This is Part 2 of How to Be a Good Guest. (Go to “How to Be a Good Guest, Part 1.) (How to Be a Good Guest, Part 3.) Ok, so we said it makes your hostess feel good when you respond with joy to her invitation, even if you have to decline it. Also, if you receive a written invitation to a gathering or party, make sure you respond to the RSVP that is included. In order to remember to do this, I try to do it as soon as possible. If you know that you cannot attend, call the hostess immediately and let her know how sorry you are that you will not be able to attend. If there is another engagement that you are committed to, briefly state that; you don’t need to go into great detail. The goal is to leave her, again, feeling glad that she at least tried! Assure her that you regret not being able to attend, and, if appropriate, that you hope to be able to come the next time, or to be able to participate should there be another event in the future. If you are not sure if you can attend, or need to talk to your husband first, put the invitation in your planning notebook or where you keep your things to attend to the next day. Make a note on the day on your calendar, if necessary, which is a couple of days before the “RSVP by” date. Include the phone number right there on the calendar and write the event tentatively on your calendar. (I always put a small ? by it to indicate to myself that it isn’t finalized yet.)
Now! The evening has arrived. You have prepared your salad, dessert, or whatever you agreed upon to bring. Arrive on time. Do not be late and do not be early. (If you know the host family well, and there are circumstances for which you cannot be held responsible that will cause you to be a few minutes late, it’s not the end of the world…) And five minutes early is ok. But do not make a practice of coming late–or early! Being too early is almost as cardinal a sin as being too late! Amazing things happen inside a house when the doorbell rings 15 minutes before the guests were supposed to arrive!
If you were invited a week or two in advance, be sure and confirm with the hostess on the day before the event. Confirm that everything is still on for your evening together, confirm the time and what you are bringing, and reassure your hostess how much you are looking forward to your evening together (or whatever you will be doing), and express your confidence that it’s going to be “so much fun”! Your hostess is, no doubt, nervous about having you come, no matter how many times she invites people to her home, and reassuring her and predicting success for her event is a gracious way of helping to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy! By saying so, you will unconsciously be assuring yourself, as well, and you will automatically begin to, if you haven’t already, expect it to succeed.
Now, you have arrived. At the door, shake hands with your host and hostess and smile!! Look them in the eye and say, “I’m so glad you invited us!” or “Thank you so much for inviting us!”
Children should be instructed to be friendly, but quietly wait to be spoken to and then answer politely any questions put to them directly. (They should be taught to respond when an adult speaks to them. When very small, smiling is acceptable, but as they get older, especially, the boys should be taught to reach out their hand, look their host and hostess in the eye, and to give a firm, manly handshake, and say, “Hello, Mr./Mrs. __________.” or your children can call a man, “Sir” and a woman “Ma’am”. (If they are meeting them for the first time, you could even teach them to say “how do you do.”) Train your children to look people directly in the eye. Teach them, at home, in practice sessions, how to meet someone, shake hands (yes, start very young!) and to ask how the person is–to give a polite greeting. Teach them how to have a conversation with an adult. Practice at home. I’m not talking about waiting until you have a teenager in your house! Teach your child the minute he can talk…Before he can talk! how to respond when someone speaks to him or her. If your child doesn’t respond the way you would like him/her to, just say to the person, “We’re working on that,” and leave it at that. (And do be working on that at home!)
Take your shoes off and place them neatly out of the way, on a rug, if there is one. If they are dripping with water or snow, etc., wipe them off well before leaving them so they don’t form a giant puddle on your hostess’ floor.
Your hostess may offer to take the dish you are holding in your hands, but, if not, hand it to your husband while you take your coat off. Wait to be told, or ask politely, “Where would you like us to put our coats?” (if it’s not obvious) Your children should wait by your side politely for you to help them with their coats, if necessary, and your older children should be offering whatever help is needed by you, and then step out of the way. Try to avoid congestion in the doorway, but don’t allow your children to charge on in to another person’s home. Children should be taught never to throw their coats on the floor. They should hold on to them until you’ve been told where your hostess wants them. If you live where there is cold weather, and heavier coats are necessary, move into the room, or entry area, as quickly as possible and close the door to the outside, to prevent cold air from entering and heat from escaping from your host’s home. Always close the door behind you unless instructed to do otherwise! It all comes down to courtesy and the Golden Rule! How would you want to be treated. Now, go the extra mile.
Tomorrow: How to Behave in Someone Else’s Home
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