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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not long ago I attended an etiquette dinner put on by the business school at a local university. They had decided to do these twice a year to help their business students to not look ridiculous in their business encounters. (Unfortunate examples were shared.)

The basic format is a catered dinner in a ballroom, business dress required. Instructions are given on table manners, silverware, and how to eat the next course. While eating, they present other points on paying or splitting bills, conversations, communicating with wait staff and co-workers, clothing, introductions, etc. After dinner is question and answer time. While the focus is on business situations, they also include a lot of general and social etiquette. Topics included:

business attire (men and women)
business casual attire
business communication
thank you letters
table manners
how to eat
how to "work a room"
hosting a party
business relations

They handed out a small booklet summarizing much of the information. Overall it was very good. The worst point I found, out of only a few at all, was the suggestion that suit pants can have either one or two breaks, as desired. (Sleeves, buttons, lapels, shirts, ties, etc. were all addressed very well.) An interesting thing they pointed out was some bad advice from an advice column:
Someone asked when a person should be taught basic etiquette. The columnist responded that it should be in the senior year as an undergraduate or as a graduate student. Failing that, it is the new employer's responsibility to teach the new hire.
As they noted, the columnist has it all wrong. The bad advice, however, is based on the truth that people don't learn these things at home or anywhere else. First forays into the real world are too often punctuated with sixth grade etiquette or social skills.

Demand for these etiquette dinners was such that they opened it to all university students and some community members, booked larger facilities, and doubled the number of dinners. It sells out within a day of ticket availability.

Have you attended such a dinner? How useful was it?

I think AAAC members would be excellent advocates to present these topics (adjusting as needed) to those in grade school, junior high, high school, college, boy/girl scouts, church groups, community functions, etc. Would you be willing to present? What topics would you include?

pbc
 

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Although I have never attended such an event, based upon my casual observation, they do appear necessary. Increasingly, adults are abandoning civilized behavior and, as a result, failing to teach their children properly. It is no surprise, then, that recent graduates often have no clue how to dress themselves and interview properly.

I believe this is largely attributable to the demise of the family and the rise of television. Family dinner has become a rarity. Often, Mom and Dad no longer live together (if they even did to begin with) and meals are eaten hurriedly in front of the television.


Sweet God, I sound like my Grandfather.
 

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Its a very good Idea. I went to a college where it is suggested that seniors should attend an etiquette dinner if they can afford. It helped change a lot of people table manner. I wish they did it for lower classes too as some of them used to eat like hogs thanks to TV and video games:mad:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
pbc:

Great idea! Missionaries of Etiquette!!

Here's the presentation; all set up under Lifestyle linked from the Home Page:


"Because man does not
live for clothes alone!"

Table Manners
The History of Dining Utensils

Many service clubs (Rotary; Kiwanis; etc) look for speakers.
Thanks. In fact, all the libraries in my area (and even the supermarket) do little programs and presentations three times a week or more. (And they are not all centered on books.) I'm glad you linked to the Lifestyle Articles; I forgot I had read them a while ago. We're virtually set up and ready to go with the presentations. Any takers?

Repetition would be best. I've thought of a two part presentation: the basic etiquette dinner one weekend, have them practice throughout the week and a dinner to demonstrate the following weekend.

pbc
 

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When I started a high profile government job, the employer recognized that many of us were functionally incapable of doing many of the things you speak of. I had a private school education and a number of good role models, but some of my co-workers were there solely because they were good campaign assistants and their elected representative pulled some strings. They were also largely political science majors (myself included in both these statements) and political science tends to be a nerdy occupation.

We had a few workshops where we were taught things about behaviour. We were taught how to dress on casual fridays, given tips on a good barber, acceptable methods of transportation, tips for living in the big city, etc. Something I do recall was Blackberry ettiquite, being told how and where their use was appropriate. Generally, our employer took an interest in newer employees behaviour, because our boss had come from the ranks.

As a manager at my current job, I don't get to intervene often, but I still apply the lessons I learned from that big job in the big city. Things are very different down in the south of Alberta, but I still remember things like staying clean, how to work late without complaint and what to do with disgruntled customers.

The best lesson I learned that has sartorial application? Wear a suit on Fridays, because people coming to do business with you at a high level don't care that it's Friday and you don't want to be on a disadvantage, appearance wise.

Thomas
 

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I'm attending a top law school, and we had one of these last semester. There were about 30 students there. Only two of us thought to dress up! There had been several emails sent out during the preceding weeks about the dinner--4-course meal to teach students how to behave when taken out to eat by a firm. There was no mention of dress (why should there have been?) until the day of the event they slipped it in. People were shocked--SHOCKED--that they were expected to dress up for this. As if they expected the dinner to be carry-out form McDonald's.

The tips were good, though a bit elementary. I think the lady putting it on had planned to go into attire too, but decided not to since she only had two examples to work with (or pick on). I wish she had gotten more into conversation, "working a room," etc.
 

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I'm attending a top law school, and we had one of these last semester. There were about 30 students there. Only two of us thought to dress up!
I get disgusted by people who say they don't dress up because it's "uncomfortable" or "unnecessary." They make clothes in different sizes, and the way one dresses says something about their position and what they think of their situation.

