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Table manners always in style

April 23, 2013 at 10:59 AM ET

Video: Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, helps sort through which etiquette rules are outdated and which still hold true in a digital age.

Today's modern world often takes place via e-mail or in some virtual meeting, but old-fashioned manners remain a necessity for face-to-face contact with people in the offline world.

In the first of a three-day look at “modern manners,” Anna Post, the great, great-granddaughter of etiquette doyenne Emily Post, walked TODAY anchors through basic table manners in three separate scenarios: The restaurant table during a date, the family dinner table and the conference table.

Date night

Perhaps the biggest question asked over the years continues to be over who should pay for dinner on a first date.

“These days it’s whoever does the asking does the paying, typically. Or that’s the time to negotiate who’s going to pay,” Post said Tuesday.

It’s okay to suggest splitting the check and “a lot of women make the reach,” she said. That may help ease guilt later if the date doesn’t work out well.

Post also encouraged men to adhere to traditional manners like holding out someone’s chair at the dinner table – but only if they are used to doing so already. The same goes for holding doors open or rising when a woman leaves the table.

“On a first date, if you pull this out and it's not authentic, it’s going to show,” she said. “If you’ve always done this for women, then I’d say yes, but I probably wouldn’t start doing something unnatural for you.”

Family dinner table

Post said the family dinner table provides great opportunities to practice manners parents want their children to exhibit.

“It’s also a chance to keep an eye on the manners that might be sneaking in from the playground that you don’t like so much,” she said.

Post said the old rule about keeping elbows off the table is a good one to abide by. However, it's fine to place your elbows on the table, with hands folded, when you're simply just talking with others.

“You don’t want to actually eat or drink with your elbows still on the table," she said. "Sit up to do that and no schlumping."

Board room

When you get to the conference room, try to avoid reaching across the table to shake someone's hand, Post said.

“If you can’t get around the table and the hand is already out there, shake it, but at least stand up to do it,” she said.

And for goodness sake, put away your phone.

“You want your attention fully to be with the people that you’re scheduled to be with, and if you’re always on your device, even if you think you’re multitasking, you really don’t look like it,” she said.

Watch TODAY on Wednesday for more of our Modern Manners series.


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