Friday, January 30, 2009

The art of Eating-on-the-Go

Honestly, eating-on-the-go is not my preferred choice of dining.
First, let's get acquainted with three eating-on-the-go scenarios:

  • You are driving, and in your cup holder you have your soda. With one hand you stir and drive, while the other hand holds your sandwich. The fries are nestled between your legs - Easy access.
  • You are sitting at your desk (work!), and don't have time to take a lunch break. So, you strategically place your drink and plate/brown bag/Tupperware on your desk, so that you can work and eat without losing one second! - Efficiency
  • You skipped breakfast and lunch because you weren't able to squeeze in any time for that, however, (thank goodness!) you have a cocktail party to go to tonight, and while you mingle and meet new people, you make sure to try all possible hors d'oeuvres, not forgetting the free drinks! - Excellent!
Why are these not my preferred ways of enjoying a meal? The simplest reason of all is: It's hard to ENJOY a meal this way. I love food, and I want to make time to enjoy the dining experience, whether at home, at work, or at a party.

The answer given by most people "I don't have time" reflects not the lack of time, but rather the choice made when allocating time and setting priorities. So, it's not really about not having time, but choosing to do something else instead with that time available.

The 1st scenario is a disaster waiting to happen! You may spill your drink on your clothes, your hands may slip and you may cause an accident. Instead of saving time, you can end up losing much more. Your food may fall on the ground and I just hope your phone doesn't ring! Your car will smell like food, and guess what? will you! Your rushed eating is not healthy nor safe or elegant.

The 2nd scenario sends mixed messages about your professionalism: Your efficiency at work should be reflected in your time management skills as well. You should have time to take a break and have lunch. If you are the boss, consider your subordinates' opinions on you eating at your desk. the bottom line is: If you consider yourself efficient, there should be time for a lunch break.

The 3rd scenario will not benefit your mingling abilities. You will have sticky fingers and too much to carry around while meeting and talking to people. Not to mention the possibility of food getting stuck in your teeth without you being aware of it. My suggestion is to reconsider it.

One of my future posts will be on restaurants rushing us to finish our meals and to get us out of there. Sounds crazy, but I'm sure most of us have experienced that before!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Others' perceptions of YOU

It is not a secret that we don't get a lot of time to make a first good impression. Also, it is no secret that we never really get a second chance in making a first good impression.

We need to understand that no matter how you want to be, live, dress and talk, it is not really about WHO you are, but about HOW OTHERS PERCEIVE you. Many people don't realize this crucial point, and are frustrated about their personal and business relationships. Human beings are drawn to those they feel they have something in common with, and this is why they say "it clicked". It applies to social and business interactions of all kinds.

When it "clicks" there are more than just positive, mutual sentiments being exchanged. You are able to establish great rapport with one another, and communication flows like you have known each other for a long time. The so-called chemistry is there, and you feel confident this is the right person. Whether for business, for friendship or for more personal relationships, humans looks for others who are like them. You want this association to happen continuously, and, of course, this is expected to be mutual. If it isn't, the relationship may start off "right", but will sooner or later drift into a confusing, blurry, unfriendly mess where one party/one person tries to control the other party/person, and frustration and disagreement arises in every little possible occasion.

If you want to be perceived a certain way, you need to dress the part, act the part, feel the part and moreover, you need to be consistent in your actions and beliefs. In order to feel confident and attract others who are "like you", take action. Go places that resemble your lifestyle, communicate more often, and nurture new relationships. Don't be afraid to start a conversation, and rather than talking about your thoughts and experiences, be a better listener.

Be careful about trying too hard and ending up communicating the opposite of what you actually desired. Nothing in excess is good, and we all know this. This happens when you forget to remain polite, considerate, friendly and, most definitely when you forget to smile.

It is important to able to make a first good impression. Not only will this allow you to advance socially and in your career, but it will also increase your level of self-confidence. By respecting and acknowledging social and business encounters, you are respecting yourself and are increasing your self-awareness.

Now, it is up to you to decide HOW you want to be perceived by others.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So, the napkin goes...there!

Hello, everyone!

Some of you took part in the poll about where to leave your napkin in case you need to excuse yourself from the dining table briefly (examples are if you need to take a very important call that cannot wait, or if you really need to go to the restroom).

Well, I must say opinions vary when it comes to the place your napkin should be left at. Some experts say the appropriate place is to the left of your plate. Some experts say it is on your seat.

