Basic Table Manners

  • Table manners are important in that they ensure both guests and host are comfortable and relaxed. Table manners come by using common sense. These basics will carry you through most situations from formal events to dinner at the family table.
  • 1. Sit up straight. Try not to slouch or lean back in your chair.  Don't be so rigid that you look uncomfortable, just be aware that your posture is important.
  • 2. Don't speak with your mouth full. You've heard your mother say it a hundred times, no one likes to see a ball of masticated food in your mouth. If you feel you must speak immediately, and only have a relatively small bite, tuck it into your cheek with your tongue and speak briefly.  Otherwise, be careful to take only small bites if there is lively conversation at the table and you may want to contribute.
    3. Chew quietly, and try not to slurp. This is a basic rule. Making noises is not only unappetizing, and distracting, but it can also interrupt the flow of conversation.
  • 4. Keep bites small. To amplifiy the above rules for speaking with your mouth full, it is wise to keep bites to a moderate forkful. Cut meat and salad so that they won't hang from your mouth while trying not to shovel it in. Don't cut all of your meat at one time, this tends to remind people of feeding small children - and the messiness associated.
  • 5. Eat at a leisurely pace. Besides being good for the digestion, this displays to your host that you enjoy the food and the company. Eating and running, is sign of disrespect. This shows that your focus is not on the gathering and that you would rather be somewhere else other than passing time with your host and company. (While this may in fact be the case, its the height of rudeness to let it show).
    6. Don't wave utensils in the air, especially knives or if there is food on them. Besides the danger of knocking over glasses, piercing waiters or launching a pea into the eye of your date, this is a sign of over-excitedness that may be unappealing to those present. Earnestness is to be commended, but that type of exuberance goes beyond limits for good table manners.
  • 7. Keep your elbows off the table. You've also heard this one from your mother, ad infinitum, but in close dining situations it is vital. Elbows take up table space and can be a danger in knocking plates or glasses. Elbows on the table give you something to lean on and tend to lull you into slouching. If you must lean on the table, a good tactic is to take a roll or piece of bread into your free hand and rest part of your forearm on the table.
  • 8. Don't Reach. You don't want to get in the way of people either eating or talking. Not only is it as impolite as standing in front of a TV with other people behind you, but there is always the possibility of upsetting glasses or running your sleeve through someone's mashed potatoes.  Its best to ask the person near the object to pass it down to you. Of course, if the object is at the very end of a long table, its best to refrain from yelling by asking someone "please pass it down".
    9. Don't forget please and thank you. These are handy words in most all situations, but especially vital at the table where common courtesies are noticed by everyone present.
  • 10. Excuse yourself when leaving the table. You don't want people to think that you are tired of their company. If you must leave the table make your excuses somewhat obvious and appear to be pressing. You want to leave people with the impression that you would rather remain at the table talking with them than doing anything else, but the matter at hand is so pressing that it must be attended to at once.
  • 11. Compliment the Cook or Hostess. Even if the food is perfectly awful say something nice. You don't have to lie, simply find the positive side of the burnt leg of lamb..."Gee, the sauce was sure tasty." It is always pleasant to end a meal on a positive note.
  • 12. Wipe your mouth before drinking. Ever notice that disgusting smudge on the edge of your wine glass? This can be avoided by first wiping your lips with your napkin.