Social Etiquette and Good Manners/wiping nose with hand


Hello Ms Lett, I have an adult family member who is often using their hand to wipe their nose. I have  repeatedly expressed my concern about this to them as I am prone to the flu. I have plenty of tissue boxes about the house but this person rarely uses them.This is often  done while using shared household items ie. TV remote, computer, phone. They claim that their nose often itches but this isn't totally true.I don't tend to be "germaphobic" and I don't want to nag. This has been bothering me as this hasn't changed despite voicing my concern. I do periodically go around and clean up items with clorox wipes.I have also thought of placing hand sanitizer around as a next step but I am not sure if this would cause too much anger. Any help would be appreciated.

Dear Karla:

I understand your frustration about your family member continuing to wipe his/her nose using their hand - something that small children do instinctively before they are broken of the habit by vigilant parents.  This person never learned this lesson and since it is a habit it is not purposefully being done to annoy you.  But it does and honestly, it is ugly.  While we cannot expect to break adults of their bad habits we can impress upon them the need to break them personally and give them gentle assistance.  The key is to be kind in your approach and helpful, not hurtful.

If I had the same situation, I would broach it like this with a private, light hearted but pointed conversation.
"George, you are one of my favorite people in the world and I want everything good for you.  I really hope you don't mind but I have noticed that people around you don't take well and tend to avoid you because they see you wiping your nose with your hand.  To a lot of people, that is gross and unhygienic.  It really turns people off and I know you don't mean to do that. I understand it is a bad habit but if you want, I'll help you break the habit whenever I am around you.  I have lots of tissues around (I would then hand him a travel (small) pack of tissues) and you could carry these in your pocket so you always have one to use.

It is hard enough to impress people so not doing things that turn them off can make a big difference in your business/social life too.

Good luck.  If your helpfulness doesn't help, then continue to "wipe" up after and try to ignore the gesture as much as you can.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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