Drawing attention for the right reasons
control them,” he explains. “Look them in the eye! Don’t look down at their shoes, over their shoulder, or at the door to see who else is arriving.” He points out the palm should face inwards, to the left and not be facing down. Also, two firm pumps will do. “In parts of Asia and in the Middle East, the handshake will go on for much longer. InWestern society we only make brief contact,” he says. And never shake hands across a barrier – like a desk: “It shows a certain laziness and lack of consideration.
“A person is judged within the first seven seconds of meeting, and a handshake may be all that you have to go by. You have to express your confidence through it.” Introductions themselves are also important. “Men should always be introduced to women, but juniors to seniors, regardless of gender,” he says. So, how do you respond when introduced to somebody? “You say ‘How do you do?’,” says William. “Don’t say ‘Pleased to meet you’, because you don’t know if you are going to be pleased to meet him! And give your full name, not just first name.”
He insists everybody should carry their business cards in a holder (“Nobody wants to be given a tatty business card”), and shows us the right way to present a card – the letters facing the taker, proffered in your right hand – “though in the East it is done with both palms.”
Introductions sorted, William moves on to his pet peeve: mobile phone manners. “You may think showing off your four mobile phones makes you look important, but for slightly more evolved human beings it is actually incredibly rude… When you are having a conversation, the mobile phone should be out of sight. Just put it away. Switch it off during meetings. Don’t text while talking to someone else. Certainly don’t answer the phone while dining with others.
“If for some urgent reason you have to keep it on, inform your host or partners about it before the meeting or party begins and excuse yourself when you receive your important call.”
Having covered the basics, William decided we were ready for more intense social education – throwing a dinner party, setting a table and everything that goes with it. Out came his set of dinner plates and glasses. Forks were an education in themselves – separate ones for dinner, lunch, dessert and fish.
This was just one part of a minefield of manners William would touch on. Eventually, seeing most of us overwhelmed, he reminded us why we were all there. “Rules of etiquette exist, after all, so that we can show respect and courtesy to our fellow human beings,” he said. “And really, in this day and age, when one wonders if manners are taught in the home at all, having lovely manners sets one apart from the crowd in a most positive way – particularly when mannerly conduct comes naturally, rather than forced.”
So, how do manners come naturally? “Though constant practice, of course!”