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September 2011

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Ask Our Coaches: 
Mind Your Manners:
Great catch but no social grace

"Do you have any suggestions on how to let her know there is an issue without me having to have 'the conversation'?"

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

I'm in an uncomfortable situation and hope there is another way to do this other than personally confronting my date. I met this woman a couple weeks ago at a party and things were great until I asked her out to dinner. That's when I experienced the shock of my life.

She has absolutely horrible table manners. She talks with food in her mouth. She's quite animated with her fork and knife to the point I feel like I'm living a nightmare with Edward Scissorhands.

I'm certainly not Mr. Etiquette, but my mom and dad did educate me on the finer points of proper table manners. I'm not planning any outings any time soon so that I don't need to crawl under the table in embarrassment (we've been having meals at her home or mine).

This is just not something I'm comfortable "confronting" her with -- it's just too personal. She's really great and I would love to get to know her better but the table manners thing is repulsive. Do you have any suggestions on how to let her know there is an issue without me having to have "the conversation"?


Ann responds …

Your ability to have what I call a "courageous conversation" begins with having the confidence to communicate what is on your mind with a potential solution. Try utilizing the Communication Map, available to you through any RCI relationship coach.

Next, the conversation itself. Try a simple 3-step approach:

1. Select a private place, not in a restaurant or other public spot. She needs to be able to react without fear of who's watching or listening.

2. Tell your partner all the things you appreciate about her. Prepare a mental list and begin with the positive. Then, let her know there is one thing that is getting in the way of spending more time together.

3. Now the hard part. Tell her you're proud of her, and want to be proud of her in every way. Acknowledge that you're not perfect either.

Next, offer a solution. "Honey, I'd like us to take an adult etiquette class together, including sessions on table manners." Tell her why. Explain that you're not trying to hurt her feelings. You just don't want to have things (like knives and forks) in the way of your future relationship.

Ann Robbins | | 1.954.561.4498

Nina responds …

How important to you is open and honest communication between you and your ideal mate? Now is the ideal time to discuss this topic. If it is a requirement for you AND for her, then an open and honest talk about table manners is a perfect test to see if you are both really willing and able to fulfill that requirement.

If one of you has the requirement for open honesty and the other doesn't, then you won't need to bring up manners because you are not a good match for each other and you should move on. If you both require open honesty, then start with telling her you want to see her more and why, and (not "but") that you have a concern.

Make the issue about you so you aren't making her wrong in her behavior. Follow up with a respectful request to watch a video about good table manners together. I found many when searching online under "Table Manners Videos."

Now you both know something really important about each other plus you have the opportunity to grow together. To learn more about approaching sensitive issues, read Marshall Rosenberg's book,"Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life." Happy Dining.

Nina Potter | | 1.888.978.9118

Denise responds …

Eric, there is no bypass around honesty, only one direct route through it. In order to help any friend or lover become aware of their own behavior, we must always have "an uncomfortable conversation." If you feel there is a future here then you want to be straight with this woman.

Sometimes we are brought into peoples' lives to teach them something they may have missed during formative years. Perhaps its ignorance, lack of training, or it was not a priority in her family of origin. Whatever the reason may be for her lack of social graces a good friend must be gentle, loving, yet honest.

Creating a safe space is essential to openness. Remember if she is not aware there is any problem with her manners, then you must be prepared to receive the anger, tears, and insults that may come at you. But like any uncomfortable conversation and the reaction that follows, there is a more than likely chance it will lead to a better relationship.

Sandwich any comments about her manners between two positive traits you love about her. Let her know you have a need for proper table etiquette. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements.

Denise Wade Ph.D. | | 1.215.913.7997

Lisa responds …

Confronting a date who you like about table manners is tricky because you need to inform in a way that doesn't compromise your developing rapport. Since you've expressed concern about having this woman "as is" out in public, and you've described her behavior as repulsive, it's best to address her manners sooner than later.

