How to properly use your napkin. How to create the right first impression. How to walk down a staircase. These are a few of the 50 tips that Myka Meier teaches during etiquette classes at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The two-hour long evening sessions, which are already sold out through May, are most popular in an unlikely crowd: millennials.
“A majority of our clients are millennials, and at the end of the day, they understand the importance of etiquette, and how it can help increase their progression both socially and professionally,” said Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette.
In a world where we spend less time face-to-face and more time behind computers or looking down at our phones, Meier’s courses teach people—not just millennials but also businesspeople and children—how to be charming in real life.
Meier, 34, says she was trained by a former event-planner in the Queen of England’s household and attended prestigious finishing schools in England and Switzerland. While some of her etiquette rules may seem old fashioned (ladies should always keep their legs together and cross only at the ankles), Meier says she also offers very modern, practical, and gender-neutral advice. She rejects the notion that men should always pay on dates, for example.
“If I, the female, invite a male to an ice cream date, it should be my job to pay because I’m the one who chose the location and invited the person,” said Meier. “It has very little to do with the role of the man versus the woman, but with simply showing respect to the other person.”
Quartz attended one of Meier’s evening sessions at The Plaza earlier this year. The students, mainly young women (though there was one couple in their 50s), sipped wine and nibbled on finger foods as they watched Meier demonstrate the proper way to use utensils. (She also offers separate “Little Princess and Little Prince” courses for five to 11-year-olds.)
Lyric Harris, 20, was one of the attendees taking copious notes during class. “I had no idea there were so many utensils and rules for, like, how to excuse yourself or where to put your bag,” she said. “I feel lucky to have learned this information, so now when I go to other countries, or meet new people at work, I can handle myself in that environment and feel confident.”
Meier says it all comes down to teaching proper manners, so people can focus their energy on being likable and charming.
“You’re not born with charm, but you can learn charm, and that has a lot to do with etiquette: your poise, your posture, how eloquent you speak,” she says. “After all, in the end it’s all about being kind, thoughtful, and respectful to everyone around you.”
Watch our video above for some tips on becoming a more charming person.