Table manners make eating with others a pleasant experience. There is nothing more disturbing than sharing a meal with people who eat with their mouths open, drum their fingers on the table, and have no idea how to act properly while dining. Dining regularly at the family table will help you teach your children proper dining etiquette, something that will help them as adults. Proper dining etiquette is essential for dating, workplace dinner meetings, and all kinds of social functions.
Do not forget that you are sharing the dinner table with others; you cannot simply slouch over your plate and sprawl your feet under the table as though space were endless. This seems to be a particular affliction of teens, who either lounge in their chairs as though they are recliners or slump over their plates, folding themselves up to avoid human contact. Proper posture means sitting up with your feet on the floor. Crossing your legs should only be done at the ankles.
Also keep your elbows under control. You can rest them on the edges of the table when talking occasionally, but do not set them there as though the table is a prop to hold you up. Etiquette used to dictate that you should never put your elbows on the table, but it is perfectly okay between courses if you are carrying on a conversation. Just do not do it all the time or while actually eating. You may be more comfortable with just your wrists on the table or even resting your hands in your lap. It is really up to you. Also, do not fling your arms about while talking or jab your elbows into your neighbors while cutting your food. Learn to cut your food with your elbows close to your body.
Do not play with your utensils or your drinking glass or tap your fingers on the table. Others at the table will be irritated, and it interferes with conversation to hear that unnerving background noise. Also irritating is watching someone twirl his or her hair or play with food on the plate. Tapping your feet falls into this same category; you are not providing the musical entertainment!
Proper Dining Rules
Etiquette rules for dining address most of the common courtesies that make eating a pleasurable experience by making it more organized and giving a certain flow to the experience. For instance, you always pass food from the same side to avoid confusion or too many things being passed in different directions. It just makes things simpler. Rules to remember include:
At the top and to the left of your plate is the bread plate with a small bread knife for spreading butter, jam, or other condiments. To the right are your beverage glasses. Notice that the glass for white wines is slightly smaller than the one for red wines. A red wine goblet also generally has a rounder bowl.
Once you have picked up a utensil and used it, do not put it back down on the table. It will soil the tablecloth or table. You should place it on your plate when it is not in use. You should place your fork and knife across the plate itself with the spoon on the under-saucer of the bowl or cup it was used in.
When you have finished eating and want to let the server know that your plate is ready to be cleared, you can place both your knife and fork at an angle across the right side of your plate with the knife above the fork. The tines of the fork should be facing down. This signals to the server that you have finished eating. Do not stack your plates together, as this can make it more difficult for the server to clear them.