If there's one lesson my dad imparted to me more than any other (at least how I remember it), it was that imposing yourself on others is akin to taking candy from a baby; you just don't do it.
All of my adult life, I've been very aware of my actions and how they affect other people. If I sense the slightest discomfort from a host, I will assume that I've overstayed my welcome and beat a hasty retreat. Because I have no problem talking, I will always ask Brian later if I've talked too much after being out with other people. To me, it would be a fate worse than death if someone were to say that I was annoying to be around or that I never shut up.
What's interesting about this, though, is that the people who everyone agrees are annoying - the loud talkers, the interrupters, the people who have to make their presence known wherever they go - they seem to be completely unaware that they may be inconveniencing or irritating other people. How is that possible? Is it ego, or really just a lack of social graces?
What has always amazed me is how some people are impervious to hints. You've seen it before on TV, or in the movies, or maybe even in your own life - there is always that one person or couple that refuses to leave, even when the hosts are cleaning up, turning off the lights, yawning and saying how they have to get up really early. After they still don't get the hints, they put the hosts in the really awkward position of flat-out telling their friend(s) to leave. Then there's a lot of, "Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't realize..." kind of talk. Why would anyone put themselves through this torture? And do the hangers-on not realize that the hosts are saying stuff like, "GAH! I thought they'd NEVER leave!" when they're gone?
One of my greatest pet peeves, cell phones, have made even polite people forget themselves. I just assume that people don't really care to hear what I'm talking about when I'm out in public and on my phone. I even heard someone on their phone in the theater once. Really? You can't go two hours without having that thing attached to your ear? US Cellular (a Midwestern-based cell company) goes so far as to ridicule these people in their ads - talking about the stupidest things you can imagine. I say, go ahead and talk about whatever you want - just don't do it within earshot of me. Some stores have posted signs like, "We'll be happy to wait on you, just as soon as you get off your phone." (see photo, above). Bingo.
There is a website that I really enjoy called etiquetteer.com. It's sort of like Emily Post for modern times. On it, you can find all sorts of advice on how to behave in public. I think we could all use a refresher course - don't you agree?