Ask an Expert: Etiquette with Helen Hawk


Have a question for our experts? This line is open until Friday, May 20th. Our expert will then answer the top questions and we’ll post their answers right here and on our Facebook page.

about_helenhawkETIQUETTE: TOP TEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: How can I remember names more easily?

A: Repeat their name immediately when you meet them. E.g.: “Jane, it is a pleasure to meet you”. Then, use the person’s name at least two more times during your conversation. E.g.: “Jane, are you a native Nashvillian?” and at the end of your conversation, “Jane, it was nice meeting you”.

Q: How do I introduce people to each other? What are the rules?

 

A: There are 4 Rules of Introduction. They are:

  1. When introducing persons of the same age/same sex, it does not matter whose name is spoken first.
  2. When introducing a male to a female near the same age, the female’s name is spoken first.
  3. An older person’s name is spoken first when introducing an older person to a younger person.
  4. A VIP’s (very important person) name is spoken first during
    introductions.
Q: Where is the correct placement of your nametag?

 

A: Place your nametag on your right-hand side of the shoulder area so that when you extend your right hand to shake hands, the line of sight goes to the other person’s right side.

Q: What is the correct way to eat bread and butter?

 

A: Bread is to be held over the bread plate or the dinner plate and a small bite torn off, buttered and eaten one bite at a time. This keeps crumbs on the plate, not on the table.

Q: How do I know which fork and knife to use when there are more than one placed at a table setting in front of me?

A: Use from the “outside in” toward the plate. Each fork on the left should have a knife on the right hand side of the place setting at a formal dinner. A good rule of thumb at this kind of event is that there will be a utensil for each dish placed in front of you. Eg: if a soup course is served, there will be a soup spoon on the outside of the salad knife on the right side of the place setting.

Q: What do you do when someone takes the roll from your bread and butter plate?

 

A: Ask the server for another one and use the side of your dinner plate or pass on having a roll. Never point out the error.

Q: Where do I put my napkin if I leave the table during a meal for a moment?

 

A: There are differing opinions among etiquette consultants on this question. All will agree that you rise from the right side of the chair having asked to be excused. Some consultants suggest the napkin be placed in the chair seat, then push in the chair. I recommend that the napkin be placed at the right side of the plate or place setting as many people have sat in the chair. I say this for sanitary reasons.

Q: What do I do if I drop my fork or knife on the floor in a restaurant or at a formal dinner?

A: Leave it on the floor and ask the server to bring you another one. The same thing applies if your napkin falls to the floor. Ask the server for another one.

Q: When is the latest that I can respond to an RSVP that is acceptable?

A: This is one of the most frustrating etiquette problems mentioned by the attendees in my classes. Please respond quickly. Respond the moment you have checked your calendar. Unless the invitation says “and Guest”, do not bring someone with you without phoning your Host and receiving permission. An out of town guest is an acceptable reason to ask. The “ask” is what is important for the “planning”. Also, be on time, not too early, not too late. You will receive more invitations if you are the perfect guest.

Q: Helen, what are the two most offensive etiquette mistakes that a person can make that are most certain to end relationships?

 

A: The two most offensive would be; 1) interrupting and 2) monopolizing the conversation. What these two offenses say about an individual is they do not have the most prized ability of all –that of being a good listener.

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