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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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