Here are my insights:

Leaving it on the table, to the left of your plate: A (hopefully not so) dirty, used napkin looks like it "d.n.b." (does not belong) on a table where others are still dining. Depending on how much room there is for all people, your napkin might be too close to the other person's elbow and right hand.

Leaving it on the seat: Nobody will really see or be bothered by your napkin, so that is a good thing. On the other hand, we know the seat has been sat on by more than just yourself, and before sitting on this seat, you sat on other places as well. People regard this as a possible hygiene issue.

My personal solution is the following: I will leave it on the seat. In high-class establishments, you can maybe even receive a clean napkin by the time you return. If not, don't worry. Your napkin in usually large enough to be folded in 2. I use the inside of the napkin, and thus, my lips will not touch what the seat has touched. Crumbs will be there, so I am careful and simply try to avoid them as much as possible.

Also, another good hint: If you are going out on a special date, an important business dinner/lunch and are wearing dark pants, trousers or skirts, make a test at home to see if it will possibly pick up "napkin lint" easily! Like that, you will avoid walking out of the restaurant with a clearly visible lint patch on your pants/skirt! (most restaurants opt for white, off-white, ivory, champagne colored napkins, in addition to other light colors)

Bon apetit!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Napkin Etiquette

Napkins belong on your lap. They do not belong tucked into your shirt (never, ever!), no matter how much you want to protect it from spills (simply order something that is easy to eat). Napkins do not belong tucked into your pants or skirt either. They don't need to be secured like that.

You may place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down at the table. If you are attending a business lunch, look for hints given out by the "leader" (the host of the lunch, or the client, or your manager), and you may follow his/her actions. However, it is expected that a napkin is already on your lap before bread, or the first course is served.

What do you do if you need to briefly leave the table? Where will you place your napkin? I want to hear it from you. Plase take the poll on the right, and let's see what you believe is appropriate!
When you are hosting a dinner party:
Beware of creating fancy napkin folds. At least make sure your hands are very clean, because fancy napkin folds require you to touch the napkins many, many times, and keep in mind that someone else will be using that napkin later on. Sometimes, the simple fold is just the best.

Instead of using all of your napkin, try to keep it clean and use an area around the same spot. This will increase your chances of you staying clean as well.

Don't wipe your face with your napkin, but lightly press it around your mouth area to dab what needs to be dabbed. Your napkin may hold some unwanted piece of food, but remember to be very discreet when placing it inside the napkin!

Avoid placing your used napkin on your dirty plate. There is no need for that. Additionally, it does not leave a good impression on other diners who are with you.

There is much more to napkin etiquette, but I hope you enjoy the brief "tutorial"! Now, have you participate in the poll already?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm sorry for the delay!

We all know the holiday season is a very busy time of the year. Can you believe it already passed and we are in 2009? Sometimes, we feel we are so involved with all the parties, office parties, cooking, baking, wrapping gifts, decorating, opening gifts, entertaining, taking pictures and reading holiday cards, that days go by and the holiday entertainment and atmosphere do not seem to cease!

Then, we realize the difficult thruth: We forgot to THANK people for their caring gift they gave us and our family in the month of December. Well, you know you thanked them verbally, but you really wanted to send out a nice Thank You Note expressing your gratitude.

Now, you find yourself already in January! What should you do?

The best thing to do is to be creative!
  • Make a very small compilation of your favorite Holiday pictures on which your kids, your loved one, your pets or the beautiful natural scenery is displayed.
  • Use these pictures to create a fun Thank You card where you not only thank the person for their gift(s), but where you also wish them all the best for the new year!
  • You may use colorful paper to crate your cards or a fun computer software can help you as well. Even a simple word processing program can create nice cards!
  • You may want to add a small note on your card simply apologizing for the delay

There is a "social rule" that asks for Thank Yous to be given no later than 48h. You can call or send a card. I understand we sometimes have the best of intentions, but are unable to stay withing these 48h. While this short time span demonstrates a strong commitment from your part, don't feel bad if you are unable to stay within it.

Think about how you can learn from this experience as well. How did it make you feel when you wanted to send out the Thank You cards but didn't do so "in time? Then, how did it make you feel to end out personalized cards with holiday pictures and a handwritten note?

Think about using your weekly/daily goal strategy to your advantage before the holiday season comes again. Choose a day around those December days that you will dedicate to writing your cards. To increase your efficiency, you may even want to think about pre-addressing the envelopes sometime during a quiet day of the year, or choosing which card will go to what family/friend, and save time by doing so!

E is for Thank You Etiquette.

E is for Efficiency.