I had the opportunity to visit KC Live TV morning show this week and talk through some VERY frequent workplace email conundrums. Knowing how to navigate these sticky situations can sometimes be the difference between hiring and firing, or a promotion. These aren't just etiquette skills, these are leadership skills. Here's a helpful hint: if in doubt on email tone - pick up the phone.
I think for most of us who are parents, we are in a constant love/hate relationship with technology when it comes to our children. It’s ridiculously convenient on a long road or plane trip, waiting in the pediatrician’s office or when we desperately need to get something done around the house for a few minutes. But it grows very irksome as our children grow older and ask more and more to play on our phones, ipads, laptops, etc. Or even more so, ask for their own devices!
How do we foster the next cyber entrepreneur genius, while still ensuring our children are able to hold and master a face-to-face conversation?
I received this article out of The New York Times from my children’s Head of School, and I immediately printed it out and pinned it up. It’s written by a psychologist and practicing family physician, Dr. Leonard Sax, who has studied the effects of social media on children. My immediate takeaway….many of the “answers” to the growing issues with our children and technology lies in teaching them, and demonstrating in our homes, the basic principles of Etiquette! Here’s a few snippets from the article to show you what I mean:
“In the typical American household today, when kids go home, they go to their bedrooms and aren’t seen again except perhaps for meals. That’s crazy. A family can’t be a family if the kids spend more time alone in their bedrooms than with their family members. Insist that your daughter, or son, do whatever they’re doing online in a public space: in the kitchen or the living room. There should be nothing in the bedroom except a bed: no TV, no PlayStation, no screens. That’s the official recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another suggestion: fight for suppertime. And don’t allow phones at the table. In a 2013 Canadian survey of kids across a range of backgrounds, those who had more meals with parents were much less likely to have been feeling sad, anxious or lonely. They were more likely to help others and more likely to report being satisfied with their own lives…A third suggestion: No headsets and no earbuds in the car. When your child is in the car with you, you should be listening to her and she should be listening to you – not to Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus or Akon or Eminem. Teach the art of face-to-face conversation.”
Here is the link to the full article. It’s short and definitely worth your time! Hope you gain as much from it as I have. What a wonderful reminder that the basic principles of etiquette (consideration, respect and honesty), whether taught from day 1 or started at day 3,001, remain a phenomenal tool for grounding our children in success for the future.
Wonder if it's okay to take your shoes off on an airplane? Have a guest who is always late to dinner? Curious if it's okay to have your cell phone in a meeting? Etiquette answers here from last week's visit to Better Kansas City!:)
5 Quick Tips for Email Etiquette (at work and at home):
· If you’re upset, sleep on it. Give it overnight to think on it before you respond. This will help your response be less emotional and most likely more measured and gracious.
· Texting rules need not apply. The same type of short-hand that might be acceptable in texting, (only in social circumstances, and even then take care) should not be used within an email. This is especially true in business email communications, even in the most casual of ones between colleagues. While we’re at it, you should hold yourself to the same grammar and word choice standards for social and business emails. No foul language, misspelled words or mis-shapen sentences. Emojis don’t typically belong in any form of business correspondence.
· Read it again. Before you hit send, read it twice and possibly three times to make sure you have gotten to the point and the message is as concise and clear as possible. Being considerate of other’s time is just good manners.
· How’s your tone of voice? This may sound crazy in a written email, but that is exactly the problem. Tone of voice is completely left open to interpretation by the reader. So beware of sounding too pointed or short. Using a salutation, opening greeting and closing salutation can help in that, i.e. “Hi Leslie, Good morning, hope your week is starting off well. In regard to the memo you mentioned….Best, Courtney”
· Pick up the Phone. If there is any reason where a situation feels out of line or is escalating in a negative way, pick up the phone. You can alleviate so many possible issues by just speaking directly to a person. Often times tone can be misread in an email, by you or them.
When I just barely bring up this topic of baby shower etiquette among my friends or family, it always sparks a large conversation filled with everyone’s anecdotes on something that happened to them, or some shower protocol (or lack thereof…) they weren’t quite sure how to handle.
With so many generations involved, as is often the case, with baby (and wedding) showers, it’s no wonder differing opinions or traditions come up. And with the addition of “sprinkles” and “sip n see’s” into the modern mix, it can just add to the protocol confusion.
I’ve taken the most talked about baby shower etiquette questions straight to the top of the pile, and here they are in no certain order:
Baby Shower Tricky Questions and Simple Answers!
Q. I’ve been invited to more than one baby shower for my friend who is having her first child. Do I need to take a present to both showers?
A. No, you are definitely not on the hook for multiple presents. The best solution here is to take your present to the first shower you attend, and for any subsequent showers after that feel free to take a nice card or some other small, sweet expression for the mother-to-be, like a small bouquet of flowers. Duplicate shower invitations sometimes happens among friends who are involved in multiple friend groups, and of course among family members too. You should absolutely attend, but never feel as though you should have a gift for each shower.
Q. I’ve been invited to a baby shower where a group gift is encouraged. Do I have to participate in the group gift, or can I get a gift of my own choosing? If I participate, how much should I give toward it?
A. The simple answer to both is, you should always do what you are most comfortable with, and what fits within your budget!
