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Make or break your career with table manners

During this economic recession, many people have felt the need to enhance their academic and business skills in order to compete in the market. However, many fail to realize the importance that etiquette skills can have on business deals.Janie Fisher, part-time faculty member of BYU-Idaho and trainer for the National League of Jr. Cotillions — a program that teaches manners and social dancing to more than 25,000 young people each year —" hosted an etiquette dinner on Thursday, Feb. 4, in Rexburg, Idaho where she taught the importance of etiquette.Fisher told a story about a young man who applied for a prominent job that seemed to be a perfect fit for him. He was academically brilliant with a great resume. When asked why the student didn't get the job, the employer agreed that the student was brilliant but he had made too many mistakes at the dinner table and was too much of a liability."Believe it or not, the skills you have at the table may be as important as your academic and business skills because deals are often made around the table," she said.Fisher said the number one reason to have good manners is to make everyone feel comfortable, including yourself. Sometimes that may even require bending some of the etiquette rules in order to accommodate your companions. When in doubt, use common sense.Fisher went on to say that good manners are invisible. People hardly notice if the carpet is clean but they definitely notice if it is not."We notice the things that are wrong. We don't notice the things that are right. So the good manners just blend into the overall social experience. If they're bad, they become the memory of the social experience," said Fisher.Meeting new peopleDuring business meetings, you will often meet a lot of different people. Fisher said that it is helpful to introduce yourself and exchange little pleasantries, like "It's nice to meet you" or "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance."Also, when you meet someone for the first time, Fisher said, you can avoid awkward moments by preparing certain topics to discuss. Fisher said the best three things to talk about when you first meet someone are sports, weather and the media. Those topics are on safe ground.On the other hand, Fisher said to avoid talking about religion, health, politics and family. These topics could lead to potentially awkward or heated conversations and may not make a good first impression.Meeting for the second timeFisher said that about 10 percent of society remembers the names of the people they have met once before. "So you can't beat yourself up if you don't remember names because it is very common and most of us are not good at remembering names," said Fisher.Therefore, when you reacquaint yourself with someone, you should introduce yourself and tell the person where you met. It is OK to be honest and admit that you don't remember their name. They'll appreciate your honesty.Fisher said to avoid asking them if they remember you. They may not and that could present an awkward situation.How to sit"The way you sit, will give a first impression. People will come in and they will see you long before you ever speak a word. So 80 percent of their impression will be formed before you ever speak a word, and it's all by how you are sitting," said Fisher.Ladies: You want to give a feminine but professional look. Ladies should always sit diagonally on a chair. Their shoulders and knees should go the same direction while their feet go to the other side. This is called the S position.If there's nothing in our hands, ladies, they go palms down in our lap, one over the other.Men: You always sit straightforward in your chair. Men should keep their feet and knees the same distance apart.If men want to cross their legs, they can, but they must cross as closely knee to knee as physically possible; never knee to ankle.If men choose to cross their legs, they've got to make sure their socks match their pants.Etiquette at the tableFisher said that the very first thing a person should do at a table, even before they look at the menu, is put the napkin on their lap. Keep the napkin folded halfway though so that when you wipe your mouth, you wipe it on the inside of the fold so it is not viewable when you put it back on the table at the end of the meal.If you leave the table for a short time and are not done eating, lay the napkin on the chair to let the waiters know you are coming back.Fisher said that you should not pick up a utensil off the floor if you accidentally drop it. You should leave it on the floor and ask the waiter for another one. Once you've used a utensil, it does not go back on the tablecloth; it goes on a plate.Eating soupUse the spoon farthest to the right. Hold the spoon like a pencil as you dish away from you and then bring it up to your mouth, making a circular motion. Fisher said the official rule is: never break crackers into your soup. If you are in a business setting, do not put crackers into your soup, especially if you are the interviewee.Passing the foodAnything that needs to be passed always goes to the right. Right is right when you're passing. The person closest to the item picks it up and offers it to the person to the left, then serve yourself, and then pass it to your right. Hold the item for the person to your right as they help themselves and the pass it on, said Fisher.Eating rollsThe roll is not considered it's own course. It's a compliment for the other courses. You need to make the roll last throughout the whole dinner by eating the roll in quarters. Pieces of the roll can also be used as little scoopers throughout the meal, said Fisher.Drinking water When there's a pitcher on the table, you may serve yourself when your glass is empty.The main dish The main dish almost always has three things: meat, side and vegetables. Turn the plate so the meat is on the right side.Order easy. Don't order to impress. Don't order something you've never eaten thinking that it will make you sound refined because it may come out that you don't know how to eat it. Don't order the cheapest. Don't order the most expensive. Order something that's boneless. Never order pasta, it's messy by nature.Making mistakes"Everyone will make a mistake at some point in the dinner. It will just happen to us. You'll tip water or drop a utensil. Something will just happen. So you have to make sure that that incident does not become the focus of the evening," said Fisher.Church policiesIf you are asked about the church policies like why church members don't drink alcohol, you should to have short, general statements prepared. Don't go into too much detail unless they ask, said Fisher.Can't swallow your foodIf you put something in your mouth that you are not going to be able to swallow, do not spit it into the napkin. The rule: however something gets into your mouth, that's how it comes out. You should discreetly put the item back on the plate, said Fisher.Cell phonesWhen you come to a dinner table, even if it's with family or friends, turn off your phone. There is never a reason to take a call unless there is pending emergency (inexperienced babysitter, wife is about to have a baby). If you need to keep the phone on, put it on vibrate and let your company know that you may need to take a call. If you receive a call, leave the table before you answer.Using proper etiquette at a business dinner is often hard to accomplish without practice. Fisher advised practicing etiquette during a Relief Society meeting, young men/young women activity or even for family home evening.