Why it's never too late to have good table manners

Libby-Jane Charleston

It's easy to learn good table manners, even if you never learned as a childNate Johnston: Unsplash

If you're a sloppy eater and still have trouble using your cutlery, it's time to stop thinking that people will not be judging you. In the olden days (think Downton Abbey) people were heavily judged on table manners and every other social grace that the word etiquette was invented to cover.

So if you're a fork-licking napkin mis-user who cannot refrain from belching after a meal, here's the news: nothing has changed. You will be judged.

Child psychologist Beulah Warren said good table manners need to begin from childhood. She said it's very important families sit around the dinner table together and that parents have good table manners so the children copy them.

"Parents need to enforce rules, not only about using cutlery but that you sit down and don't leave the table until you're finished. No walking around during dinner! If they see good manners in adults they are more likely to adopt good manners themselves. Table manners are just as important as learning how to greet people politely and say 'Please' and 'Thank you,'" Warren said.

"If children are not taught good table manners, they will have problems with self-esteem as they will see themselves as different from other people who have been taught good manners. A smart kid will always sit and watch what others do, so if the parents do the right thing, the kids will as well."

Etiquette specialist Anna Musson said table manners have been in place for centuries and among our British ancestors, were a way of separating the classes.

"Consider the formal dinners of Downton Abby and imagine slurping your soup or burping at the table. You would be silently struck off the list, relegated to a lower class and never invited back. While you are unlikely to be struck off the guest list for eating someone else's bread roll (tip: yours is on your left), we still judge a person by their table manners," Musson said.

"Good table manners suggest you were raised by a good family, have good taste and possess good manners for work and home life. While this might not sound like everyone's cup of tea, not possessing good table manners can be a hindrance in business where entertaining high net worth clients requires diligence to the rules."

Musson, who runs the Good Manners Company, said it's important for parents to have good table manners because children will copy your conduct and push the boundaries until you give in and text them that their dinner is ready and they can eat it in their room.

"The reality is, society has changed since today's parents were children. More families have two parents working and there are more single parent families. We are busier and between homework and after school activities, in many families, manners are not a focal point," Musson said.

The correct way to hold your cutleryAnna Musson

The correct way to place your cutlery on your plateAnna Musson

Now you've finished!Anna Musson

Musson's guide to the basics of table manners.

Elbow off the table when food is present.

Bread and butter plate on the left, drinks on the right.

Break, never cut the bread roll, break off bite sized pieces.

Pause and cross your knife and fork every three mouthfuls.

Never hold your knife like a pen.

The napkin should be completely unfolded and placed on your lap, not down your shirt.

Chew silently with your mouth closed.

Never groom yourself (or someone else) at the table.

Push your chair in before you leave.

Musson's Dining Etiquette Don'ts and Deal Breakers

Dining Etiquette Don'ts

Taking the bread roll from your right (your neighbour's bread roll)

Being the first one finished.

Drinking while you have food in your mouth (slow down).

Emptying your pockets onto the table.

Slurping soup.

Elbows on table when food is present.

Dining Etiquette Deal Breakers

Licking the knife

Taking a phone call or checking device.

Waving cutlery around while eating.

Chewing noisily with mouth open.

Tucking the napkin down your shirt and wiping back of neck with it.

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.


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