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Social Skills 101:The Ultimate Eating Machine

Do you ever find yourself sitting at a dinner table with a group of new people and wondering what to do and when to do it?  I occasionally teach social skills/ etiquette to family members and students.  The goal of these sessions is showing you the rules so you’re comfortable using them in any situation.  It doesn’t take much to learn these rules, and once you commit the basics to memory you can do your thing wherever you go.

This week I want you to think of eating socially as something to look forward to, an ultimate eating experience if you will.  For this lesson remember the “BMW” – put your table manners in the driver’s seat. BMW here is not a performance vehicle, but stands for Bread-Meal-Water – the organization of your place setting.

Your visual:


Your B – Bread plate is over to the left, top corner.  M – Meal is in the centerW – Water is on your right side, top corner.  Once seated at the table, place your napkin in your lap and visually orient yourself with the features of this dining experience.  In addition to your bread plate, you’ll find your forks on the left side of the meal.   The fork farthest away from your left, will be the first one you use.  You’ll then eat from the outside in, using one fork per course.

Knives will be on the right because most people are right-handed and in this world majority rules.  In the United States we tend to cut with our dominant hand, put the knife down and then eat with the same hand.  As you can see in the picture from my lovely dining room table, the silverware is laid out to give you everything you need to get through the meal.  For some courses the waiter or waitress will bring you additional flatware  – like a steak knife or soupspoon.  Sometimes they will remove unused flatware as each course is completed.  This varies depending on the restaurant and the training of the individual servers.  All of your beverages – wine, water, Coca-Cola will be on your right.

Now and then someone dining with you might drink from your glass.  If this happens, quietly ask them to pass their beverage to you.  This trade is important because the first instinct might be to take the glass to your left.  Well if you do that you leave your other dinner companion, without a drink.  This should all be done as subtly as possible.  No need to embarrass anyone or overreact.  The same with your bread plate.  If someone starts eating your roll, or using your bread plate don’t  make an announcement to the table that so and so doesn’t know the rules of etiquette.  While you might think it’s funny to tease someone about their shortcomings, it’s rude and pretentious, so don’t do it.  Remember the goal is an enjoyable dinner.  You want everyone to remember you as a pleasant person, not the know-it-all monitoring everyone’s table manners.

So keep your ‘BMW’ in mind and approach your next social event with confidence.

Happy dining everyone!!

  1. T. Stroman
    June 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Like you asked, I viewed your blogs and I plan to make this a link in my favorites. Great job soror! Love you and keep it up.

  2. Lynelle Burgess Thomas
    July 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Love it, I will bookmark this site. Keep doing you! :-)!!

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