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Mind your manners: Why a Peoria etiquette expert says P's and Q's are about a lot more than using the right fork

Sherry Gordon-Harris
Sherry Gordon-Harris

You could call Sherry Gordon-Harris Peoria's manners maven.

The certified etiquette consultant runs the Royal Purpose School of Etiquette. She said minding your P's and Q's is about a lot more than just knowing what utensil to use at the dinner table.

At its most basic, good etiquette can help you avoid embarrassment. But Gordon-Harris says it can also have more serious ramifications.

"It could mean the difference between getting a job and not getting a job. You know, there's particular business etiquette for dressing, for showing up on time, for being polite, being professional," she said. "...[I]t's so important to make a good first impression. And that's important because you never get a second chance and never get a second opportunity to make a first impression."

There's different etiquette rules for all sorts of occasions, but it all comes down to what's considered appropriate for where you are.

"It basically is knowing the proper manners and the politeness in a certain setting and culture. Because in one culture, etiquette could be one thing, and it could be a different thing and possibly offensive in another culture," Gordon-Harris said.

Gordon-Harris writes regularly in the Traveler Weekly, a Peoria newspaper. In addition to business and dinner etiquette, she said some popular courses include tea parties, sitting and walking gracefully, managing personal hygiene, and increasing self-esteem. There's also some more niche areas, like wedding gift etiquette and how to eat soup gracefully.

If someone is displaying bad manners, Gordon-Harris says it's usually best to correct the inappropriate behavior privately later. But sometimes an immediate but polite redirection is warranted. One such example: declining when someone is attempting to pass you an appetizer bare-handed. She said tongs or another utensil are a more hygenic option, and even a napkin can work in a pinch.

As for Gordon-Harris's biggest etiquette no-no? It's blowing your nose at the table.

"If it's a must, if it's something that's going to be loud or involved, it's best to remove yourself from the table and go to either a restroom or somewhere far enough away from where people were eating," she said.

Gordon-Harris can be contacted at RoyalPurposeSOE@gmail.com or 309-585-6145.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.