I still encounter a number of students at my Tea & Etiquette Masterclasses who get very uptight about all the supposed rules and regulations associated with manners. Like playing the piano, you need to practice a few basic skills and then incorporate those good habits into your everyday social engagements. Once you feel at ease, graciousness will flow from you like water.
That effervescent graciousness reminds me of sage advice given to Eliza in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion:
The Great Secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular manners, but having the same manner for all human souls; in short behaving as if you were in heaven, where there are no third-class carriages and one soul is as good as another.
But, just in case you need a few pointers when you sit down to dinner with your mother this weekend, here are a few dining faux pas you might want to avoid:
· Take small bites and you will find it easier to join in table talk.
· Don't reach across the table to get something. If it is out of reach, ask someone to pass it to you.
· Don't gesture with your knife, fork, or spoon.
· Do not hunch your body over your plate (something I see in movies too frequently).
· Place your napkin in the chair, not on the tabletop, if you briefly leave the table.
· Don't push your plate away from you at the end of the meal.