Please Just Don’t… Post Political Things on Social Media

In the aftermath of a very contentious election, emotions and opinions continue to fly on social media.

On one hand, we are getting  insight into differing perspectives on current events.

On the other hand, social media platforms can feel like Pandora’s Box of contrarian opinions and debates.

Where do you think the line should be drawn?

That’s My Bread Plate: Primer on Dining

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I have no formal training in etiquette. So, take this advice for precisely what it is: a mixture of practical observations from a lot of corporate travelling and a fair bit of research on the “rules.”

Someone may be judging you on which fork you are using, but that is doubtful, especially in the Pacific Northwest.  People are watching whether you have good manners overall: how you carry yourself and how you engage with others, including the wait staff. The primary focus of etiquette is to set others at ease. If you can focus on that, the rest will flow naturally.

Without further ado, here are 6 tips to rock your next dinner party:

1. Following the Leader, the Leader, the Leader
The host of the table is the conductor of the symphony: follow their lead, and you’ll stay in the melody. When you arrive at the dinner, wait until they invite you to sit at the table. When you are at the table, wait for the host to eat, drink, or basically do anything. You are welcome to sip on water before the host, but that’s about it.

2. Just like a Book
Food moves around the table the same way you read words in a book: from the left to right. If you are eating family style, offer the dish to the person on your left, and then pass it to your right. At a restaurant, the wait staff will serve your food on your left, and take it away on your right.

3. BMW
Bread. Meal. Water. Your bread plate is on the left and your water (and all your beverage glasses) will be on your right. Your meal, of course, is in the middle.

4. Eat with Your Hands
A select number of foods can be eaten with your hands. I know it seems crazy, so I’m going to go ahead and quote the experts on this one. (http://emilypost.com/advice/guide-to-food-and-drink)

Here are some (but not all) of the foods you can eat with your fingers: Artichokes, sushi, corn on the cob (though at a formal dinner it should be cut off the cob and served in a bowl), and bread. For bread, put the butter on your plate. Then, tear off a bite-sized bit, place a bit of butter on it, and pop the whole piece in your mouth.

5. A Fork in the Road
I have rarely seen a table set with more than two forks and spoons, but some particularly thorough dinner parties may just get zealous with their flatware and then you are faced with a scene like what you see below. Aye! What to do. Option 1, just follow your host. They tend to know which fork to use. Or, Option 2, simply work from the outside in. The cutlery at the top of your plate will be for dessert, so save some room if you see that magical little fork and spoon waiting at the top of your plate.

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5. Make Bridges, not Ramps
Once you have started eating, your flatware should not touch the table again. In between bites, put your fork and knife down on your plate with the edges extending off the edge, but not touching the table: make bridges, not ramps. When you are done eating, place the cutlery together inside the rim of your plate at the angle of 10 and 4. This will let the wait staff know you are done eating.

6. Inedible Morsels
For this sticky section, it is worth mentioning again that the purpose of etiquette is to set others at ease. Therefore, it is up to you to do whatever you can to make dinner a pleasant experience for your fellow diners. If you find a hair in your food, discreetly tell the wait staff in a way that does not create a ruckus or ruin the appetites of those around you.

If you end up with a bone or some other inedible morsel in your mouth, the rule is that it should exit your mouth the same way it went in. If the bite went in with a fork, the bone should come out with a fork, as discreetly as possible, and placed on the corner of your plate. Note, as much as you may be tempted, morsels of inedible food should NOT be spit into your napkin.

Because Grandma is Always Right

Before we end this primer on dining etiquette, here’s a quick review of some tidbits you may or may not remember learning in childhood.

1. Take small bites and wait to speak until you’ve finished chewing

2. Ask for food to be passed rather than reaching for something across the table

3. If someone asks for something, don’t use it first
This I learned from Kenny and Rudy etiquette training

4. Cut your food into bite size pieces using your knife in your right hand and fork in your left hand. When taking a bite, put the knife down and switch the fork to your right hand to take the bite, prongs up.
If you’re eating European style, the knife stays in your right hand and the fork in your left as you take a bite, with the fork prongs pointed down down

5. Put your napkin in your lap and use it frequently to keep your face clean
Note: napkins are not handkerchiefs, so excuse yourself if you need to blow your nose

6. Make sure your elbows are off the table
Some experts do say that elbows on the table are acceptable between courses

7. Spoon the soup away from you to avoid dripping and do not make any slurping noises
Exception to this rule is in certain cultures where slurping is a sign of appreciation

8. Eat at the same pace as the rest of the group

9. Keep the conversation flowing (more on this in a future post) 

10. Thank the host for the meal, whether purchased or prepared

 

 

Endurance

When I was a little girl, I thought life was a dance.

Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella each seemed to flit and float through adversity, always looking exquisitely beautiful. Once she caught the eye of her prince, he would sweep her into his arms and dance her toward happily ever after.

I twirled around in socks on our cold kitchen floor, embracing my life as a dance.

When I was a teenager, I thought life was a game.

If I played harder, smarter, better, I would win. If I followed the rules, created strategic allegiances, and gave it all I’ve got, then I would find my place. I would be noticed, valued, loved.

But everyone was not playing by the same rules, and the rules kept changing on me. Allegiances crumbled. Winning was lonely.

When I was in my twenties, I thought life was a social media contest:

Pinterest-inspired weddings in front of old barns with mason jars and tea lights and white flowers,

Facebook-filled collages of houses in suburbia and cute children saying adorable things,

Instagram-captured trips to exotic places, adventurous endeavors, and ancient buildings next to blue skies and cappuccinos.

But then some of the marriages fell apart. Long commutes in traffic gave less time to enjoy the houses in suburbia, and children are sometimes imperfect (shocker, but this is what I’ve been told). And I found that sometimes those exotic trips were remarkably lonely.

Now I’m in my thirties. I have a long way left to go.

Much of life stopped making sense a while ago. So many people have been taken from this earth too early. So much loss. So much more to lose. The suffering spreads farther, lasts longer, and will not cease.

Life has become an endurance race. Not running to win or lose. Not running from anything or toward anything. Rather, running to take it all in, to breathe deep, to ponder the reality that I may not be passing this way again; it’s best to try and take it in right now.

Breathing is hard sometimes – those mountains can be steep and long.

Breathing is easy sometimes – my lungs delighting in the fresh air and the strength of my legs pulling me forward.

I will keep breathing. I will keep pushing. I will even keep dancing.

More than anything, I will keep enduring.

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Forest Park, Portland, OR

An Intro to Practical Etiquette

Coming from the marvelously quirky Pacific Northwest, a blog about etiquette may seem somewhat misplaced. Proper manners are for the British aristocracy, cotillion balls, and southern belles. These are not things typically found on the left coast.

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But it only takes one bad date, one awkward cocktail party, or one uncomfortable business interview to realize that expectations of etiquette are out there. Many of us can identify when etiquette is lacking (check out our Please Just Don’t social poll), but it can be difficult to know when we are the ones being inconsiderate.

So, this is an exploration of practical etiquette for the rest of us.

From rowdy football fans to high class tea parties, every situation warrants its own rules of decorum on how to act. And, we are constantly being confronted with new situations with unwritten rules: casual dress codes, online dating, texting through emoticons.

The answer to the stickiest of these situations is remarkably simple.

Set others at ease. That is Etiquette.

It’s almost too simple to be true.

Etiquette is not about nitpicking details. Rather, it aims to consider the complexities of any given situation to determine the best outcome for all involved. Sometimes, that may require a lot more courage and strength than simply knowing which utensils should be used for your next course. As the very wise and quotable Emily Post once said:

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.”

Throughout this series, we will explore what tools we need to face each new, unforeseen situation with ethics and honor, with confidence and poise, with an intentional focus on how to set others at ease.

Self-Consideration: 3 Ways to Make Monday Brighter

Monday is here. Pictures of cranky cats and large cups of coffee are befitting.

Then again, this is a new week. It’s a fresh start. Amazing things can happen.

But it’s still Monday. I need baby steps to brighten my morning and remember the sunshine is behind those clouds somewhere. In case you do too, I’ll give you my three-step plan:

1.  Smile and Make Eye Contact to everyone you greet : your spouse, barista,  colleagues, and clients.

Smiles are infectious, improving your own happiness and making you more approachable to others. Making eye contact will also help you make meaningful, intentional connections.

To avoid the gawky stare, just maintain eye contact long enough to be able to tell the color of the other person’s eyes.

2.  Write a Thank You Card to acknowledge a simple gesture made by your family member, employee, or neighbor.

Showing gratitude not only affirms the efforts of another, but it shifts your focus onto the positive rather than the critical. Handwritten cards are best, but a quick email will do the trick.

Bonus Points: When composing your thank you card, try to avoid using the words “thank you” by focusing on what the other person did and how it made you feel.

3.  Say No to the energy, life-draining influences around you.

Say no to the bombastic coworker who puts down others to feel superior. Say no to the person in your life who needs to respect your healthy boundaries. Say no to eating the processed sugary food that will only cause you to feel sluggish and tired as the day goes on.

Find a coworker who needs a little encouragement. Spend quality time to the motivating people in your life. And, take the time to eat something fresh that grew out of ground.

Here’s my true confession: I’m really bad about just eating protein bars instead of real food. Not today. Today I’m going to find some berries.

Happy Monday!Strawberries

 

Toasting the Exquisite: Kate Middleton

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Source: Wikipedia Commons

To the lovely Princess Kate,

On the day you officially became a princess, 24 million viewers around the world watched you walk down the aisle in a stunning Alexander McQueen gown to your awaiting prince.

Watching your fairy tale was more magical than Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White.

From that moment on, every moment of your life has been scrutinized. We have admired and criticized you, complimented and questioned you. Yet bear it all with the grace and dignity of true royalty.

Also, you can do amazing things like squat in stiletto heels whilst holding baby Princess Charlotte in order to talk to toddler Prince George, and then stand again with grace and dignity.

You have accepted the expectations set before you, and still find a way to flourish with your own style, strength, and identity.

When he was still a young boy, we watched Prince William lose his mother and take on the weight of an impending crown. We have been rooting for him to find love, comfort, kind relationships.

And then you arrived: the young girl he fell for in his college days, the woman who agreed to stand by his side even when that meant living the rest of your life in the public eye.

For your style and classy sense of fashion,

For the way that you live your life according to your own melody, yet still harmonizing with the song of the British monarchy,

For your love and support of a prince who needed a fairy tale ending,

For your confidence, your poise, and being exquisitely you,

Cheers to you!

Self-Consideration: Bring on the Snooze

New Year’s Resolutions are starting to lose their luster. Four weeks into 2017, the gym is feeling a bit crowded, pizza is sounding more and more delicious, and simply TRYING too hard is leading us to exhaustion.

We cannot get up any earlier. We cannot squeeze more into our days because the more we squeeze in, the less we are appreciating life around us.

For the first time ever, I decided to face the New Year without the anxiety of trying to keep resolutions and the guilt of feeling like a failure. This almost feels too simple. Yet I feel stronger, healthier, and happier than I have been in a long time.

And so we have it: this is my new Life Resolution.

1. Get enough SLEEP

More and more studies are coming out telling us about the importance of sleep. The Sleep Foundation says that adults between the ages of 18–64 need 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night, but many of us are trying to get by with 5 or 6 hours.

I used to feel guilty when I pressed snooze in the morning, missing that early morning workout. But now, if my body is not willing to wake up when the alarm goes off, I give my body the rest it needs and work on prioritizing that workout later.

2. Eat healthy WHOLE FOODS

Whether you are eating Paleo, Mediterranean or some other new dietary trend, eating fresh whole foods will have a profound impact on the way your body functions, recovers from workouts, and even rests at night. As delicious as that may be, your body does not have a lot of use for Cheetos, yet it will delight in those fresh avocados and zucchini noodles. Also, preparing healthy food is much easier than you may think. Check out these easy recipes to get you started.

3. Get some EXERCISE

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a gym rat to realize a positive impact from exercise. In fact, The American Heart Association says that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise — like walking — five times a week will have a profound positive impact for your heart. This means you could go on a little walk for your morning and afternoon coffee breaks and be good to go for the week. I am an endorphin-addicted junkie, so I love lunch runs during the week and long trail runs on the weekend, but the one thing I don’t do any longer: sacrifice getting a sufficient amount of sleep in order to get my run in early in the morning.

4. PRIORITIZE sleep, food, and exercise in that order

If you sacrifice sleep to get up earlier to exercise, you will spend the day tired, craving sugary foods to give your body the energy to keep going. Unbalanced. No fun.
If you are not being thoughtful about what you are eating, it is so easy to work out and then reach for salty foods to replenish your dehydrated body. Be prepared with healthy snacks to help your body recover. And then get some sleep.

