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Etiquette for Teens: Tips for Teenagers from an Etiquette Pro

Is your teen losing out because they don’t know how to act with adults? Teenagers who treat adults as casually as they do their friends can lose out on important job and social opportunities. Learning etiquette life skills can build confidence and help teens sail through in any situation.

Anne Chertoff, the COO of Beaumont Etiquette, teaches a popular teen etiquette course. This etiquette expert has tips on how teens can ace all of their adult interactions, whether it’s an interview for an internship or college, or even meeting a date’s parents for the first time.

The Interview

Here are Anne’s suggestions for making an impact when preparing for an interview:

  • Show up 10 minutes early.
  • Come prepared with a copy of your resume or transcript.
  • Do your research and bring a list of questions with you so you’re prepared when asked, “Do you have any questions?”
  • Bring a pen and notebook for notes. (Don’t use your phone.)
  • Don’t interrupt. Wait till they finish their sentence before replying.
  • Always knock before entering a room and never walk into an interview with any kind of drink or food. (That means no water bottles or energy drinks.)

The Talk

  • Adults should be referred to by either Mr., Ms., or Mrs., until you’re asked to call them by their first name.
  • Avoid using slang, don’t curse and skip filler words like um, ahh and like. Enunciate and remember to breathe and pause at the end of sentences.
  • Look a person in the eye while speaking to them. It shows you are engaged in the conversation.
  • Use please and thank you. “Can I help with anything?” and “It’s so nice to meet you.” will make your presence memorable.

The Handshake

  • Here is good rule of thumb for a firm hand shake: The web between the thumb and index finger on your hand should meet the web of the person’s hand you are shaking.
  • If you are seated when the person comes into the room, make sure to stand before shaking their hand and then introduce yourself, “Hi Mr. Jones, my name is…”

Proper Posture

  • Don’t slouch. Good posture is a sign of respect and shows you are paying attention. Keep your back straight, shoulders squared and your chin parallel to the floor.
  • If you’re sitting in a chair, avoid leaning back or using the armrests.

The Art of the Handwritten Note

  • Send a handwritten thank you note when you receive a gift. If you receive money or a gift card, mention how it will be used.
  • Sending a handwritten note after a job or college interview is a polite and thoughtful touch.

Email Etiquette

  • Emails should contain proper grammar and spelling and be emoji-free.
  • Unless instructed otherwise, use Mr., Ms., or Mrs.
  • Open with Good morning or Good evening and close with Best regards, not Thanks.
  • Make sure an attachment has a file name that indicates what it is and includes your name and date. (Example: Resume_Jones_0219)
  • The subject line of your email should describe what you are sending. (Example: Resume from Sally Jones). Never use Hello as your subject line, because it often goes to spam.

Estelle Erasmus, an award-winning journalist and writing coach is a guest editor for Narratively. She teaches writing at NYU, and hosts the podcast ASJA Direct for The American Society of Journalist and Authors. Follow her on her website, on Twitter (@EstelleSErasmus), Instagram and on Facebook.

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