The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

Category Archives: Table manners

these kids…what to do?

Probably every couple of weeks, I have a conversation with a parent who wants to know how to teach their child(ren) to be mannerly…or, at the very least, understand that temper tantrums are ridiculous and the world does not, in fact, wait for them to make up their minds about, well, anything. Interestingly, it’s not the frazzled parent of a toddler who tries to climb the Christmas tree that wants to know. It’s the parent of the tweens and teens.

The conversation nearly always takes a big U-turn when the parent says, “What do you do with your children to make them behave nicely?”

….sscccrreeeeech….

The voice in my head replies with Listen, Mister. Dr. Dobson doesn’t call me for input or anything, but I run a ‘do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do’ campaign. There’s a reason the law says kids can’t live alone. They don’t have any sense. They need higher mammals to tell them what to do and that’s you and me. So, get straight with what you know is right and tell them. ‘Course, hard labor works, too.

The voice that comes out of my mouth, you will be glad to know, is more articulate and thought-out: Do stuff together

That doesn’t mean the parent spends hours online or on the phone scheduling a fantastic outing, pays for it, lets the kids bring a friend and acts as the tag-along. ‘Together’ means they do a little and you do a little to create something fun.

Here’s an example:

dinner in the den

Last night, we ate our dinner around the coffee table in the den watching a Christmas movie…even though I nearly gnawed off my tongue to keep from saying anything about table manners. I caved, only once, when I heard – for the 3rd time – Hand me that chicken, Emma. I used my we-are-eating-dinner-on-the-floor-no-big-deal voice to say How about saying ‘Please pass the chicken’? Then, I went to take a valium.

Here’s the together part: The Hubs and I did all the work with sharp objects while the kids took the plates and bowls from the kitchen to the den. Along the way, they pulled from the pantry and the refrigerator adding what they thought we would all like. In other words, they played a big part in making it nice for everyone. They didn’t sit in the den and wait for Mama to bring them a plate.

To me, that’s the basic principle of being mannerly: understanding your impact on those around you. Spending time as a family doing something – anything! – offers all sorts of opportunities to mention (not lecture) things you really want them to know.

You have to tell them what you want them to know. They can’t read your mind. You have years of experience to draw upon, so share with them and be specific. Kids will take instruction from you much better if it’s mixed in with experience rather than exasperation.

Very lastly, I’m no child rearing expert. In fact, just last weekend, I realized my 9 year old son’s all-time favorite hat that he wears everywhere has a logo sporting ‘Bar & Grill’. I’m sure that went over well at the children’s cookie decorating party at our church.

I can tell you this, though, with complete certainty: If you will go the extra mile to teach your tweens and teens about nice manners, you are equipping them for a successful and happy life.

You can collapse when they’re gone.

Advertisements

these kids…what to do?

Probably every couple of weeks, I have a conversation with a parent who wants to know how to teach their child(ren) to be mannerly…or, at the very least, understand that temper tantrums are ridiculous and the world does not, in fact, wait for them to make up their minds about, well, anything. Interestingly, it’s not the frazzled parent of a toddler who tries to climb the Christmas tree that wants to know. It’s the parent of the tweens and teens.

The conversation nearly always takes a big U-turn when the parent says, “What do you do with your children to make them behave nicely?”

….sscccrreeeeech….

The voice in my head replies with Listen, Mister. Dr. Dobson doesn’t call me for input or anything, but I run a ‘do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do’ campaign. There’s a reason the law says kids can’t live alone. They don’t have any sense. They need higher mammals to tell them what to do and that’s you and me. So, get straight with what you know is right and tell them. ‘Course, hard labor works, too.

The voice that comes out of my mouth, you will be glad to know, is more articulate and thought-out: Do stuff together

That doesn’t mean the parent spends hours online or on the phone scheduling a fantastic outing, pays for it, lets the kids bring a friend and acts as the tag-along. ‘Together’ means they do a little and you do a little to create something fun.

Here’s an example:

dinner in the den

Last night, we ate our dinner around the coffee table in the den watching a Christmas movie…even though I nearly gnawed off my tongue to keep from saying anything about table manners. I caved, only once, when I heard – for the 3rd time – Hand me that chicken, Emma. I used my we-are-eating-dinner-on-the-floor-no-big-deal voice to say How about saying ‘Please pass the chicken’? Then, I went to take a valium.

