October 13, 2016 7:23 AM EDT

Table manners are often viewed as an out-of-date, classist set of rules that have no place in the 21st century. But in his new book, Table Manners: How to Behave in the Modern World and Why Bother, chef Jeremiah Tower argues that knowing how to comport yourself over a meal can still help you get ahead. In some cultures, for example, it’s considered improper to gesture while you eat. Although the rule itself might seem arbitrary, obeying it signals to your dining companion that you respect his culture, an invaluable skill in business dealings. Similarly, knowing how to properly set red and white wineglasses (both on the right side, with the red wineglass closer to the center of the table) could be an easy way to impress a boss who’s a wine buff. “I have found that when people approve of your table manners they think you know how to do everything else properly as well,” Tower writes. “That is how you enlist them to your side.”


This appears in the October 24, 2016 issue of TIME.

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