I've always considered myself well-mannered. I chew with my mouth closed, have a firm handshake, keep my elbows off the table, and was taught by a rather snooty best friend which fork you use for salad. I say "please" and "thank you," every stranger is Ma'am or Sir until I'm told otherwise, and I know you never, under any circumstances, slurp the bottom of a soup bowl. However, in the presence of Diane Gottsman, modern manners and etiquette expert, and the founder of The Protocol School of Texas, I felt like this:
Each year, Trinity is lucky enough to host Gottsman for a Professional Dining Etiquette event in the Skyline Dining Room. Unlike your typical manners class, Gottsman's workshop is focused on dining etiquette in professional situations, like an interview over a meal or a workplace dinner, which is perfect for a graduating senior, like myself.
I won't lie. When I first walked in I was intimidated by Gottsman's perfectly manicured appearance and elegant poise. However, after two hours with Gottsman I left feeling confident, excited, and ready to take on anything the professional world throws my way. So, in case you missed it, here are the top 10 takeaways from a night with Diane Gottsman:
1. If you get a name tag, wear it on the right side of your chest.
This way when you shake hands, the person's line of sight will be to your name tag. Also, always introduce yourself with your first AND last name (unless you're Oprah or Madonna). Three shakes and release.
2. Eat before you go.
You do not want to look starving. Eating beforehand will help you pace yourself and will assure that you don't appear famished. And on the off chance you don't like your food – maybe your steak is cooked wrong? – you won't have to sit there starving because you DEFINITELY can't send your food back.
3. Men: Jacket on & tie down; Women: Purse on the floor between your feet.
You want to look professional throughout the interview, so keep that jacket on. Also, NEVER wear a bowtie. If your purse is on the back of your chair, the server could bump into it or it could fall off into the walkway. If it's small enough you can put it on your lap with the napkin over it.
4. Follow the lead of the host.
Wait to put your napkin on your lap or touch your place setting until the host does. If the host decides to change tables and your napkin is in your lap, fork and knife in hand, you're going to feel pretty silly. Same goes for reaching for a bread basket or sugar. Let the host initiate.
5. Order smart.
Don't order something too small, you'll look nervous, and don't order something too large, you'll look glutinous. Do not order spaghetti, salad or anything likely to get stuck in your teeth. Stick to meat and vegetable dishes.
Start from the outside and work your way in. Don't touch your napkin before the host touches theirs and if you forget where the drink and bread go remember the "D – B" rule! Make a D & B with your hand and the letter corresponds with the side.
7. Always eat Continental Style.
This means you have to keep your fork in your left hand, knife in your right hand, and cut each bite as you eat it. The tines of your fork should always be facing down. Practice, practice, practice! It feels a little awkward at first.
8. Don't ask for ketchup or other sauces.
It suggests the food wasn't seasoned well... and if it wasn't, too bad. The last thing you want to do is look high maintenance. If you are at a dinner party where the host cooked the food personally don't even ask for the salt and pepper. Fortunately, since you ate before it won't matter if you don't like the food.
9. Do not ask for a doggie bag or to-go box.
If the host pays for your meal, it looks like your taking advantage of them. So even if you have an entire meal left on your plate, painfully skip the to-go container.
10. Actions really do speak louder than words.
Look out for Gottsman's future Trinity workshops. In the meantime, for more information on Gottsman's etiquette expertise, visit her social media accounts or check out her blog for some great tips.