Here’s the together part: The Hubs and I did all the work with sharp objects while the kids took the plates and bowls from the kitchen to the den. Along the way, they pulled from the pantry and the refrigerator adding what they thought we would all like. In other words, they played a big part in making it nice for everyone. They didn’t sit in the den and wait for Mama to bring them a plate.

To me, that’s the basic principle of being mannerly: understanding your impact on those around you. Spending time as a family doing something – anything! – offers all sorts of opportunities to mention (not lecture) things you really want them to know.

You have to tell them what you want them to know. They can’t read your mind. You have years of experience to draw upon, so share with them and be specific. Kids will take instruction from you much better if it’s mixed in with experience rather than exasperation.

Very lastly, I’m no child rearing expert. In fact, just last weekend, I realized my 9 year old son’s all-time favorite hat that he wears everywhere has a logo sporting ‘Bar & Grill’. I’m sure that went over well at the children’s cookie decorating party at our church.

I can tell you this, though, with complete certainty: If you will go the extra mile to teach your tweens and teens about nice manners, you are equipping them for a successful and happy life.

You can collapse when they’re gone.

what the recipe doesn’t tell you

Southern Living is known for publishing great recipes, right? In fact, I tried one from their October issue last night.

                                 

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup. It was really really good! And, while I most certainly will cook it again, I learned some things that the recipe doesn’t tell you. Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup

from www.SouthernLiving.com

Total: 47 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 cups

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1  medium-size sweet onion, chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried crushed red pepper
  • 1  (48-oz.) container chicken broth
  • 2  (12-oz.) packages fresh broccoli florets (about 12 cups)
  • 1  (8-oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4  cups  chopped cooked chicken
  • 1  (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Preparation

1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and red pepper, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and broccoli. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Stir in cream cheese.

2. Process mixture with a handheld blender until smooth. Add chicken and shredded cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with almonds, if desired.

Note: If you don’t have a handheld immersion blender, let mixture cool slightly; process mixture, in batches, in a regular blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Return mixture to Dutch oven, and proceed as directed.

These are things no cookbook tells you, but should.

1) It smells terrible while it’s cooking. This recipe says you should boil the broccoli in chicken broth with the sauteed onions and garlic. Now, as adults, we know it’s going to turn out scrumptious, but you should know that it will make your house smell perfectly awful. That means you should get prepared for the comments your regular diners. They can be a prickly bunch. But, take this opportunity to talk to your kids about not blurting out their observations at someone else’s house. Also, if you plan on serving this at a party, cook it a day ahead and open all the windows.

2) “This looks pretty gross, but it tastes pretty good.” That was Ben. He’s brutally honest. Because of this, I’m not sure I would serve it to company. If I did, I would use a small ramekin-type bowl on a plate with a salad. Visually, a little of this soup goes a long way. Also, this is another opportunity to tell your children to think before they speak. Don’t get discouraged. Repetition is good. This particular recipe works well for this lesson because Ben was right. It doesn’t look hugely appetizing. See?

Soup for blog

3) Some may not recognize this as a soup. In fact, one little person at my table began eating this with his fork. Again, if I were serving this at a dinner party, I would either puree the broccoli more or add more broth so it wouldn’t be confused for…goulash? Serving something that people will struggle to eat will put a damper on the good times, so be sure to make things as easy as possible on your guests.

4) The broccoli pieces will get in somebody’s teeth. I get questioned about this particular dinner table conundrum often. Do I tell the person sitting beside me they have pepper in their teeth?  Wouldn’t you want to know if you were telling a story the entire table was listening to with a piece of lettuce front and center? Yes, tell them! Just do it quietly so no one else will hear.

These are the kinds of things I wish every cookbook would include. I want to know how to dish up something savory, but I also want to know if I’m going to smell up the neighborhood, if I’m going to need to cuss out my kids while we are at someone’s house or if I’m likely to embarrass myself…well, and others.

ps…on www.SouthernLiving.com they offer wine pairing suggestions. I didn’t see that in the magazine. Maybe that’s where I got off course.