Sometimes those hosting a shower use it as an opportunity to fulfill a more expensive registry item, like a baby stroller or car seat, and a group contribution can be a great way to do that. An appropriate contribution, should you choose to participate, is in the $20 to $25 range per person. If you are contributing as a couple, you might choose to do more – or less – again keeping your overall budget in mind. There should be no price point expectations for group gift contributions. And anyone hosting the shower should always convey the gift they are hoping to purchase so guests have a better understanding of how much they might want to contribute.
In any event, you should always feel free to go on your own and get a gift of your own choosing if you prefer not to participate in a group gift.
Q. My family is having a large baby shower for me, and the thought of opening gifts in front of all those people makes me nervous. I don’t like all the attention. Do I have to open them during the shower, or can I do it later on at home?
A. This is a difficult one to be sure, but as etiquette is all about trying to do the most gracious thing, the answer is to do everything you can to open the presents during the baby shower. This goes for any shower of any size, baby or wedding.
Here’s why – typically people really go out of their way to pick that special gift off the registry, or even give something that is personalized or an heirloom. They love and want to be able to share in that moment with you when opening. So if you’re nervous, pull in a friend, family member or the father-to-be to help take some of the spotlight off of you if you can.
Q. I’m co-hosting a shower with some friends for a very good friend of mine. The problem is, I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on the shower. I want to participate, but I don’t want to break the bank doing it. What should I do?
A. So many of us have been in this situation. Do not fear, there is a solution! It’s an honor to be a host, and your friend who is the mother-to-be is going to be thrilled with what you are planning, and not for the amount of money spent on it
Co-hosting with others is a great way to share costs in a resourceful way. The key is to set expectations from the beginning. For instance, you might each agree to contribute $100 toward any shower costs, and not exceed that. With that in mind, you can develop a plan and stay on track. There may be instances where others want to take on a larger piece of the cost. If so, it’s okay to be upfront and honest with your limits, you don’t owe any explanations about it. Conversely, if others wish to contribute more – or less – be gracious and okay with that too.
Q. I’m having my third child, and some friends want to throw a shower for me because it will be my first son. I feel silly doing it though since it is my third child. Is it appropriate to have a shower?
A. These days, there aren’t many “rules” as it relates to showers for multiple children. People love an excuse to get together and celebrate a baby!
If you’re uncomfortable with another shower, consider a “sprinkle”, which is a smaller, more intimate gathering of close friends and/or family with a smaller amount of gifts.
Or, you could ask your friends if they might consider a “sip n see” once the beloved baby has arrived. A “sip n see” is a chance for people to gather to “sip” on something (punch, champagne, etc.) and “see” the new arrival. Presents may or may not be involved, depending upon the preference of the mom-to-be.
Now Go and Be Gracious!
So you’re ready to land that first job, or maybe move on to another opportunity. You’ve spent an enormous amount of time getting your resume or C.V. together, in the various forms they come in these days (remember back when it was on paper??), and you’ve finally been invited to interview. Now is when it’s time to shine and showcase your polish and confidence. That first impression is when you make your mark:
Mind Your Social Media Manners – Don’t think twice that potential employers won’t first look you up online to quickly weed out if they want to take your resume any further. In fact, for some larger organizations, their H.R. department may be tasked with doing just that. Your potential employer is looking for someone who will be an exemplary representation of that organization, and if your online presence turns up any photos or words that are questionable, you can probably consider yourself out of the running. There’s a lot of competition out there, and you have to set yourself apart in a positive way.
P.S. This goes for life in general. Your online image and presence sends many messages about you, intended or unintended. Keep it courteous, respectful, civil and dignified, and you’ll find it will help you keep relationships and flourish new ones.
Prepare for the Interview – You should be doing as much advance work as your potential employer is! Review their Web site in depth so you can answer questions and pose thoughtful, educated ones. And, if possible, look up the person with whom you are interviewing so you recognize their face when you meet in person and possibly know a little more about them to add to conversation.
Dress the Part – You’ve likely heard the expression, “Dress for the job you want.” Well, it still holds up. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially when you are trying to land the job. You may already know that the organization has somewhat of a “relaxed or business casual” environment, but that does not give you permission to assume that is okay for the interview. Most would never fault you for, say, a suit and tie, or a lady’s business suit or dress, even if it’s a casual workplace. But, they just may note you didn’t bother to change out of your jeans and tennis shoes. Always err on the side of looking your personal best.
Be on Time – Be on time, be on time, be on time. Cannot overstate this enough. Going into an interview with a strike for lateness puts you at a tremendous disadvantage, and can taint the overall tone of the interview. It’s discourteous to the person interviewing you, who likely has a full day already and is short on time. Not to mention, you lose out on that time you could have been using to impress. CONVERSELY, don’t arrive too early. Ten to 15 minutes early MAX is an ideal time to arrive. Arriving 30 minutes early or more puts the interviewer in a position to have to figure out what to do with you, especially if he or she is tied up until the interview time.
Make an Impression – When the moment arrives, and the interviewer walks toward you to greet you, follow these rules:
· Stand Up
· Extend your Hand and use their last name i.e. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Jones/Mrs. Smith”
· Shake Hands (2 or 3 firm pumps) and smile!
