How To Make New Guests Feel Welcome

When entertaining new guests, think about how you would feel in a similar situation; put yourself in their shoes and you'll find that the visit will be a great success!

Hospitality is sadly becoming a lost art in our modern, self-indulgent society. In our "if it feels good, do it" world, we don't want to venture out of our comfort zones or do something that doesn't give us immediately gratification. Hospitality is unpopular because it is about others, not ourselves. It is about putting our own desires aside and thinking about how the other person might feel. It goes back to what we all learned in grade school: the Golden Rule.

When we are invited into someone's home, we are aware of how comfortable (or uncomfortable) we are made to feel. We all know what a lousy host or hostess is like: someone who doesn't bother to introduce us to the other guests or who seems rushed or distracted. When entertaining new guests in our home, it is important to think about how we would feel in a similar situation: nervous, unsure and uncomfortable. Following are several guidelines for entertaining new guests; people whom you do not know well or may not know at all.

1. Smile. This may seem obvious, but sometimes with all the preparation of house cleaning, cooking, and decorating, by the time your guests arrive, you are feeling anything but cheerful. Try taking 10-15 minutes of down time just before your guests arrive. Relax, have a glass of wine, or close your eyes for a few minutes. When they arrive, smile warmly and show them how pleased you are to have them in your home.

2. Carry the conversation. Nothing is worse than sitting around a dinner table with people you hardly know and having the conversation go stale. Keep a small, covert list in your pocket for ideas, if necessary. Ask lots of questions about the lives of your guests. The basic questions, such as where they are from, where they grew up, and family dynamics are good, but when those are exhausted, focus in on what they've already shared. Do they miss their hometown? What is it like coming from such a large family? What does the future hold?

3. Follow their lead. If your guests seem disturbed or offended by something in your home, don't apologize, but try to accommodate them. If you are serving alcohol but they are put off by it, simply remove it from the table. If you have pets but they are allergic or simply do not like animals, lock up the pets in another room. If it turns out that what you've made for dinner is something that incites a nasty food allergy in your guests, be flexible; either whip up something else, order something in or pack up everyone in the car and go out.

4. Avoid controversy. Nobody agrees on everything, but there are a few subjects that are better left alone unless it has already been established that you and your guests are on the same page. Politics and religion usually are good to avoid, and any subject in the news that is sure to have differing sides. If a subject comes up unexpectedly that incites heated talking or emotional reactions, quickly change the subject. You don't have to be obvious, simply get up from the table and offer more helpings, dessert or drinks. If the conversations continues to get out of hand and your guests insist on pressing a matter about which you clearly disagree, kindly explain that you'd rather not discuss it anymore, and that you'd much rather hear about the college their son is attending, or some such thing.

When in doubt, stick to the Golden Rule. When entertaining new guests, think about how you would feel in a similar situation. Put yourself in their shoes and you'll find that the visit will be a great success!

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