 

what the recipe doesn’t tell you

Southern Living is known for publishing great recipes, right? In fact, I tried one from their October issue last night.

                                 

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup. It was really really good! And, while I most certainly will cook it again, I learned some things that the recipe doesn’t tell you. Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup

from www.SouthernLiving.com

Total: 47 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 cups

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1  medium-size sweet onion, chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried crushed red pepper
  • 1  (48-oz.) container chicken broth
  • 2  (12-oz.) packages fresh broccoli florets (about 12 cups)
  • 1  (8-oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4  cups  chopped cooked chicken
  • 1  (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Preparation

1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and red pepper, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and broccoli. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Stir in cream cheese.

2. Process mixture with a handheld blender until smooth. Add chicken and shredded cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with almonds, if desired.

Note: If you don’t have a handheld immersion blender, let mixture cool slightly; process mixture, in batches, in a regular blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Return mixture to Dutch oven, and proceed as directed.

These are things no cookbook tells you, but should.

1) It smells terrible while it’s cooking. This recipe says you should boil the broccoli in chicken broth with the sauteed onions and garlic. Now, as adults, we know it’s going to turn out scrumptious, but you should know that it will make your house smell perfectly awful. That means you should get prepared for the comments your regular diners. They can be a prickly bunch. But, take this opportunity to talk to your kids about not blurting out their observations at someone else’s house. Also, if you plan on serving this at a party, cook it a day ahead and open all the windows.

2) “This looks pretty gross, but it tastes pretty good.” That was Ben. He’s brutally honest. Because of this, I’m not sure I would serve it to company. If I did, I would use a small ramekin-type bowl on a plate with a salad. Visually, a little of this soup goes a long way. Also, this is another opportunity to tell your children to think before they speak. Don’t get discouraged. Repetition is good. This particular recipe works well for this lesson because Ben was right. It doesn’t look hugely appetizing. See?

Soup for blog

3) Some may not recognize this as a soup. In fact, one little person at my table began eating this with his fork. Again, if I were serving this at a dinner party, I would either puree the broccoli more or add more broth so it wouldn’t be confused for…goulash? Serving something that people will struggle to eat will put a damper on the good times, so be sure to make things as easy as possible on your guests.

4) The broccoli pieces will get in somebody’s teeth. I get questioned about this particular dinner table conundrum often. Do I tell the person sitting beside me they have pepper in their teeth?  Wouldn’t you want to know if you were telling a story the entire table was listening to with a piece of lettuce front and center? Yes, tell them! Just do it quietly so no one else will hear.

These are the kinds of things I wish every cookbook would include. I want to know how to dish up something savory, but I also want to know if I’m going to smell up the neighborhood, if I’m going to need to cuss out my kids while we are at someone’s house or if I’m likely to embarrass myself…well, and others.

ps…on www.SouthernLiving.com they offer wine pairing suggestions. I didn’t see that in the magazine. Maybe that’s where I got off course.

 

what my nice surprise can teach you

In a very unexpected turn of events, my children have shown me that I’m doing something right.

No, no, I still don’t have the most favorite pair of jeans ready for school on the most important morning. I still don’t have enough milk on the morning that only cereal will do for breakfast. And, I don’t have the good snacks organized into containers like Aunt Loucy. What I have done….they don’t even get yet.

It’s been a year or so since the concept of The Civilized Minute as more than just a blog came into being.  Since then, it’s been TV segments, book writing, presentations and guest blog posts galore. Only recently, did I realize I was taking the approach of packaging some useful tidbit and presenting it in an under-a-minute sound byte into motherhood. I don’t know why this was so surprising to me…any working mother will tell you it’s impossible to not do work at home or do home at work.

Here’s what has gone down: My husband and I took our 2 children to a dinner theatre production last week.

Do you know how many different kinds of social skills you need to possess in order to not look like a doofus at a dinner theatre production? 

To appreciate the significance of this outing, you must know that the last time we did this, it prompted a career change for me. I had considered this idea of consulting with businesses to beef up the social skills of their staffs for years but when we took our (then) 10 and 7 year old children to a local dinner theatre, I decided the world needed someone to help them realize the importance of not giving your mother (or boss) a heart attack by announcing to the table that you need to be excused and why. In short order, I trotted off to the Protocol School of Washington.

