Good manners and conduct are an essential part of smoothing your way in social, formal and business interactions. The use of manners on a day-to-day basis shows other people that you respect them and also, that you wish to be treated in the same way. Manners and conduct can vary widely in different cultures and parts of the world, but British etiquette is renowned the world over.
Business interactions are amongst some of the most formal you will encounter. Good manners and decent conduct are usually essential to progress in the workplace and to have successful relationships with customers. A handshake is one of the most commonly used forms of business greeting and your handshake should ideally be with a firm grasp to the other palm, but not a grip that squeezes the other person's hand, as this might be uncomfortable for them. The handshake should last only a few seconds and should have two or three gentle up and down shaking gestures. Eye contact, both during a handshake and while the other person is talking, is also considered good manners. It shows that you are paying attention.
The area of etiquette that most often concerns people is table manners. The rules for formal dining are relatively simple to learn, although a refresher of the main points before an occasion can't hurt. The fork should be held in your left hand with the prongs pointed downwards, towards the plate. The knife should be held in your right hand with your thumb down the inside and your forefinger resting along the top of the handle pointing towards the upper edge of the blade. Avoid scraping the plate with your cutlery and rest your cutlery on the plate between mouthfuls or when talking. For multiple courses of food, simply choose the pieces of cutlery that are furthest away from the plate first, working your way in towards the plate for each course. Your pudding spoons above your plate at 12 o'clock, if you look at your plate as a clock face. Eat with your mouth closed and do not speak with food in your mouth. Place your napkin on your lap. When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork together at 6 o'clock on the plate.
Good manners when hosting a social event or party should be all about making your guests feel comfortable. Introduce people to each other using their first names, and giving a piece of information they might find interesting about each other. When attending a social event, particularly one held at the home of a friend or colleague, it is polite to take something for the host. A bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers or some chocolates are usually appropriate.
Out and about
Manners should not just be reserved for friends, business colleagues and people you wish to impress. Good manners and conducting yourself with respect should be a part of your everyday demeanour. The first and most basic form of respect for others is your own personal hygiene. Ensure that you are clean and fresh at all times so nobody is treated to any nasty smells. This should include oral hygiene, as bad breath is very off-putting during conversations. Always say "Please," "Thank you" and "Excuse me" at the appropriate times, even to strangers. Finally, the most British form of manners of all is queueing. The British take queueing seriously and jumping the queue is considered the height of bad manners. Avoid it at all costs.
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