Emily Post’s “Etiquette” goes modern: Advice on pronouns, hugging

UPDATED: NOVEMBER 21, 2022 AT 10:35 AM
Former KIRO Newsradio features reporter

In 1922, at the age of 50, Emily Post published her very first etiquette book. Since then, 18 editions have been published by five generations of Posts. Now, 100 years later, her great-great-grandchildren just released Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition.

The books are a fascinating and, often humorous, look at what was happening in society at a particular time, and this new edition addresses some very modern issues.

“When it comes to greetings and introductions, we really feel that it’s important to talk about pronouns,” said Lizzie Post, co-author of the book and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. “It’s really important from the standpoint of being respectful and considerate to the people around us that we don’t just assume pronouns. I think this is something a lot of us are getting used to because most of us want to be respectful about other peoples’ identity.”

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The book discusses the etiquette of when it’s ok to hug and how to politely opt out of hugging.

“Hug rejection seems really awkward,” Post laughed. “The best thing you can do is, if you’re the one looking for a hug, ask, ‘Would a hug be welcome?’ If you ask and someone says, ‘A handshake would do just fine,’ keep all that positive joy you had for the hug and channel it right into your words, the expression on your face, and that handshake. It’s not going to be awkward. If you’re the one trying to block the hug, then as someone is opening those arms and walking right up to you, about to embrace, use your forearm, stick it out for a handshake, or you could also take a step back and say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I can’t do hugs right now, but I am so pleased to meet you’ or ‘I’m so happy to be seeing you.'”

I think we can all agree, the internet is the wild west of etiquette.

“Oh my gosh, I feel like the overarching advice for all things social media, no matter the platform, is thinking first before you post,” Post said. “Is this really what you want to say out to the world? Give it a beat, give it a minute to think about it before you actually hit send.”

There’s a Hard Times chapter in the book that guides folks on topics like grief.

“A lot of the time, we don’t know what to say and we can end up saying things like, ‘Call me if you need anything,” and that actually puts quite a lot of pressure on the other person to engage the help,” said Post. “Whereas, instead, if I say, ‘Let me know if you’d like me to drive the kids to and from soccer practice over the next couple months. I’d be more than happy to take that on if it would be helpful.’ Now all they have to do is say yes or no. Concrete ideas versus vague offerings of support.”

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Post says etiquette is fluid, but there are a few nuggets of advice that are so universal, they have appeared in both Emily Posts’ first book and the latest edition.

“Emily’s description of a handshake, where she talks about not wanting a bone-crushing one nor do you want something that feels like a dead fish, is almost exactly the same way we say it today,” Post laughed. “The fork, also, is always going to be on the left. It does change over time and yet the principles of etiquette, which, at Emily Post, we believe are consideration, respect, and honesty. These never change. So there’s this part of etiquette that’s really constant and stays the same and then there’s this part of etiquette that is always refreshing itself and I love that.”

Have your etiquette questions answered on the Awesome Etiquette Podcast, co-hosted by Lizzy Post and her cousin, Dan Post Senning.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, Your Last Meal. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!