Last week’s trip to a dinner theater was very different. I saw table manners and conversation skills.  I saw introductions being made with handshakes and eye contact. I saw smiles at servers and ‘thank-you’s’ and ‘pleases’. And, I thought I was going to see the big bright light in the sky since I was sure I had died and gone to heaven.

Afterward, I asked them about what I had seen (sans the what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here tone that was screaming in my head). They started quoting little Civilized Minute sound bytes back to me! It seems I have been talking to my children about social skills and behaviors in Civilized Minutes and didn’t even realize it.  And, holy above holy, it is working. I’m slipping something in their Kool-Aid and they don’t even taste it!

What can you take from this?

1) Talk to the people who work for you about ways to be respectful and likeable in a context they can understand and appreciate.

2) Don’t drag it out. Say what you want them to hear and be done with it. Let’s be honest, most people don’t care to go through the demonstration of a limp fish handshake.  Offer up 1 or 2 tips and stop. 

3) Give feedback often – good and bad. Be swift and sure about what you expect and what you see. Most people know what to do, they just don’t do it. Inspire and remind them of the greatness inside themselves that can only get out through kindness.

Today is Monday. Sounds like a good day to start with some Civilized Minutes, dontcha think?

Which day is your day?

Maybe it’s because I have children that I  sometimes become stunned when people actually follow my direction.  My children, well, don’t always do that. 

I released my e-book called The Civilized Minute last week.  Here’s the cover. There are pages behind it.  They are filled with all sorts of trickery. Thirty days worth of trickery to be precise. It’s written so that you have a 1-minute read each day for 30 days with each day presenting a lesson in civility.

                                  the-civilized-minute

And, people are actually buying it.  AND, people are actually telling me about tips they have implemented – that are working.  They are saying things like, “I didn’t realize I was reacting so harshly to everyday situations” and “Day 9 is printed and posted on the office bulletin board”. 

So, admitting to the masses that this comes as a surprise to me probably does not make me appear…confident? sure? as if I know what I’m talking about?

Well, who doesn’t doubt their genius status every now and then? (Day 11 is pretty good help with this) I mean, don’t we all want to be liked? (Day 25) Don’t we all want to be viewed as a role model? (Day 5)

Am I tempting you yet?  Well, don’t let me stop you from 30 days of pure…well, you decide…but, be nice about it (Day 22).

Click here to decide which day is your day: The Civilized Minute e-book

social etiquette or business etiquette?

The lines between social etiquette and business etiquette can blur to the point of nonexistence.  The really savvy professional knows this and uses skills from both schools of thought to the advantage of the business.  The less-than-savvy professional wrongly believes that once he/she leaves the office and heads to a dinner party, it’s time the part-y and drink up.

Recently, I held a small event to offer attendees a chance to understand and practice the rules of etiquette that should be executed with perfection whether you are at home or at the office.  And, remember,  some etiquette rules change with time, so watch out that you don’t appear outdated!

As a host, it’s not necessary that bring out the silver just because you are having friends over – even work friends that you want to impress.  Old etiquette rules would have you wound tight over a few weeds or too few linen cocktail napkins.  New etiquette tells us to relax!  The goal of any event is to ensure your guests are happy and relaxed.  So, choose a couple of really delicious nibbles and be done. 

              IMG_6961_hands_honey   

The host is also responsible for knowing his or her audience.  If your crowd is laid back and informal, be sure the environment is one that they will enjoy.  You wouldn’t serve ribs and beer to the Garden Club or tea sandwiches to the little league ball coaches.  The real challenge is to execute your role with enough finesse to ensure guests know you took the time to prepare for their arrival without being imposing.  Look for ways to compromise, like chilling sparkling wine in a planter and serving drinks in stemless glasses rather than the more formal alternatives. 