Basically, your body WANTS you to be happy and healthy. But, first you have to give it rest. Then you have to give it good fuel. And then your body will crave running, dancing, playing and being strong.

Practical Etiquette: Best Worst Interviews

Over a lunch of Pad Thai and green curry, my colleagues and I were sharing stories of some of the best and worst interviews we had experienced. While each of us had a story or two to tell, Beth quickly had us laughing the hardest as she described some of the 20+ interviews she had conducted over the past two years without a single employable candidate.

Beth is a former competitive gymnast with a fun-loving personality who enjoys paddle boarding, cycling and whiskey. She is also a director and an experienced actuary at our firm. Her blend of professionalism and adventurous spirit makes her not only a fun colleague but an ideal, well-balanced manager. And yet, she has found it nearly impossible to find highly qualified candidates to join her team. These young actuary students have admirable academic accomplishments, yet they have consistently shown a lack in the social maturity.

Among Beth’s many stories, the following two are receiving my vote for the best interview faux pas:

Wake-Up Call

Beth called one candidate at the pre-appointed time (4 PM), and the young man drowsily answered the phone with a drawling “hello.” Clearly, he had just woken up. After introducing herself and reminding the young man that they had an interview scheduled for that time, he asked if they could reschedule for another time. Beth quickly responded that a reschedule would not be necessary.

Meet The Parents

Another recent college graduate had an in-person interview at our office, and he showed up to the interview with his parents. Beth took him into the conference room while his parents waited on the other side of the glass doors in the reception area, watching the entire interview. Beth kindly told him that this was not going to be a good job fit for him, and she recommended that he reconsider bringing his parents to the next interview.

If nothing else, these somewhat mistakes should encourage future interviewees that with a little bit of awareness and preparation, making a good first impression is fairly simple.

Without further ado, here are four easy steps to PREP for your transition from college into the business and professional world:

Phone Etiquette:

Take the time to practice effective communication on the phone and prepare with a friend to answer some of the more common interview questions. Texting has replaced a lot of our phone conversations, resulting in respondents sounded like unprepared teenagers rather than serious job applicants.

Respect:

Moving from college into the working world means shifting from being at the top of the class to being the new kid on the block. The interviewers are observing attitudes to see if you will collaborate on a team, showing respect for the expertise and experience of others.

Experience:

Employers want applicants to have job experience, not just education and passed exams. During the school year or in the summer, seek out opportunities for relevant internships.

Professionalism:

Arrive to interviews well-groomed, on time, appropriately dressed, mentally prepared… and without your parents.

For more information on building your career through Best Etiquette , follow us on Twitter  @bestetiquette or send us your etiquette questions.

Practical Etiquette: Tipping Basics

 DINING

Restaurants (pre-tax)* 15-20%
Coatroom attendants $1 per coat
Valet $3 – 5 (at pick-up)
Host no obligation; $10-20 for finding you a table on a busy night
Bartender $1-2 per drink, or 15-20% of tab
Home Delivery 10-15% of bill; $2-5 for pizza delivery
Take Out no obligation; 10% for curb delivery or complicated order
Barista or Tipping Jar no obligation; $1 if something extra provided or you’re a regular
Buffet $1 per diner

*Without being told what is recommended for restaurant tipping, here are the anonymous poll results from our readers on what they are tip for great service at a restaurant. What a generous crew! pie-chart-tipping

TRAVEL

Housekeeping $2-$5 per day on bed, left daily with a note marked “Thank you”
Concierge arranged reservations or tickets $5-10, or $15 or 10-20% of the ticket price for hard-to-get tickets
Valet $3 – 5 (at pick-up)
Doormen A “thank you” and friendly smile when he opens the door $1-$4 beyond the call of duty (carrying luggage, hailing cab)
Bellhop $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag $2-3 for each additional service, such as room delivery
Taxi 15-20% is standard in most communities

OTHER TIMES

Hairdresser (manicurist, facial, waxing, massage) 15-20% split between all who served you
Ski Instructors 15% for groups; 10% for individuals
Tour Guide $1-2 per person for group tour, more for private tour