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U.S. Executives Getting A Lesson in Etiquette

By Dianne E. Lewis, The Boston Globe – 08/01/2003 – 12:00am

Fox’s company now counts among its clients such firms as Guidant and Texaco,which last year sent her to New Orleans to teach a continental dining and etiquette course to newly hired foreign and American MBA students.

Manners may be all the more important today, particularly in a world where the next deal is as likely to be made in Japan or the Middle East as in the United States. But for all of our gains in paving the way to new markets overseas, Americans continue to trail their foreign counterparts in the fine art of etiquette, Fox says.

“If you are a director or above and you are going to be interviewing clients, entertaining them and traveling abroad to meet them, then table manners – manners of all kinds – will definitely matter,” Fox notes. “The Japanese, for example, understand that. They spend a considerable amount of time and money teaching employees how to behave. There, a majority of business meetings are conducted over meals.”

Their children answered differently. “Only 45 percent of the children said they ate each day with their parents,” recalls Galinsky. “When we talked to single parents, 57 percent with kids age 8 to 18 reported that they ate with their children at least once a day. Yet only 37 percent of the kids said that was so.”

These findings suggest that many children have an old-fashioned view of what eating together means. For them, it still means sitting down and eating rather than grazing, which occurs when a parent eats while standing over them.

Fox believes that young adults who never learned the proper way to conduct themselves at mealtime would do well to learn. More and more U.S. companies are using sit-down meals at restaurants to screen potential candidates.

What to do? Fox offers some advice:

— Study standard table settings.

— Begin eating by using the utensils farthest away from a plate and work in with each new course.

— Do not use bread to dip, dunk or wipe up sauces.

— Gently stir hot soup. Do not blow it.

— If you drop a utensil, politely beckon to a waiter and ask for a new one. If you’ve finished eating, place your knife and fork together on your plate to signal that you are finished.

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