A Table Manners Review - Because We're All Getting Back Together!

Having a Meal with Friends

Giving yourself a table manners review once in a while is a helpful exercise.  Even the most etiquette-ful among us can benefit from a refresher course.  But if you are like me, being out of practice during the pandemic has left room for memory’s overestimation of what we think we know.

Now that we’re becoming more social again, I thought it might be fun to restate and review some of the important practices of dining.

Habits to Let Go

Many parents report that when their children learned table manners, life at home became more civil.  And what you learn at home is often taken with you into the world.

The pandemic, and the isolation that came with it, caused a change in routine for most households.  The relaxed casualness of spending more time at home and away from other people brought about a change in the way many of us take our meals.    

Interviewing a parent of teenage children, when asked for her top picks for a table manners review, these came quickly to her:  

  • No electronics including tv and cell phones.
  • No leaning on the table or making mouth sounds.
  • No picking teeth or touching hair or face.
  • No un-friendly conversation.
  • No mentioning that you don’t like something.  

This very wise parent emphasized what Judith Martin (aka “Miss Manners) once said is very true for her.
“The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society.”

A Table Manners Review Checklist

Whether you are a guest, a host, or dining out at a restaurant with friends or family, table manners are about the socially acceptable way to go about eating food when dining with others.  Having good table manners is a demonstration of the sensibilities of respect for the people around you.

For a post-pandemic or perhaps an annual check-in, the following ten-item list will be helpful for your own table manners review.

  1. The table is a place of appreciation: for the graciousness of the host, for the delicious food, the fact that you’ve been included in the event, and at the end of dinner, your gratitude for a wonderful time.  
  2. A well-set table has everything in its place to ensure an orderly, enjoyable meal.  
  3. Follow the lead of the host by placing the napkin on your lap, and again, following the lead of the host, place your napkin back on the table at the end of the meal.  
  4. Eat only when others have also been served.
  5. Sit up straight with un-crossed legs.
  6. Study up and use your utensils properly and silently.  
  7. Remember that beverages are placed on the right side and bread plates are on the left side of the main plate. 
  8. Take small bites so you can easily participate in conversation and avoid managing food when your mouth is full.
  9. Engage in curious and respectful conversation.
  10. Employ the kind words of “please” and “thank you,” and in that same spirit, never reach across the table for food. 

Being mindful of your table manners will make the practice of eating with others sociable and enjoyable.  A table manners review from time to time will help keep this front of mind.  You might also review the above checklist when traveling to other countries, applying it to a given culture.  

Regardless of where you are, your excellent dining skills will be noticed and well-regarded as a sign of your appreciation and respect.

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