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Being a Good Guest
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2006

COMPANY! Does that word direct a shock through your system? Do you conjure up images of yourself peeping through the curtains pretending you are not home or are you eagerly awaiting the time together when you can enjoy one another?

Before you have people over be sure you are ready to be a good host.That does not mean that you must work your tail off to prepare legions of gourmet food (although you may want to). It does mean that you make your guests feel as if you are happy they are with you, that you make time to be with them and that you don’t spend the time together feeling as if you are a servant. The whole point of having people visit is to enjoy their company and sometimes the best ways to do that is to plan activities that you enjoy (with and without them) so you have the energy and interest to be together.

1. Communicate House Rules - You can have expectations for how your guests will behave but unless you tell them, they may not know your guidelines. If you cannot have music blasting after 10:00pm, you need to tell them. If you don’t want wet towels in the hamper, you need to tell them. If sitting on the velvet chair in a wet bathing suit (even on a towel) is going to drive you insane, you need to tell them what is off limits. If you live in an adult oriented home, be careful about extending invitations to people with children.

2. Tolerate Normalcy - You are not going to change someone’s life long habits so be sure you are able to share a bathroom, a kitchen, or whatever, BEFORE you extend an invitation. When people arrive with children, expect kid play. It’s best to put away breakables before guests arrive than risking shattered china on the hard wood floor.

3. Make Them Feel At Home - When you open your home to someone, you also need to open your heart so they feel welcome. If the visit brings tension, make the best of the situation and see it through. If someone breaks something accidentally they are probably feeling bad enough, so try and be as gracious as you can. Accidents happen.

4. Delegate - Why do all the work? Let guests pitch in and have fun. At mealtime, they can help by slicing and dicing while you prepare the main meal. If your guests offer to buy dinner as a "thank you" consider letting them do that. Second vacation home owners with lots of overnight guests know that those who strip their beds at the end of their stay and come with their own beach towels, are welcome delights!

5. Who’s on Vacation? - Sometimes when your guests are on vacation, they expect you to be too. Entertaining while trying to keep up with your normal schedule can be overwhelming. Falling into bed exhausted because you are trying to be the best possible host can also breed resentment. Either take a few days off from your normal routine or make it clear to your guests that you have other obligations. If you are not going to be able to chauffer, ask guests to rent a car or find other transportation. Give them a copy of the train and bus schedules.

6. Plan Time Together and Alone - Realize that the time will likely fly by if you are having fun with your guests. But you can only enjoy your time together if you are taking care of yourself aside from tending to their needs. If you usually arise in the morning to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and read the paper, you may need to wake up earlier in order to sneak in that quite time. On the other hand, if your guests are up at the crack of dawn then either read together or find another time of the day to be alone.

The most valuable gift you can give to your guests is being a gracious host.

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