Have you tried humor when she starts waving her utensils? If she gets quiet and looks wounded, then she may not even be aware of her habits. If she gets defensive, then you may have hit a sensitive nerve. Maybe this is something she's trying to correct and is upset she hasn't quite mastered the skill.

If she gets argumentative, then she might not have the degree of social decorum that works for you. But if she laughs with you and explains her exuberance sometimes gets in the way of manners, then you have a more comfortable segue toward discussion. So "laugh it off" in a sense, and watch for a reaction that can give you lots of important information.

Lisa Manyoky | | 1.609.890.6645

Carol responds …

This sounds like "Beauty and the Beastly Behavior." What's a gentleman to do? Table manners are a sign of breeding, education or experience. They are a tell-tale sign of where someone has been or not been, how adept one is at picking up on social cues, and how self aware they are.

Since you have been "hiding out" in each other's kitchens, you have no idea if the beastly behavior will get up from the table and move into other areas of life. Starting out a new relationship with the intent to change the other person usually ends up in frustration.

I get the impression you are holding her with a "less than" attitude. "Repulsive" is pretty strong derogatory language. Since you are not accepting her as she is, why are you continuing to see her? Is this fair to her or you? You must have the conversation.

Perhaps, you could rent "My Fair Lady" and expand upon it. For you, I would like to suggest an exercise: Write down 10 relationships from the past, the initial attraction, 3 positive aspects of the relationships and 3 negative and why the relationships ended. Look for a thread between them. Svengali pattern?

Carol McCarthy | | 1.781.257.5150

Doris responds ...

When we avoid addressing our true concerns with a date or mate, we cheat ourselves and the other person. First, we lose the opportunity to discover how the other person handles constructive feedback. This means we're blocking access to essential information.

To consciously choose our ideal partner, we need genuine connections where both individuals are open and vulnerable. When we cover up our concerns, we also cheat ourselves out of precious growth experiences.

It takes so much energy to hide our true feelings and opinions that we're never fully present. We miss clues from the other person and our intuition. Also, the issue we're dodging repeats until we learn to tactfully and assertively express ourselves.

When we avoid addressing an issue, we also forfeit an opportunity to learn how to be comfortable during difficult conversations. You'll elevate your comfort and confidence with practice, so ask yourself two questions: "If not now, when?" and "Wouldn't I want to know if she was avoiding giving me feedback about the one thing she doesn't like about my behavior?"

A relationship coach can help you develop courage and confidence. You'll thrive when you're authentic. You'll discover if this relationship is really what you want.

Doris Helge, Ph.D. | | 1.360.748.4365

Tara responds …

Commenting on things of a personal nature can unearth uncomfortable feelings on both sides. If you can navigate this with care and understanding, it may work out well for both of you.

The next time you're dining, gently affirm you care about her and that you feel awkward mentioning what you're going to say. Then proceed to tell her what you notice and that it's making you uncomfortable.

If she reacts in a positive manner, you know you can proceed with gently helping her in a new direction. If not, you'll need to accept things as they are or move on. Being direct, yet gentle, and addressing the issue immediately is the best approach.

We all have unconscious habits; she may not realize her actions. This habit may take some effort to undo, but a well-intentioned comment will bring about awareness. This will not be easy to do; however, until you do it, you'll be challenged to move forward, as eating is a significant life activity.

Going forward, make sure you're modeling impeccable dining habits as she may be watching you for cues on what to do.

Tara Kachaturoff |

Feature Article:
First Date Tips: Helpful Hints for Making it a Success

by Tara Kachaturoff

Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over.
-- Unknown

Date, meeting, interview, meetup? We can use a variety of terms to describe the first time we meet someone. I don't like to call a "first date" a first date. It's really more like a meeting.