· Say “Thank You” for taking the time for the interview. You will say this again at the end.
Follow Up – When the interview is over, say “thank you” once again as you are leaving. Always end with that message of gratitude. Then follow up, immediately, with a “thank you” note. It will likely distinguish you from the others. If you feel compelled, you may also send an immediate follow up “thank you” email for same day timeliness. But still put that written “thank you” note in the mail too as it shows an added touch of effort, which just may make the difference.
Now Go and Be Gracious!
Is there anything better than a meal of just appetizers? It’s not really a question, the answer is “no.” Appetizers and rose’, this is all I need. And half of those appetizers should consist of various forms of cheese plates, as long as I’m still planning my perfect meal.
If you’re like me, and you never host a dinner party without a few apps to start – or if you’ve ever eaten (or plan to eat) an appetizer – then these 4 Quick Tips are for you!
Here’s a quick debrief on what to do for those tricky appetizer encounters, whether you are the host, guest, or out to eat at a restaurant. And if it involves burrata, you should definitely get that!
1. Use the Plates. Know those stack of plates your server brings to your table with that heaping bowl of spinach dip and chips? Well, go ahead and start passing them out to everyone at the table. Because no matter what the appetizer (yes, even chips and salsa/guacamole), you should put it on your appetizer plate and use it. Not the bread plate you may have already been using for, well, bread. And not your hand either that you’re using as a makeshift plate for that chip dip from the bowl in the middle of the table to your mouth.
Spooning a reasonable amount of the dip, sauce, etc., on to your plate and then using a utensil to get the conduit (i.e. chips, bread, veggies) on your plate serves many beneficial upsides: the food is now closer to your mouth so less chances of embarrassing yourself by dropping on the table halfway, less germs are shared by a communal appetizer bowl, and you decrease the chances of the gross broken chip left by another person in the queso bowl by 100%.
Conversely, if you are entertaining at home, set out appetizer plates for your guests. For quick one bite options, feel free to use plastic disposable tooth picks (they make really cute ones now), or even tiny little individual cups for nuts. There are so many clever table hosting options these days. If you find yourself in a situation where plates aren’t available, use a napkin instead. Always remember the First Rule of Etiquette – Be Gracious! Never make a fuss when someone else is cooking for you, make do and appreciate what they are doing for you.
Other appetizers this section also applies to:
· Pita and hummus
· Cheese plates
· Buffalo wings
· Shrimp cocktail
· Endless jalapeño poppers/mozzarella sticks/toasted ravioli
· And every other appetizer you can think of or have tried (In the U.S. anyway, remember other cultures have other customs. You should always defer to the customs of that culture, including in other people’s homes.)
2. Seconds, After Everyone else First. You know when you’re really hungry, and you can already tell dinner is going to take awhile, and there’s only a few slices of bruschetta left, and everyone else has had one except your wife/wife’s friend who is busy gabbing to the host about her centerpiece? (Right now my husband is nodding his head “yes”.) You want to get another piece of that delicious tomato and mozzarella heaven, but you know good manners precludes you from doing that. But, what if someone else does it anyway, and then it’s all gone?!
Follow your instincts and good manners. Instead of giving in to the voice of your grumbling stomach, pick up the platter of heaven, and take it over to your wife/wife’s friend and offer her a plate (or napkin) and a slice of the bruschetta. Once she accepts, or declines, then you are free to take it back to the table and help yourself to another serving. As always with your good manners, don’t go crazy, just take one. It’s likely some other starving husband (or wife) has been eyeing those last few pieces too.
Same goes for restaurant etiquette, take a reasonable portion of the appetizer, and then pass it along ensuring there is enough for everyone at the table to have the same portion. And don’t forget, for those odd-portioned or large-sized appetizers, cutting items in half to ensure there is some for everyone is not only gracious, it’s just plain good manners.
3. Pass to the Right. Once you’ve sliced those mouth-watering beef short-rib sliders in half so there’s enough for everyone at the table to have one, go ahead and start the platter by passing it to your right. Same rule applies at any “Family Style Dinner” setting i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. You always pass to the right. And while I’m at it, I love a person who forgoes their own first selection to pass it to the right and then claims theirs at the very end. This is not necessary! I just love the thought behind it.
4. “Finger Foods” for a Reason. A quick word on utensils and appetizers – it’s completely okay to eat “finger foods” with your fingers. Once you’ve gotten those truffle fries and aioli on your plate, go ahead and dip away with your fingers. If you’re a person who prefers to eat their pizza with a knife and fork, you may also be one who prefers to use a fork for all finger foods as well. This is completely okay. The best rule of thumb in any situation, if you’re unsure of what is and is not a finger food, is to look to your utensils setting and/or your host for what they are doing. For instance, if you have a tiny fork among your setting and your host is using it for the smoked oysters, go ahead and do the same. In all instances, make sure you utilize your napkin, whether in your lap or under your plate while standing at a cocktail party, to wipe your hands. If need be, make a quick dash to the restroom to wash up after particularly messy appetizers.
