Etiquette Boss: The right stuff

Right Hand /Left Hand Protocol: The director of a charter School recently said to me that he observed the schoolchildren did not know how to receive a diploma or gift correctly. He observed a lot of fumbling when it came to shaking hands while receiving a certificate.

The observation caused me to consider this subject as appropriate for this week’s column. It is important that children (and adults) be taught about the symbolism of our right and left hands.

Teach children that the right hand is considered the “giving hand” and the left hand, the “receiving hand” in Western cultures. For example, we ‘give’ our right hand in greeting, meaning that we shake with our right.

When receiving a certificate, the person who is giving the certificate extends the certificate with his/her right hand. We therefore ‘receive’ it with our left, while immediately extending our right to shake firmly the now-empty right hand of the giver.

The importance of our right hand also extends to entertaining. If we are hosting a function, or arranging seats on a dais, the most important guest, or guest of honor, is seated to the right of the host.

I also use this lesson to teach children how to serve food correctly. I tell them to keep in mind that the person seated is waiting to “receive” the food; therefore we serve from their left. When the meal is over, they ‘give’ up the empty plate; therefore we collect from their right.

Drinks are the only exception, since glasses are placed to the right, and therefore for convenience, drinks are served and collected from the right.

The right hand is even more important in politics. On television, I recently observed President Putin host the German chancellor and the French president.  Angela Merkel was placed to Putin’s right, thereby indicating that Germany was considered a closer ally than France.

I ask my young students, “What do adults mean when they say ‘he is my right hand man?’  Is it a compliment or something negative? These simple examples taken from daily life can help them understand correct protocol of using the right and left hand.


To get rid of those aging lines around the corners of your mouth, moisturize before adopting a tight pucker, as if blowing a kiss. Smile as widely as possible at the same time. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. Do 10 reps, two or three times per day.

Phillipa Morrish is the president of Etiquette Training International.

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