I’ve always been a fan of this quote by Emily Post: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
While it’s important to know the correct knife and fork to use at a meal, I believe it’s even more essential to be mindful of your posture, pace and politeness. I call these the three P’s.
Posture: Your posture is a direct reflection of your attitude. If you slouch, you may be perceived as uninterested and lazy. The rule of “elbows off the table” can help you avoid making a mess (no elbow landing on your food) and from resting your chin on your palm and looking bored or tired.
Pace: Try to keep pace with your dining companions. If you’re at a business meal, your client is the most important person, and you should follow his or her cues. If the client wants to order an appetizer, you should order one as well. If they don’t want dessert, you shouldn’t order dessert. When the client has finished his or her meal, you should take your last couple of bites. Remember, you are there for your client’s well-being.
Politeness: Being polite can be demonstrated in so many different ways. For one, don’t check your phone. The person you are with is the most important person. Unless you are expecting a call that is beneficial to your meeting, the phone should be silenced and off the table.
Simple courtesy of asking questions and listening to others is another way to be polite to others. Smile. Look them in the eye. Be genuinely engaged. If you do all these, your dining companions will probably never notice if you use the wrong fork. They’ll be too impressed with you.