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In today’s culture, parents are increasingly challenged in mentoring their children with the fundamental rules of etiquette. Economic struggles have replaced the once-common casual family dining experience with fast food restaurants, giving parents less of an opportunity to teach dining etiquette to their children. Even worse, cell phones, iPads, Facebook and Instagram have replaced conversation in households and neighborhoods, eliminating another opportunity for parents to teach communication etiquette to their kids. When kids enter the real world and begin their job search they may face a tremendous etiquette learning curve that could result in being passed over for a job for some minor faux pas they didn’t learn to correct at home. Not to worry. I’m here to help. There are five key areas of etiquette every parent should teach their kids while they’re still young:

How to Communicate

  1. Look everyone in the eye for no more than five seconds at a time, then divert your glance for another five seconds. Practice will turn this into a habit.
  2. Not every thought that comes into your head should come out of your mouth. Vet your thoughts. Speaking your mind does not mean sharing every thought. Some thoughts are not appropriate and could cause irreparable damage to your relationships.
  3. Never criticize, condemn or complain about anyone to another relationship. It’s a giant red flag. People will assume that you are bad-mouthing them and will try to stay away from forming any strong relationships with you.
  4. Never gossip. Most gossip is bad, negative and damages relationships.
  5. Gather as much information about your relationships as you can. At a minimum gather the following information: birthdays, hobbies, interests, schools attended, where they grew up, current family background (married? kids?), where they live, dreams or goals they are pursuing.
  6. Make Hello Calls, Happy Birthday Calls and Life Event Calls.

Eating Etiquette

Believe it or not, many people don’t know proper dining etiquette. They may have grown up eating while they watch T.V. or sitting at a table in a fast food restaurant. In the adult world of the successful, you need to know how to eat at social settings. Let’s go down the list:

  1. As soon as you sit in your chair, take the napkin off the table and drape it over your lap.
  2. Never begin eating until everyone has their meal.
  3. Never chew with your mouth open.
  4. Never talk while you’re chewing your food.
  5. Never dip any food you’re eating into a sauce everyone is using.
  6. Don’t wolf down your food. Eat at the same pace as everyone else at the table.
  7. Never hold a spoon, fork or knife with your fist.
  8. Outside fork is for salads, inside fork for the meal.
  9. Never make gestures while your utensils are in your hands.
  10. Never reach for anything like salt and pepper. Always ask someone to pass things like that.
  11. Don’t slouch at the table. Sit straight up.
  12. After the meal, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom and make sure you don’t have any food in your teeth. Carry a toothpick or something similar in your wallet or purse wherever you go.

Dress Etiquette

You have to learn how to dress in life. There’s a certain way to dress for work and job interviews. You’re going to go to all sorts of social events: weddings, formal dinners, informal dinner parties, engagement parties, funerals, birthday parties, picnics, etc. You need to know how to dress. Here’s a basic rundown:

  1. Work and Job Interviews – Some professions have special purpose clothing like construction, roadwork, electricians, etc. If you work in an office, dress like your boss or your boss’s boss. In some offices, it’s business casual, in others it’s a suit and tie for men. For woman it’s slacks or skirts and open collars – heels, or no heels are OK.
  2. Weddings, Wakes, Funerals – In most cases, this will be suit and tie for men. For women, it’s the same as work clothes but many women like to wear more formal gowns or a more stylish cocktail dress, usually worn with heels. Some cultures have special dress codes you need to be aware of.
  3. Formals – Usually formals are black-tie optional, black tie or white tie for men. Optional usually means a dark suit, tie or black bow tie and dark shoes. Black tie means black tuxedo, dark shoes, white tie means black tailcoat, white wing-collar shirt, white bow tie, black shoes for men. For women it’s a long formal gown or short cocktail dress or dressy long skirt and top, usually worn with heels. White ties are very rare.

Introducing Yourself

In life, you will be forced into situations where you will meet new people. This is an opportunity to develop valuable relationships. Some may be your next employer, future spouse, next best friend, future co-worker, investor or future business partner. There are five basic rules to making introductions:

  1. Smile
  2. Firm Handshake
  3. Make Eye Contact
  4. In one sentence explain who you are, why you’re there and who you know at the event.
  5. Ask questions about the person you’re introducing yourself to. (You can see a list of questions to ask here.)

5. Basic Manners

  1. “Yes”
  2. “Please”
  3. “Thank you”
  4. “Excuse me,” when interrupting or entering a conversation
  5. Don’t interrupt someone while they are talking.
  6. Don’t roll your eyes when someone says something you disagree with.
  7. Don’t look away when someone is talking to you.
  8. Never check your cell phone when talking to someone.
  9. Stay positive and keep criticisms and negative comments to yourself.
  10. Compliment, compliment, compliment
  11. Thank anyone hosting an event, dinner, etc.
  12. Never curse or use inappropriate language during social events.
  13. Never be rude.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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