Your manners when you dine can say a lot about you

Table manners can be a factor when you or your colleagues are trying to make a positive impression. More than that, dining out, whether as a host or a guest, is a social art form, and one that can support or undercut your path to professional success.

If you work in an environment where occasional meals are part of the culture, you might want to consider the roles of guests and hosts. Business may flow more smoothly if everybody on the team has an idea of the behavior expected.

I was recently at a dinner party where the hostess had gone to a lot of extra trouble to assure plenty of food for her houseguest, a vegetarian who had spent the day hiking. The guest — an educated, woman in her 40s and a colleague of the hostess — put her phone on the dinner table and throughout the meal eagerly exchanged adolescent text messages with her new boyfriend. She repeatedly interrupted the otherwise interesting conversation to share his most recent comments.

The hostess called the next day to say that she was mortified. The houseguest has an excellent job that requires a lot of social interaction, so it seemed unlikely that her rudeness was the result of ignorance. The message she telegraphed was that none of us at the table were worth the effort of good manners, because clearly she wouldn’t have been doing this with people she regarded as important.

And, the hostess said, the guest did not lift a finger all weekend, nor thank her for all the extra trouble to produce extra, vegetarian dishes!

As I wrote in this week’s ezine, most people know that the job of a dinner host includes providing the food and beverages, and taking steps to ensure that every guest is comfortable and has a good time. Even when there is a business component to the meal, the host is expected to maximize the guests’ enjoyment.

But not everyone realizes that dinner guests share in the responsibility of creating a successful evening. As a guest, one of your primary tasks is to assist in fostering discussion that everybody can enjoy. But don’t talk too much. Even if you’re the wittiest, highest ranking or most interesting person at the table, it’s boorish to hog the conversation. Use your talents to draw other people into the discussion.

For more pointers on dining out see:http://www.clearwaysconsulting.com/ezine-archive/2010/ezine_11_16_10.htm

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Bev, a former lawyer and Fortune 500 executive, is an executive and transitions coach, and a leadership consultant with a broad and varied practice.

Posted in business etiquette, personal growth, workplace issues Tagged with: , ,

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