13 Things People With Good Table Manners Never Do


"Elbows off the table!"

Think you're already prepared to dine with royalty, or do you need to be re-schooled in how to eat like a human being? Let's find out with this list of things that people with good table manners would never do. (See also: 10 Rules of Etiquette That Everyone Should Know (and Follow!))

1. Eat With Their Hands

Zac Alfson is patron engagement manager at a volunteer choir and orchestra, and he really doesn't like it when people eat with their hands. I mean, he really doesn't like it.

"People with good table manners never eat with their hands," Zac imparts. "Seriously. It's rude to other people at the table to be putting your hands in your mouth during the entire meal, dipping into shared sauces, etc. Even (particularly) a burger and fries are ideal for a fork and knife — it also slows you down to enjoy the meal and company more than shoveling food into you face. And when you shake hands after the meal, they haven't just been in the person's mouth."

2. Chew or Speak With Their Mouth Open

My mother used to tell my brother to stop chewing like a cow when we were kids. Anybody else ever heard that one? Perhaps a little crude, but it's accurate; cows aren't exactly known for their dainty mastication skills. Thus, chew and swallow before you open your mouth unless you want to be compared to a farm animal.

3. Relieve Gas at the Table

I'm sure mother of four and home organization blogger Ginny Underwood is an expert in teaching tiny people to behave themselves at the table, which makes her suggestion that people with good manners will never "belch, burp, or pass wind while at the table" as good as a renowned etiquette expert's. "Sharing the dinner table with others is a social interaction, [whether it's] a casual family gathering or a business meeting. Good table manners show respect for the people you are dining with and person(s) providing the food, which is why good table manners should be employed at every meal," she says.

4. Check Devices

It's becoming increasingly more common to see friends and families dining at a restaurant with their faces buried in their devices instead of enjoying each other's company. And relationship expert April Masini needs you to nip that bad habit in the bud right now.

"You'll never see people with good table manners checking a cell phone or other electronic device at the table," Masini says. "They come to the table to eat and to socialize, and they know that including a cell phone at the table is like turning on the television while you eat — when someone is sitting with you, they're being ignored. Old cliches show one spouse reading a newspaper at the table as very bad manners, but today that newspaper has been replaced by a cell phone. Leave the cell phone in the other room, turned off, when you're on a date, at a dinner party or eating with family. Focus on the people at the table with you."

5. Have the Bill Come to the Table

Nationally recognized etiquette consultant Jodi R.R. Smith has doled out her expert advice on the CBS Early Show, Good Morning America, and Today. According to her, people with good table manners never have the bill come to table at the end of the meal. "The host arranges in advance for the bill to be covered so that there are no uncomfortable moments at the end of the meal to mar a wonderful occasion," she says. This primarily applies to planned events — birthdays, anniversaries, etc. that someone has coordinated — with consideration that no other methods of payment (i.e. splitting costs) have been established beforehand.

6. Drink When You Are Toasted

Dawn Bryan is the author of Elite Etiquette, and she sent in a lot of great tips like how you should never smoke at the table or use your napkin as a handkerchief, but I found her tip that you should never drink to a toast if the toast is for you very enlightening.

7. Begin Eating Before the Host Starts

Published etiquette author Constance Dunn warns that you should never begin eating until the host has started or has otherwise signaled the guests to start. "This nonverbal gesture communicates deference to your host and the fact that you are dining as a group, and not seated with a six-pack and a pizza," she says.

8. Ask for a Seat Reassignment

Lifestyle and manners expert Michelle Payer demands: Sit wherever you're assigned. She sums it up nicely when she says, "If there are place cards, never asked to be re-seated or change places; be gracious and honored to be included. Period."

9. Eat Their Bread Like an Animal

Actually, Michelle Payer had another great comment that made me laugh a little: "Never break open a dinner roll, butter each side, close it, and tear into it like a dog with a bone." The visual made me chuckle. That wasn't the first tip I saw about how to handle bread either. Etiquette Scholar suggests that you should break soft bread in half with fingers instead of a knife.

10. Start Eating Before Everyone Is Seated

Cool your jets, Top Guns. Relationship expert April Masini says, "Whether you're at a dinner party or at dinner with your family at the kitchen table, people with good manners will wait for everyone to be seated to begin eating. Waiting signals that you acknowledge the others at the table, and it's a way of showing respect for them, as well as for yourself as part of a group. Typically, it's good manners to wait for your hostess to begin eating, which is a signal for everyone else to begin as well. If he or she doesn't, wait."

11. Eat Their Meal Too Quickly

Certified etiquette consultant Priscilla Murtha says that people with good table manners won't eat their meal too quickly. She suggests pacing yourself to the slowest diner so everyone finishes at relatively the same time. Roughly translated: Slow down, troglodytes; dinner wasn't served in a trough.

12. Lean Their Chair Back

Certified personal image consultant Marian Rothschild says that balancing your dinner chair on its hind legs is a major faux pas. She sent in that tip and added that you also shouldn't slouch in your chair or eat standing up. "You should always sit properly and comfortably in your chair for the duration of the meal," she says.

13. Eat Off Other People's Plates

Relationship expert April Masini says, "If you want to share or try the food someone in your party has ordered, you should cut a piece of the food off, and place it on a clean (unused) bread dish and pass it to them, or put the portion you've cut for them, on their plate. Don't offer your plate to them to eat off of, and don't offer them a bite off your fork."

Do you have other etiquette tips or dining pet peeves that people with good table manners would never do? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Except 5 and 6 that I didn't know, all those things are common sense to me... I am guilty of checking my phone sometimes though but I know I shouldn't.

Guest's picture

i guess eating with fingers doesn't apply to cultures that actually do?!? and seriously eating a hamburger with a fork and knife...please

Guest's picture

One item that should be included is commenting on what someone else is eating; i.e., that is bad for you, eating meat is criminal, are you really going to eat that? It is incredibly rude.

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