BONUS TIP: The Barefoot Contessa says all you really need for a great appetizer spread at a dinner party is a (preferably silver) bowl of salty nuts, some shavings of really good Parmesan cheese and some nice baked crackers along side. Two things you can buy, and one you can make if you desire. So simple and so elegant. Now go plan a party:)
Air Travel Do’s and Don’ts - CF Etiquette on "Better Kansas City"
All of your burning etiquette questions for air travel answered below! If I missed some, email me at email@example.com. Would love to hear your questions!
Honestly, is it okay for me to bring my lunch onto a plane? I see so many people doing it.
· The short answer – yes, of course – but with a huge caveat.
· Your first rule of etiquette is to always do what is considerate. So make a considerate lunch choice that will not create a smell others may not care for.
· Skip the tuna salad sandwich for a turkey sandwich instead, or go for a salad instead of something hot.
· Be sure to give your trash to a flight attendant as soon as possible so it is no longer lingering in your row.
· And as always, the same rules of consideration apply as if you were at a dinner table i.e. chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with your mouth full.
What if the person next to me is eating something that I cannot stand to look at or smell? What do I do?
· If it is not feasible for you to politely move to another seat (as planes are often completely full), the best thing to do is take your mind off of it by putting on your headphones and diving into a book or work.
· It wouldn’t be considerate to make the person feel uncomfortable about their food choice, even if it is bothering you or others around you.
· Once they are finished eating, you can politely offer to hand their trash to the flight attendant or “throw it away” while you are up.
· If the situation becomes unbearable for any reason, you can discreetly discuss it with a flight attendant, who may be able to offer some remedies. They have certainly seen it all!
Can I recline my seat?
· Unless you are on a very long cross-country or international flight, the best etiquette rule of thumb is not to recline your seat.
· There is very little space these days for leg room, and reclining seats just takes that much more away from the person behind you.
· If you are on a very long flight (i.e. international flight) and will be reclining your seat for sleep or otherwise, make sure the person behind you is not in the middle of eating their dinner on the tray table before you recline.
· You can even take that extra step of consideration, and ask them if its okay if you recline your seat for awhile.
Who gets the armrest? Is it whoever gets there first? And what about the person in the middle?
· Since the middle seat is typically least desirable, the etiquette armrest rule of thumb is that the person in the middle gets both of the inside armrests, the aisle passenger gets the aisle armrest, and the window passenger gets the window armrest
I always seem to sit near someone talking on their Bluetooth or hands-free phone, is that acceptable on planes now? It drives me crazy, what can I do?
· Under the etiquette principles of consideration and respect, it is definitely NOT okay to speak on your cell phone in a hands-free setting on the plane.
· It invites everyone else into your conversation, even when they would prefer not to be.
· If you must talk on your cell phone on the plane, be brief, and keep the volume of your voice at a minimum.
· If you are seated next to someone talking loudly on hands-free, you may feel free to politely talk to them when they are not on a call, and ask if they wouldn’t mind talking a bit more quietly as you are trying to read, baby is asleep, etc.
· People are usually unaware of how loud they are talking, and don’t really mean to!
How do I escape a conversation with the person next to me? I don’t want to be rude, but I’d like to read during the flight.
· It’s a polite thing to exchange pleasantries when you sit down next to a person on a plane. In fact, it’s just plain good manners to make eye contact and say “hello” to them.
· However, if it evokes a conversation that begins to go on a little longer than you might like, a polite way to excuse yourself from the conversation is to say something like, “I’m so enjoying talking with you, but my apologies I have a deadline for work I’ve unfortunately got to get working on now. Let me know if my typing bothers you!”
· No matter what you say, though, make sure it is honest. The person next to you will easily be able to tell if you are playing solitaire on the computer as opposed to writing a work email.
I once had a passenger tell me my bag was in her overhead compartment space, and that I need to move it. Is there assigned overhead bag space?
· No, overhead bag areas are first come first serve.
· The polite thing to do is to put your bag directly over your seat, but if that space is no longer available, you may feel free to try and locate another space near your seat, or ask a flight attendant to find a space for you.
· The key is to find a place for your bag that is the least disruptive to other passengers when you are trying to disembark.
Best Rule of Etiquette for Air Travel – Use the Flight Attendants! You don’t have to be the one to address the issue. They are trained to do it in a polite way, and know how to handle it if a situation were to escalate in grumpiness!
Hands-free and blue tooth cell phone options are wonderful, especially in the privacy of your car when you’re on the go. It’s safer and smarter. But what happens when people take the “on the go” convenience of hands-free cell use a bit too literally…like on the plane next to you, waiting behind you in line at the store, or even in the stall next to you in the bathroom!
I have most definitely experienced all of these, and I bet you have too. It’s just terribly awkward, isn’t it? The conversation is audible to everyone, and typically louder than a normal phone conversation because the person is trying to speak loudly enough for the microphone to pick it up. Plus, that person is usually trying to speak over whatever other noise is going on around them, including the roar of an airplane engine or the flush of a toilet. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. And, I even find that I am unwittingly trying to be more quiet than normal just to allow them to have their conversation without interruption, which is frankly slightly absurd on my part.
How do you politely tell someone you don’t want to be a part of their cell phone conversation simply by default of your proximity to them?!
