The Etiquette Edge

Making Impressions
that Last

Getting to Know;
Learning to Dine.

Every day we encounter people in a variety of business and social situations. The way we meet and greet them creates lasting impressions and paves the way for a productive encounter. Introductions project information. Besides the obvious elements of name, title, and affiliation, an introduction conveys a level of respect and reflects how the person making the introduction views the other person’s status. Mastering the art of the introduction will help put you and the people you are introducing at ease. Learning the basics ?and they are not very difficult ?is the first step.


As you make the introduction, include a brief but meaningful piece of information about each of the people to explain their uniqueness or importance.



The most important point about introductions is to make them. Failing to do so causes embarrassment and discomfort. If given a choice, most people would prefer you to make the introduction incorrectly, even if you forgot their name, rather than stand there unacknowledged and disregarded.

A second important point in any introduction is the order of names. The name of the person being introduced is mentioned last, and the person to whom the introduction is made is mentioned first. The rules for who is introduced to whom depends on whether it’s a business or a social introduction.

Business Introductions: In business, introductions are based on power and hierarchy. Simply, persons of lesser authority are introduced to persons of greater authority. Gender plays no role in business etiquette; nor does it affect order of introductions.

For example, you would say, “Mr. /Ms. Greater Authority, I would like to introduce Mr./Ms. Lesser Authority.’’ However, the person holding the highest rank may not be Mr./Ms. Greater Authority. A client, for instance, always takes precedence over anyone in your organisation.

Social Introduction: Social etiquette is based on chivalry, so both formal and informal introductions are made according to age, then gender, and then social status. The man would be introduced to the woman in a social situation unless the man is obviously a great deal older, in which case one would defer to age over gender. For example, if both persons are of the same generation, you would say, “Mrs. Pathak, I’d like to introduce Mr. Khan.?But, if the woman is considerably younger, you would say, “Mr. Raj, this is my daughter Shana.?br>
“As you make the introduction, include a brief but meaningful piece of information about each of the people to explain their uniqueness or importance.?/i> Samita is the PR consultant who helped me get all that coverage in the national press. Bobby is the photographer whose work you admired in my office, Samita. “Never qualify a description by saying “my best client?or “my dearest friend?because the automatic implication is that the other person holds a lower position in your personal hierarchy. When in doubt, be less personal rather than more personal.

The Nuances: As you say each of the individuals?names, look at him or her. In this way, you focus attention on them and make them feel important while appearing to be in control. Once a conversation has begun and everyone seems at ease, you may excuse yourself.

When introducing relatives to other people, always clarify their relationship to you; it avoids any possible faux pas that could result from inadvertent comments. Never refer to your own spouse as Mr. or Mrs. in a social introduction. Simply saying “Mathew, my husband,?or “Kitty, my wife?is sufficient. However, if the woman has kept her maiden name, she should include the husband’s surname with some emphasis on it.

Introducing Yourself: If no one introduces you, step in and introduce yourself. Someone may be too embarrassed to admit forgetting a name or may be distracted by other matters.

Feeling slighted because you were not introduced only puts you at a disadvantage. Introduce yourself by extending your hand, smiling and saying something like, “I’m Smita, Sachin’s partner.?Avoid making any comment such as “Sangeeta works for me?that might be misconstrued as arrogance or superiority. Instead, say, “Sangeeta and I work in the same office.?br>
As a guest, it’s your duty to circulate and introduce yourself at any function, large or small, especially if the host or hostess is busy. The fact that you are both there is sufficient justification to introduce yourself to anyone at the gathering. By only sticking to those people you already know, you’ll never expand your horizons or make new acquaintances.

Always use both names when introducing yourself to convey the massage that you take yourself seriously as an adult and expect the same treatment from others. And, since you don’t know how comfortable the other person feels with formality or lack of it, you give that person the chance to set the tone most comfortable to them.

At any business meet, always introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you to open the way for conversation. Not introducing yourself can cost you a valuable business lead because few people want to deal with someone who comes across as aloof or unsavvy.

