How Do I Address a Former President?


President_Barack-Obama

Photo by Pete Souza

In the United States, when one leaves an office where they have had a title, such as President of the United States, it often becomes a protocol dilemma on how to refer to them afterwards. Should you still address him (or her) as Mr. President?

The rules of protocol say no.

The rule is that only one living person may hold the title of President at any one time.

While a sitting president should be addressed as Mr. President during their tenure in office, once they leave office, they should correctly be referred to by the title they held previously. For example, President George Washington was referred to as “General Washington” once he retired. President James Monroe was referred to as “Colonel Monroe.”

A deceased President, however, may be referred to using the title “President” before their name, as in “President Washington lived at Mount Vernon.”

This said, many former (and living) Presidents today are addressed as merely that: “Former President,” followed by their name. If, however you are formally addressing them, as in a written correspondence, it is never incorrect to use “Mr.” before their name.

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Befuddled by the Flatware at a Formal Dinner?


formal-place-setting-silverwareMiss Meredith Sweetpea loves to attend a formal dinner. All the courses, with their delightful tastes, are just a pleasure to enjoy.

Attending a formal dinner, however, can befuddle some who are not familiar with the array of flatware (a.k.a. silverware) that is set upon the table. Often you’ll see a variety of forks, knives and spoons set beside and above the plate setting, along with a number of drinking glasses.

According to Miss Manners Judith Martin, when it comes to silverware,”Ten would be the maximum number of complements that could be on the table at the same time: a seafood (or cocktail) fork (nestling in the soup spoon); the soup spoon; sets of forks and knives for three courses (usually fish, meat, and salad and/or cheese; if more are needed for additional courses, they should be brought in separately); and a dessert spoon and fork above the plate.”

“A teaspoon has no place at a formal table because tea and coffee are not served during the meal; after-dinner coffee, formally served in a drawing room in a demi-tasse cup, requires the small spoon. If people do wish to drink coffee at the table, for example, the appropriate spoon should be put on the saucer.”

Which Utensil Do I Use for Which Course?

As a rule, silverware should be used from the outside in. In other words, the pieces farthest away from the plate on either side of it should be used first. After each course in a formal dinner, the used silverware should be placed upon the plate to be taken away, leaving the next set of flatware available on the outside of the serving plate. Soup spoons are often served on the plate with the soup, a butter knife usually rests on your bread plate to the left of your forks, and dessert utensils are generally placed above the plate and should remain there until the dessert arrives.

Follow the Host

If you are still befuddled by the array of flatware, the simple rule is to watch the host and do what he or she does.

–excerpted from “Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium,” by Judith Martin.

 

 

How to Signal to the Waitstaff That You are Done Eating


proper-fork-and-knife-signal-for-end-of-meal

Fork and knife placement signaling the end of the meal – American style.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea had the rare pleasure of dining out this past weekend with a dear friend. We went to a local Italian restaurant, of the mid-range variety, nothing fancy.

This friend had plenty to talk about, and we were settling into a wonderful conversation as the courses began to arrive, but began to become annoyed by the constant interruption of the server. It seemed whenever we paused and put down our forks, and even while we were eating,  someone came over to grab the plate away–even though we obviously were not finished.

At first, the servers reached down to grab the plates and began to remove them without asking. We had to grab our plates back as they swooped past. After a few times of this, they at least began to ask if we were done yet. In addition, at two times, the managers stopped by our table to see how things were going. They too, grabbed at our plates.

At first, we laughed about the constant interruptions. Then they began to irritate us. What then should have been an enjoyable time out together, was spoiled. We took the rest of our meals to go. Continue reading

Socially Speaking about Politics


talking-politicsHere in America you can’t get away from talk about politics. It’s everywhere: on the media, in the workplace, and around the dinner table. 2016 is a highly-charged election year.

All this talk about politics, however, leads Miss Meredith Sweetpea to consider the social rule that politics is one of those subjects not to be discussed in polite social conversation. So how do we talk about it…if we must? Here are several rules to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the conversation light. Don’t get into heavy discussions about whose opinion is right or wrong, or let the conversation escalate into a confrontation.
  2. Respect other people’s opinions. People look at issues through their own backgrounds, experiences and filters, which are always different than your own. Listen respectfully to their opinions and ask why they feel the way they do. It is always enlightening to hear how differently others view the same situations.
  3. Don’t accuse anyone. Just because you are adamant about your own viewpoint doesn’t mean that other people’s views are wrong. Don’t tell them they should feel or think (or vote) the way you do. They are allowed their own choices.
  4. Change the subject. If you are engaging in a lovely dinner party and talk of politics arises, politely change the subject to something more pleasant, like the taste of the butternut squash soup.

In years like this, you simply cannot avoid talking about politics. What you can do is control how and when you do.

 

 

To Button or Not to Button a Men’s Jacket


Poised-for-Success-Jacqueline-Whitmore-book-imageMiss Meredith Sweetpea was at a fancy dinner and noticed a disparity amongst the men at her table. Some men buttoned their jacket when they stood, and some did not.

To answer the question, “which is correct,” I referred to leading etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore’s book, Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities that Distinguish Outstanding Professionals. In it, she writes:

“In my Dress for Success seminars, men often ask if they should button up their jackets whenever they stand up, and the answer is “yes.” The jacket should button comfortably without pulling in front (which, unfortunately, can make a stout man appear as if he’s wearing a sausage casing), but when the jacket is a good fit, the look adds polish and panache. Regardless of whether you’re wearing a two- or three-button suit, remember to leave the bottom button unbuttoned.”

Thank you, Jacqueline, for your buttoned-up advice!

Eating Through the Interview | Meredith Sweetpea | Business Etiquette


interview-lunchGood heavens! Miss Meredith Sweetpea has had the unfortunate circumstance of noticing a number of job interviews taking place over lunch. Unfortunate in that she witnessed the most boorish of behaviors!

A job interview held over lunch is not the time to be casual. Your dining habits and your professional skills are being analyzed to see if you are a good fit AND a good representative of the organization. Manners do count.

In one circumstance, Miss Meredith witnessed a gentleman tipping his chair back onto its back legs, picking his teeth with his fingers, and eating with his elbows on the table. After finishing, he stacked his dishes and shoved them to the side.

In another, she saw a gentleman stuffing an entire piece of food into his mouth, when it clearly should have been cut into smaller pieces. Not only did he stuff it with his fork, he then used his fingers to shove the entire piece inside his already-overstuffed maw when it became clear that the fork would not do the trick. And then he tried to talk! My word, what a sight!

In both circumstances, I wonder if the candidate got the job.

Here are some quick rules to eating during a job interview:

How to Ace a Job Interview Lunch

1. Follow what the leader is doing.

If you don’t know what to do, follow what the leader is doing. See what silverware he uses for each course and follow suit, and order what she’s ordering, or something similar. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu or you’ll be though of as taking a free ride. The exception is if you witness the leader demonstrating bad manners. Do not copy those, but rather, Continue reading

Work Hard and Play Nice | Business Etiquette


Man drinking from coffeepotWe all want to have respect in the business world, whether it’s from our bosses, our clients or our co-workers.  Without respect, work can be a mightily miserable place.

So here are a few guidelines for basic office etiquette that will make everybody’s day a little bit brighter.

  • Respect the privacy and boundaries of your co-workers. Do not read their email or office memos.
  • Make new employees feel welcome and comfortable.
  • Do not give Continue reading
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