You have heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” but I also advocate, “You are how you eat.”
After meeting with Sue Jacques, the “Civility CEO” and author of the new book, What the Fork? An Unpretentious Guide to Formal Dining for Informal People (Palindrome Publishing Company, 2013), I’m convinced how to dine has more significance than I ever realized. Note that I have chosen to use the word “dine” instead of “eat” after Jacques helped me realize there is a distinct difference.
“We eat to survive and, at times, to fill holes in our lives. Dining, on the other hand, takes time and involves the combination of flavors, conversation, purpose and ambiance. Dining is both a social art and a business skill,” says Jacques.
Research shows not knowing how to dine may actually lead to obesity and other health issues as well as increase the risk of alcohol or drug abuse in your family. It could also cost you a job or budding relationship.
Dining for Personal Power
“We live in an age of McManners,” says Jacques. “Our over-scheduled lives and emphasis on pre-packaged convenience foods has changed the way we dine.”
Jacques has coined the word mannerexia to describe our civility-starved society. She adds, “Our lives have become one big apostrophe. We are distracted by tools and toys and are often abbreviating communication.”
“Distracted eating,” similar to distracted driving, does not allow our brain and stomach time to communicate and notice satisfaction. When you eat, don’t do anything else. Turn off the television, put down your smartphone and become a mindful eater. Less is more when you slow down and savour each bite. This could be one of the most important ways to improve your health and to help you lose unwanted weight.
“We honour ourselves and others when we take time. We also get more than the nutritional value of food — we get the emotional value of food,” says Jacques.
Dining for Family Focus
Jacques emphasizes that learning how to dine is not about formality or right and wrong. She adds, “It’s not about becoming uppity, it’s about being down to earth.” She equates knowing how to hold your knife and fork to confidently to knowing how to hold your own.
Role modeling how to dine is key, after all as the old expression goes — children learn what they live. If you stand by the counter and scarf down your breakfast, fail to plan opportunities for everyone in your family to eat together or mindlessly inhale food in front of the television, don’t be surprised when your kids mimic this as well.
This is a big deal since research shows sitting down for regular family meals is not only good for your nutrition but is one way to protect your kids from obesity, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and more.
Dining for Corporate Connection
“As many deals are sealed at dining room tables as at boardroom tables. Relationships are built outside the office, and they deepen course by course,” says Jacques.
Jacques works with executive leadership and sales teams, and provides individual coaching and corporate team building for professionalism, civility and dining skills. Businesses are realizing having their team trained in these skills offers a big return on investment since it enhances what I call the four C’s: credibility, confidence, closing rates and connections.
“If you talk with your mouth full, lick your knife or check your smartphone often, there is a good chance you are irritating other people, but they are too polite to say something,” says Jacques. Since poor dining skills are often inherited and not intentional, Jacques reminds us that it is our personal responsibility to seek out knowledge. Doing so can deepen corporate relationships and enhance your business success.
Jacques new book, What the Fork? is a must-have practical resource for all of us. If you have ever found yourself at an event wondering which fork or bread plate to use or have limited knowledge about the different dining styles or how to hold your silverware, this book is for you. It will expand your understanding that dining is more than eating; it is about the whole experience, from the invitation and RSVP to the thank-you note and everything in between.
Visit www.TheCivilityCEO.com for more information.
For a printer-friendly PDF, click here.