Clarence Thomas once said, "Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot." As a young Marine Corps officer, I was dumbfounded one afternoon when, after training on the Mark19, we transitioned into a class on proper table manners. We practiced these skills at various unit dinners over the next six months. At the time, I thought the classes were useless and a waste of my time. Yet, as it turns out, while I never again fired that heavy grenade launcher, the skills I learned those evenings concerning table manners have enhanced my enjoyment of dining for more than a decade.
When I began to spend more time outside of military circles, I noticed that many men had never been taught proper dining etiquette. I was amazed when I returned to graduate school and met people who were spending $100,000 on their education but were sabotaging their own interviews over a meal that they ate from their plate like a horse. Still, other times I would witness friends embarrass themselves by eating half the food on their plate before noticing everyone else was waiting to give thanks. A man today, like his great-grandfather years ago, still sits and eats three meals a day. The purpose of this article is to give you the basics so that you can dine with respect like he did.
Whether dining with a four-star general, toasting with a Medal of Honor recipient, or sitting with friends and family on Christmas Eve, an understanding of dining protocol makes time spent with others around a table more enjoyable. When you know the rules, there is no awkwardness or questions about how things should be done; instead, there is only opportunity to spend quality time with the company present.