6/22/15

Guesting 101



What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?
Aeschylus
Some time ago, I spoke about the importance of being a proper host. And this is a topic you can find endless articles online if you take the time to google for them. Yet, one topic that does seem to be overlooked is the other side of the coin in the social engagement, the guest or rather, how to be a proper guest. Just consider that without the guest, you can’t be a host.

So what does it mean to be a guest? Basically if you are invited into someone’s habitat or environment, and will be looked over by them, you are a guest. Simple enough. But if you are being looked over for, why would you need to care about your behavior? The answer to that question is quite simple, because the line between guest and pest is rather thin and easily missed. Just consider that when you act disrespectful as a guest, you are directly insulting and disrespecting your host. With that in mind, let’s look at the proper etiquette as a guest.

Attire:
The host will probably mention what kind of event this is. If they don’t, you can easily figure this one out without too much of a mental exercise. Just keep in mind that you can never be over dressed, so in doubt, dress it up. The advantage is that as men’s clothing works in layers, you can easily tone down your outfit by removing elements as required.

RSVP:
Even if the event isn’t an RSVP (Répondez s'il vous plaît, literally "Reply if you please"), let the host know if you will be attending or not. Also, either earlier during the day or the day before, call to confirm if the event is still on, as something might have come up and the host might not have had the opportunity to cancel with everyone. This also gives the opportunity for the host to uninvited you in case you presence might be unwelcome and the original invite was just a cordiality.

Punctuality:
You might think that I am going to start hammering the point about punctuality, but in this case, I will recommend the opposite. This isn’t a job interview or a business meeting. Most hosts will be fixing the place up till the last minute or, because they were fixing up the place, will be fixing themselves up as they might be running late. In this case, I recommend the opposite that I would for an interview. Arrive up to 15 minutes late. This gives the host a moment to relax before you get there.

Do avoid being latter than 15 minutes as the host will start to wonder if you are getting there at all. If you are running late, DO NOT TEXT. CALL THEM beforehand to let them know.

Never arrive empty handed:
The host is going through all the trouble of setting everything up, the least you can do is contribute something more than just your presence. The simplest thing would be to bring a bottle of wine, as it can be later shared with the rest of the guests. If this is a non-alcohol environment, or if you are stumped as to what wine, then simply bring some flowers. Basically, bring anything that might lighten the host’s load.

NEVER outshine the host:
Sure, the host wants you to feel like you are the center of attention, to make you enjoy yourself as much as possible. But the reality is that the star of the show is the host. It is their event. They are taking actions to make it a success. You are the recipient of their performance. You are the audience. So taking the spotlight off of them is actually very disrespectful.

In cases where you are the “Guest of Honor,” give proper credit and appreciation to the host. In truth, you become an extension of the host’s efforts, so the spotlight should still be placed on them, even if shared by you.

Avoid overstaying your welcome, unless you can:
This last piece of advice depends on the event and your relationship with the host. There are few things that will ruin hosting as guests who don’t know when to leave. Avoid placing your host in a situation where they feel forced to invite you out on your way. Learn to read the room enough to know when you need to make your exit. Thank the host accordingly before leaving though.

In some cases, stay to help the host clean up. They went through all the effort and work to make this a memorable event, the least you can do is help clean up. Sometimes cleaning up after an memorable occasion is just as daunting as having it. Maybe the host might just want everyone out. Other times they might be praying that someone stays behind to help out. Learn to read the room.

Be the kind of guest that people want to have over, to share their events with. Consider that if your presence isn’t memorable, your absence is inconsequential.