Bad Manners Are Closer Than You Think

Feb 20, 2008 by



If you ever break bread with others outside of your immediate family, it is possible you have been offended by others’ table manners, or they have been offended by yours. In the age of eating in the car, while standing up, and on the couch one might argue table manners are obsolete. But this is far from the case. Do you think about your table manners when you eat with others? In restaurants, when we have to share close proximity with other tables, are we aware of how we act affecting those around us?

Let’s face it, eating with someone is an intimate act. And there’s ways to make the act more attractive and less attractive. Which category do you fall in?

Here’s a list of six bad manners that are incredibly common. Do you recognize yourself or your loved ones in this list?

  1. Drinking before finishing the bite in one’s mouth.
  2. Putting food in or taking the silverware out with the inside curve of the utensil instead of the outside curve (like the picture above).
  3. Placing personal items on the table such as keys, cell phone, or purse.
  4. Touching your head or face while eating.
  5. Talking about your food preferences (likes or dislikes) during the meal.
  6. Leaning on the table with your various body parts, including arms, elbows, or chest.


The majority of the above bad manners involve issues of hygiene. After all, imagine accepting the bread basket from the person who just ran their hand through their hair or itched their ear? And most likely, that purse set on the table was just on the car floor.

Other table manners involve how we appear to the ones having to watch us eat. When we wash our food down with our water or chew with our mouth open, it means we are oblivious to the person sitting across from us. Remember, the purpose of etiquette is for the respect of others, showing we are aware of those we are with over ourselves.

Most likely, I am preaching to my choir of regular readers here at Tea Party Girl and you could write this article! However, manners of all kinds are common Internet search terms, because many of us are still in the dark on these matters. The days of debutante training and finishing school are over, and more and more think good manners irrelevant for their circumstances. However, an amazing amount of socializing and business take place away from the home in our society around the table. For this reason alone, good manners are not for girls only!

For further encouragement or instruction on etiquette, especially for the children in your life, there are a number of valuable resources available including:

Tonight at dinner, be aware of the dynamics around your own table. Were you surprised?


  1. Kendralee

    This made me giggle this morning! Five people are eating. And things are going pretty well….almost well….could be better! LOL
    I read your post aloud to my husband and kids. We all can’t wait until we have an addition and can all sit around our big table and analyze our manners! Should be a lark!
    It is a beautiful day for concentrating on manners! A rainy school day and a house that needs cleaning! Ahhhh…..the reward of tea time at 4:00 should be incentive!
    Tally Ho!

  2. This made me giggle, too! Tho I love to eat ice cream in the way shown with the spoon. I really like your list of items!

  3. Brenda

    It is not over until I say it is over! I am a newly Certified Childrens Etiquette Consultant. Together, concerned parents, children and my staff will bring back manners, respect, etiquette… the hold nine yards. It is a great way of teaching leadership and how to communicate in a civil manner. Yes we can.

  4. Thank you for this post! I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my ettiqute, manners, and ladylikeness in general. This has been exactly what I’ve been searching for.

  5. Oooh! I LOVE manners! Thank you!

  6. These are great reminders about so often forgotten manners, thanks for bringing this up. 🙂

  7. Afraid I’m guilty of some of the things on your list Jennie. And yes the cell phone sits beside my plate at lunch like a little puppy waiting for scraps.
    Frankly I’d settle for people eating with their mouths closed and and wiping food that misses there mouth occasionally.

  8. Thanks for sharing these table manners tips.

    I have learn a lot from this post. 🙂

  9. I appreciate you tackling this often overlooked part of being in a civilization (as opposed to a cave). I can’t wait for your post on whether and how to answer your cell phone at the table!

  10. Karen’s comments are an echo of what I could have written. I try hard to remove the cell phone, but it always ends up on the table, especially, when my husband and I are out. I don’t want to miss a call from the house. Or I keep looking at the cell phone in my purse!

    Thanks for a great reminder.

  11. Thanks for the ammunition!

    I just took my Girl Scouts to a very elegant lunch at the Metropolitan Museum, during which I gently reminded them of several of these etiquette rules. However, I couldn’t answer why they should follow the rules.

    I’ll keep this in mind for future explanations.

  12. JHS

    Thank you for sharing this post with the readers of this week’s Carnival of Family Life! This week the Spring is Just Around the Corner Edition is hosted at home at Colloquium! Hope you will drop by and read some of the many other wonderful entries received this week!

    I’m afraid that I’ve never heard of most of your tips, even though I am a professional possessing an advanced degree. I lunch with colleagues and every one of us has his/her Blackberry on the table if not clipped to a belt or waistband. I’ve never heard of some of the other tips (such as removing a spoon like that or not drinking from your own glass if there’s anything in your mouth . . . where did you even find out about these ideas?). As for elbows on the table, well . . . we all do it. As for a discussion of food preferences . . . at the table is the most logical and natural place to discuss them so that’s just nonsense, in my opinion.

  13. The tips came from Dorothea Johnson, Founder of the Protocol School of Washington and the author of the book, “Tea and Etiquette”. She lists all the ones I mentioned (plus many more!). The reason one wouldn’t talk about their likes and dislikes at the table is often because there is a host/hostess who have gone to lengths to provide the food in front of you. It’s also often a self-centered topic of conversation.

  14. We discussed with our children only a couple of nights ago, how it is considered bad manners to place their elbows on the table. I will now have to take them through the other five.

  15. I’ve heard people lately talking around me about proper mangers when eating. It seems like we went for years without anybody caring. I’m glad to see the trend changing. I think it would be cool to have men stand, if you lift the table. I wonder if it will ever come back?

  16. Thank you for the tips! 🙂 We are having a tea party soon and that will help!

    Can I post this onto my blog??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.