Table manners have been around for longer than we have had tables to eat at. Certain practices have been created to show respect when dining. This is to pay respect to your dining companions as well as the food you are eating and to those who prepared the food.
While dining practices have gone from casual to strict back to casual in modern times there are still table manners that should be practiced at every meal. Exercising table manners will show your dining companions that you are good company and they will want to dine with time and time again.
This post is going to give you a list of table manners to start putting into practice immediately.
Conversation Table Manners
- Do not talk about your diet.
While letting a server know what your dietary restrictions are is fine, do not go into further detail with your dining partners about the why behind your restrictions. The reason for this is to not make the other diners feel uncomfortable about their eating choices. There is a time for advocacy, but that time is not at the dinner table.
- Items on the table for not points for discussion.
This may seem silly and harmless, but that’s exactly why we are putting it on the list. To make yourself seem more knowledgeable do not rely on something surface level like a candle on the table be your point of reference for a ‘riveting’ conversation. Anyone can point out a table decoration. You need to bring something unique to the conversation.
- Do discuss current events.
If you are up to date on current events then your dining companions will either be excited to discuss their opinions on what is happening or if they are not aware of the event, they will most likely want to know more about what is going on. Coming equipped with this kind of information makes for engaging table conversation.
- Take interest in your dining partners to the left and the right of you.
It is proper practice to be most engaged with the people sitting right next to you. This is particularly important when dining with a larger group. It is not good table manners to be shouting across a large table. In doing so you might be leaving a timid dining partner out the conversation because they do not feel comfortable with shouting or speaking up to join in. If you contain your conversation to those closest to you everyone will have an easier time saying their share.
- Share original thoughts and do not share a story because it is relatable to another story already shared.
Even though it is tempting to share a similar story to someone else’s experience, it can also be rude and unoriginal. Try sharing original thoughts and experiences to bring something new to the table. People want to eat and share time with people who are different and can enrich their minds with experiences different than their own. Everyone is unique. Find what makes you different and share that instead of being relatable.
- Do not interrupt.
This is a table manner that should not have to be said. The best way to get this to set in is to think about a time when you were really excited to share a story and you were only able to share the first few words and then someone louder cuts you off. This is a terrible feeling. You should never have to feel this way and you should never want others to feel this way. Everyone has something important to say so let everyone share. If you stay quiet and listen you may learn something you may never knew otherwise.
Behavior and Body Language Manners
- Sit up straight.
Good posture is important for many reasons. It is considered proper table manners because when you sit up straight it gives the impression of being engaged in the moment. People are happy to converse with someone who is present at the table. Another important reason for sitting up straight is to promote health digestion. Because you are eating your food needs to work its way through your body. Walking after a meal is the best way to move this process along but while seated practice good posture to aid in digestion.
- Do not cross your legs.
Going off number seven of our list, it is best to sit up straight with your body uncrossed to appear engaged at the table. This includes leaving your legs uncrossed. If you need to cross your legs for modesty always cross at the ankles or an alternative is to keep your knees touching and put your calves at a slight angle.
- Do not rest on your elbows.
If you are following the past two rules this should not be an issue. Keep your elbows off the table while eating and do not lean your head on or any of your upper body on your elbows. In between meal courses while conversing it is okay to have your elbows. However, never appear lazy in this gesture.
- Do not perform personal hygiene at the table.
This means do not pick food out of your teeth. Do not apply rouge or lipstick at the table. Do not clean your fingernails. If you need to do any personal hygiene excuse yourself to somewhere private before doing so.
- When drinking do not take a whole breath’s worth of drink.
If you are having any wine or spirits with dinner, take care how much you drink. Each drink should not leave you breathless or cause a sigh after each drink. Also be mindful of not drinking too much so that you become intoxicated and are no longer a pleasure to dine with.
- Do not pass gas.
Do not burp at the table – it is not a compliment to the chef. Do not pass gas of any kind while at the table. It is rude to your dining companions and disgusting.
When dining out to a meal with multiple courses you sometimes must manage different kinds of utensils. Forks generally come in three sizes, a small fork most often for small appetizers and salads, a larger fork for main courses and cuts of meats, and a prawn fork. If all the flatware is placed on the table at the beginning of the meal, start with the outside utensils and work your way in.
There are a couple types of knives you could find while eating out. The smallest knife will usually be your butter knife going with a bread course and most often a small bread plate. Another knife you will find will be a slightly larger knife but with a similar look to the bread knife. This knife will be used for appetizers and salads in conjunction with your salad fork. For your main course you will find either an even larger salad knife or a steak knife. If you have a tough cut of meat for your main course, you will receive a steak knife with that dish.
You will not receive many spoons with a meal usually. If there is a soup or broth course, you may receive a soup spoon. The soup spoon will be larger and have a round top. A dessert spoon will also be presented with your pastry course. This is often a small spoon encouraging you to take many small bites of your dessert course. One additional spoon you might find is a teaspoon. A teaspoon is used for exactly what it sounds like, tea…or coffee. This is used for stirring in any additives to your after-dinner beverage.
Now that you are equipped with the table manners you need to have a nice meal with great companions, go dine and lead by example. Always remember the most important rule that was not listed here, be kind to everyone involved when having a meal.
For additional information on proper dining etiquette check out this book. Myka Meier writes about proper etiquette in a fun and approachable way.