Responding to Introductions: The way you respond to someone else’s introduction is just as important as making the introduction. In response to informal introductions, simply say “hello? Add a phrase like, “I’ve heard so much about you, Bhavesh,?only if it is true and if it is complimentary. Beware of phrases like, “Pleased to meet you?because that may not be true after only a few minutes of conversation.

“How do you do??followed by the person’s name is the customary response to a formal introduction. Refrain from the use of first names until the person to whom you’ve been introduced has indicated that the familiarity is preferred.

Remembering Names: If you forget someone’s name when making an introduction, try putting the other people at ease rather then concentrating on your own embarrassment.

Remain calm; if you fall apart, the person whose name you forget may feel obliged to put you at ease, compounding your faux pas. Be straightforward yet tactful in admitting your memory lapse.

By saying, “I’ve forgotten your name,?you imply the person wasn’t worth remembering. ?I’ve just drawn a blank,?or “my memory seems to be malfunctioning?connotes a more temporary condition that doesn’t have the same insulting implications. If you can’t remember someone’s name, but you remember an interesting point about them, cite it. You might say, “I clearly remember our conversation about Thai food, but your name seems to have temporarily slipped my mind. Please help me out.?/i>

Then, whatever happens, get off the subject of the memory lapse and onto something more interesting to everyone. Profuse apologies only make everyone uncomfortable. The sooner you forget about it, the sooner everyone else will?and the happier everyone will be.

When you’re introduced to someone, say the person’s name, then repeat it several times during the conversation. Not only do you project a genuine interest in someone by repeating their name, but the repetition is more likely to imprint the name on your memory. When someone seems to have forgotten your name, just jump in, hand outstretched, a smile on your face, and offer your name.

Introducing a Guest Speaker: Prior to the event, have the speaker supply background information and ask how he or she prefers to be introduced. Keep the introduction short but enthusiastic, giving the speaker’s name, credibility on the subject and the title of the presentation. Then ask the audience to join you in welcoming the speaker and begin the applause. Don’t alienate the audience by informing them that they’ll learn something. And, don’t undermine the speaker by talking so much about the topic yourself that you give part of the presentation.

Now that you have a better understanding of meeting and greeting people, heed Lord

Beaverbrook’s admonition, “Be fearless and each day you must meet someone new.?/i>

Your responsibility as a guest and host!

First, a guest is punctual and does not pay surprise visits. Guests also do not make themselves more comfortable in someone else’s office than the host. And they don’t ever take someone else’s space by spreading papers all over the person’s desk. And, they don’t place a handbag or briefcase on it. Guests also do not overstay their welcome. When your scheduled time is up, don’t assume the host’s schedule is so flexible it can accommodate you for another hour. Reschedule if you need more time. Believe me, if the host is really interested in what you’re selling and has the time to hear more, he or she will let you know.

The host’s responsibility is to greet the guest and to make the visitor feel comfortable. If you’re busy, have your secretary go out to reception to bring the visitor to your office. Then, get up and come around from the desk to shake hands with the person. Indicate where you would like the person to sit. The host leads the visitor. When the meeting is over, the host is responsible for bringing the meeting to a close, summarising what was covered and what action is to be taken. Then the host escorts the visitor to the elevator or out of the office. Never leave visitors to find their own way. Not only is it rude, it jeopardises security.


Many business meetings take place outside the office over a meal. But, again confusion exists over two matters; first, what meal to use for what purpose and how to handle the tab gracefully. Each business meal has its own reason for being and it is never about food. Each business meal also has an acceptable time frame.

Power breakfasts are ideal for urgent business, to review an event happening that day or to meet with a person who doesn’t take lunch. Schedule 45 minutes to 1 hour. But, it’s advisable to have a good reason to get someone up early to meet with you.

Allow two hours for a power lunch. Lunch is the ideal meal to entertain clients or to establish business contacts. Lunches are also the least compromising male/female dining situation. Just make sure you don’t wait until dessert to bring up your agenda; the time to start discussing business is after the appetiser has been served.

Tea is the new power meal, an ideal time to become better acquainted with someone with whom you want to establish a business relationship. It is also a civilised time to discuss matters outside the office without breaking up the middle of the day. As people become more concerned about alcohol consumption, it becomes an ideal alternative to meeting for cocktails.

Business dinners should never be the first meal with a client unless that person is from out of town or has specifically requested it. Respect the client’s personal time. Discussing business at dinner can also be tricky if you don’t get down to it before the second drink arrives. Dinners are ideal to cement existing relationships or as a special treat for the client.

The rule for paying the tab in business is clear: whoever benefits from the business association pays, regardless of gender. So, whether I invite my client or my client invites me, I pay. If there is no clear beneficiary, the person who extends the invitation pays. There are several ways to handle the check so it never becomes an issue, all of which are covered in my book. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go into them all today. But, ideally, try to avoid having the check brought to the table. If you‘re a woman hosting a male client, put the burden of payment onto your company to avoid raising that old social standard that has the man paying the tab. The best time to clarify that you are hosting is when you extend the invitation by saying, “I’d like you to be my company’s guest at lunch on….”

One time you don’t even try to pick up the check is if your client has invited you to a private club. Instead, reciprocate at a later date.


While reading this list, you may find that you have been a sinner in the past without ever realising it. Don’t worry. Redemption is at hand. And you certainly are not alone. The sins detailed below made the list only because so many people have committed them so often in the past.

Cutlery. Don’t wave our cutlery triumphantly in the air to emphasis a point, and don’t put silver ware partly on the table and partly on the plate. Once you pick up a piece of cutlery, it should never touch the table again. Knives go on the plate, blade facing in and touching the inside of the plate. Only the handle should rest on the rim of the plate.

Napkins. Don’t blot or rub the lower half of your face. Dab delicately. Don’t flap your napkin to unfold it, and wave it around like flag. It belongs unfolded on your lap. If you leave the table, place your napkin on the chair and push the chair back under the table. Gently. Watch the upholstery. Don’t refold your napkin at the end of meal; otherwise an unknown server might give it to another diner. Pick it up from the center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate.

Chewing. Never chew with your mouth open. And don’t gulp and blurt. Finish chewing, swallow and smile philosophically, content in the knowledge that you could have said just the right thing, but had too much class to speak with food in your mouth.

Appearance. Sit up straight. Keep your elbows on the table. If you have any doubts where your hand belong, put them on your lap.

Bread. Tear bread into bit-size pieces and butter each piece just before you eat it. Don’t butter entire slice of bread or the entire roll to get it ready for occasional bites during the course of the meal. Put butter first on your bread plate or dinner plate, not directly on the roll.

Speed. Take it easy. Gulping down food is not only unhealthy but unattractive. It can cross the line into rudeness when dining with others. Dining partners should have the same number of courses and start and finish each at about the same time. And it’s just as bad to huddle over your soup like a hairy hermit while others are salivating for their dessert. A great deal of information can be given and received at the table; and each dish should be prolonged with cheerful interludes of pleasant and social talk and conversation. “Chatted food is half digested,” is an old proverb, which contains much good advice.

Being picky. If you have something trapped between your teeth, don’t pick at it while at the table. If it’s really driving you nuts, excuse yourself, go to the rest room, and pick to your heart’s content.

Smoking. Sitting in the smoking section of the restaurant doesn’t give you the right to light up between courses. It affects your dining partner’s taste buds and is a jarring note during any meal. Wait until the meal is over. And, please, do not use a plate as an ashtray.

Purses, briefcases. Keep them off the table. And this goes for keys, hats, gloves, eyeglass cases, and cigarette packs. In short, if it isn’t part of meal, it shouldn’t be on the table.

Seasoning. Don’t salt or otherwise season your food before you taste it. This is particularly offensive when dining in someone’s home and the cook is sitting at the table. It’s also a bad idea in a restaurant, even though the chief can’t be insulted even though he’s in the kitchen.

