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Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
John Niser, head of the hospitality management program at IPFW, instructs students on the proper way to sit in a chair during at business dinner etiquette class.
Social graces

Best behavior

Etiquette expert offers refresher on using your manners at a party

When eating soup, tip the cup away from you.
Diagram of a proper dinner place setting.

It’s party time!

And no, we’re not talking time to tap crack open a beer and fire up the grill.

We’re talking something a bit more formal here – such as might occur during the upcoming season of Mother’s Day dinners, engagement soirées, graduation gatherings, wedding receptions and maybe a charity gala.

What better time for a quick brush-up on party etiquette?

Proper etiquette isn’t about stuffy rules to follow mindlessly, says John Niser, head of the hospitality management program at IPFW. Instead, it’s an internalized standard of conduct that reveals you are sensitive to and value the comfort and feelings of others and ensures smooth social interactions.

Not developing social sensitivity can have a high price for students because it will limit their opportunities, Niser says. “There will always be a glass ceiling in their life if they don’t know how to behave,” he says.

Here are some of his tips:

Don’t immediately sit yourself at the table and chow down. So what if you’re hungry? A dinner party is not about eating food – it’s an opportunity to socialize. Wait for an invitation to enter the dining area and to begin to eat.

Turn off the cellphone. Don’t even look at it. Don’t text. Ditto for doing anything requiring ear buds. All proclaim that you think what you are doing – or what someone who’s not even in the room is doing – is much more important than the current occasion.

Don’t complain about the food. And yes, smothering your chicken Kiev with ketchup comes across as a complaint. It’s disrespectful to those who have prepared and served the food.

Don’t slouch. “The backrest of a chair is for decorative purposes only,” Niser says. Sit halfway on your chair seat with your back straight – otherwise you look as if you’re not interested in being part of the table.

Limit mid-meal bathroom trips. Go before you sit down. Do you really want others to wonder whether you’ve washed your hands when you finger the rolls in the bread basket?

Leave the street language somewhere else. No need to proclaim the chocolate mousse “f–in’ awesome.” Fo shizzle.