Nothing says more about a person than his or her table manners, and there is no better place — or possibly worse place — to make an impression than at the table. Whether meeting your spouse’s boss for the first time or going on a job interview or trying to seal an important business deal, your table manners could make or break a big opportunity.
Some of the biggest offenders include folks texting or talking on their phones while ignoring their companions, licking their fingers, picking their teeth, or making loud eating sounds. These things are all too common, leading some to wonder if dining etiquette is a thing of the past.
Years ago, families ate most of their meals at home around the dining table. During those meals, we learned and practiced table manners, modeling the behavior of our parents and older siblings. Today, with more people in the workforce and with our lives seemingly more hectic than ever, family meals are few and far between. Instead, we are dining out more frequently, often at fast-food restaurants, and the opportunity to learn table manners has largely disappeared.
And with the advent of cell phones, it can appear as though etiquette guru Emily Post has been replaced by social media as the new Manual of Manners. On Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, we see famous and not-so-famous people displaying horrible table manners, and we may be fooled into believing that that behavior is appropriate. But alas, table manners are still vital and can help you make a fabulous first impression.
And most importantly, remember: Your children are always watching you! When practicing good table manners, take into consideration the following:
- The arrangement of glasses and eating utensils and knowing how to properly use each.
- How to cut your food and maneuver it skillfully to your mouth (remember, it’s a plate, not a feeding trough).
- How to chew your food without causing those seated nearby to wince.
- How to properly use and pass shared food and condiments.
- When to start eating.
- How to properly eat bread and what to do with your napkin.
The broader category of dining etiquette includes topics that make the dining experience more pleasant for those nearby.
- Come to the event prepared with potential topics of conversation. Sitting next to someone who doesn’t contribute to the conversation leads to a long and dull meal.
- Know how to introduce yourself and how to shake hands when COVID-19 makes that possible again.
- Use proper posture. (Remember Mom telling you to get your elbows off the table and don’t slouch?)
- Dress appropriately for the setting.
- Respond to an invitation right away, or at least within three days of receiving it.
- Locate the host and personally thank him/her before leaving the event.
- Send a thank-you note after the event.
- Keep your cell phone on silent, and don’t place it on the table during dinner!
Dining etiquette is largely about making others comfortable and extending to them the same courtesy you would like bestowed upon you. If you never learned table manners, or maybe your manners could use a refresh, do a little Googling before going to a party. If all else fails, watch what others do, particularly your host, and imitate that. Learning table manners can help you avoid embarrassing situations and will set you apart from the crowd!
JAX Cooking Studio offers classes in Dining Etiquette. At these classes, guests are served a chef-prepared meal while they practice table manners under the direction of an etiquette specialist. A variety of upcoming cooking classes, summer camps, children’s classes, and more are also offered.
About the Author
Terri Davlantes is the owner of JAX Cooking Studio, an interactive space that provides adults, children, families, and corporate teams with fun hands-on cooking experiences. She started the cooking studio in her 50s after a long career in higher education. Terri was born and raised in Jacksonville, one of nine children. Etiquette was learned and practiced in cotillion classes and around the large dining table each evening. She and her husband have four adult children all of whom had better be minding their table manners!