How to Be Polite at the Table

How to Be Polite at the Table© Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Thinkstock

Manners are constantly evolving to keep up with the times, but these guidelines on how to be polite at the table may help add a little civility to an increasingly uncivil world.

1. When helping a woman pull her chair to the table, hold it and guide it as she does the same. Don’t shove it against the back of her legs.

2. If you’re seated at a table with eight or fewer guests, wait for everyone to be served and for the hostess to begin eating before you dig in. At a long banquet table, it’s OK to start when several people are seated and served.

3. All things not having to do with food (and decoration) should remain off the table: keys, clutch bags, cigarette packs, sunglasses, BlackBerrys.

4. Don’t snap your napkin open or unfurl it showily like it’s an Olympic flag.

5. If you prefer not to have wine while dining out, don’t turn your glass upside down, and don’t make a big deal of saying you don’t drink. Simply place your fingertips on the rim of the glass and say “Not today, thanks.” This implies no judgment of those who wish to imbibe.

6. Use your hand to shield your lemon as you squeeze it into your iced tea so you don’t inadvertently squirt your dining companion in the eye.

7. If you’re eating and want to take a sip, dab your mouth with your napkin to avoid staining the rim of the glass.

8. Grabbing a bowl of salad or a saltshaker as it’s being passed to someone who asked for it is the equivalent of cutting in line: greedy and rude.

9. On the subject of passing: Dishes go counterclockwise, but if someone to your left asks for something, you can hand it directly to him.

10. When you excuse yourself to go to the restroom, just say “Please excuse me.”

11. When out with friends or family — even at a fancy restaurant — it’s OK to ask for your leftovers to be wrapped. But don’t do it at a business lunch or dinner.

12. Should you text at the table at a social gathering? Farhad Manjoo on “If you’re in a situation where you’d excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, you should also excuse yourself before reaching for your phone.”

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.