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The Etiquette of How We Communicate - Part 3 of 3 - Table Manners

Below is part one of a three part series on The Etiquette Of How We Communicate.  For the forward to this series, please visit this post

Part 1 - The Potential Conundrum of Communication Technologies

Part 2 - Dressing For Success, Your "Package" Must to Communicate Well, Too!


Table Manners: It's More Than Not Talking With Your Mouth Full

From the arrival of the appetizer through the final cup of coffee, your behavior at the lunch or dinner table when eating with clients or colleagues will leave an impression -- so make it a great one!

The business meal is still the most common way for professionals to entertain. Have you checked your table manners lately?

The following guidelines will guarantee gracious table manners and dining etiquette --whether you are dining at a four-star restaurant or in a hotel banquet room:


  • Make reservations and honor them
  • Treat your server with respect -- address the person by name if requested, otherwise use "waiter,""waitress," "sir" or "ma'am."
  • Pay attention to what your waiter or waitress looks like so you can recognize him or her later.
  • Catch his or her eye or use a discreet wave of the fingers to request service.
  • Use a utensil rather than your fingers even with foods you eat by hand at home. Cut French fries, bacon and any food with a bone.
  • Use the edge of the plate to twirl pasta, not a spoon.
  • Tuck paper trash -- empty sugar packs, plastic cup from creamer, wrapper for the straw under the rim of your plate or on the edge of the saucer or butter plate.
  • Expect to pay the bill if you are the host/inviter.


  • Call the waiter or waitress "Honey," "Sweetie," "Dear," "Garçon," or "Boy."
  • Snap your fingers to get his or her attention.
  • Ever cut bread or rolls. Break off and butter one piece at a time.
  • Don't clean your plate. It's okay to leave the parsley, carrot curls or other garnish.
  • Don't salt and pepper your food before tasting it.
  • Don't turn your wine glass upside down if you do not want wine. Either say "no thank you," shake your head, or put your fingertips over the rim.
  • Do not blow on your beverage to cool it.
  • Don't ask for a "doggy bag."

Place Settings Can Be Perplexing

The most commonly used place setting in the United States is based on the idea that you work your way through the utensils, from the outermost one to the innermost one on both sides.

Here are three guidelines to steer you safely through the maze:

1) Napkin Niceties- The napkin should go on your lap once everyone has been seated. If it is a large napkin, fold it in half. If you leave the table briefly mid-meal, the napkin is placed on your chair. At the end of the meal, put your napkin on the table, to the left of your plate.

2) Managing Silverware- Confused about which item is yours? Here's an easy way to remember: The word "left has four letters, so does the word "fork." The word "right" has five letters, so do the words "knife" and "spoon." This is a great way to remember that the fork is on your left, and the knife and spoon are set to your right. If you are eating American style (switching the fork to your right hand after cutting), cut two to three pieces at a time. If you are eating Continental style (keeping the fork in your left hand), cut one piece at a time. Put your silverware on the plate while chewing, not on the table, and never wave it around.

3) Bread Plate Basics- I'm sure that most of us have looked at what we thought was our bread plate, only to find our neighbor using it. Here's the rule: Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours. If your neighbor has used your bread plate, don't embarrass him or her. Quietly ask the waiter for another.

Learning to navigate the three primary areas of work-related communication smoothly -- communication technologies, professional appearance and dining etiquette -- can prevent any embarrassing social gaffes or missteps, which ultimately could make or break a business relationship and even prevent one from starting.

Marjorie Brody, CSP, CPAE, CMC, PCC, is an author, sought-after public speaker, and coach to Fortune 1,000 executives. She is a global authority in helping successful business leaders identify and enhance their strategies and skills for career success. Marjorie's commentary on workplace/career issues is regularly featured on TV and radio shows, and in newspapers and magazines. Marjorie has had the privilege of serving diverse clients such as Microsoft, Pfizer, New York Life Insurance Company, Johnson & Johnson, The Institute of Internal Auditors, Society for Human Resource Management, Executive Women International, and GlaxoSmithKline. To contact Marjorie or book her as a speaker, trainer or coach, call 800-726-7936, or visit http://www.marjoriebrody.com/ for more information.





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Comment balloon 0 commentsSara Bonert • December 14 2007 10:56AM