Members of Greek-letter life got a lesson in etiquette Thursday night, learning things like how to properly hold a fork at the dinner table and how to sit in a chair at a job interview.
Professional etiquette speaker Nonnie Cameron Owens was invited to speak to members of Greek-letter life for the first event of Greek Week, a week-long competition or members of sororities and fraternities at GW.
“Etiquette is simply a set of rules,” Owens explained, adding that she has been giving lectures about etiquette for more than 10 years. “They are rules of civility.”
Owens – who was invited to GW by student and Sigma Phi Epsilon member Nick Polk after meeting at a national Greek organization conference – began by instructing the audience on the etiquette of dining, warning her pupils “not to stab the meat” with their knives and not to flip the fork when moving it to your mouth.
“This is how the Russians caught the spies,” she warned, as those listening motioned in the air the proper plate-to-mouth method.
As whispers and laughter could be heard at the beginning of the talk, Owens stood silently and waited for her audience to quiet down.
Owens went on to explain the nuances of interpersonal skills. She explained her theory of 12-12-12-12, referring the first 12 steps you take in a room, the first 12 words you say when meeting someone or in an interview, the top and bottom 12 inches of your body, and the first 12 inches of your arm.
“Get the dandruff off your shoulders and make sure there is nothing in your teeth,” Owens said. “Don’t walk in with your nose in the air though,” she cautioned, adding that being members of Greek-letter life can sometimes make guys act like “douche bags,” a line that was a big hit among the members of the audience.
She also talked about how to make a good first impression and the importance of always standing up to greet someone (with the only exception being “handicapped or too old”). The importance of a firm handshake was also discussed – a sentiment that was echoed by her audience by a seemingly unanimous show-of-hands vote that a weak handshake from a guy was a turnoff.
Owens also demonstrated how to conduct yourself at a social event, including how to hold your plate and the importance of maintaining eye contact.
“All the children at my church love me,” Owens said. “You know why? Because I look them in the eye when I talk to them.”
Students in the audience said they learned a lot from Owens’ lecture.
“I was impressed with the way she held her cup, plate, and napkin all in the same hand,” said Sara Tabatabaie, a sophomore in Alpha Phi, referring to her modeling of the necessity to keep the right hand free in case you need to greet someone with a handshake.
Other insights Owens passed on included not wearing perfume to class because “lots of people are allergic,” and not to swear because “profanity is a sign of insecurity.”