10 Basic Table Manners Rules You Should Always Follow

We've got two words for you: Optics, y'all.

March 17, 2017
couple eating dinner at table

Whether you're headed to a date, a dinner party, or sitting down at your dining room table for a holiday dinner, there's always a place for manners. 

Related: How To Build More Nutrition Into Every Meal

So the next time you sit down for a meal with a colleague, partner, client, friend, or family member, remember these tips, from Kelly Williams Brown, taken from her new book Gracious:A Practical Primer on Charm, Tact, and Unsinkable Strength.

woman table manners
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Watch Yourself

At least once—and I know this is painful—film yourself eating and talking. Yes, even if you're doing the thing where you sort of shove the unswallowed food to the side. How is all that looking from an outside perspective? Optics, y'all. Optics.

Related: 6 Ways To Master Portion Control

napkin lap
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Napkins Go In Your Lap As Soon As Possible

Remember they're there for you! Supporting you! Helping you achieve the goal of not having sauce on your face or your white pants. They serve all sorts of useful functions including discreet removal of inedible things from your mouth, like fish bones or gristle or, I don't know, whatever you want out of your mouth immediately. It goes into the napkin, then gets sort of rolled in and around. At a restaurant, feel free to ask for another napkin.

dinner party
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Wait To Begin

It's immeasurably better to start eating 20 seconds later than everyone than 5 minutes before. Different people and situations have different etiquette, but unless instructed otherwise, you should not start eating until everyone is seated, everyone is served, and the host picks up his or her fork.

Related: The Only 6 Tools You Need To Work Clean

bread plate drinks
4/10 Monika Kanokova / EyeEm/Getty Images
Line Up Your Bread And Drinks

QUICK! Touch both your index fingers to your thumbs. On your left, you will see a lowercase b, which stands for Bread Plate (yes, this is why the universe gave us opposable thumbs!), and on your right is a lowercase d for Drinks. Your bread plate is to your left, and your drinks are to your right.

table setting
5/10 Dorling Kindersley: Charlotte Tolhurst/Getty Images
Get Your Utensils In Order

Generally speaking, implements are arranged with forks on the left, then a plate, then knives, then spoons. Daniel Post Senning suggests remembering FO(r)KS as an acronym: Forks, O (for a plate), Knives, Spoons.

Related: Where You Sit At The Holiday Table Could Lead To Weight Gain

table setting
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Work Your Way In

There may be implements on the table for every course; just start with the ones outside and work your way in. As each utensil's career comes to a close, they will leave the table on the plate or in the bowl they were used for.

dinner party friends
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Follow The Leader

If you're ever in doubt of what to do, just look to your host. If they are picking up that inscrutable implement, then gently scratching their hand with it, well, maybe you should, too.

Related: These Surprising Foods Could Be Making You Bloated

dinner party
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Time Your Chats

If someone asks you a question right when you have put a bite of food in your mouth, smile slightly (lips closed, obviously), then make a gentle "Ehhhh, what can you do?" gesture with your hands. Do not rush through that bite, as this will just make things worse.

dinner table phone
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Ditch The Phone

This should be abundantly clear but, unless this is a work lunch and everyone else has multiple phones on the table, you should never look at yours. Generally speaking, if you're in a social situation with humans you care about, try not to look at your phone. However! Everyone does need to look at their phone occasionally, and this is why it's a great thing to ask, "Will you excuse me?" and then head to the bathroom to check your Facebook Messenger as God intended.

Related: 5 Keys To The Perfect Drool-Worthy Food Photo

finished eating
10/10 Romy Lahoud / EyeEm/Getty Images
Rest When Done

If you're not done with a course, your utensils should rest on either side of your plate, business end at the top, in a little mountain form. Think of this as a Restful Mountain That Is Still Hungry! When you're done, the two utensils are set parallel to each other and pointing NW on your plate. Think of this as two parallel skis, ready to zip away! And yes, I did just make that terrible mnemonic up.

The article 10 Basic Table Manners Rules You Should Always Follow originally appeared on Rodale Wellness.

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