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Modern Etiquette: Table Manners 101

Modern Etiquette: Table Manners 101

Did your girlfriend’s mother give you the evil eye at Christmas dinner this year? Or did your boss stare at you in horror as you shovelled food into your face at the office holiday party? Have you ever found yourself at a restaurant where there was more than one fork or knife beside your plate and had a panic attack?

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, chances are you’re not all that well-equipped as far as proper dining etiquette is concerned. Considering that most people eat their meals either on the go, at their desks, or sitting in front of the television, it’s not surprising that the average person might not have the most polished table manners nowadays. Just follow the simple rules below and not only will you save yourself a heap of embarrassment in the future—you’ll also feel much more confident when dining with others in public.

The Basics

Chew with your mouth closed.

If most of your meals consist of shoveling chicken nuggets into your mouth while playing video games, it’s quite likely that you’re not paying attention to whether or not your lips are closed as you chew. Those you might be dining with don’t need to see the mashed-up bits of whatever you’re masticating as they slosh around your mouth, nor do they want to hear the smacking and snapping that goes along with your oral food-processing technique.

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Keep your lips closed at all times when you’re chewing, and if you find that you have difficulty doing so because the bites you take are too big and are just begging to peep out from your face, take smaller bites. Teensy ones, if needed.

Don’t speak when your mouth is full of food.

Just as nobody wants to see what it is you’re chewing on, they certainly don’t want to see bits of it fly from your mouth while you speak. They especially do not want to be struck by stray food particles escaping from your cavernous maw, so wait until you’ve finished swallowing before you answer a question or share some random bit of brilliance.

Don’t slurp. Ever.

If the soup you’re eating is too hot, let it cool down a bit, and then take small sips from a shallow spoon.

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Use cutlery from the outside in, and rip pieces off your bread roll‒don’t bite into it.

This is just some basic and easy to remember advice.

More Advanced Etiquette

Hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right.

Most people hold their fork with their right hand, using it to shovel food into their faces until a larger piece needs to be cut. Then, they’ll switch the fork to their left hand and use it to spear the large piece while cutting it with a knife held in the right. Afterward, they’ll put the knife down and pick up the fork right-handed again. This is known as the American style of eating.

A more genteel method (known as Continental style) is to always keep the fork in the left hand. The fork can be used to propel foodstuffs upwards to your mouth, and the knife is always at the ready. This way, whether you’re slicing something, folding salad, or scooping something onto your fork, you don’t have to worry about dropping utensils during the drop-shift-switch cutlery dance.

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Spoon your soup away from you, not toward.

This might seem like an effete bit of poncery, but it actually serves a purpose; if you accidentally tip your soup bowl, it’ll spill onto the table in front of you, rather than into your lap.

Place cutlery to show that you’ve finished eating.

Waiters rely on non-verbal cues when it comes to clearing your place setting, so if you’d like to let them know that you’ve finished, place your knife and fork together across the plate. You can either place them perpendicular to you, or so they point to 10 and 6 (clock-face) on your plate. Fork tines should face upward, and you can then place your dinner napkin beside the plate as well.

The proper method of calling a server over to you.

If you need to get your server’s attention, raise your hand and make eye contact. Once eye contact is made, nod; they’ll make their way over to you as soon as they can, as you’re likely not the only person in the restaurant.
Never wave at them, yell at them, whistle, gesture wildly, or grab at them as they pass.

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Most of these tips are just common sense, but in an era when we might not spend much time in formal dining situations, these habits can be easily forgotten. In addition to these, remember to always be polite, remember to say “please” and “thank you” (even when ordering at Starbucks), and you’ll do just fine at any social gathering you may be invited to.

 

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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