The reality is, you really can’t without interrupting their call, which wouldn’t fall in line with your code of consideration. You are left to either try and ignore the conversation, or put on headphones and tune it out until you can move out of ear shot of the person. Or, at least, until the airline attendant tells everyone to turn off their cellular devices. In cases where you are stuck next to a person for a lengthy amount of time, and cell phone use is permitted, you can politely ask them in between calls if they wouldn’t mind using the regular cell phone option or continuing at a lower volume.
Hands-free options are meant for private places where your conversation won’t invite others nearby into it, especially when they don’t want to be. So keep the headsets (and speaker phones) put away for places like your car, office or hotel room. And, as always, no matter whether you’re using hands-free or not, consider others around you before you make that call, and find a quiet spot to take it where it’s easy for the person on the other end to hear you too.
Just talking money, religion and politics with the hosts of KC Live this morning;) Really enjoyed answering tough etiquette dilemmas from Michelle Davidson and Joel Nichols! What do you do when a political conversation becomes awkward? How do you handle guests who are always late? What about that co-worker who frequently shares a little too much? Great questions this morning! Thank you!
I think we can all agree there is no shortage of discussion this election year, no matter what side of the aisle you sit. Even if you’re not following the daily news updates, you’re probably watching humorous political clips your friends sent you from Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live. There’s something new to discuss every day, and it’s only going to increase through November.
This is the beauty of our great American political system and the freedom of opinion it affords us. Not to mention, it’s just so much darn fun to discuss! And we should! But we must have the ability to have a difference of opinion, discuss with civility and respect, and still part in good company. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider when talking politics:
· “Enter these conversations prepared to listen.” – Daniel Post Senning
If you listen to the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast by The Emily Post Institute on NPR radio (and if you don’t, I think you’d love it), Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning recently discussed this controversial topic. I love what they said about being prepared to just be a listener too. Your opinions to the conversation are valuable and valid, but know that conversely you need to be aware of how much of the conversation you are taking up. Have a true conversation, which means ensuring it is two-sided by taking time to just listen. It shows such respect and consideration when you give others room and time to get their point across. When you grant that respect to the others in the discussion, you may be surprised how responsive and respectful they are, in turn, when you are speaking.
· Politics at the Table
Among friends, it can be almost too much to resist talking about. I am guilty of this. However, the best rule of thumb etiquette-wise is just to avoid discussing these topics around the dinner table. This is, by far, the safest approach and least possible scenario to accidentally (or purposefully) offend. You don’t want someone feeling uncomfortable and possibly even trapped because good manners prevent them from leaving the dinner table. If you choose to engage in a conversation of this nature, make sure you know your audience around the table and keep your comments within the bounds of consideration and respect for others. Since most of us offend others completely unintentionally, it’s best just to follow the rule of thumb. This doesn’t make you boring. It makes you polite.
· Pause for thought, and take a breath before you respond
This is especially true if someone has just said something that might be contrary to your viewpoint or upsetting to you. You don’t need to respond immediately, or even at all if you feel it can’t be done with grace. Take a moment to pause, gather your thoughts, and take the conversation in a positive direction. Or, change the conversation topic altogether.
· Manage your reaction – be careful of your tone
If the conversation is taking a turn from sharing viewpoints to making you feel on the defensive, remember the goal of the conversation is an exchange of opinions in a civil manner. If you feel yourself growing upset or getting louder with your words, it’s time to change the conversation. It’s important to maintain mutual respect, and it’s hard to do that if either party takes a tone that might be construed as snarky or condescending. If you’re not quite sure how to respond, you can use phrases such as, “That’s very insightful, thanks sharing your viewpoints with me.” “Isn’t it great that we can discuss like this, even though we might somewhat differ.” Or, “Isn’t it great that we don’t have to agree, but can still discuss freely like this in our country? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.”
· Social media posting
A final note on political conversations – it can very easily feel more comfortable and less direct to post a political opinion on your social media site of choice. But, it’s incredibly important to remember you are still having a conversation. In fact, you’re creating a very loud conversation, even if it’s not one you are having face-to-face. Remember that your online comments can be carried far and wide to a large audience, and so can the reactions to it. Not to mention that anything posted online can live forever. Anything you would not be willing to say in a civil face-to-face discussion, should not be posted.
Alright, before we get into the ever impassioned topic of the dinner party, please indulge me in a short qualifier of what I mean when I refer to a “dinner party.” Not every get together with friends or family is a dinner party, thank goodness. The dinner party isn’t usually your last minute pizza/take out casual get-together with friends, backyard BBQ, or Sunday evening lazy supper with your dearest friends. And in my world, a dinner party isn’t when my 3 boys (ages 6 and under) are in attendance.:) Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE casual get-togethers with my friends and all of our children. I love the spontaneous last minute porch or backyard dinners on a Friday night where it’s a little hectic, but we don’t care, and we just talk and laugh and watch our children run around the backyard until the fireflies come out. We even (gasp!) use paper napkins sometimes. Those are special times. Those are where the memories are made.
But a dinner party is something different. It often means planning a date in advance, specifically putting together a complementary group of people, getting baby sitters lined up, and having a meal plan. For those of us with young children, it’s a chance to catch up without the interruptions, and to even dress up a little if we want. It’s an adult night out, and it’s special in its own way because of the gracious effort and thought that the host puts into it. She wants you to come, relax, enjoy the food and linger awhile. And if you’re lucky enough to walk home from your host’s house afterward, even better.
