Courtly Manners in the Holiday Season
To stay off everyone's naughty list this holiday season, mind your manners—and take this true/false etiquette quiz.
Juggling the many holiday events against the year-end work piled on a typical attorney’s plate could qualify as an extreme sport. To stay off everyone’s naughty list this season, take this true/false quiz and follow up with the answer key, packed with helpful hints.
NOTE: Each correct answer is worth one point. A score of four or lower could augur a lump of coal in your stocking; get five or six right and you’ll squeak by; seven or eight and your holidays will be merry. In any event, the gentle theme of grace permeates the holidays. So if you stumble, just apologize; forgiveness is in the air!
Scenario A: You are invited to a semiformal dinner party to usher in the season. True or false:
1. It’s most polite to respond to the invitation the day you receive it.
2. The route you chose to the party is much quicker than you anticipated, but it’s fine to show up 15 or 20 minutes early.
3. The gift of wine you bring would pair well with the main course, so your host should pour it before the offering he or she planned.
4. Your preference is for well-salted food, so you grind some over your plate before tasting what’s on it.
5. All the guests are in the hallway saying their good-byes. If you offer to help clean up and the host declines, you should leave.
Scenario B: Now, you’re heading to lunch with business associates. True or false:
6. Arriving before your host, you should give the host’s name, take a seat at the table, and just wait to order.
7. Lunch is dragging on, so you can discreetly check your messages under the table while others are talking.
8. As a gesture of thanks after the meal, an email is as good as a card.
Answers and Hints:
1. True. Acknowledge receipt of the invitation the moment it arrives, even if only to promise you will circle back later.
2. False. This is the shortest path to a spot on the do-not invite list. Arrive within 15 minutes, but never early.
3. False. A gracious guest accepts what is served.
4. False. You’ve just insulted the cook. Taste first, then season.
5. True. If you had offered as the party was winding down, the host might have accepted. By now, the host is ready for everyone to leave.
6. False. If someone with more pull comes along later, having to switch seats would be acutely embarrassing. Even if you are the guest of honor, always ask where the host prefers you to sit.
7. False. Everyone knows what you’re up to, and it signals your luncheon companions that your phone is more important than they are. This offense alone has driven many a client relationship into the ditch.
8. False. An actual card will score you many more points because it reflects more effort and (literally) has a longer shelf life.
Ed. note: This article appeared in an earlier print version of California Lawyer.
Crystal Rockwood, president of Rockwood Communications Counsel in Seal Beach, provides crisis communications, marketing content, and business etiquette services to law firms.