Category Archives for "Dining"

Feb 27

5 Office Friendly Tips for Eating at Your Desk

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Etiquette & Manners , ShowCase , Showcase Sidebar

Business dining etiquette advice to avoid desktop dining faux pas

In an ideal world, none of us would have to eat at our desk. Tips and advice for eating at office desk etiquette - photo of girl eating at deskWe would not be stressed and could enjoy a fabulous restaurant on our 2 hour lunch break like French workers. But this is the real world where we’re always working under deadlines and our desk becomes our table d’hote.

Table for one?
While we cut people slack if they’re eating in the staff lunchroom, it becomes trickier when eating at your desk, inches away from colleagues. This is not the time to eat garlic infused bread or Continue reading

Jun 28

How to Look Smooth When Dining Out

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Dress & Image , Etiquette & Manners

Tips to hold your knife and fork
without looking awkward

Brought up in a barn?


Ever heard someone say “Were you born in a barn?” While it’s safe to say that very few of us were barn babies, that doesn’t mean that we were brought up with good table manners.

Handsome is, as handsome does

Nowadays the majority of people don’t know all the dining etiquette rules (and even fewer know the rules of business dining). Most people will not notice when you make a table manners faux pas.
BUT one thing almost everybody knows is what awkward looks like.

How to look classy & smooth at the table

What makes you look awkward at the table? Well, holding your knife and fork in an unusual way when you cut your food, is probably top of the list.

Four weird ways to hold your cutlery

Here are four examples of strange (but sadly common) ways people hold their knife and fork and what that signals.

The Kiddie Grip:

Table Manners Kiddie Grip

Goo-goo, ga-ga. I can’t help it. I’ve held my knife and fork like this since I was liddle.

The Prison Grip:

Table Manners Kiddie Grip

Orange is the new black and I’m gonna bust out of this joint tonight.

The Drummer Grip:

Table Manners Drummer Grip

I’m banging out a tune cause I’m going to be the next Buddy Rich or Dave Grohl.

The Airline Passenger Grip:

Table Manners Airline Grip

Yeah, it’s a bit cramped but I’m too cheap to pay for business class.


The right moves

Table Manners Classy Grip

So if you want to look smooth at the dining table try to hold your knife and fork as illustrated in the photo below.
Your index or pointing fingers should extend down the handles. Your forearms and wrists should not be cocked at a sharp angle but should be held fairly straight. Your right and left hand should look similar.

Practice makes perfect

Unfortunately, bad habits for holding your cutlery have been ingrained an awful long time, basically since you’ve been eating at your highchair. So you’re not going to change overnight.
But if you’re eating regularly you have plenty of opportunities to practice..At every meal, pretend that you are dining out, even when you’re sitting with the TV tray and watching Game of Thrones over supper. Practice, like they say, makes perfect.

Looking smooth the easy way

For more dining tips and an easy way to learn all you really need about business dining etiquette or smooth table manners, check out our 40 minute online video dining course (rated #1 by the Wall Street Journal) or take one of our dining etiquette classes.
Or give your children a head start  in life at one of our Social Skills for Kids or Teens classes.

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and classy smooth eater
Feb 12

Is Connectivity Killing Conversation?

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Etiquette & Manners , Networking

Parents Beware: Technology is Impairing Social Skills

This past month I have been to a few conference dinners Family at table all with deviceswhere I have been seated with many young professionals – most of them under 30. Conversation is often fragmented because of interrupting each other by sharing neat stuff on their phones, snapping pictures of the food, entertainment and taking selfies.

An alarming trend

This certainly illustrates the alarming trend that I heard MIT professor Sherry Turkle, talk about in her new book Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age on CBC radio. (Click here to listen to the interview.)

Connection not the same as conversation

She pointed out the irony that our connectivity is damaging our relationships with each other. While we’re highly connected, connection is not the same as conversation.

Parents beware

Sherry Turkle is making a call to put down the phone and talk. More importantly, talk to our children.

She highlighted the effects of technology on rendering our children unable to converse. She referenced comedian Louis CK’s rant on cell phones and children. Because of all this online activity if we don’t make direct eye contact when we talk to kids, they fail to learn these basic social skills and their development suffers.

Put down the phone and talk

She described a significant empathy gap, which starts to show up in grade school.  Kids can’t talk or respond to each other.  By the time they reach college there is a 40% decline in markers for empathy.

Compounding the problem

While we often blame the kids for being uncommunicative, Sherry Turkle insists that parents are largely responsible for children’s anti-conversation behaviors. We’re constantly multi-tasking, checking emails while putting children to bed, texting while giving baths instead of talking to them, texting at dinner and so on. Then we worsen the problem by giving them screens at an early age instead of engaging with them.

What can we do?

Here are Sherry’s tips to reclaim conversation and help our kids:

  • Create sacred spaces – technology is not to be used in the car, kitchen, dining room or the classroom (I would add the restaurant table)
  • Don’t use your phone as your alarm clock, it’s too easy to get sidetracked. Put it away from the bed & use a old school alarm clock.
  • Make an extra effort to have face-to-face conversations and look people in the eye
  • Parents need to model the type of behavior they want their children to embrace
  • Talk, read and make eye contact with your children so your kids learn how to give and respond to facial cues and emotions.
  • Schools need to be cautious about giving up their libraries and accepting donations of tablets from organizations.
  • College classrooms are beginning to rethink phones and laptops in the lecture halls.
  • In business, conversation is good for the bottom line – workers do more, collaborate more and have greater productivity and creativity when they are given both privacy and an opportunity for conversation

I’m reminded of a great quote I once read: “Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners.” – Author unknown

Like Ms. Turkle, we’re not anti- technology but pro-conversation. We’re doing our best to equip business people both young and old with the skills to communicate. Thankfully many adults who have taken our networking courses are sending their kids to our children’s social skills course. Let’s all lead by example.