Okay now that we’re on the same page, let’s get to the good stuff.:)
The Hostess with the Mostess
I know, I know, you already are the perfect dinner party guest. You show up with the host’s favorite bottle of wine (…under $25 of course, there are many out there). You notice and compliment those new hand towels in the powder bath, and you know just the right moments during dinner to pull out hilarious anecdotes about your in-laws.
But the reality is, we will all experience as many different types of dinner guests as there are china patterns. So, the real skill is knowing how to manage them all with grace (and sanity) on your end, while simultaneously ensuring EVERY guest feels special and counted…even those tough to handle ones.
Here are a few thoughts to help your next dinner party come off with ease, graciousness and sincerity – just like you:
· You are an unshakeable pro – don’t forget it!
The best hosts do not flinch, no matter the guest request or behavior. Your role as the host is to make everyone feel comfortable and valued. You could have invited anyone, but you chose this person. Don’t let anyone leave your home feeling like they were a hassle, burden or second to the rest. You, my dear, are a gracious host. Nothing can shake you!
· Leave the dishes & enjoy the moment
Nothing kills a dinner party mood quicker than a host who starts loading the dishwasher while her guests are still there. Stack the dirty dishes next to the sink, open another bottle of wine, and sit down in the beautiful candle light of the table. The food was wonderful to be sure, but this is everyone’s favorite part of the dinner party, that last glass or two, and conversation. Speaking of…
· Conversation is not a lost art in your home
You’ve probably been rushing around serving your guests and refilling drinks during dinner, now sit and truly talk to them. Find out a bit more about what’s going on in their lives. After all, some of you may have moved mountains to coordinate sitters on the same night. Take advantage of the uninterrupted conversation time and ask your guests questions. Want to get a quiet guest talking? Just ask them about their last/next trip, what’s going on at work (or at home with the kids), or everyone’s favorite topic, “what are you watching on Netflix these days?” Everyone, EVERYONE, has a show they are watching, or just finished, and it always seems to bring out conversation all around the table.
Side Note: It goes without saying, do your best to leave the TV in the other room. This can be tough to swallow for some during Royals baseball season when they are on so frequently. Remember your first rule is to be a gracious host, find a way to accommodate the camaraderie of rooting for the home team while not compromising the conversation at your table. Usually a muted television in another room for quick score checks can do the trick. And probably don’t schedule dinner parties during the playoffs.:)
· Thank your Guests!
You spent your time and money on this dinner party because you wanted to. But your guests had a choice, and they chose to come to your home over other social gatherings, or at minimum, a rare precious quiet evening at home. Make sure you thank them on the way out the door for spending the evening with you and adding to the dinner atmosphere that made the party. It’s not really about the linens you used or the scrumptious cheese board you set out, even though it was all just lovely. It’s about the gift of your time that you all gave to one another. Now that is the true essence of etiquette.
AND NOW....The Dinner Party Guest - How to Get Invited Back!
· Bring a Host gift
No one expects this, but everyone loves it. It’s completely unnecessary, and completely thoughtful. It’s a nice way to say “thank you for having me” when you walk in the door. And it absolutely need not be anything big – flowers from your backyard in a mason jar would delight any host. A bottle of wine or prosecco is always a nice touch too. I have oodles of host gift ideas if you want, but the point isn’t about the actual gift, it’s about the consideration toward the host.
· Eat what is served, or eat around it
If you want to select your meal, I’d suggest a restaurant instead. I say that slightly joking, but you get the point. The dinner party is much more about the people than the actual meal. Although many of us have had our best meals at other people’s homes. Your host carefully planned the meal, and so it’s always most nice to eat what is served, or eat around it if it’s not something you prefer. You can do that discreetly. This is what we teach our children, after all. The exception to this rule is in the case of a food allergy. If you have a food allergy, do be sure to let your host know in advance. I promise she wants to ensure your safety and comfort above any desired meal plan.
We had a dinner party not too long ago where we had a shrimp boil…it makes me hungry just thinking about it. We love shrimp boils, and we have friends who do wonderful ones too. Anyway, we had 10 people over and either I didn’t realize it or forgot, but one of our guests did not like seafood of any kind. I had no idea the entire evening. It wasn’t until later when someone told me. She so discreetly just ate what she could and didn’t say a word, even with a mound of seafood on the table in front of her.
· Take the cue from your host
In general, the gracious dinner guest always waits for the host before she begins eating. This is true of almost any eating situation, the same way you wait for mom to sit down before you dig in. But, it’s really most important to take the cues from your host. If your host is plating and serving each guest individually, she may want you to go ahead and start right then while it’s hot. She is the one who planned the meal and it’s timing, which is no easy feat. So, if it’s hot and ready and she wants you to enjoy it right then, then do it.:)
My husband is like that as a host. He loves to cook, and he loves the meal right when it comes out of the pan or oven, and he wants everyone to enjoy in it right then too. For him it’s almost a little frustrating if there is too much time between when his carefully timed meal is ready, and when people actually eat. So the rule is, take your cues from the host.
· Be remembered for your wit, not how long you stayed
This is self-explanatory. Take those cues from your host. Most gracious hosts will never outright tell you it’s time to go. But they will give you subtle clues, like mentioning they have an early morning tomorrow, not refilling wine as quickly (or at all), or beginning to sort dishes in the kitchen.
