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Mind Your Manners: Is It Normal To Share Headphones?

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Etiquette expert and runner Lizzie Post knows a thing or two about the rules of the road. The great-great granddaughter of etiquette’s original reigning queen, Emily Post, has tips on how to be courteous, kind and–most importantly–how to not gross out your running partners.

What’s your take on headphone sharing? Gross or totally fine?

The great “disgusting debate” is tough to navigate for one very important reason: Not everyone’s gross-out level is the same! I’d probably let you eat off my plate, take a bite of my sandwich, or heck, use my deodorant in a pinch. You, on the other hand, might be repulsed by this sort of sharing, but okay with sleeping in a bed that doesn’t have fresh sheets.

Our gross-out levels vary from person to person and grossness to grossness. I have friends who will share forks but not toothbrushes. Go figure. So how do you create rules when everyone’s standards are so different? You don’t. You simply ask. “Isha, if you’d like, you can use my earbuds—I know some people don’t like to share them, but I don’t mind, if you don’t.” Or going the other way, “Oh, thanks for offering, but I’ll listen another time.”

It may seem like overexplanation, but using a light, easy tone will let your friend know her offer is totally normal—it just happens to be something you don’t want to take her up on. We all have boundaries like this, and learning your buddy’s is a great way to build a more considerate friendship. Whichever side of the gross-out factor you end up on, be polite and don’t judge your friends for offering or asking.


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Lizzie Post

Lizzie Post

Lizzie Post, is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette 18th edition as well as Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette 6th edition and The Etiquette Advantage in Business 3rd edition. Lizzie does speaking engagements across the country sharing advice about entertaining, weddings, dating, dining etiquette, tech-etiquette, finance and lifestyle. She has worked as a spokesperson for companies including Bank of America, American Express, AirBnB, and Genentech. She is a columnist with Women’s Running magazine, Good Housekeeping magazine, and She is the co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast on American Public Media’s podcast network Infinite Guest. She is a regular guest on American Public Media’s The Dinner Party. Lizzie offers a fresh perspective with an engaging and modern voice. She delights in tackling etiquette’s taboo topics with the media, making her a popular source. Her interviews include NBC’s The Today Show, Katie, Fox & Friends, Live with Kelly and Michael, The Gayle King Show, The Wendy Williams Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, Harper’s Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, Glamour, Redbook, The Huffington Post and more.