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          Front Page

Best Foot Forward

By Rivkela Brodsky
Journal Staff Writer
          Did you know there is a specific way to hand someone your business card?
        How about which side of your chest you should place your name tag?
        And that dinner roll — were you aware there are rules about how to eat that?
        If not, you're hardly alone.
        About 30 CNM employees and students took the opportunity to learn about those rules and others at a business etiquette luncheon earlier this month. It was taught by Thelma Domenici, etiquette columnist for the Journal and CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates.
        The event, held at Central New Mexico Community College's Smith Brasher Hall, was designed, in part, to help participants improve their skills so that they appear professional and socially aware at business events.
        Erica Volkers, director of education programs at CNM and president of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges chapter at UNM, said the group organized the lunch to help students learn skills that would help them become leaders and give them edge when competing for job opportunities.
        "This is about access," Volkers told the Journal.
        Domenici divided her time between talking about behavior skill tips from a podium and walking the room to provide guidance where she saw fit, while diners ate a six-course meal prepared by CNM culinary students. CNM students also served attendees.
        Domenici addressed handshakes and name tags right away. Two people's palms should touch and thumbs should be side-by-side when shaking hands and eye contact should be made, she said. Name tags should go on the left because you shake hands with your right hand, and tags are less visible when shaking hands if placed on the right side.
        Then she collected six business cards from diners, taking note of how they were handed to her. Half did so correctly.
        "Give it to them so they can read it," Domenici said. "It's a piece of courtesy you don't want to ignore."
        As for that dinner roll, those who ripped off the top of the cube of bread and buttered both halves learned that wasn't quite right.
        "Break the roll in pieces," she said. "Butter only what you are going to eat when you eat it."
        The same concept applies when eating meat. It should be cut as you go, Domenici said.
        Domenici advised eaters to take cues from their place setting. The number of forks, knives and spoons will tip you off as to how much you will be eating. Silverware at the top of the place setting is for dessert. Beverages should be placed to the right and solid food, like salad, on the left.
        She said to work your way in with silverware. For example, the outside fork or spoon gets used with the first course. When a utensil is not in use, place it on the plate off which you are eating. If you need to keep your knife for another course, place it on the charger underneath the plate, she advised. (The charger is the large decorative plate sometimes found underneath your dinner plate.)
        "Never put anything on the table that has been used," she said. "Put it on the charger." That includes used sugar packets, a spoon used to stir iced tea and even decorative drink umbrellas.
        In a case where there is no charger, put items on your plate.
        Domenici also told diners that cell phones, sunglasses and purses have no place on the dining table.
        Beyond some of the basic rules, Domenici emphasized respect and grace in everything you do.
        As an example, she went to an end table and shared with attendees that when meeting student Marcos De Assis before the event, De Assis had told her, "I don't want to offend you, but you have lipstick on your teeth."
        She said she rubbed her teeth once and showed him again. He suggested she go to the bathroom and look in the mirror.
        "He has grown up respecting people," she said.
        But even De Assis said he learned some things at the event.
        "Formal dining like this I thought I knew, but I didn't know it all," he said. "Like buttering your roll. I'm the kind of person that cuts it in half and eats it."
        A culinary student, De Assis said the event was helpful in learning to market himself.
        "Anything I can get to make me more professional and (learn) more etiquette, all that comes into play in the future," he said.
        When learning behavior skills, remember
        • You have only one time to make a first impression.
        • Behavioral skills should become a vital part of who you are.
        • You act as you think.
        — Source: Thelma Domenici, etiquette columnist for the Albuquerque Journal and CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates
        Other etiquette tips:
        • Never lean silverware on your plate. Place it on the plate off of which you are eating.
        • Never place on the table anything you have used, including your napkin. If you need to leave the table, place your napkin on your seat. Place the napkin on your table when you are finished eating.
        • Place the blade of your knife facing toward you.
        • Pass items to your right, and always pass the salt and pepper together.
        • Do not cross your arms when talking to people, unless it's a confrontation.
        • In a restaurant, don't let staff clear the table until everyone at the table is finished with their meals.
        • Purses should be placed behind a woman's back at the table and out of the way of waitstaff (not on the floor).
        • Cell phones should not be placed on the table or answered during a meal. Excuse yourself if you need to take a call, but leave the room to do so.

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