I will never forget a formal dinner I attended as a young adult in San Francisco with my husband and a gathering of his business associates. As I sat down at the round table with eight other people that I didn’t know well at all, I felt a sense of panic rising through my body. Looking around the table, I realized that I didn’t have a clue about proper dining etiquette for a formal, seven-course meal. All I could do was follow the lead of the other people at the table. And I did.
As far as I can remember, I didn’t do anything to embarrass myself too much. After that experience, though, I went out and bought The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette and started studying. The next time I found myself in this situation, I wanted to be prepared!
Not only did I read this book, but I also made it a habit to read personal development books and study the habits of successful people. The difference between the habits of high achievers and low achievers fascinates me.
Cultivating good habits is not difficult. We just need to know what to do and become intentional about incorporating these routines into our lives.
In his book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, Tom Corley describes 15 dining habits of self-made millionaires. After years of research, he found that having good habits and using proper etiquette is a trademark of high achievers.
We are social creatures. We share meals with others at home, at work, and with our friends. We have plenty of opportunities to practice basic table manners.
Let’s take a look at some important dining etiquette tips that will make our social interactions more enjoyable for everyone involved.
1. As soon as you sit down at the table, take the napkin off the table and drape it over your lap.
2. Your water glass is the one above your knife. Your wine glass is to the right of your water glass.
3. Always wait until everyone has his or her food to begin eating.
4. Chew your food with your mouth closed.
5. Speak only after you have finished chewing your food.
6. If there is a communal dip on the table, put a small amount on your plate for you.
7. If you leave the table during a meal, place your napkin, loosely folded in your seat. Your napkin is never returned to the table until your are ready to leave.
8. Eat at the same pace as everyone else at the table.
9. Hold your eating utensils properly.
10. The outside fork is for your salad. The inside fork is for your entree.
11. Refrain from making gestures with your utensils in your hands.
12. Always ask people to pass anything you need at the table rather than reaching for it.
13. Sit up straight at the table.
14. Your napkin should be loosely folded at the end of your meal and placed on the table to the left of your plate, soiled side down.
15. After the meal, go to the restroom and make sure your teeth and mouth are clean.
With our relaxed and informal lifestyles and eating habits, many of us fail to practice basic dining etiquette. As we get back to the basics, using these table manners will help us improve our lifestyles and make sharing meals with others much more enjoyable for everyone.
“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”
– Clarence Thomas
Questions: How did you learn good manners? From your parents? From your teachers? A mentor? From life experiences? I would love to hear your thoughts on using proper dinning etiquette.