Etiquette specialist Gloria Auth told Oklahoma Baptist University students Monday that the most important rule of manners is to be aware of what's going on around them.
In her presentation "How to Dine Like a Diplomat" Auth gave students a virtual tour of etiquette at a business luncheon, including do's and don'ts of silverware use, toasting, and basic dining etiquette. Auth is founder and director of Protocol Plus in Oklahoma City.
"Look around you," Auth said. "If no one else is doing it, it's probably not a good idea."
Some of the rules of dining seem extreme, she said, but exposure to this way of thinking can help prepare for all kinds of possible business scenarios. Manners and business performance go hand in hand.
"Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it," she told students. "Fifteen percent of your success comes from technical skills and knowledge. The other 85 percent comes from your people skills."
Some of these people skills involve specific protocol at meals: being seated properly, being aware of the napkin at all times, and keeping silverware off the table once in use.
Two common types of dining in Western culture, American style and Continental style, have small but significant differences, she told students. The biggest distinction between the two is which hand holds the fork. In American style dining, the fork is shifted from the left hand after cutting to the right hand to eat. In Continental style dining, the left hand keeps the fork, always tines side down, to transfer food to the mouth.
She reminded students that cultural differences could complicate a meal further. But cultural rules are some of the most important to observe.
For example, Americans are often taught to keep one hand in the lap while eating, she said. In some cultures, this is offensive because putting hands under the table implies one is hiding something. In that situation, it is important to keep the wrist and hand visible on the table.
She added that one of the most important rules of table etiquette is to keep your manners to yourself.
"Don't tell you friends their dining faults," she said. "They might change their behavior but they will never forget you saying it."
She encouraged students to practice proper dining skills daily, so that when they are in business dinner situation it will be like second nature. She gave students a chance to practice their skills in front of her at a luncheon later that afternoon.
Senior business majors and students enrolled in certain business classes also participated in her a business and social etiquette seminar, covering proper introductions and handshakes, small talk, and interview etiquette.
Auth teaches etiquette and protocol intelligence in seminars and individual courses around the country. She specializes in corporate and social etiquette, world-class dining, tea and etiquette, techno-etiquette and international protocol.
Auth was the director of the master of business administration program at the University of Central Oklahoma for 22 years.
She is a graduate of The Protocol School of Washington and received bachelor and master's degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma.