How to be a good guest

How to be a good guest

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Whether you are attending a dinner party or spending a few nights with a family member or friend, knowing and following proper etiquette rules for guests is essential. Remember that the hosts have shown the generosity of their time and resources by inviting you, preparing their home for your visit, and entertaining you. Reciprocate by exhibiting good manners.

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You should always respond to an invitation. If you received the invitation in writing, follow up with a reply in writing. A verbal invitation can be answered either with a note or phone call. Contact the host as soon as possible.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you can attend, explain your dilemma to your host so he or she won’t think you’re ignoring the invitation. Then as soon as you know for sure, go ahead and respond.

Host or Hostess Gift

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It is always a good policy to show up bearing a gift for your host. You don’t have to spend a week’s pay, but it should be a thoughtful item that you know the person can use. Some examples of hostess gifts include candles, wine and wine glasses, themed baskets, coffee, and mugs, or gift cards to a favorite restaurant.

Always be thoughtful and keep your host in mind. For example, if he or she doesn’t drink alcohol, you wouldn’t want to bring wine or any other type of alcoholic drink. You also wouldn’t want to regift an item that the host gave you for your last birthday.

Timely Arrival

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It’s always a good idea to arrive within 10 to 15 minutes of the designated time on the invitation. If you get there too early, you might be in the way during party preparations. Conversely, if you get there an hour late, you might miss something important, such as dinner.

There are times when it’s essential to be on time, such as a concert, wedding, funeral, or an important life event such as a graduation or baby christening. Do everything in your power to be there and seated when the event begins.

If something happens that’s out of your control, contact the host and let him or her know as soon as possible. Be gracious if you’re asked to reschedule.

Overnight Stay

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When you are an overnight guest, ask if there are any special rules you need to follow. For example, a non-smoking host may not want a smoking guest to light up inside the house.

Be wise with the amenities. Don’t use a bunch of dishes and glasses then leave them all over the house. Your host will appreciate your consideration if you place your dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Also, avoid using too many towels and washcloths and then leaving them lying on the bathroom floor. One towel and washcloth should be enough for a couple of days if you hang them to dry on the towel rack.

Respect your host’s personal space. This means you should never barge into a room with a closed door or interrupt a conversation. Don’t expect your host to want to spend the entire day with you. Everyone needs a little time alone, and that includes your generous host.

Clean up after yourself. Don’t scatter your personal belongings all over the house if you are staying overnight. Find a corner of the room where you are staying and return all your belongings there to prevent being a messy guest. Make your bed each morning and offer to strip the bed before you go home.

Children

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Children may or may not be invited to the event, so make sure you’re clear before you accept the invitation. A cocktail party isn’t likely to be child-friendly, so line up a sitter if you want to attend. A backyard barbecue, on the other hand, will probably be much more accommodating for the whole family.

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Unless your host or hostess specifically invites your pet to come along, leave Fido and Sylvester at home. Even if the host loves your precious pooch, there may be other guests there who don’t. Some people are allergic to pet dander, and having your animal there would make their visit very uncomfortable.

If the host invites your pet, consider the animal’s manners before accepting. High-strung animals should be left at home. You don’t want your dog or cat to damage the host’s furniture, carpet, or your relationship with someone you care about.

Accidents and Awkward Moments

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Accidents and other awkward situations will happen from time to time, regardless of how much you try to prevent them. Be ready with an apology, a helping hand, and an offer to pay for whatever might be broken or stained. Never try to hide a spill or broken household item. Always remember the Golden Rule.

Know When to Leave

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All parties, personal visits, and overnight stays should end while you are still having a nice time. Overstaying your welcome might get you an express ticket to a future do-not-invite list. As soon as the party begins to wind down, express your appreciation to the host and make your exit. If you are staying overnight, leave on the day you originally stated.

Thank You Note

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You should always send a thank you note after a party, long visit, or overnight stay. Do this as soon as you get home and put it in the mail. Thank the host, make a positive comment about some aspect of the visit, and end with a note about looking forward to seeing him or her again. You might even offer an invitation to your home.

You know to say please and thank you and not bring up the hostess’s recent breakup. But if you really want to shine—and be invited back next year—take note of these simple rules.

  1. Received a turkey-themed Evite? RSVP ASAP. If you need to mull it over for one or two days (max), set an alert on your phone to remind you.
  2. If you bring something, make sure that it’s fully cooked, in a presentable dish, with the necessary serving tools.
  3. Be a herder. When the host says, “Dinner’s ready,” and no one moves, say, “I think it’s time to go to the table,” and help scoot things along.
  4. Put away your phone. Maybe others will follow your lead.
  5. Talk to the stranger. If a cousin or a friend is sitting alone, do your host a solid and take over.
  6. If you think that you’ve over-stayed your welcome (read: the host is dozing off on the couch), don’t apologize about hanging around. Your host will feel obligated to reply, “No, stay!” Just say “thank you” and leave.

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Make sure you’re invited back for the next event.

Sure, you get invited to a lot of parties, but does that mean you’re actually a good guest? Compliments and etiquette can go a long way at a soirée, but being a great party guest requires more effort than you might think. We asked Nathan Turner, an entertaining expert and interior designer, and Lulu Powers, who’s better known as The Entertainologist, to share their best tips on being a gracious guest. From gifts for your host to dietary restrictions, here’s what they had to say.

RSVP on Time

“Always RSVP by the requested date and be honest when you do,” says Turner. And be sure to stick to the number of guests you’ve put down. “Don’t show up with any surprises, such as another guest, a child, or pet,” he says. Another gesture the host will appreciate: Arrive on time, and prepare to leave at the designated end-time.

Bring a Good Host Gift

We all know not to show up empty-handed, but try and bring a gift that doesn’t require the host to do any extra work. “Bringing flowers can be a blessing or a curse,” says Powers. “They’re beautiful but also requires your host to find a vase while they’re getting ready for guests to arrive.” The best gifts, according to the expert, are the ones that your host can enjoy later, like homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Be Social

A party isn’t the time to stare at your phone. “A good guest is someone that shows up and participates,” Turner says. “They interact with everyone—not just the people they already know.” This means introducing yourself to new faces and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Lend a Hand

Being an exceptional guest might also mean getting your hands a little dirty. “If you see the host needs help, be willing to pitch in,” says Powers. This doesn’t mean waiting to be asked, either. “If they’re struggling to get the table set, jump in and help. If there’s no toilet paper, find some,” she says.

Go with the Flow

“Don’t call attention to your dietary restrictions unless asked,” Turner says. “If steak is served and you don’t eat meat—then just eat the sides instead.” Unless you brought it up prior to the party, chances are the host didn’t know and will feel embarrassed at the oversight.

Avoid Touchy Subjects Over Dinner

“Don’t bring up provocative issues if they don’t fit the party setting,” says Powers. Discussing taboo topics such as politics is sure to get someone in the crowd riled up. “What you talk about at home with family doesn’t always translate to social settings.”

Don’t Monopolize the Conversation

Pay attention to the crowd. “A bad party guest only talks about himself and what interest him,” says Turner, “which can lead to other guests feeling excluded or, worse, uncomfortable.”

Send a Thank-You Note (or Email)

After your host has gone through the trouble of organizing a party (and cleaning up!) a simple ‘thank you’ will make their day and go a long way in making you a memorable party guest, Powers says. Want to really wow them? “An email or text will suffice—but a handwritten thank-you note leaves a lasting impression that your host will remember for years,” she says.

Make sure you’re invited back for the next event.

Sure, you get invited to a lot of parties, but does that mean you’re actually a good guest? Compliments and etiquette can go a long way at a soirée, but being a great party guest requires more effort than you might think. We asked Nathan Turner, an entertaining expert and interior designer, and Lulu Powers, who’s better known as The Entertainologist, to share their best tips on being a gracious guest. From gifts for your host to dietary restrictions, here’s what they had to say.

RSVP on Time

“Always RSVP by the requested date and be honest when you do,” says Turner. And be sure to stick to the number of guests you’ve put down. “Don’t show up with any surprises, such as another guest, a child, or pet,” he says. Another gesture the host will appreciate: Arrive on time, and prepare to leave at the designated end-time.

Bring a Good Host Gift

We all know not to show up empty-handed, but try and bring a gift that doesn’t require the host to do any extra work. “Bringing flowers can be a blessing or a curse,” says Powers. “They’re beautiful but also requires your host to find a vase while they’re getting ready for guests to arrive.” The best gifts, according to the expert, are the ones that your host can enjoy later, like homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Be Social

A party isn’t the time to stare at your phone. “A good guest is someone that shows up and participates,” Turner says. “They interact with everyone—not just the people they already know.” This means introducing yourself to new faces and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Lend a Hand

Being an exceptional guest might also mean getting your hands a little dirty. “If you see the host needs help, be willing to pitch in,” says Powers. This doesn’t mean waiting to be asked, either. “If they’re struggling to get the table set, jump in and help. If there’s no toilet paper, find some,” she says.

Go with the Flow

“Don’t call attention to your dietary restrictions unless asked,” Turner says. “If steak is served and you don’t eat meat—then just eat the sides instead.” Unless you brought it up prior to the party, chances are the host didn’t know and will feel embarrassed at the oversight.

Avoid Touchy Subjects Over Dinner

“Don’t bring up provocative issues if they don’t fit the party setting,” says Powers. Discussing taboo topics such as politics is sure to get someone in the crowd riled up. “What you talk about at home with family doesn’t always translate to social settings.”

Don’t Monopolize the Conversation

Pay attention to the crowd. “A bad party guest only talks about himself and what interest him,” says Turner, “which can lead to other guests feeling excluded or, worse, uncomfortable.”

Send a Thank-You Note (or Email)

After your host has gone through the trouble of organizing a party (and cleaning up!) a simple ‘thank you’ will make their day and go a long way in making you a memorable party guest, Powers says. Want to really wow them? “An email or text will suffice—but a handwritten thank-you note leaves a lasting impression that your host will remember for years,” she says.

Being polite means being aware of and respecting the feelings of other people.В We may not always notice politeness but we usually notice rudeness or inconsiderate behaviour.

This page takes a step back and covers some of the fundamentals of building and maintaining relationships with others.В We provide examples of the most common behaviours that are considered polite.

Politeness can and will improve your relationships with others, help to build respect and rapport, boost your self-esteem and confidence, and improve your communication skills.

Many of the points raised on this page may seem obvious (in most cases they are common-sense) but all too often social manners are overlooked or forgotten.В Take some time to read through the following points and think about how being polite and demonstrating good social etiquette can improve your relationships with others.

It is easy to recognise when people are rude or inconsiderate but often more difficult to recognise these traits in yourself. Think carefully about the impressions you leave on others and how you can easily avoid being considered ill-mannered or ignorant.

Politeness Guidelines

You can apply the following (where appropriate) to most interactions with others – friends, colleagues, family, customers, everybody!

Always use common sense and try to behave as appropriately as possible, taking into account any cultural differences.

  1. Say hello to people – greet people appropriately, gain eye contact and smile naturally, shake hands or hug where appropriate but say hello, especially to colleagues and other people you see every day.В Be approachable.В Do not blank people just because you’re having a bad day.
  2. Take time to make some small talk – perhaps mention the weather or ask about the other person’s family or talk about something that is in the news.В Make an effort to engage in light conversation, show some interest, but don’t overdo it. Remain friendly and positive and pick up on the verbal and non-verbal signals from the other person.
  3. Try to remember things about the other person and comment appropriately – use their spouse’s name, their birthday, any significant events that have occurred (or are about to occur) in their life.В Always be mindful of others’ problems and difficult life events.
  4. Always use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.В Make sure you thank people for their input or contribution and always include ‘please’ when asking for something. If somebody offers you something use ‘Yes please‘ or ‘No thank you‘.
  5. Praise and/or congratulate others on their achievements. Praise needs to be seen as genuine – this can be difficult if you feel jealous or angry.
  1. At work be polite and helpful to your subordinates as well as your bosses.В Respect and acknowledge the positions, roles and duties of others.
  2. Use appropriate language – be respectful of gender, race, religion, political viewpoints and other potentially controversial or difficult subjects. Do not make derogatory or potentially inflammatory comments.
  3. Learn to listen attentively – pay attention to others while they speak – do not get distracted mid-conversation and do not interrupt. (See our pages on Listening Skills for more.)
  4. Respect other people’s time.В Try to be precise and to-the-point in explanations without appearing to be rushed.
  5. Be assertive when necessary but respect the right of others to be assertive too.В (See our pages on Assertiveness for more.)
  1. Avoid gossip.В Try to have positive things to say about other people.
  2. Apologise for your mistakes.В If you say or do something that may be considered rude or embarrassing then apologise, but don’t overdo your apologies. (See our page: Apologising | Saying Sorry)
  3. Avoid jargon and vocabulary that may be difficult for others to understand – explain complex ideas or instructions carefully. Do not appear arrogant.
  4. Respect, and be prepared to listen to, the ideas and opinions of others.
  5. Dress appropriately for the situation.В Avoid wearing revealing clothing in public and avoid staring at others who are wearing revealing clothing.В Avoid being dressed too casually for the situation. (See our page: Personal Appearance)
  1. Use humour carefully.В Aim not to cause any offence and know the boundaries of appropriate language for different situations. (See our page: Developing a Sense of Humour)
  2. Practise good personal hygiene.В Wash and brush your teeth regularly, change your clothes and use deodorant. Avoid strong perfumes, after-shaves or colognes.
  3. Be punctual.В If you have arranged to meet somebody at a certain time make sure you are on time, or even a few minutes early.В If you are going to be late let the other person/people know as far in advance as you can.В Do not rely on feeble or exaggerated excuses to explain lateness.В Respect other people’s time and don’t waste it. (See our page: Time Management for more information.)
  4. Always practise good table manners. When eating around others avoid foods with strong odours, do not talk with your mouth full or chew with your mouth open, and eat quietly. В
  5. Do not pick your nose or ears, chew on your fingers or bite your fingernails in public. В Also avoid playing excessively with your hair.