· Say “Thank you” Again
I know you said “thank you” when you were walking out the door, but it’s always extra nice and polite to thank the host once you’ve arrived home, or at a decent hour the next morning. A simple message telling the host your favorite moment or giving a thoughtful detail is always nice. “I don’t know how you made that beef tenderloin so delicious, but I know I can’t live without the recipe!” You can do it via text or email, and should for timeliness sake. If you follow up with a hand-written note, even better.
Had lots of fun this morning on KC Live TV with Michelle Davidson and Joel Nichols! I think I practiced this table setting a dozen times last night at home:) Link below:
We just returned from a vacation with our children that totaled almost 18 hours in airports or airplanes from start to finish. I’m not complaining because there was a beach in between, but this topic is fresh in my mind from our travels.
We’re in that in between spot with our children where it’s easy and hard all at the same time. Our oldest is easy and very content to read or watch movies the entire time. Our middle one doesn’t have the attention span (he’s just now 4), and so he requires more frequent activity changes. The baby is only content to be moving, crawling or squirming at all times. Unless he is sleeping, which usually happens during takeoff. In which case my husband and I high five each other.
In other words, we are a lot of work when traveling. Because of that, I’m also really cognizant of how we are affecting the travel experience of others. Are we being too loud? Are the children controlling their physical actions i.e. are they having a Star Wars reenactment in the middle of the boarding line? Is someone having a meltdown because the security line is long?
As we all know, our children can be unpredictable despite what we’ve taught them, so the best we can do is try and be prepared to make life easier on us and other passengers. Here are a few things to hopefully help your next journey and if you have any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them too!
Pack a Bag
Better yet, let your child help pack a bag or backpack. This is their carry-on. I prefer backpacks for my kids because it leaves their hands free and they are less likely to accidentally leave it behind. They might fill it with robots, American Girl dolls, Legos, books, an iPad, etc. Make it light enough so they can carry it. It is their responsibility, even if you have to help. It helps them learn that mom and dad can’t carry everything for them, which shows consideration and respect. And don’t underestimate the value of packing snacks and gum.
Stretch their Legs
I can’t take full credit for this one. I read it in an article once and have been putting it to use ever since. In between flights at the airport, or before we board, we don’t sit very much, we use that time to get the wiggles out. Take a walk down the concourse, let them look at knick-knacks in stores, go down the moving walkway a few times (being mindful of others of course). That way when they get on the plane in their seat, they are hopefully a little more ready to sit still and do an activity.
There are a lot of opportunities for children to say “hello”, “please” and “thank you” boarding and during a flight. If you feel comfortable, have your children give the attendant their ticket as they are getting on and say “hello” and “thank you” to them. They will feel a little sense of responsibility for their ticket that gets them on the plane, and it’s another opportunity to interact with adults. Just as important, it’s nice to say “hello” to the flight attendants as they get on the plane. And, if the cockpit is open, say “hello” to the pilots too. You just never know when the captain will invite your child in to look at the gear just because they stopped to say “hello”. My children are so thrilled when this happens.
Along the same lines, try having your children order their own drinks (that you approve) from the flight attendant politely and say “thank you” when it arrives. This helps teach them the value of consideration and respect for the work the flight attendants are doing for them and others on the plane.
On the Plane
There are a few small details of behavior that make a world of difference to other passengers on an airplane. These can sometimes be the hardest to manage, but I find most passengers are sympathetic to the plight of parents traveling with children, especially if you are being mindful. Here they are in no specific order:
· Headphones on! Be sure to watch the volume of your child’s voice as they often can’t tell how loud they are talking, or singing, with headphones on.
· Keep their feet off the back of the seat in front of them – at all times. I think I repeat this to my children a thousand times every flight.
· Tray tables should probably just remain up as a courtesy to other passengers unless your child is aware and knows not to put it up and down several times.
· Recline seats only in the smallest of circumstances. If there is no one behind your child, then it is okay. Or, if you’re on a very long international flight. But on a domestic flight, it’s typically quite an inconvenience to the person sitting behind you or your child. The key here is to observe the rule of doing what’s most considerate for those around you.
· Watch pulling on the seats in front of you. My least favorite part of a flight is waiting for our turn to disembark the plane once we’ve landed. I know it’s a matter of mere minutes, but with antsy children it can seem like a lifetime. This is when they are standing up in their places and sometimes accidentally pulling on the seat in front of them. Some people don’t mind, but some people definitely do, trust me on this one. That’s a story for another time. But I’m very mindful of it and try and be considerate of that person in front of my child. This is a great time to play I Spy, ask some silly trivia questions (what’s the fastest animal on earth?), or even pull out a snack or piece of gum to help keep them preoccupied while waiting their turn to get off the plane.
Leaving the Plane
Don’t forget to set the example and say “thank you” to all the flight attendants and pilots (if you see them) as you pass on your way off the plane. It’s always nice for your children to be sure and say “thank you” on their way out too.
