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Let's Start With The Soup
Many a business meal starts with a soup course. Unless you have already begun by munching on the bread, this is your first opportunity to demonstrate your table manners-to impress or un-impress-your dining companions.
Choosing the right spoon is step number one. If the table has been preset, your soup spoon will be the large round or oval one to the far right of your place setting. If the table has not been fully set, the server will bring your spoon with the soup. I recently found myself on a hunt for my soup spoon after the waiter had brought the bowl. There was no soup spoon to the right of the place setting and it didn't seem to be anywhere else close by. Just before confessing that I was without a spoon, I spotted a handle sticking out from under the oversized soup bowl. So check the plate first before you give up.
With soup spoon in hand, spoon the soup away from you towards the opposite side of the bowl. If a bit of the liquid should fall from the spoon this will ensure that it will drop into the bowl and not on the front of your nice business attire. Sip your soup quietly from the side of the spoon. Slurping is never acceptable.
No matter how hot the soup, at no point should you blow on it to cool it off. You may lift a spoonful slightly level with the bowl and hold it for a few seconds while it cools off. Be patient and grateful that your soup is hot. If the soup is not heated to your liking, don't make a fuss during your meal. If you send it back to be reheated, everyone else will feel obliged to wait on you. Then they will end up with the cold soup instead of you.
If you want the last drop of soup, you may tip the bowl away from you to spoon this last bit. Just try to avoid looking as if you are not sure where your next meal is coming from.
If oyster crackers come with your soup, as they do with chowder, you can put them in your bowl. However, larger crackers are to be eaten with your fingers and never crumbled into the soup. That's only okay when eating in private.
Between mouthfuls, rest the spoon in the bowl. When you have finished, place it on the under plate on the right hand side. That is a signal to the server that you have finished.
If you'd like to have a piece of bread with your soup, put your spoon on the under plate and use the same hand that held your spoon for the bread. Never go at your meal two-fisted.
Every detail of the business meal, including how you eat your soup, contributes to your overall professional image.
(c) 2006, Lydia Ramsey. All rights reserved. Reprint rights granted so long as article and by-line are published intact and with all links made live.
About the Author: Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of MANNERS THAT SELL - ADDING THE POLISH THAT BUILDS PROFITS. She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors' Business Daily, and Entrepreneur, Inc. Her programs, products and services are available at http://www.mannersthatsell.com