How to Be the Perfect Tablemate

Dining with Friends

Dining should be an enjoyable experience, and the perfect tablemate brings a chance to connect over delicious food and good company. But a bad tablemate can turn a fun night into a frustrating one. Here's how to ensure you're the dining companion everyone wants to share a meal with.

Perfectly Punctual

Have a heart for your host. This is the person who went to the trouble to organize the meal you’re attending, worries if a diner will show up, has the inconvenience of holding off on calling people to the table when someone is late, or has to adjust or rearrange the evening’s time frame.

Respect your host’s and your fellow diners’ time by arriving on schedule or communicating any delays. Promptness is the first element to consider in making and leaving a positive impression.

The Right Attitude

Negative people are not only energy vampires, but they are also appetite vampires as well. Maintain a pleasant demeanor when sharing a meal with others. Avoid complaining about the food, ambiance or service.

Come prepared with interesting topics to discuss but be an active listener too. Ask questions and show genuine interest in your companion's stories. If you are shy or tend to have little to say, memorize ten questions you might possibly ask as conversation starters. No one will ever know you aren't a natural conversationalist!

Say positive things about the meal and always be generous with “Please” and “Thank you.” If you do not prefer the food, avoid any statement about it. You have diner’s discretion and can re-adjust the food on your plate such that no one would notice you’ve not eaten much (or any) of it. If asked if you like (or don’t like) the food, simply say, “I am enjoying my dinner! Thank you for asking.” or “Thank you! Everything’s lovely.”

If conversation topics turn negative or begin to create tension, try to change the subject. Even if a gathering is for a somber event, being as convivial as possible according to the occasion, will be experienced as a relief and peace of mind. Sharing and caring thoughts are general guidelines for good conversation.

Etiquette and the Perfect Tablemate

Etiquette is the physical means of showing respect for others. And it’s the little things that count.

  • The gift you bring for your host is an expression of gratitude for being invited. It won’t be a topic of conversation.
  • Silence your phone or keep it tucked away. Unless it's a dire emergency, avoid taking calls or texting.
  • Your host will welcome you and let you know where and when to sit.
  • The host will welcome the group and will place their napkin on their lap to signal the beginning of the meal.
  • If the host notes a time constraint, model your order at a restaurant similar to theirs.
  • When food has been passed to you, continue to pass the food to the person next to you after serving yourself.
  • If a person has spinach on her teeth, silently get her attention and gesture quietly.
  • When someone has something to say, find a positive response or respectful question to ask about it.
  • If another person makes a faux pas, let it slide by unnoticed.
  • If you need to leave the table, try to do so between courses, first saying, “Excuse me.”
  • If a toast is offered, participate. It’s okay to follow suit if you have a toast to make later in the meal. Toasting the host is appropriate.
  • If you finish your meal first, wait until the host signals that the meal has ended before loosely folding and placing your napkin on the table.
  • When the meal is over the host will place their napkin on the table. Everyone else at the table should do the same as quickly as possible.
  • Thank your host for the wonderful occasion and let them know they are appreciated.

Beneficence or generosity is a main pillar of society. To paraphrase Adam Smith, 19th century moral philosopher, when someone chooses to do something good for you, this calls for a reward—perhaps a gesture of appreciation—because of the gratitude you feel.

The perfect tablemate appreciates the food, the company of others, and the positive experience of sharing a meal, ensuring it is a memorable one for everyone at the table. The bottom line is that you remain positive, kind, and grateful. The magic of possessing these qualities is that you find yourself surrounded by positive, kind, and grateful people!

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