Much to the dismay of my ettiquette-influenced family, I was not blessed with a naturally refined poise as a child.

A constant spilling of drinks, clattering of cutlery and general snot-nosed tomboyishness haunted my place at the dinner table every evening, and the terms "elbows off the table," "your fork is not a shovel" and "don't speak with you mouth full" became a part of the perpetual dinner time din.

Luckily, I got the hang of it somewhere around fourth class, so my friends and family are now safe from the obnoxious food chewing that persevered through my early childhood.

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Orla Brosnan, etiquette expert and founder of the Etiquette School of Ireland, aims to equip people with etiquette skills to suit the modern day.

Etiquette has a bit of a stuffy, Downton Abbey image, but realistically it all comes down to having proper manners, presentation and a few tricks up your sleeve to navigate even the most fancy af of meals. 

Etiquette covers a variety of areas, from style, fitness and social media rules to the more traditional dinner table standards, and I was able to sample them all at the Etiquette School's masterclass at the Shelbourne Hotel.

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My initial issue was "oh God, what do I wear?" A pantsuit, a pencil skirt, a 1950's fit and flare frock with white gloves and a dainty pill box hat?

I settled for plaid trousers and a black jumper and settled in to the classes, ready for my instruction on how to become a lady with notions. 

The master class featured a series of speakers, who sat at dinky little tables in one of the hotel's chandelier draped and gildedly furnished tea rooms, ready to teach the ways of the sophisticated world, speed dating style.  


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First up was learning how to politely exercise and nurture my body, and the advice was given by Annmarie Murray, who, when she isn't busy being a a Facebook famous fitness babe online, is instructing people on how their posture speaks for them before they have a chance to say a word. 

"A strong body is a strong mind. When someone is fitter and more confident in themselves, the more that's going to come across in their day to day lives," said Annmarie, who has trained Olympic athletes in the US.

"The exercise comes into play with posture. People who sit all day and then drive home and sit on the couch, their posture is hunched, the muscles are tight. Just getting out for a walk in the fresh air, doing some stretching, or pilates or yoga, who naturally sit up straighter."

"If you're able to have good eye contact, sit up straight, stand up tall and be open, then people are going to be more open to you.

*Sits up straighter in chair*

Style is a hugely important element to everyone's personality, and discovering what it says about you can be even more important, especially when it comes to things like job interviews and presentations. 

Tanya McGilligan, Ireland's leading style and image consultant, was on hand at the master class to judge us all harshly for our chipped nail varnish and handbag choices.

Actually, despite Tanya's sky-scrapingly high style standards, her advice was sound, astute and simplistic. It's all about the classics, dressing for your shape and colouring and making a professional wardrobe work for absolutely everyone.

It was like Trinny and Suzanna had been rolled into one achingly stylish advisor.

"I truly believe that you don't have to spend a lot of money to look good, you don't have to buy expensive things, it's easy to look great as long as you are dressing to your shape and colouring, there's no reason why you couldn't pick that up on the high street somewhere.You just have to spend some time on yourself to get it right."

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Online etiquette class videos show young women clip clopping across the room, wobbling in their high heels as they are instructed on how to properly wear and walk in the stilettos, but with backlash on businesses who require their female employees to wear heels happening every week, it seems like high heels could soon be an outdated formal requirement.

"No, they are not a necessity," said Tanya. "It depends on what you are looking for if you want to get a little bit of height there are petite kitten heels, a pump, or wedges look great too."

"I think it's better that people walk properly in heels, than not walking properly. It's better for them to get it right, and then it's their choice if they want to utilise the skill or not."

In regards to tattoos, piercings and eclectically coloured hair, Tanya thinks that people have moved past the negative associations of alternative style. 

"I think people have really loosened up, there's a lot of people with tattoos, a lot of people with piercings, and it's a good thing. If I decide to dye my hair black, you should have the right to do the same or wear an earring in your nose. It's a sign of individuality, it's how you want to appear. It's your body."

"When it comes to a job interview, if you feel its going to work against you, take it out. Your main aim is to get the job so if it's going to go against you then… when you get the job you can discuss it with HR."


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Of course, the talk turned to trends(what else is going to happen when two fashion obsessed women discuss style): "What's going to be big this year is fuscia and pink, stripes, preferably rainbow stripes, cropped jeans, micro mini bags, slogans instead of logos. Pink is the new camel. The camel coats? Yawn."

Next up, it was time for "netiquette", the online version of perfect table manners.

The basic rules? No phones at the table at any time, not taking calls during meals and no checking your social media in company.

"It's just not polite, it's just not the done thing. I know it's become an very important part of 21st century life but it's not the correct thing to do," said Michael Keogh, who delivers training courses in digital profile management. 

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As for the likes of social media, we have reached our saturation point for pictures of cats and babies. It is no longer acceptable to force us to coo over an adorable munchkin via the internet or make us endure a slide show of your cat's "funniest" moments. 

Hashtags are also super important: "Don't gatecrash the wrong conversation. If you're talking about the Kardashians, you don't need to share it with the rugby hashtag. So just be conscious. " advises Michael. 

Also selfie control is key for not looking slightly self obsessed: "If you have a picture of a beautiful statue, take the picture of the statue, you don't need to do a selfie of you beside that statue. It's implied that you took the photograph and you're standing right in front of the statue."

When it comes to selfies, "moderation is key."We definitely know a few people who could use this rule.

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Becoming a Tinder goddess, as it turns out, isn't actually that difficult.

"Tinder is really an interesting one. Initially it was seen as really cool, then it was seen as really lecherous, like swiping left or right how superficial can you be."

Tinder has managed to turn that reputation around (kind of) by linking in Instagram and bios to give context and depth to individual profiles.

Tip for pro tindering? Be honest about what you're looking for, "don't say you're a marathon runner if you ran the marathon in 1993 and you have been eating pies ever since."

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"Make your English teacher proud, use correct spelling and don't use text speak in your profile. Use an appropriate photo, as long as that photo is a fair and accurate representation of who you are."

Further takeaways involve never using more than three hastags on Twitter (classy),keeping your personal plans under wraps on public social media platforms (trashy) and never going more than three rounds with an online hater.

And as for online catfish? Report them. 


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Finally, it was time for me to but my childhood-honed table manners to the test as I sat down with the Ettiquette School of Ireland's founder Orla Brosnan.

As we delved into the formalities of how to use formal cutlery (work from the outside in) and why you never clink glasses at a wedding toast (its just not the done thing), Orla explained how important table manners are.

"Young people come into a business dinner with brains to burn, but can let the entire company down if they cant eat correctly." 

And when it comes to dating, Orla thinks that if you like a guy, let him pay for the meal with the intention that you will pay for the next one.

And if you don't like him? Go splits so you don't owe him another dinner. 

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Never put your hands on the table, break your bread, never cut, never go to the bathroom until the main course is cleared, and as far as palette cleansers go, if some lettuce appears, never cut it up, instead roll it up and place it in your mouth whole.

And NEVER take Instagram photos of your food in a fancy restaurant. 

You learn something new every day.

I left the Shelbourne ready to embark on my new life as the Princess of Genovia, or at least as a fully fledged lady who now knows how to use a fish knife.