I can hardly contain my excitement for this post. I’ve been eager to write something like this for a long time, and the opportunity finally presented itself.
As you know from reading A Lady Goes West, I’m a stickler for proper grammar, but something I’ve never really touched on is my passion for proper manners and the art of being polite. While I’ve had no formal training on how to behave in social situations, I credit my Mom and my time in the corporate world dining with superiors for giving me a hearty arsenal of “soft skills” to pull from.
And even if you don’t go on business lunches, nor have a need to network, I’m sure you eat at a table at times and like to put your best foot forward. Therefore today, I’m bringing you tips on how to have better table manners — any time, any where.
Top five tips to help you have better table manners
In order to put some meat behind this post, I reached out to a professionally trained etiquette consultant, Sara Wierhake of The Sterling School of Etiquette, for the most official information. I’ll share more about the lovely Sara and her business below, but first, let’s get to the tips …
1. There is a way to hold your silverware, and it does not include using your fork like a shovel.
There is an American way of holding silverware, as well as a Continental way. In America, you should hold the fork like a pencil with your dominant hand. You then switch back and forth or “zig zag” by using our knife to cut with your dominant hand. This requires you to switch the silverware between hands, between bites, placing the silverware fully on the plate during the transition. The Continental way of dining does not require the switching of hands. You simply hold the fork like a pencil with the tines down, and keep the tines down as the food heads up to your mouth. (This is often how you see actors in movies at fancy restaurants eat. Look out for it, because if done well, it looks quite effortless and fluid.) At no point should you hold your fork or knife like a shovel or a paintbrush. Just don’t.
2. Eating should be a “shared experience,” so always keep pace with those you are eating around and bring the food to your mouth — not vice versa.
Even if you are starving, you should not begin eating until everyone at the table has their food. And once you get into your meal, take your time. Always sit up straight and bring the fork or spoon of food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food. Sitting erect with good posture will not only aid in your digestion, but it just looks better than hunching over your meal nearly licking the plate. If your dining companion is eating slowly, you should too. We’re all guilty of eating too quickly, so take smaller bites and pull back on that speed, folks. Enjoy the satisfaction and make it last longer.
3. You have a napkin for a reason.
You should always use a napkin. As soon as you sit down at the table, whether at a fast-casual restaurant like Chipotle or a fancy steakhouse, or even your own kitchen table, your napkin should go directly into your lap. During your meal, you should access your napkin to dab your mouth between every few bites. And you should always dab the corners of your mouth before taking a sip of your beverage. Why? It’s the right thing to do. If you get anything on your hands, quickly wipe it off. Use the napkin. Just use it. And no, you should never blow your nose into your napkin. Excuse yourself for that.
4. Keep your junk off the table.
To all my fellow bloggers and Instagrammers, this one can be hard for us in this day and age, because we are constantly taking photos of our food. I’m totally guilty of keeping my phone on the table, and I need to stop that bad habit right now. No matter where you go to eat, you should always put your purse, sunglasses, hat, bag, laptop and any personal items below the table. If there is an open chair, place all of your items there or on the floor. The table should always be clear for food, plates and drinks only. Just turn those cell phones to silent and avoid them for a few minutes, my friends. It’s not that big of a deal. (I’m really going to work on this one with you. Let’s do it together!)
5. If it’s not food-related, please don’t do it at the table.
You really shouldn’t be reapplying your lipstick, picking your teeth or looking in a pocket mirror at the table. All things grooming need to be saved for the restroom, so just excuse yourself to take care of whatever you need. This is another one I am sometimes guilty of, because I always like to put on an extra coat of lipgloss once I have finished eating. Whoops!
There you have it, folks! While these points may seem trivial, they all add up to help you present yourself in the best possible way. Etiquette and table manners are traditions that I think need to be preserved, not retired. I’m standing strong on these points and am happy to be sharing them with you.
Learn those ever-important “soft skills” from a professional
A big thank you for the tips in this post goes to Sara Wierhake, the founder of The Sterling School of Etiquette. Sara is a dear friend of my Mom’s in Florida. And when my Mom told me about Sara’s booming business, I knew I wanted to pick her brain and talk about all things manners, because it’s something I love.
Sara was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about what she’s seen and heard from her many years in the business world, and she’s a wealth of knowledge. If you, your business or even your family is in need of some help with table manners, making first impressions or networking, reach out to Sara today at firstname.lastname@example.org. She travels throughout the nation to teach people how to improve their “soft skills,” and she may be just what you need. Thanks, Sara! I’m so glad my Mom has good friends like you.
Alright folks, have a wonderful Thursday. I’m teaching extra classes at Orangetheory Fitness this morning and a double-header of BODYPUMP and a core blast tonight. But I’ll be back tomorrow for your weekly “Friday Favorites.” See you soon!
Questions of the day
Are you interested in learning more about etiquette with a second installment of this series?
What is one “rude” behavior that bothers you?
What is one “polite” behavior that you love?