Shelley Davis was content with her life. She had a full-time job as a bank teller, with benefits and time off to spend with her young child. Then her supervisor said something that changed her life. “She said, ‘Shelley, you need to start looking and acting for the life that you want, not the life that you have,’” Davis said. Davis, an Image Expert, recently brought that philosophy to the VFW National Home for Children as part of our Life Skills program. Life Skills are offered to both young people and adults. Other programs have included financial planning, parenting skills, volunteering at the VA Medical Center in Battle Creek, and other subjects. For this Life Skills program, the National Home young people and their parents learned all about “Dining with Distinction” – and the first lesson was rather surprising. “It’s never about the food,” she said. Instead, business dining is about connecting with people. It’s about civility and manners. It’s about putting your best self forward. Davis opened with an overview of dining etiquette in groups. Much of her advice was common sense and kindness. You introduce yourself to everyone at the table before being seated. You introduce people who don’t know each other as soon as possible. There are certain table manners to follow, such as seating yourself from your right-hand side and placing your napkin on your lap when seated. And there were some definite don’ts, including no grooming at the table. “Brushing your hair…that’s the most gross thing,” Davis said. Also forbidden is applying lipstick, using a toothpick, and similar actions. Next, Davis got to the meat of things – table conversation. She said good topics include the weather, travel, sports, movies, music, and pets. The old adage is true – politics and religion are too personal to talk at the business table. Money, gossip, and negative talk are also forbidden in this setting. Then she went over table manners. “Young people, I want to hear from you,” Davis said. So some of the young people gave their own tips for good manners. “Don’t interrupt when people are talking,” one person said. “Always ask the person next to you for something,” another young person said. Davis then said one staple of modern life is definitely a don’t at the table – the cell phone. As she wrapped up, Davis stressed that in the end, etiquette was about kindness and courtesy, and how you treat others. And those are ideas that will take our young people far.
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