Much of what we do in life is an act – but it is a necessary act. There exist social conventions that have the happy effect of making us more agreeable. These conventions are called, ‘manners’. Others have described them as etiquette.
It has been suggested that, ‘Manners maketh man’. Some may think this a touch grand, but there is a fair amount of truth in it. People are drawn to those who behave well. Our sons and daughters need to be at ease at an 18th birthday party complete with technicolour yawns and people falling into rose bushes, and at ease at a black-tie dinner at the clubhouse to celebrate a premiership win.
I stunned my students a few years ago when I said to them, ‘I don’t mind you eating like pigs.’ (Long pause.) ‘But, I need you to know that you are eating like pigs and have the capacity not to eat like pigs when the occasion demands it’.
I think this is realistic.
When dining in a formal setting, our sons and daughters need to know things like:
• How to set the table properly.
• What glasses to use for what drinks.
• What the seating etiquette is.
• How to use the napkin properly.
• How to be a good conversationalist.
• How to dress appropriately.
• What cutlery to use and when.
• How to attend to the dining needs of others – drink, butter, salt and pepper etc.
• How to serve and clear away properly.
• How to send an invitation to dinner, say grace and/or give a toast at the dinner and say thank-you after the dinner.
Here’s a little test.
Would our sons and daughters know about the following?
1) Tipping a soup bowl away from you not towards you.
2) Breaking bread and cutting toast.
3) Avoiding the baby grip on cutlery or any other inappropriate grip.
4) How to leave your plate when finished and when you are not finished.
5) How to use things like a butter knife and a salt spoon.
6) Not slurping, burping or farting.
7) Bringing the food to the mouth, not the mouth to the food.
8) Pacing eating to match the speed of others.
9) Knowing how and when a fork.
10) How when and where to put salt and pepper and any other condiments.
If the score is unimpressive, there may be added reason to teach our offspring a little more about table manners.
There are a myriad number of other things to learn in relation to fine dining, but even a list of this length can be reminder there is value in knowing how to behave when eating in a formal setting. More than one job opportunity has escaped because of poor manners. More than one relationship has failed because of poor manners. More than one leadership opportunity has been lost because of poor manners.