You can lead a horse to water

I have a close, adult family member who doesn’t have very good table manners. I’ve tried nicely to offer advice but it doesn’t seem to sink in. I’ve tried to convey how it looks to others, not trying to embarrass her but to hopefully make her aware how it looks in public. I love her very much but need advice on how to help her.D. P., Galivants Ferry, SC

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In her own way, her seeming indifference to your advice may be her quiet way of telling you she doesn’t think she has poor table manners. At this point your best approach may be to pass on offering such advice, model good table manners yourself, and focus on the positive qualities you do appreciate in order to enjoy being in her company.

Table manners is a broad subject, covering everything from chewing with one’s mouth open to passing the salt. In business, if you think poorly of a colleague’s table manners, before saying anything clarify what you find objectionable. Is it a gross violation or just a lack of polish? Is it your perception or is it really a problem?. You can try talking to the person, but it could backfire if he or she thinks you’re being overly critical. An alternative that avoids making a judgment about another’s behavior is to suggest at a staff meeting or to your manager that you could all benefit from a brush-up on dining etiquette. This way there’s no singling out a specific individual.
Dining etiquette is especially important in business. Your ability to carry on a conversation and to talk business shouldn’t be impeded by table manners that distract or offend. Knowing how to navigate the place setting, how to manipulate utensils gracefully, and how to eat particular foods gives you confidence. If you’re completely at ease with the “how,” your focus can stay on the conversation. By being confident and by knowing what to do, you stand out as a person who is welcome at the table and will be asked back again.

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