A Question of Etiquette: Back up, people!

Color Etiquette 07.21.16 (1)Lately, I’ve been practically knocked over by people rushing on to the elevator in my office building, when I, and others, are trying to get off. Who has the right of way?

Those exiting have the right of way. Those entering should wait, whether it’s one person or a group of people getting off the elevator. It’s common sense – those exiting leave more room for those who want to enter. Logically, if people shove on, they push those trying to get off farther back, so they have to step off to let those trying to exit get off anyway, which is inefficient and wastes time. It is not only polite, but also practical, to let those exiting do so before anyone new gets on. The same is true for a subway or train or bus. Let the people who need to get off do so before you enter!


Can you help me learn how to offer help to people who are ill, or recuperating, or who have just had a baby, or who have a sick child, or whatever, whose first response is that they are fine? I ask, “What can I do to help you?” and they say there is nothing. I know they could use some help but probably don’t want to burden me. But I really want to help!

It isn’t always obvious how we can best support those who could use some help, but try not to offer vague, general offers, like telling them to call you if they need anything. Instead, offer specifics, such as, “Which is a better night to drop off dinner, Tuesday or Wednesday?” or “Saturday is my day for errands so I’ll stop by for your list before I go … dry cleaner, grocery store, whatever … I’ll be all over town and it’s no big deal to pick up whatever you need while I’m there.” It is more comfortable for others to accept help when they can respond to a direct suggestion.


I am pretty upset and want to know if I am justified. A friend accepted my invitation to a party and then left within an hour because she had been invited to another party. I think she should have said she couldn’t attend the second one because she had already said she’d come to my party. Am I wrong?

No, you are not wrong. If she received two invitations, it was up to her to choose one and decline the other, not accept both, nor accept yours and also the second invitation. Nor would it be appropriate for her to accept your invitation and then cancel because she liked the second one better. You might want to clear the air and tell her how you feel. She likely did not intend to hurt or insult you, but she did, Hopefully, she will understand that, in the future, she needs to make a commitment and keep it, even if she gets an offer that sounds better to her.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to michaels.catherine@yahoo.com