Wine. Wine will be served during the meal. If you don’t want wine, place your fingertips lightly on the rim of the glass when the server approaches to pour. Wine is offered with the first (soup) course and will be poured from the right. Red wine (and brandy) glasses are held by the bowl because the warmth of the hand releases the bouquet. Red wine and champagne glasses are always held by the stem, so as not to diminish the chill. Wait until your host has lifted the glass before you drink.

Asking questions. If someones at the table takes a pill, don’t inquire about the reason. If you must take medication at the table, don’t comment about it. No explanations are necessary. Don’t ask people where they are going when they leave the table.

Table Setting. It can be very confusing to be presented with a variety of eating utensils. Remember the guideline “to start at the outside and work your way in.” If you have been given two forks, which are the same size, begin with the fork on the outside. Many restaurants use the same size of fork for both the salad and main course.

Sending Food Back. As a rule, send a dish back only if it wasn’t what you ordered, or it isn’t cooked to order, it tastes spoiled. If you are a guest, and the food isn’t to your liking, keep this to yourself to avoid embarrassing the host; concentrate on other portions of the meal instead.

Sharing Food. Accepting another person’s offer to taste a morsel of his or her dish – or offering a bite of yours – is fine as long as it’s handled unobtrusively.

Foods From Hell…Should I use a fork and Knife??!!

“How do I eat this – never mind gracefully?” you say to yourself as you stare at the intricately tangled spaghetti on your plate. The following is a list of difficult foods to eat and how to eat them correctly. Remember, you can eat certain foods with your fingers. When in doubt, use a fork or spoon.

Bacon can be taken in hand if it’s very crisp. Otherwise, use a knife and fork.

Cake can be taken in hand if it’s bite-sized. If it’s not, if it’s sticky or comes with sauce or ice-cream, both the fork and spoon come into play. Hold the spoon in your right hand to scoop up the desert. The fork goes in your left hand and is used as a pusher.

Caviar should be spread on toast with a knife and eaten with your fingers.

Celery, pickles, and radishes are taken off the serving piece with fingers and placed on the side of your dinner plate with your fingers.

Chicken requires a knife and fork unless you are at a picnic.

Hard shelled crabs are treated like lobsters. Lobster require a number of strategies. Crack the shell with a seafood fork (that’s tiny little thing with the three tines). If you pull out a large piece, cut it with a fork. Pull off the small claws, and treat them as you were drawing liquid through a straw. Eat stuffed lobster with a knife and fork.

Olives get the same treatment as cake, bacon and celery. If the olive is pitted, eat it whole. If olive is large and unpitted, hold it in your fingers and eat it in small bites, instead of popping the whole thing in your mouth and munching. As for the pit, kiss the palm of your hand, and deposit it on the edge of your plate.

Pasta comes in many different sizes and shapes. It’s good idea to avoid that business of twirling spaghetti with your fork in the bowl of a spoon. Do not cut the strands with your knife. Small – sized pasta – ziti, penne, and the like – requires only a fork.

Have a few different rules.

Potatoes have a few different rules. Eat the inside of baked potato with a fork. If you wish to eat the skin, cut it into manageable pieces with a knife and fork. Don’t try to convert your baked potatoes into mashed food. Cut fries in half, and eat them with your fork only or a knife and fork.

Soup When eating soup, think of making a circle: spoon away from you, bring around to your mouth and back to the bowl. Soup is taken from the side of the soup spoon – it is not inserted into your mouth. Do not slurp or make noises when eating soup. To retrieve the last spoonful of soup, slightly tip the bowl away from you and spoon in way that works best.

Shrimp are eaten with fingers if the tails are left on. Shrimp cocktail is another story. These should be eaten with a seafood fork, in two bites if large. Better still, put them on a serving plate, and cut them with a knife and fork.

Continental Vs. American Style…What’s the basic difference?

