Etiquette Tip of the Week

An accomplished business woman told me she sat down at a banquet at a conference, when the young woman next to her leaned over and asked, “Which fork?”

She asked the right person. The business woman took her under wing and mentored her through the meal.

The most common advice I hear about table manners is also the worst: “Just watch what everyone else is doing.”

What if everyone else is wrong?

There are times when you follow and times you take the lead. Table Manners may involve cutting tools – but they are not brain surgery. There are two simple rules of any place setting and if you can remember these two, you have it made:

1. Bread plate on the left, drinks on the right.
2. Start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in with each course. Dessert utensils are above the place setting.

It’s easier to remember, when you consider etiquette is not about rules for the sake of having rules. There is a purpose to everything. Everyone has a designated bread plate and drinks, so we can cram eight or ten people around a banquet table for a rip-roaring good time. The order of the utensils is like a map of our meal, so we know what’s coming.

There are times when you let others take the lead. If you are on an interview meal, wait until your host (the interviewer) places the napkin in his/her lap. Begin eating, after your host does.

Beyond that, there are a few other guidelines, but we’ll leave that for another Etiquette Tip.

If you learn a few simple rules, you don’t have to ask. When you know what you are doing, you can lean in, instead of lean over.

Career Fair Season is almost upon us. I posted my “Career Fair Tips” for job seekers on LinkedIn. Or if you would like a PDF copy, email me at: cgould@cultureandmanners.com

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The Etiquette Tip of the Week may be forwarded to others who really, really need it, pinned to billboards, taped to the water cooler, blogged, Tweeted or used to fill that last little hole in your newsletter. Giving credit to the Culture and Manners Institute at www.cultureandmanners.com is the polite thing to do.