Lastly, have fun on the trip! Our children will grow up and these moments will become memories. So enjoy them and the journey! Oh, and book a babysitter for the night after your return, you’ve earned it:)
This topic comes up all the time! Tell me you haven’t discussed this with your friends. When I was talking to my friends about developing different children’s etiquette classes, I heard this idea more than once. We talk about “restaurant training” with a little bit of a wink. It’s that goal we have for our children, but I think most of us know that the unpredictable 4-year-old can give you a run for your money, no matter how many times you’ve taught him how to behave.
Because the truth is there are many times when eating out at a restaurant with children is neither easy nor relaxing. So many factors come into play. Did they nap today? Who took whose favorite Lego ship in the car? Who spent all afternoon at a play-date and is now completely exhausted and grumpy? Who doesn’t like the food smells coming from the table next to yours? I could go on and on. Point is, we’ve all had highs and lows. I’ve come away from a 2-hour dinner so exceptionally proud of mine, and I’ve also left a 25-minute dinner with my kids in complete meltdowns so exhausting that I bee-lined straight for a glass of wine. How many times can they drop the crayons under the table?! Why do they always need to go to the bathroom when the food arrives? And why do they randomly wander out of their seats for no reason? (If you’re shaking your head puzzled at any of this because it doesn’t happen to you, you probably have girls;)
But here’s the deal, hang in there and KEEP AT IT! You are teaching your child valuable life skills that will benefit them now, on their first date, and at their first job. With repetition and reminding, it will sink in, and your child will stun you into total glee by placing his napkin in his lap first thing, using the right utensil at the right time and ordering so politely from the waiter you almost tear up. And yes, even your 4-year-old can do all of that.
So with that said, “restaurant training” really begins at home…
· Have Dinner Together!
We have to start here, right? Having dinner together at home around the table presents those flexible teaching moments. Using family dinners at home as teachable opportunities is just smart, and helps set up your children to understand what kind of expectations you have around a dinner table, no matter where that dinner table may be. I’ll talk more about how and what to teach in another blog, or you can always email me to set up a lesson, I love talking table manners. And you’d be surprised how much your child enjoys it too! Children want to know expectations and do a great job, they want to please you, and they don’t want to feel confused or embarrassed.
Also, besides the impact it has on your child’s ability to successfully manage a dinner out and about or even at grandmother’s house, there have been numerous studies on the benefits of having a family meal together. Studies showing everything from performing better academically in school to staying out of trouble outside of school. We talk about giving our children the gift of good manners, because it really is a gift for their entire life. But by having dinner we’re also giving them the gift of our time and attention. That’s priceless.
· Technology stays put away
I don’t compromise on this in my home or at a restaurant. The cell phones stay in purses or pockets. The iPads are put away. At home, I leave my cell phone in a completely different room where I can’t hear it or be tempted by it if it dings. Our dinners at home typically last all of 25-minutes because I have 3 young boys and that is about their attention span. If that’s the same for you, for that short, precious time try leaving all of your phones in another room and just focusing on the people around your dinner table. I often keep my phone close by all day long because I worry what if the school calls and needs me for one of the boys. But at the dinner table, with everyone there, I can just disconnect and put it away. I could teach an entire class on etiquette tips and tricks for technology with children (and will be doing so soonJ.) Try it tonight, when you’re at home or a restaurant, put it all away and see how your child responds to your direct attention for 30-minutes. You’re teaching your child how to behave without technological distractions, how to be patient and wait for their dinner, and how to improve their social interaction etiquette at a table.
Side note: I’ll write more on this later in another post, but when at a restaurant, I always pack a bag of crayons, coloring books, building blocks, legos, etc. Sometimes our conversations revolve around what the kids are coloring, and that’s okay!!
· Let Them Set the Table
I know how incredibly basic this sounds, but it works. Want to teach them which fork to use when they sit down at a restaurant or which water glass is theirs? Have them help set the table at home, and they will get it in a snap. If you’re worried about them carrying glasses or dishes, just set everything they need on the dinner table, but have them actually set it up at each place setting.
· Clear the Table and Help with Dishes
This is an important part of behaving at a restaurant, because it teaches them to be considerate and respectful of the wait staff clearing their plates. If they’ve had to take dishes off the table and to the sink at home, they will look up more and realize when someone is doing it for them. This is essential to instilling etiquette in your children – noticing and appreciating what others are doing for them, and saying “thank you!” Don’t say “thank you” on behalf of your children, they can and should do it themselves. Eventually the goal is for them to clear dishes at home for you without you even having to ask – talk about good manners!
· Allow Your Child to Order for Himself
Your child can do this as soon as they learn to talk. Teach them to say “please” when ordering their meal and “thank you” once the waiter has acknowledged their order. They should also say “thank you” anytime the waiter brings them something or delivers their food. The same as above, this teaches your child kindness and consideration for the person who is waiting on them, and also makes them practice key conversation skills including speaking up, looking the person in the eye and using those magic manner words of “please” and “thank you.”
· Participate in Conversation
Don’t let them off the hook on this. You will only help your child if you teach them at a young age how to be a considerate member of a dinner conversation. So many etiquette skills are involved…not interrupting, saying excuse me, speaking directly to another person and looking him or her in the eye while doing so. And those are just a small few. If you help them be counted and considered in the dinner table conversation, it just may make your time at a restaurant a lot more pleasant on both ends. Not to mention you learn more about your child’s day.