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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Gum chewing in public often impolite

Ask yourself whether you would eat food in same situation.

Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, what do you think about gum chewing? Is it ever appropriate in public? What about bubble gum? What about gum snappers? I know it wouldn't be appropriate for a job interview, but what about meetings or at work? It does keep your breath fresh.

A. As a general rule, gum chewing in public is not professional or polite, even though you see people chewing it everywhere. People chew gum in church, at weddings, on television while being interviewed, at work and in jobs that deal with the public — all situations that should be gum-free. If you wonder where it might be acceptable, consider whether you would eat food in a given circumstance. If the answer is no, then it isn't appropriate to chew gum either.

Chewing gum is very distracting to those who have to watch you chew it. And there is often the temptation to crack it, snap it and blow bubbles. The same rules that apply to eating food should apply to chewing gum — chew with your mouth closed and avoid smacking your lips.

There are times when a piece of gum can freshen your breath, relieve some tension and help keep you alert while driving. However, I suggest you chew briefly and quietly and discard it before dealing with others. And always discard the gum in its wrapper or another piece of paper or tissue before throwing it into a waste basket. Of course, never throw it where someone might step on it.

If you are presenting at work or on a panel, ditch the gum. Those listening to your presentation will most likely be distracted by your chewing and pay less attention to your message.

Whether you chew gum at work or not should be based on how private your work space is and how casual the work environment is. Anytime you chew gum consider those around you and whether you are interfering with their ability to work.

So, the next time you are tempted to pop a piece of gum in your mouth, think about where you are, who is around to see you and whether it will impact how people feel about you as a professional.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.