Age Discrimination Etiquette 6 Rules: How To Avoid Ageism Best

The crucial age discrimination etiquette rules. The appropriate behaviors to avoid the most common forms of age discrimination. Follow these rules to be inclusive and avoid offending others.

What age discrimination etiquette is

Age discrimination etiquette is the set of rules to be inclusive and avoid ageism or discrimination based on someone’s age. Such rules include:

  • How to train yourself to avoid age discrimination.
  • The inappropriate behaviors to avoid.
  • How to deal with age discrimination.

Everyone should respect age discrimination etiquette to avoid discriminatory behaviors, respect others, and be inclusive.

If you experience or witness age discrimination, follow the etiquette rules to appropriately deal with the offending party.

General age discrimination etiquette principles

People tend to feel more comfortable with someone who is similar to them. Such as someone with the same gender, ethnicity, age, religion, and so on. Thus, when people perceive diversity, they may get uncomfortable or defensive.

Age discrimination etiquette is based on three main principles:

  • Help people positively perceive age diversity and avoid prejudice.
  • Ensure equal treatment.
  • Avoid any behavior that can offend others based on their age.
how to avoid age discrimination and how to deal with ageism

Age discrimination etiquette rules

1) Train yourself to get comfortable with age diversity

Instead of focusing on the perceived diversity, it is best to train ourselves to focus on the similarities. The things that we have in common with other people are disproportionally more than the differences. We all eat, drink, breathe, spend time with someone we love, have fun, work, expect fair compensation for our work, and so on. Age is a factor that does not affect such similarities at all. Thus, it is not as relevant as one might think.

While there are obvious differences across age groups, such differences do not affect our basic rights and values as individuals.

2) Avoid generalization based on someone’s age

Never generalize. Personal traits and behaviors are almost always disconnected. If you see a young person eating broccoli, it does not mean that all young people eat broccoli. Or that eating broccoli is an activity appropriate only for young people.

3) Adopt an inclusive language 

Never refer to someone by their physical traits, body parts, behaviors, or sexual orientation. Similarly, avoid any term that can be perceived as derogatory based on someone’s age group.

Avoid words, thoughts, or sentences that imply segregation. Such as “we” as opposed to “you” (your group) or “they”.

4) Challenge your own prejudice toward age groups

Prejudice leads to racism and discrimination. Thus, to avoid age discrimination, we need to fight our own prejudices.

Train yourself to challenge your own prejudice. Ask yourself whether your opinion about someone is based on your experience or on what other people say. It is best to base our opinions on our own first-hand experience. We cannot rely solely on what others may say or may have experienced, as they might be biased.

Similarly, ask yourself whether your opinion about someone would change if the person belonged to another age group. Are there objective facts that informed your opinion? Or is your opinion based mostly on perceived factors?

5) Avoid sensitive topics

Avoid conversation topics that can be controversial, too personal, or at risk of misinterpretation. Some age groups that have experienced significant age discrimination may be particularly sensitive to some topics. Politics, religion, or history may be inappropriate, as they depend largely on personal preferences and interpretations.

It is most appropriate to make small talk to get to know other people. Small talk help build rapport, understand boundaries, and avoid venturing into conversation topics that may be sensitive.

6) Be tolerant of mistakes

Age discrimination is wrong and it should be prevented. However, it is the best etiquette to avoid confrontation. Instead, when possible, choose tolerance and dialogue.

People are generally good and want to be good. Age discrimination often comes from a lack of education about equality or exposure to diversity. Thus, the best cure against ageism is to patiently educate people and expose them to diversity in a non-threatening way.

When someone makes an offensive remark, do not confront them. Instead, patiently make them aware that their remark or behavior can be offensive to you. Briefly explain your reasons.

Try your best to not sound judgemental or self-righteous. Instead, consider yourself privileged because you received education about equality or exposure to diversity, while the other person clearly did not.

Do not expect immediate results. People need time to learn, absorb experiences, understand their mistakes, and learn from them. Be tolerant and have faith in others and their goodwill.

How to deal with age discrimination

Age discrimination etiquette in your social circle

Help friends, relatives, and people you care about to correct their mistakes. Make them aware of what ageism is and why it should be avoided. Be tolerant and non-confrontational. Try to start a dialogue and help them understand what behaviors to avoid and why. If the other person does not show any sign of improvement over time, it may be best to reconsider your relationship with them.

Age discrimination etiquette at work or in the office

Every employer has the duty to create a work environment that is welcoming and inclusive. While a tolerant attitude is most appropriate in informal and social circles, age discrimination should not be tolerated in any professional or institutional setting.

If you experience or witness age discrimination at work, you can politely correct the offending party. If the issue persists, avoid confrontation. Instead, involve your human resources function. When you find yourself in a work environment where age discrimination is endemic, do not start a crusade and leave.

Age discrimination etiquette at schools and universities

Educational institutions have the duty to educate people about equality. Thus, any discriminatory behavior in such venues cannot be tolerated and must be corrected.

If you experience or witness age discrimination in an educational institution, you should report it immediately to the institution’s governing bodies. If the issue persists, it is perfectly appropriate to escalate it to any supervisory institution.

age discrimination worst mistakes

Age discrimination etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst age discrimination etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Discriminating based on someone’s age.
  • 10/10. Tolerating persistent age discrimination.
  • 9/10. Making generalizations based on age.
  • 8/10. Speaking in a non-inclusive language.


  • Ageism is a global challenge: