Etiquette During a Pandemic? Yes, Please!

“Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”

That’s what Norman Vincent Peale said in his book The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952. So here we are in 2020 with a pandemic, an upcoming contentious Presidential election, social unrest, virtual schools, and no Chiefs tailgate parties. How on earth can we stay positive?


We reached out to local etiquette expert Janis Kliethermes of Etiquette Kansas City for some insight. She’s been teaching politeness principles to children and adults for over 12 years. Her message remains constant: “Etiquette simply means treating people with kindness, courtesy, and respect,” she says.

According to her, there’s never been a greater need to practice these basic traits and to show it’s not all doom and gloom. “We can influence others in an instant by a single word or deed. Try these simple gestures every day and not only will it make others feel good, but you might be surprised what it does for you,” she says. Here are some of Kliethermes’s foolproof suggestions and a few dos and don’ts:

1. Give Thanks
Do: Express Your Gratitude
“Teachers will probably never hear ‘thank you’ more than they will in the months and years to come. While many parents are taking over as the educator in their homes, teachers will become more appreciated. Make it a habit to say ‘thank you’ to the employees at the grocery store, gas station, restaurant, or anywhere you do business. Believe me, they don’t hear it that often. Thank-you notes are a lost art but leave a big impact. When was the last time you sent a handwritten thank-you note? And be sure to smile—as we can see smiling eyes above that mask!”

Don’t:“Don’t shake hands, pat on the back, hug, or share your bag of Cheetos. Be patient as these things will come back soon.”

2. Show Kindness
Do: Pay It Forward
“If you’re bored or need a break from the computer, go rake or mow your neighbor’s yard. Drop off a bottle of wine or basket of fresh vegetables with a note to a friend. Run an errand for an elderly neighbor.”

“Until we’ve been given the “all-clear” on Covid, avoid taking your award-winning chocolate chip cookies or homemade lasagna to a neighbor.”

3. Be Appreciative
Do: Enjoy the Little Things
“Take time to think about the good things in your life and know what you can control and what you can’t. Could I have controlled the extra ten pounds I gained since we went into lockdown, yes. But am I grateful for the opportunity to cook more of my grandma’s recipes and eat more gravy, yes! The time spent video chatting with friends and relatives was priceless and much needed. I’ll never take for granted again the freedom of going to church, concerts, sporting events, or visiting my elderly relatives.”

“Don’t complain constantly about all the things you can’t do. No one likes being around ‘Negative Nelly.’”

Be Respectful
Do: Find Out What It Means To You
“This is a big one! Common sense tells us that we are all different in our beliefs and opinions, right? Then why in the world do we feel the need to post every thought we have on social media? Does it really do any good to spew hatefulness for all the world to see as you hide behind your keyboard?

Respect people’s personal space and be aware of it. This is new to all of us, and I’ve been guilty of getting too close at times. I was asked to step back and I did. Then there’s the mask debate. Sure it’s confusing as the rules change constantly, but is it really that difficult to slip it on when the situation requires it?”

“Don’t share your political views on social media as most people already have their own. Don’t post hate-filled and negative stories that have no benefit, and don’t copy and paste articles that you have not fact-checked as it only spreads misinformation.”

Some Final Thoughts?
The last time I experienced this many highs and lows was my freshman year in college! As life starts inching its way back to whatever our new normal is going to be, just remember we can’t control the events in our life, but we can control our reaction to those events. Change your thoughts and let’s hope we change our world for the better in 2021.”

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