Tonight I'm expecting a couple over for dinner. The lady will be dressed ot the nines, because she's a lawyer and she's coming from work. The gentleman will be thoroughly scruffy, because after dinner he's fixing my garbage disposal. :)
 

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My Mother was the daughter and grand daughter of servants to the gentry.Maternal Grandmother was head housemaid,Maternal Grandfather Head Gamekeeper(He had two underkeepers)and Maternal Great Grandfather was the Butler.My Mother taught me manners from an early age and I have tried to carry it on.One thing I have noticed is very prevalent is holding a knife as a pen.My Mother asked me when I did this if I was about to use the knife to write a letter!Attending the Prom at the school where my Wife teaches I saw that so many of the pupils were lost when it came to which knives and forks to use.I think it is a subject which cou'd be usefully introduced.Schools in the U.K. spend enough time teaching useless subjects.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Let's be honest...

Most parents don't know how to do these things themselves! :mad:
Very true. But I think that for those who were never taught, if a little thought is given to the principles of cleanliness and politeness they can come up with some reasonable rules to follow, such as

Don't make a mess.
Don't eat like a pig/too fast.
Don't complain.
Always use "please" and "thank you".
Look at the person to whom you are speaking.
Be patient.
People are more important than food, clothing, etc.
Don't make a scene.

If a person is more interested, they can refer to other sources (though not all agree in all aspects). Learning and practicing at an actual meal with other people seems more ideal. Teaching at home can provide this with repetition, where a person really learns it. I don't think a person will permanently learn more than a few of the "rules" from a single etiquette dinner. Perhaps one of the most important benefits is that attendees give the topic more consideration.

pbc
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
One reason parents don't seem to teach these things is that they are legitimately busy. Overall, average people have achieved a level of wealth that used to be common only to the upper class (even if lower or middle upper class). My impression is that it was common for upper and middle classes to have some kind of domestic help, if even just a day or two a week.

Nowadays domestic help is quite rare. More time is required to handle all aspects yourself:
children - vastly complicates everything below, in addition to school needs, extra curricular activities, and quality time
laundry - (which now includes much more clothing than it used to) cleaning, repairs, ironing
house - cleaning, upkeep, repairs, decorating
automobile or two - maintenance, cleaning
yard - upkeep/landscaping/winterizing/summerizing, garden anyone?
food - planning, shopping, preparation, cleanup

Certainly, no one or two of these will monopolize all of one's time, but when trying to attend to all of them, spare moments become precious. This is to say nothing of work, pets, personal hobbies, special occasions, emergencies, and obligations to community, clubs, church, etc. I can understand why things like etiquette, thank-you notes, and basic social skills begin to take a back seat.

To me this indicates two things:

1. Daily practice of etiquette and social skills is important, practical, and even critical.
- This should seek to apply your inherent desire to be polite and pleasing. I don't believe in "turning on" your "good" manners. Two sets of behavior is confusing and can lead to problems. Be good (on the inside) and practice good (on the outside).
- This will likely require self-improvement so that we are better inside and out. That is good. What else are we on earth for if not to learn and grow?
- Minute nuances are not necessary for most (such as how to announce particular guests upon arrival) and can be learned should a special occasion require.

2. We need to make sure we don't over-complicate our own life. Reduce your stress by scheduling less things and so what you do do is done better. Life shouldn't be a race from one function to another.
- In general, give yourself more time to accomplish what you have to do (e.g. get ready earlier, make promises with an extra day or two built in, plan on a little more travel time, etc.)
- Schedule some free time. That sounds odd, but how else will you develop your interests and hobbies? People often complain of having to do too much but rarely reduce their obligations (at least the ones they can).
- Have someone help. People seem more introverted than they used to be. Why not pair up with a friend or neighbor for a task or even your holiday plans. That way you can split some responsibility and share in the success.
- Step away from the cell phone and blackberry. Turn it off for a few hours or a day. You don't need to be available by three forms of communication 24/7. The call waiting, multiple phones, multiple lines, voice mail, email, texting, personal messaging, instant notification phenomenon is new within the last decade. Civilizations and individuals did fine without them.

pbc
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
True story

Step away from the cell phone and blackberry. Turn it off for a few hours or a day. You don't need to be available by three forms of communication 24/7. The call waiting, multiple phones, multiple lines, voice mail, email, texting, personal messaging, instant notification phenomenon is new within the last decade. Civilizations and individuals did fine without them.
Here is a true story. A friend of mine was at work. An underling came in with a look of panic on his face, holding the phone at arms length as if someone had called with a bomb threat.

"What is this and what do I do?!"

My friend took the phone and listened.

Beep beep beep beep.

With a smile he responded, "That's a busy signal. Just call back a little later."
"What?"
"It means they are talking on the phone right now and aren't available, so you need to call them back later when they are off the phone."
[Pause] "Oh."
 

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One reason parents don't seem to teach these things is that they are legitimately busy. Overall, average people have achieved a level of wealth that used to be common only to the upper class (even if lower or middle upper class). My impression is that it was common for upper and middle classes to have some kind of domestic help, if even just a day or two a week.
It became an economic issue; a family that hired a housekeeper usually got a lady whose husband had a job, and she accepted a low salary because it was extra money to make their lives more comfortable. Upper class who had staff often had live-ins, where they paid out less cash because they provided room and board. These days, a housekeeper expects a salary that allows her to live on her own, a butler will be extensively trained and make $60K, and both staff and employers are squidgy about the master-servant relationship that exists 24/7 when the staff live in a (less luxurious) part of the manor house.
 

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My parents had to take etiquette classes before we moved to America so we could fit in better once here. My mom drilled everything she had learned into us so it would be second nature by the time we arrived. Once we realized that most Americans we encountered don't follow or even know these rules, we relaxed these standards a little bit.

Now, I have learned that intention and context are much more important than hard and fast rules. It's like grammar. Rules are different depending on where you are even within a country. I welcome some of the changes I've seen in business etiquette guides where status and age have rightfully become more important than gender, for instance.
 
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