Interview: Lizzie Post of The Emily Post Institute Talks Modern Etiquette

The further we dove into the centennial edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, the less intimidating it felt to interview her great-great grand-daughter Lizzie Post.

The philosophy of etiquette is rooted in relationship-building, but the art of it is up to each of us to create if we wish to make the world a friendlier place.

And Lizzie Post certainly does.

She currently runs The Emily Post Institute with her cousin Daniel Post-Sennings, and together they’re carrying on the mission of better living through manners. Through hosting their podcast and business seminars, Lizzie and Daniel are bringing etiquette to modernity in the most inspiring and, frankly, needed ways.

Lizzie says behaving in ways that strengthen social ties also helps cultivate a stronger sense of self as well as building relationships.

“Expressing gratitude is a healthy mental exercise. I’ve been noticing the word ‘appreciate’ and hearing more people close our conversations and meetings by saying ‘I really appreciate you and the work you’re doing,’ or something like that. They’re taking that time to recognize the effort being put in and I find that really encouraging.”

And consideration is what makes a great host.

“Consideration and respect are two of the three principles we talk about at Emily Post as being the real foundation for etiquette. And the third is honesty, but I really feel like these small acts of recognizing other human beings and our impact on them is the foundation of etiquette, to choose to act in ways that are going to build relationships,” Lizzie goes on to say.

Like saying please and thank you!

“I have a convenience store a block away from my house and I asked the kid who works the night-shift there what he’d want me to say in an etiquette book about coming and going from a conveniences store, and he said ‘say goodbye.’ He said he can’t stand that people don’t say goodbye, that’s a basic word. Hi and bye are basic words we learn as babies, I realize how dismissed people feel when we don’t say them, how empty an exchange can feel.

“For a 15 or 16-year-old to be calling that out is worth paying attention to and taking encouragement from. Small acts of awareness of others make huge impacts in changing how you experience your community around it.”

Emily Post published her first edition in 1922.

100 years later, the 20th edition of her book is dealing with everything from smartphone etiquette to proper pronoun usage. “If you make a mistake, take ownership and extend a sincere apology, because those are the right things to do in that moment. But then move forward, and get it right the next time. It can take come committing to memory and getting used to, especially if you’ve previously known them as another name or pronoun.”

“It’s understandable that it might not be like flipping a switch for everyone overnight, but making the effort is where the respect and consideration is. That’s the important part to be getting across, you always want to make that effort, apologize for mistakes you make, and move on from them with grace.”

Lizzie has been surprised by the number of young people finding etiquette.

“I appreciate the fact that we have listeners of our podcast who are in their teens writing to us about the social dilemmas they’re facing. One kid’s mom doesn’t let him play video games, so what does he do when he’s at a friend’s and three of the four kids there want to play video games and he can’t? How does he navigate that?”

“It’s like whoa! We’ve got kids writing into an etiquette show, it’s mind-blowing and adorable, but also your kids think about this stuff when they interact with the people around them.” She believes the lack of socializing during COVID left many young people craving social guidelines.

Speaking of…

If you’re hosting, your guests also crave guidelines.

“A successful dinner party by Emily Post standards would be one where the host feels confident and has created a warm and welcoming, comfortable, engaging evening for their guests. And guests feel comfortable and confident about engaging in the evening.”

“It’s about setting the tone and expectation well so that people know how to participate well.” Here at The Salon Host, this means training your seasoned guests to act as your welcome committee, laying out your event-space intuitively and having a topic that drives juicy conversation.

Emily believed command of small details was more important that hosting a grand affair.

“She cared more about creating an atmosphere than the details about what form that took, but having command of those details makes everything run smoothly.”

It also makes the host feel more relaxed and confident, which also extends to the guests. There’s a hilariously cringe scene from the original edition about a bungled dinner party where every conceivable thing goes wrong, immediately followed by Emily’s formal instructions on how to avoid such a debacle.

When you don’t even have command over the dish you’re serving, how can you possibly focus on finer details like which guests would find each other interesting and should be sitting together?

“Small things, having an apology in your back pocket and knowing how to use it well and sincerely, make a huge difference to the relationships in your life.”

When asked about how to handle rude or straight-up intolerant people, and her answer was even more gracious than expected. “Emily Post always said ‘think first, think before you speak.’ And I think it’s really important to assess the situation that you’re in and think before you decide to engage in a way that could be furthering a negative situation.”

“Listening is one of the most amazingly powerful tools you can cultivate in terms of being able to work and be around others with whom you could be in conflict easily. Listening doesn’t have to take anything away from you, but it can do so much to de-escalate what could be really tense conversations.”

She points to the classic American political disagreements at Thanksgiving dinner, coming right up! While salons are meant to change minds over dinner, holiday meals are unlikely to be a venue for successful mind-expansion, so we’ll be following Lizzie’s advice of listening more than speaking on triggering subjects.

So read up on your Emily Post or listen to the podcast so you’ll be an example at the table!

And thanks so much to Lizzie for taking the time to dive a little deeper on how easy and rewarding it is to live with the intention of having a positive impact on others. Let’s review Emily’s principles really quick:

  1. Consideration

  2. Respect

  3. Honesty

  4. Good Hosting (ok, we added this one – but you know you want to! Here’s our how-to)