Which fork to take
To practice protocol, workshop participants were seated at tables and taught to decipher complex place settings during a multi-course meal—how to tell a fish fork from a salad fork, for example.
They also learned how to use finger bowls properly and were treated to the story of former President George Bush and the finger bowl: Upon seeing that an ignorant dinner guest was drinking the water from his finger bowl, Bush lifted his bowl and drank too, presumably to make the guest feel at ease.
“I have met many people,” said Tunnicliffe, “and I have to say that George Bush was the most poised. The person with the best manners is always the person whose manners you notice the least.”
If there was a single theme to the Tunnicliffes’ workshop, it was that fitting in is the key to corporate success. Work is theater, a section in the workshop guidebook says. “Wear the appropriate costume.”
“We judge a person and form a solid opinion within the first 60 seconds of meeting someone,” Tunnicliffe’s associate during the workshop, Jane Hight McMurry, said during her session on nonverbal communication skills. “Research has shown that 93 percent of our communication is nonverbal, or body language. Words account for only 7 percent of the impact of your message.”
Common sense, and more
McMurry runs a company similar to Tunnicliffe’s, in North Carolina. A former debutante, McMurry gave many suggestions that are sensible enough: groom well, make eye contact, smile, keep hands out of pockets, nod, and don’t crack your knuckles or
twirl your hair.
Other suggestions, however, are more surprising: get rid of scars and birthmarks with laser surgery, have plastic surgery to "correct" aging and, for women, dye gray hair and wear hair no longer than shoulder length.
"It's not fair, we know that," said McMurry. "Life is not fair. And I am not advocating plastic surgery or dyeing your hair. My mother-in-law has beautiful white hair, like Barbara Bush, who is a great example of a successful wife. We are just saying that the research very clearly shows that once a woman starts to look old, she is perceived as tired and less effective, no matter how good the work is that she is doing...And it is proven that women who make it to the top have hair at or above shoulder length."
"We are invited to corporate dining situations all the time," said Boch (above), with trainer Amy Mills Tunnicliffe.