                IMG_7139_chilled               

As a guest, you, too, have a role to fill. It is imperative that you make yourself known to your hosts and the others in attendance.  To your hosts, you should express your appreciation for being invited.  To your fellow guests, you should be friendly, open and engaging.  You may find that you need to brush up on some of your social skills like introducing yourself or introducing others.  You may even need a refresher on how to handle yourself with food and drink (clink a toast with the bottom of your glass so no germs as swapped, food goes from tray to napkin to mouth, etc.) If you are with coworkers, they will notice if you stumble through happy hour and will be less likely to bring you in on a project with a new client.  They certainly will not want any awkward moments when a deal is on the table.

            IMG_7133_party        

New etiquette dictates that we all behave in a way that makes others feel good and makes ourselves look good.  This is no less true on a patio than in a board room. 

 

5 ways business etiquette makes you more productive

Professionals use business etiquette as a means to an end.  It’s the way to get from here to there.  It’s a guide.  Without that guide, anxiety and unease begin to limit our productivity levels. That is uncomfortable and no fun at all.

Take a look at these 5 ways mastering the skills of business etiquette can boost your output.

1)  Being comfortable gives you freedom to take advantage of unusual opportunities.  Someone who is comfortable in lots of different situations will not shy away from an out-of-the-box setting.  Let’s say your boss asks you to entertain clients for dinner who are in town from Sweden.  Oh, and by the way, they don’t speak English.  Some might say No Way!  But, the savvy and confident team player will figure it out.  Get a translator, get a book on Continental Dining skills, read up on the current events in Sweden…do whatever needs to be done to get the job done.  In the end, you will have impressed not only the clients, but your boss, for working to make them feel welcome.

2)  You are able to connect with anybody.  Let’s face it, half the battle in the workplace is fitting in with the culture of the company and the people who work there.  Without a pleasant working relationship with the people you spend so many hours with, you will never be viewed as a team player.  In order to develop that relationship, you have to be nice and engaging.  You must be able to initiate small talk, mingle with other departments during the company picnic and even offer condolences to a coworker who has experienced a tragedy.

3)  Presenting yourself with authority is a key ingredient for any leader.  If the people that work for you do not take you seriously or follow-through with their commitments, it could be because they do not view you as an authority figure.  Are you sending them that message by your body language, your posture or your lack of eye contact?  These are things that, if done correctly, can let everyone in the room know you are in charge without saying a word. 

4) Organization is a form of business etiquette.  It falls into the ‘impression management’ category.  Unfortunately, the signs of un-organization can’t be hidden very easily.  Papers trailing behind when you walk into a room, the clutter and disarray on your desk, the scramble to find a document or file all screams lack of competence.  Others will react to that impression you give off and not seek you out for projects and opportunities.  It’s had to be productive when you are shunned from the action.

5) Knowing what to do eliminates the time waster called worry.  Not many people operate effectively when they are burdened.  By knowing how and when to use the rules of business etiquette, you can glide through your day worry-free and focused on the task at hand.  No more worries about who you will talk or sit with at the department meeting or how you will manage if your 11:30 appointment wants to get lunch.  Business etiquette rules guide you through these situations with ease.

Do you have your own rules of behavior that boost your productivity?

 

how not to have boorish buffet manners

In the spirit of Sunday-after-church-buffets, here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts when you are dining with the masses.

  • Remain calm.  I know it’s alarming to see all those people in line ahead of you (there’s only so much fried chicken in the world, right?), but it’s not likely the restaurant will run out of food.  Wait patiently. 
  • When you start to select a plate from the buffet table, feel free to inspect it to make sure it’s clean.  But, if you find that it’s dirty, don’t put it back on the stack for the person behind you to pick up. You can give it to a server to take back to the kitchen.
  • As you begin to serve your plate, remember you don’t have to get it all at once.  Don’t pile your plate high.  It looks greedy and is usually wasteful.
  • No nibbling while you go through the food line! Putting your fingers in your mouth while you are also touching the server handles is a sure-fire way to spread germs.
  • If you bring something tasty from the buffet back to a tablemate, put it on a separate plate from your own.  It’s more polite to hand him his own plate than to move the food from your plate to his.
  • If you are with a group, wait to begin eating until everyone is back at the table with their plates.
  • It’s likely your table will end up filled with plates.  Resist the urge to stack up all the used plates.  Wait for the server to remove them, instead.
%d bloggers like this: