Napkin Etiquette Primer

Napkin folds on - the Lett Group

A variety of common napkin folds

The proper way to handle your napkin at the table goes beyond what an expert tells you is so.  It goes to Common Sense and Respect.  To simply follow the "rules" is silly if you don't understand the "why" of the rule.

When I sit down at the table, do I have to wait until the host puts their napkin on their lap before I do?

​The answer to when do you put your napkin on your lap depends upon the situation.  If you are at someone's home, you wait until the host or hostess puts their napkin on their lap or invites you to do the same.  This is a sign of respect.  The same goes for when you are invited to a meal in a restaurant by a host.  However, if  you are at a table at a meal without a designated host, you should put your napkin in your lap as soon as you sit down.

If you know that Grace will be said before the meal, the napkin waits on the table until Grace is finished and then it goes on your lap.​

Where do I put my napkin when I have to leave the table during a meal and will return?

There seems to be some controversy about whether you leave your napkin in your chair, lightly folded or put it on the left of your plate on the table.  Plus, there are those who think it doesn't matter where you put it.  But it does.  There is a silent service code that servers follow to make sure your meal goes the way it should.  The serving staff knows that if the napkins are off the table and in the laps of the diners that the meal has begun. Likewise, if the napkin is back on the table (to the left of the plate in typical dining circumstance and to the right for formal dining) then the diner has finished their meal and is not returning.  If the napkin is left on the chair, either on the arm or seat, the indication is that the diner will return and not to remove their plate.  Even if there is food left on the plate, the server will still assume the meal is over for that diner if their napkin is back on the table.  

But you say, the napkin will dirty the chair and why would you want to do that?  This is where you, the diner, have to actually look at your napkin before you leave it, and fold it lightly making sure the soiled part doesn't touch the chair seat.  If someone tells you that it is gross to use a napkin that has been where your bottom has been, the best response is to tell them that your clothes are on and your bottom is not actually exposed to the material of the napkin.

New Cell Phone Rules Reviewed by the FAA, The Lett Group - Business Etiquette & International Protocol ExpertsThe FAA has decided to review their rules about cell phones and other electronic devices being allowed to be turned on during take off, landing as well as during flights.
Do you believe that the flying public will be gracious about using them in a non-disturbing way? We would like to read your comments.

8 Ways To Get Along With Everyone in 2011

By Arnold Sanow – Associate

To get along and build rapport, relationships and connections with customers and co-workers here are 8 key ways to get everyone singing your praises!

* Accept Other Points of View

Be open to accepting other points of view. Our tendency in many situations is to immediately become defensive when someone does not agree with us or sees the world in the same perspective as us. Look at opposing points of view as an asset and not a liability. As Steven Covey states, “focus on understanding others first than trying to have others understand you”

*Focus on Issues, not Personalities

Many people unknowingly use trigger words that can disable a conversation and may ultimately destroy a relationship. Such words as, dumb, stupid, unprofessional and poor attitude criticize the person and not the content of their ideas or specific actions. Instead of saying, “Your idea is dumb” you might say, “your solution will
cost an extra $50,000 which we don’t have.

*Communicate Clearly

Clearly communicate your ideas so that others understand. Being able to get your ideas across in a clear and concise manner is one of the most important and sought after skills. Always ask questions such as, “Am I making any sense?” or “Do you understand what I am saying”? Also, make sure you paraphrase what you have said and if you see blank or confusing faces check for understanding.

* Don’t Create Nonverbal Drama

Your body language has many different connotations. For example, shaking one’s head, turning away from the group, shoulder shrugging, groaning, rolling eyes,yawning and sleeping can all send the wrong message. It’s not what you say, but how you show it and say it that counts.

* Thank People

One of the most overlooked words in the English language is “Thank you”. Make sure you always thank people for their efforts and contributions. It’s not just important to value people, but make sure they KNOW you value them.

* Admit Mistakes

The six most important words in the English language are, “I admit I made a Mistake”

* Share Yourself

Share your ideas, opinions and be open to sharing yourself. Sometimes this may  feel risky but in the long run people will feel closer and more comfortable with you.It also makes them feel more comfortable in divulging information about themselves.

· Be Interested vs. Interesting

Besides being the key to popularity, you also learn a lot about others and how to communicate with them.

Arnold Sanow is a Speaker, Seminar Leader, Facilitator and Coach. He is the author of “Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere” -

The Power of Etiquette

More business is lost by faux pas than you may realize. Learn the skills that will take you to the highest level of achievement.  We will be your coach.

Etiquette in business is much more than knowing which fork to use when dining or how to greet clients when at lunch. To be sure you don’t get embarrassed in business you really should consider learning the skills needed to present yourself as a professional and be taken seriously.

We have a wealth of information available to you here on our website.  Feel free to browse our articles; whether you are looking for Australian etiquette, first impressions, or table manners, we will keep you informed, knowledgeable, and up-to-date.

Meet Cynthia Lett

Cynthia Lett is currently the only etiquette & protocol expert holding both the Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) in the world.  These are designations earned by examination through the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals.  Since 1983, her expertise has been as a professional consultant in Business & Social Etiquette, Business & Social Entertaining, International Protocol and Executive Communications Skills and International Meeting Planning.

She has been a seminar speaker and coach around the world – teaching and advising on these subjects.  She offers private and corporate consultation and seminars on the power skills necessary to compete in the international business arena. Clients include major universities, Fortune 500 companies, international associations and savvy professionals from all levels of the corporate ladder. She taught the Masters level course, “Business Protocol” for the George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs for seven years.

Ms. Lett is the principal of The Lett Group ( and the founder and Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals ( . She is the host of It’s APROPOS!- an Internet talk show on the Success Channel at  Her blogs are and  Her new non-profit foundation, Etiquette in School Foundation has the mission of bringing etiquette training back to the classroom as part of the syllabus rather than as an after-school activity for Kindergarten through High School.  The will be active after the first of the year. Ms. Lett is a regular on-air contributor to Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, Retirement Living Channel and various radio talk shows nationwide. As a frequent contributor to trade and business publications she ranks as one of the most widely quoted etiquette and protocol experts in the United States of America.

Since 1983 and still- Ms. Lett is PRESIDENT & OWNER of Creative Planning International ( – a consulting firm specializing in producing meetings and events for corporations and associations internationally.  In this capacity Ms. Lett has planned over 2,400 meetings of 5-4,000 participants for corporations and associations in 102 countries. In 1987 she produced a training program for other meeting planners in how to plan international meetings.  She has been featured and quoted in publications such as The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek (US and Japan issues), The Age Education Magazine,,  Prime Life, FSB: Corporate Gift-Giving 101,  Meetings & Conventions,  The Business Journal,  SGMP NATCAP,  Pioneer Living (A made for PBS special), Phone + Magazine,  and not to forget Entrepreneur Magazine,  The Harvard Business Review,  Ohio Business Review,  Training and Development Journal,  CIO Magazine and others.  During 1990, Ms. Lett was lauded by the Wall Street Journal after she planned and executed a groundbreaking series of Business Exchange meetings in the Soviet Union for entrepreneurs from the United States who wished to learn about joint ventures with the Soviets in many different fields.  Some of Creative Planning International’s clients have included Wall Street Journal, A. T. & T., MCI Telecommunications Corporation, Eli Lilly and Company, U.S.Department of State, McKinsey and Company, McDonalds International, Duracell International, Security Pacific among others.

For two years, Ms. Lett served as Director of Meeting Services for American Healthcare Institute responsible for over 1800 meetings each year. Thereafter, she worked for three years as Chief of Protocol and Manager, Corporate Events and Meetings at MCI Communications Corporation.  For the past twenty three years, she has been a frequent speaker at various association conventions and local association meetings on the subjects of International Protocol and Business Etiquette.

Her first book was a collaboration with Brian Tracy (marketing guru) and Stephen A. Covey (business acumen guru) called Mission Possible. Her next books titled “Lett’s Talk! – Etiquette Dilemmas and How to Resolve Them” and   “That’s So Annoying! – Everyone’s Pet Peeves about Everyone Else” will be out this coming Spring.

Ms. Lett holds a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) (Hospitality Law) degree from Antioch School of Law, Washington, D.C. and Bachelor degrees in Restaurant, Hotel, & Institutional Management (B.S) and Public Relations (B.A.) from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. She has also earned a certificate in Adult Learning Techniques from The George Washington University.

Professionally, Ms. Lett is an active member of the American Society for Training and Development; National Speakers Association; National Speakers Association- Washington, DC Chapter; Women Business Owners;; and past member of the Professional Convention Management Association; American Society of Association Executives; Foundation for International Meetings (Board of Governors 1986-1987). She was elected into Who’s Who of American Women; Who’s Who of Advertising Executives; 2000 Notable American Women; Who’s Who of the World’s Women; Who’s Who of U.S. Executives and Who’s Who of the World.

In September, 2007, Ms. Lett was honored by her alma-mater, Purdue University, Department of Hotel & Tourism Management by being chosen as a Distinguished Darden Professor.

Watch for our new projects:

On-line webinars covering various aspects of business acumen and business etiquette. Included will be Disability Etiquette, Procrastination, Networking Experts and The Etiquette of Religion®