By: Maralee McKee
…and we’re off! It didn’t take long for Christmas to get into full gear this year, did it?
It seems like I just put the last of my Thanksgiving platters back in the china cabinet, and already Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace and social invitations are hung on the refrigerator door!
Between friends, family, work, school, and church, you and I are in full party mode, aren’t we?
That’s either good news or bad, depending on our outlook.
Watching TV news the other day, I discovered I had been wrong about something for years. There are more introverts than extroverts. I’d always thought it was vice-versa.
This trivial detail made me leap for joy. (Well, I didn’t actually leap, but I would have if I were a leaping sort of person.)
You see, I’m an introvert. I’ve always seen that as a bit of a flaw. Something I wish I could change about myself. Because I’m on radio and TV, and I’m comfortable talking to large audiences in public, people assume that I’m in my element at any party.
I enjoy people. I’m naturally inclined to like you, and I’ve learned how to start and hold any conversation, but I need a lot of alone time to refuel my party engine.
Parties? Well, it takes a lot of energy for me to make merry for hours. If I would let my natural instincts take over, I’d stay inside every evening this Christmas season, warm and cozy in my pj’s, quietly taking in the beauty of the Christmas tree.
Etiquette has been a saving grace. I’ve learned how to interact with ease and graciousness. Knowing I’m putting myself out there in the best light has made things less stressful for me. Through purposeful effort and time, it’s replaced my natural introvert dread with “I know how to do this. I’ll make it a great evening!”
Whether you’re like me — a member of the “majority introvert party” who needs a little nudging before knocking on the hostess’ door — or an extrovert figuring out whether you could squeeze in two parties Friday night instead of just one, this post is for you!
Here are seven tips for being a welcomed party guest. Put these into practice, and what your hostess and the other guests will remember most about you is that you were one of the most gracious, warm, and welcomed parts of the party!
7 Top Tips for Being a Great Party Guest:
1. Be among the first to let your hostess know you’re coming. Did you know that 30 years ago, adding RSVP to an invitation was considered insulting? True! You see, asking you to respond to an invitation implied that maybe you weren’t going to do it on your own.
Times change; now we have to put a date for others to RSVP by, send three e-mails, and leave two voice messages, hoping to get a reply. It’s a shame that we have to track down others to see whether they’re going to accept our kindness. No one likes having to do it, so don’t be one of the “nonresponders.”
First responders are always heroes. Respond to an invitation the day you receive it. Responding quickly shows you were glad to be included. Waiting sends the message, “Your event isn’t at the top of my list. I’ll get to you when I get to you.”
2. Dress the part. Every hostess sets a stage. It’s in the formalness or casualness of her invitation, the menu and music she chooses, and the guests she brings together. It’s the party-goer’s job to come in “costume.” If your hostess is planning a formal affair, rise to the occasion and dress the part. If she’s hosting a casual get-together, don’t overdress and make her feel like a frump at her own party.
When you don’t know what to wear, ask. Don’t worry; asking doesn’t make you seem socially unknowing; it shows you care enough to want her party to be everything she pictured.
3. Try the food. This is a biggie. A real biggie! Your hostess has spent hours deciding what to serve, lots of money buying it, and too many hours preparing it. Please taste it.
But you say, “I’m on a diet.” I know. Me too, actually. (Although I’m starting to think that my extra ten pounds have moved in with a ten-year lease.)
The last thing to say when offered food is “I’m already full” or “No thank you. I’m cutting back.” (unless of course you’re allergic or diabetic).
I’m not suggesting you horde the cheesecake and devour it in one sitting — just that you take at least a small portion of one or two items and enjoy a few bites.
When people cook for you, they put a piece of themselves out there. Will it taste good? Will my guests enjoy it? Did I make the right food choices? Not partaking of the food when they have put thought and time into it is like being kissed by your husband and not kissing back.
The food is the hostess’ gift to you. Partake of it with enthusiasm.
4. Introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know. If it’s not a large party, try introducing yourself to every guest. Even if you’re an introvert, this is easy once you do it a few times and enjoy the positive results.