Click here to hear the Canadian Broadcasting Company interview with Sherry Turkle.
Click here to listen to Lewis CK’s cellphone rant.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian business social skills expert and conversation initiator
Dec 10

Holiday Party Mixing and Mingling Tips

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Dress & Image , Etiquette & Manners , Networking

What to wear, what to say and what not to do.

It’s that time of year again
This is the time of year when many of us receive invitations to office Christmas, holiday parties and client appreciation events. Sounds like fun… but not for all of us. Many of us stress about what to wear, what to say, and how to behave.

Tips on How to Dress

The invitation should give us some clues. Women in particular have so many choices but we have to remember that it’s business first and party second. If the event is scheduled right after work, it’s safe to assume that we can wear our office attire, but we can add some sparkle and flair. Women can change their shoes, add a bit of bling and embellish their make-up. Guys can add a festive tie, shave that five o’clock shadow and put on a fresh shirt.

Conversation Tips

Fear Not
One the biggest fears that most of us face when attending events is fear of talking to strangers. It’s human nature to want to stay talking with people that we know well and are comfortable with. While it’s certainly important to re-connect with people we know, it’s equally  important to grow your network and meet people outside your immediate circle.

Talk Like a Host
The advice that we give in our networking seminars to help overcome shyness is to move from guest to host behaviour. Pretend that you are hosting the event, go up to people standing on their own and introduce yourself. Engage in some small talk to discover what you have in common. An amazing thing happens when you work at making others feel relaxed and at ease; you experience more ease and comfort yourself. As a bonus, this contributes to the success of the event.

Tips for Joining Conversations
Many of us feel uncomfortable making an attempt to join a group already engaged in conversation. Part of the problem lies with our approach. We have to learn to read body language. If the group is close knit and they’re huddled together  it may not be the best group to approach. However, if when we walk towards a group someone makes eye contact and offers a warm smile it’s safe to join them. You can ask a rhetorical question if you hear what they are talking about or make a comment such as, “this group looks like you’re having a lot of fun, do you mind if I join you”.

Etiquette Tips

Drinks On Me
Drinking is often a part of holiday and Christmas celebrations. For liability and safety reasons many company parties are going  booze free. When it comes to alcohol remember your image, brand and career can be impacted. It’s important to know your limits and moderation is key.

Grab the grub
Isn’t it surprising how many people walk around at functions with their plates piled to the sky like it was their last supper. Hors d’oeuvres means appetizers and are not meant to replace your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eat as if your company pays you well enough to do so on a regular basis.

Bonus holiday party tip to avoid the flu

Healthy holidays
Eat the appetizers with your left hand (if your religion and culture permits it). The benefits are twofold. 1 Your handshake will be less sticky. 2  You will consume less germs from shaking hands with all your new acquaintances.

Have fun and make a great impression at all the holiday parties you attend!

For more Holiday Party Advice see our Resource sheet Tips to Survive the Office Holiday Party.pdf 

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and and left handed eater
Jul 05

7 Reasons Not to Teach Your Kids Etiquette

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Etiquette & Manners , Networking

Who needs polite, outgoing children with good table manners?

With tongue firmly in cheek, here are seven reasons to stop you from teaching your children proper etiquette and good social skills.

Reason 1: They’ll be too smart and do well in Rude Children? 7 reasons not to teach kids good manners and etiquetteschool

Who wants smart kids? The scientific journal, Child Development, released an analysis of 33 studies, that found that teaching kids social and emotional skills leads to an average 11 percentile point gain in their academic performance.

Reason 2: They’ll be too popular

Who needs popular kids? The same studies also found that teaching social skills helps students form bonds with their teachers and fellow students.

Reason 3: They’ll be too confident and outgoing

Who wants kids that don’t have their heads stuck in their phones and tablets all the time? Imagine kids that aren’t rude, who make friends easily and can confidently converse and dine anywhere with anyone.

Reason 4: They’ll get noticed

Who wants people constantly complimenting how well-mannered your children are? Your kids will stand out. People will notice. Good etiquette and social skills have a habit of doing that. It will make them stand out positively in school, part-time jobs, in athletics, travel and almost any endeavor that they put their mind to.

Reason 5: They’ll be too successful

Who wants kids who are so successful in their life and career that they don’t move back in with you? According to three separate studies by Harvard University, the Carnegie Institute, and the Stanford Institute – success in getting, keeping, and advancing in a job depends 85% on soft skills or “people” skills and only 15% on technical knowledge and skills.

Reason 6: They’ll show you up

What if their etiquette skills and table manners are better than yours? Well, this is a good reason why you might not want to teach them yourself. It’s a little like why you shouldn’t teach your own children how to drive; something about passing on your bad habits.

Relax, there’s an easy solution to that. There are etiquette experts and trainers available to do the job for you. We have Social Skills for Kids training courses coming up in August and September in the Edmonton, Alberta area. We even have some parents attend the sessions with their children so that they can reinforce learning at home.

(Another option is to view our online Dining Etiquette video program to brush up on your own table manners or order our engaging Dining For Success DVD and watch it along with your children.)

Reason 7: They won’t thank you

Ok, maybe they won’t thank you now (although we make our training fun and engaging) but they will later. Whatever way you decide to teach them, good soft skills will give your kids a head start in their lives and their careers. Early etiquette and social skills training does make a difference that they’ll feel and appreciate for the rest of their lives. Almost every adult who has taken our training has shared with us that they wish they had taken it much earlier in their life.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canada’s etiquette expert and social skills trainer and speaker
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