properly train and maintain their pets in public spaces, and clean up after them.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I have a dear friend who posts sensitive and personal issues on Facebook. So much so that it seems like he would be embarrassed by such a public forum. Should I let him know it may be going too far, or ignore it and let him air his dirty laundry?

Facebook? Fantastic

Dear Facebooker,

A scientific study conducted by Gwendolyn Seidman of Albright College, published in Computers in Human Behavior, reviewed how Facebook users expressed their “true selves.” First named in 2002, the “true self-concept” states we possess qualities for which we wish to be recognized; however, we can’t express this wish in daily life. Later, the 2012 study found people who felt a “more true self’ online were more likely to communicate on Facebook, disclose things about themselves, and post emotional updates regarding drama and frustration. What’s important to understand is that true self-expression operates at the unconscious level. Unless you provide him with a copy of the study, talking to your friend about his public forum posting of his dirty laundry will most likely be met with a blank stare.