You don't know this other person at all. You have no connection with them except that you're both interested in meeting someone to date. Even if you've exchanged emails and a few phone calls beforehand, you don't have enough information to determine if he or she is someone who would be a good fit for you. Exchanging human energy in a face-to-face meeting is vastly different from that which occurs through other means as anyone who has engaged in online dating can attest to.

Your first "meeting" is not much different from meeting a new business colleague. No one is making any commitments; you're not planning to engage in any intense discussions or negotiations. You're just having a meeting. Here are some tips to help keep focused on your purpose and your senses and emotions in check:

Keep the meeting short. Meet for 30 to 60 minutes -- that's it. This isn't the place to do a complete reveal of your life history – there definitely won't be enough time for that. Keep things short and sweet. Leave him or her wanting to find out more on a future date should there be one.

Look at this as a time to gain an "overview" of the new person. Trust me, you'll know if a few minutes if you want to see this person again -- or not. Make it clear, ahead of time, how much time you have for the meeting. Stick to your plan. You can always schedule another meeting if the opportunity if necessary.

Keep things "light." First meetings are not the time or place for airing deep issues. Have fun, share some interests, and try to gauge whether there's any chemistry.

Avoid food or alcohol. Keep your senses about you. If you can't focus on the other person exclusively, without distractions like a meal or alcohol, then there probably isn't a good fit. You need to be comfortable having conversations without all the props. People need to like you because of who you are, without all the accessories. Instead, have some bottled water or a cup of coffee or tea.

Meet in the morning or afternoon. This keeps things light and easy. Reserve the evening for more serious dates once you get to know each other better.

Don't over dress. Dress in your regular everyday attire and downplay any accessories. Be yourself. Eventually, if things go well, he or she will see you in your finest attire. Just be natural and see if someone finds you attractive just the way you are.

Ask questions and listen to the answers. Rather than talking a lot about yourself, use this meeting to ask questions which help you determine if this person fits with your pre-defined relationship requirements.

Relationship requirements are your non-negotiable "must-haves" for you to be in a relationship in the first place. Remember, if he or she doesn't fit with even one of your requirements, then this person is not the right person for you.

Be safe. Always tell one or two friends who, where and when you'll be meeting this potential "date." To be on the safe side, give them as much information as you can about the person you'll be meeting including name, description, telephone numbers and other information.

Always meet in a safe public place that you're familiar with and where you can easily enter and exit. Never meet at someone's home or in an area where you don't feel safe. Always, trust your instincts. If something doesn't seem right or feels off, do not proceed further, and if necessary, don't show up at all.

If you want to really enjoy meeting new people, keep it simple, light and authentic. If they don't like the normal "regular you," they're not going to like you any better later on.

Also, pay attention to those first impressions – they speak volumes. In fact, we actually form our impressions of someone we meet in less than 5 seconds. People are typically on their best behavior the first few times you meet them. Most often, things don't improve significantly or change dramatically from the initial time you meet.

You don't need dozens of dates to determine if someone is worth getting to know better. Common sense, past experience, your intuition or gut check will serve you well. Knowing your relationship requirements, needs and wants – in advance – will help you sort through potential dating opportunities much more quickly.

Have fun and meet as many people as you're comfortable meeting and keep things safe.

Questions for Further Exploration

• What have you done while at other first meetings (first dates) that you never plan to do again? Too much talking? Revealing too many personal details? Be specific.
• Whats your plan for your next "first meeting"?
• What places are you most comfortable meeting at?
• When it comes to meeting new people, what time of day works best for you?
• What types of things would you hope to chat about at your next first meeting to keep things light and easy?

Copyright © 2011 by Tara Kachaturoff. All rights reserved in all media. Excerpted from Dating Success Secrets.

Tara Kachaturoff is a Master Certified Coach for Singles. Since 2003, she has coached hundreds of single men and women to create better dating relationships through her onsite and teleseminar courses. Tara is also the newsletter editor for the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI). Her personal site is

Bonus Article:
Adopt an A Great Attitude About Dating -- It Makes You Attractive!

by Tara Kachaturoff

If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.
-- Unknown

Someone once said that your attitude determines your altitude. That is, your attitude, your view of the world, determines the level or height of your success. This statement applies to anything we undertake in life -- including dating!