In our shrinking world, we often see people using the continental or European style of dining, as well as the American style. Both are perfectly correct, and neither is preferable to the other. What’s important is being consistent and being correct in whichever style you choose.

Once mastered, the Continental style proves to be far more graceful and efficient, so it is well worth learning.

American style. The knife is used for cutting only. It is held in the right hand (for right handers) while cutting, and fork is held in the left hand to help control the object being cut. The knife is then put down on the edge of the plate (blade facing), and the fork is switched to the right hand to lift the cut piece to mouth. Hands are in the lap when not being used.

Continental style. The knife remains in the right hand and the fork in the left. After the food is cut, the knife is used to push it onto the fork. The prong of the fork is faced downwards when the cut food is lifted to the mouth, unless the type of food – peas or creamed food, for example – requires a different tactic. The remain above the table from the wrist up when they are not in use.

The following arrangement is generally popular: -
1. Knives and spoons are on the right.
2. Forks and napkins are on the left.
3. Glassware / crystal are on the right.
4. Plates, such as a salad plate or bread-and-butter plate, are on the left.

Etiquette while Dining Sitting down

If people invite you to join their table as you leave the buffet line, accept graciously or say, “I promised someone that I’d eat with them”.

If you need to leave the table temporarily, be sure to place your napkin on the seat or arm of your chair. Even though people at your table will be sitting down to eat at different times, it’s still a good idea to generally keep pace with others at the table and engage them in conversation.

Etiquette while Dining Standing up

If you are to eat standing up, it is even more important to avoid overloading your plate. Circulate. One of the few-maybe the only advantages of a standup buffer is that you can drift around and chat with a number of different people. For example, food at cocktail parties is often consumed while standing.

When you settle on a plane to stand, make sure you are not blocking a path to the buffet table or anything else.

Facing the formal Dinner

Now that you have solved the mysteries of the banquet hall and buffet table, let’s move on to the most daunting dining dilemma – the formal dinner. Once again, all of its problems can be handled with grace and confidence if you know what to expect and how to react.

Remember to greet everyone before sitting down. Gentlemen must rise to greet latecomers. They may also rise when ladies leave and return to the table, although today’s woman should not expect this. A server will draw the chair for you. Enter from your left.

...Don’t panic!

Going hand in hand with the wheeling and dealings of a business relationship are the social activities that allow people to show their more personal sides. It has never been more important to acquaint yourself well when entertaining a customer or being entertained. How you handle yourself at the dinner table says much about how you are.

Also, having spent so much time talking about mistakes, it is important to point out that nothing as diverse as dining with a number of other people will ever be achieved with perfect serenity. Things often go wrong, and when they do, it is important to react calmly and, if possible, cheerfully.

Let’s say you knock something over, break something, or drop something. The first thing to remember is: Anybody can have an accident! Stay cool. Downplay the incident as much as possible.

In a restaurant, call the incident to the server’s attention – as unobstructively as possible – and hand him your napkin if it has gotten wet. If the person next to you is a victim of the accident, let him handle his own damage – control. Apologize quietly and offer to pay dry cleaning bills.

“Chatted food is half digested,” is an old proverb which contains much good advice. A great deal of information can be given and received at the table; and each dish should be prolonged with cheerful interludes of pleasant and social talk and conversation.

All one needs to make a good impression is to know how to use the cutlery, eat your food with certain civilities kept in mind, and appearing at ease with those around you.

Bonne chance and bonne appetit !


When the meeting is over, the host is responsible for bringing the meeting to a close, summarising what was covered and what action is to be taken.



Take it easy. Gulping down food is not only unhealthy but unattractive. It can cross the line into rudeness when dining with others. Dining partners should have the same number of courses and start and finish each at about the same time.

























As a guest, it’s your duty to circulate and introduce yourself at any function, large or small, especially if the host or hostess is busy.



















It has never been more important to acquaint yourself well when entertaining a customer or being entertained. How you handle yourself at the dinner table says much about how you are.



Radhika Warriar (NEE REGE)