Awkward moments during social gatherings are inevitable.
Do you go in for the handshake? Should you start eating despite the host’s absence?
Author Charles MacPherson answers these and other burning questions in his new book, “The Pocket Butler: A Compact Guide to Modern Manners, Business Etiquette and Everyday Entertaining.”
Having served as a butler for over 26 years, MacPherson knows what he’s talking about.
Here are his top party-etiquette don’ts. Some of these rules will surprise you.
1. Never “introduce” a distinguished or dignified person.
According to MacPherson, distinguished people and dignitaries aren’t “introduced,” they’re “presented.” Rather than saying, “May I introduce to you…” say, “May I present to you…”
2. Never offer a handshake to someone of higher rank.
If the person you’re saying hello to holds a higher position, wait until he or she goes in for the handshake. Make sure to maintain eye contact, smile, and connect your hands “web-to-web.” MacPherson says the duration of the handshake should be about three seconds, or three hand pumps.
3. Never wear your name tag over your heart.
If you’re lucky enough to be at a party with name tags, wear it on the right side of your chest so it’s still visible during the handshake.
4. Never zone out during introductions.
How many times have you introduced yourself and realised five minutes later that you have no idea who you’re talking to? Avoid this awkward situation by repeating the person’s name in conversation.
5. Never give out your business card using one hand.
According to MacPherson, this is a sign of arrogance. Always present your card with two hands and hold it at the top. Holding it at the bottom makes it awkward for the person receiving the card.
6. Never let your sense of humour run wild.
Your friends may know your sense of humour, but guests at a party probably don’t. MacPherson warns that humour can often be unintentionally offensive. Get a feel for the conversation before you start dropping jokes.
7. Never hold a drink in your right hand.
Wear the name tag on the right, but hold your drink in your left hand — it all revolves around the handshake. Nobody wants to shake the wet hand that was just wrapped around your drink. Also, a crowded room often makes it difficult to keep switching hands. This rule also applies to holding handbags, clutches, and purses.
8. Never start eating before the host/hostess is seated.
Unless the host or hostess tells you to start eating, put the silverware down until he or she is seated at the table. Wait until everyone is situated and then you may begin. (Side note: If there are a lot of spoons, forks, and knives, start with the ones furthest away from the plate.)
9. Never ask for more food at a sit-down meal — even if you’re still hungry.
This especially holds true for large crowds. MacPherson notes large-scale events are usually timed to the minute, so asking for a second serving will mess up the time schedule. You may also offend the host or hostess. If you’re still hungry at the end of the meal, drink water to help hold you over until dessert.