Dating is one of those areas in life which has its own ups and downs. How we approach dating, through our attitude, will greatly influence the results we achieve.

Conscious singles don't believe in the myth that there's only "one" right person for them. That's scarcity thinking. Instead, adopt a mindset of abundance. You can create a happy and fulfilled relationship with many different people. It's up to you to find the person who is right for you. If your relationship ends, you will find another great person to date.

Your attitude is an interesting part of who you are. It's influenced by your general disposition towards life and people. It's affected by your life experiences, but it's also the one part of you of which you are the master. You and you alone control your attitude –- the way you choose to view life. You can change it any time you wish.

You are empowered as the author of your life script. The future you will experience is largely due to the nature of thoughts you decide to allow into your mind -- the building blocks of what becomes your attitude. You can choose happy, peaceful, and positive thoughts or you can choose the alternative. It's up to you.

So how can you influence your thoughts around dating? What can you do to make sure you're thinking positive, upbeat thoughts? That's easy. Use a filter. Filters are tools that strain out or don't allow certain things to pass through.

Coffee filters don't allow the coffee grounds to end up in your cup of java. Air filters shield your carburetor from "inhaling" dust and other pollutants that will damage your car engine. Filters keep the bad stuff out. Likewise, you can filter what you allow into your mind by what you choose to think, listen to, read and talk about.

If you want to maintain a positive attitude about dating, there are several things you can do:

First, read uplifting books about dating -- not the ones that focus on disparaging either men or women and certainly not the ones that describe relationships in cynical ways. Instead, find books written by coaches and other experts who offer good solid advice, uplifting stories, and dating success tips.

Second, surround yourself with others who are happy and who have a positive attitude towards people. Whether they're dating or married, associate with others who are successful in relationships so that you can witness success in action. There's no better way to learn success than by being surrounded by it.

Third, steer clear of sad movies, friends who are bitter and angry about breakups, dating and relationships as well as those who generally have nothing good to say about anything!

Fourth, know that there are almost 7 billion people on this planet so there's definitely not a shortage of people to meet. That's fantastic news! If you can't find someone to date, you're not looking hard enough. If you can't find someone on your own, enlist help. Consider online dating or a matchmaker or ask friends and family to make suggestions.

And, finally, know that you can't always have everything on your time schedule and exactly the way you want it. Having the right attitude towards dating, however, can facilitate the process because you'll be tuning into a different vibration. That means different people and opportunities will come into your life.

Remember, anything worthwhile in life takes hard work (contrary to what Hollywood spins or people on Facebook say about their miraculously, effort-free, problem-free, ever-perfect lives). Don't fall for hype, lies, and stories. Focus on what's important for your well-being.

A great attitude is vitally important. It will make all the difference in what you see as possible for yourself, your life, and the one you want to share with someone else. It will help you navigate the twists and turns of dating, and will attract others with a similar, upbeat view of life.

Questions for Further Exploration

• What's your attitude about dating?
• What can you do to improve your attitude – even if it's already awesome?
• What type of attitude towards life do you find attractive? Be specific.
• Visit your local library or bookstore and find a book on dating or relationships.
• Rent a good movie that involves dating or marriage. Pay attention to the characters' attitudes. While these are stories and often quite unrealistic in and of themselves, there are still valuable learning moments.

Copyright © 2011 by Tara Kachaturoff. All rights reserved in all media. Excerpted from Dating Success Secrets.

Tara Kachaturoff is a Master Certified Coach for Singles. Since 2003, she has coached hundreds of single men and women to create better dating relationships through her onsite and teleseminar courses. Tara is also the newsletter editor for the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI). Her personal site is

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