When introducing yourself to guests, make eye contact, stand up, smile, extend your hand to shake, and say, “Hello, I’m (first name) (last name.)” When they tell you their name, all you need to say in response is, “It’s nice to meet you, (first name).” Simple, savvy, sincere!
Next, ask how they know the host/hostess. Great conversations begin with finding common ground. Obviously, you both know the host, so that’s your first connection point. Ninety-nine percent of the time, an organic conversation will evolve out of that one little question.
5. Compliment the hostess. She’s put effort into the event; let her know her work hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Compliment her on the food and her decorations if you can.
You don’t have to make things up. Just look carefully; there’s something you can compliment: the color of green she painted her kitchen, how cute her dog is, how beautiful a piece of art work is — you get the idea.
If her food and decorations are a hit, don’t be shy about piling on the compliments. It means you’re the type of person who takes notice and shares praise. Those are two fine traits!
6. Don’t take on the role of maid, but use a coaster and clean up after yourself. If the hostess is juggling this party all on her own and doesn’t have a serving crew, lend a hand so her house doesn’t look like a gang of sugar-hyped-up second-graders spent an hour alone in the family room. (Oh, to be able to host a catered party! Actually, I love making the food; I just would enjoy someone to help serve it and clean up when the party was done!)
The hostess has her hands full talking to all the guests and seeing that food and drinks are refilled. It’s nice to take your plates, napkins, glasses, and so on to the kitchen. You can throw paper products away and leave the other items in the sink or on the counter.
7. Show your appreciation when you leave and again the next day. At the door, express what a lovely evening you had and how happy you were to be included.
If you know the hostess, call the next day, and talk to her or leave a voice mail telling her again what a great party she threw. (Send a thank you note to all hostesses within one week of a party.)
Parties, large or small, are work. Even though they’re efforts of love, your friend will appreciate knowing that her planning and work came together to make a memorable event.
Letting her know is your gift back to her!
McKee Family Update!
What a difference a year makes!
It was one year ago now that Corbett, our youngest son, was diagnosed with two forms of profound dyslexia, one form of severe dyslexia, and eye problems that can’t be corrected through glasses or surgery. In the span of 60 short minutes, he went from being just “Corbett” to being a “special needs” child. The suddenness of it all was too much for Kent and me to inhale.
He had just come off a six-week case of severe mono that landed him in the hospital, and we we’re exhausted and self-righteously thinking we had just paid our “parental dues” for the year. This pronouncement was more than we owed.
Last year at this time, I had a weekly newsletter that went out to several thousand people. (This blog just started in April.) Letters poured in — pages of love, prayer, support, and stories of your own battles with severe dyslexia and stories of your children.
Here’s a link to that article: https://www.etiquetteschoolofamerica.com/2008/12/new-diagnosis-for-corbett-new-journey.html. I got to thinking of it when I received a call last week from a lady standing right now where I stood a year ago. I could feel her pain; I understood her shock, her sorrow, her uncertainty, even her anger.
It’s hard being a mom and having to come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard we try, no matter how much money we pay, no matter how many specialists we team with, our little ones are wired differently.
Do you want to know what I’ve really, truly learned this year? I learned that sometimes things aren’t perfect, but perfection is overrated.
I would take away my little guy’s struggles in an instant if I could. But I can’t. So, I’m doing all I can to help him, leaning on Christ for the rest, and hoping for great, unexpected things for and from my precious little guy.
You see, it’s easy to excel when you have an extra dose of educational talent like so many of his friends. It’s a miracle to excel when you have so much to overcome. Last year I prayed for an instant miracle. My request wasn’t denied; it was just redesigned.
This year I understand that I have my own miracle man. My request has been granted. It’s just that my miracle will unfold inch-by-inch over the next 12 years of school and beyond into college and throughout his life.
I would have preferred an instant fix, but I’ve decided to be grateful and excited for my miracle. I get to experience it new every day.
Hugs to you! Blessings, too!