Good manners cost nothing but can make a big difference to how other people feel about you, or the organisation you are representing. When you’re polite and show good manners others are more likely to be polite and courteous in return.

You can improve your face-to-face or interpersonal relationships with others in many different ways – SkillsYouNeed has numerous pages providing in-depth advice and discussion on specific topics related to interpersonal skills.

How to be a good guest

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Learn more about the key communication skills you need to be an effective communicator.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their communication skills, and are full of easy-to-follow practical information and exercises.

If you’re high-maintenance, boring, or irrelevant, you may not be invited back. Here are 4 tips on being a great guest speaker.

How to be a good guestThis past week Barbara Nixon asked me to comment on her recent blog post that included tips for being a great guest speaker. (Actually her blog post was titled, 14 Ways to NOT Suck as a Guest Speaker) Barbara is a communication teacher at Georgia Southern University and Southeastern University). I found it difficult to just provide a short comment; she inspired me to say a bunch more. So, with Barbara’s help, (and permission) today’s article is the first part of a three-part series about how to be a great guest speaker. (Thanks Barbara!)

How to Be a Great Guest Speaker

When you’ve been invited to be a guest speaker for an organization’s luncheon or other meeting, you don’t want to be that speaker. And it can be terribly easy to be that speaker: You know, the high-maintenance one, or worse, the boring or irrelevant one.

Who Are Guest Speakers?

By the way, usually a guest speaker is not closely connected with the event or the organizers. Generally, guest speakers add to the event by sharing an outside perspective, giving support, or by providing entertainment (or all three)! The key to being a successful guest speaker is to deliver a message that resonates with the audience AND be easy to work with.

In this three part series I’ll cover 17 quick and dirty tips to help you be an enjoyable, memorable, and easy-to-work-with guest speaker.

Guest Speaking Tip #1: Learn About Your Audience

A guest speaker’s success is often based on how closely their message matches with the event. So it’s critical to learn as much as you can about your audience before you speak. This is the most important step, yet many times it’s overlooked. And it’s so important, I wrote a separate article about how to do an effective audience analysis. Skip this step and you are almost guaranteed to be that speaker (the boring irrelevant one)!

How to Get to Know the Audience

It’s best to talk directly to a few audience members ahead of time –don’t rely on one person or your contact only. You need to gain the perspective of several people so that you can understand exactly what it is that different audience members want to be able to know, say, or do differently as a result of hearing you speak. (People usually don’t agree exactly as to what they want to gain from a presentation.) It’s important to meet the needs of a majority of your audience. Don’t assume or guess; ask, even if you think you already know the answer.

Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you can still learn just before or during the event. If possible, always attend a meal with the participants. Listen more than you talk. If there is no meal, then be sure to arrive early so you have time to talk directly to people as they arrive. When you present, weave in examples you know are relevant to this group. Audience members will greatly appreciate that you have made the talk specific to them.

How to be a good guest

A lot of emphasis is placed on how to host a party or event. But a party isn’t a party without guests.

And when guests don’t fulfill their protocol obligations, it can turn hosting into a miserable chore.

Let’s review what it takes to be on the good guest list.

A Good Guest . . .

Sends an RSVP

It’s such a joy to receive an immediate reply to an invitation. Your host will definitely appreciate this helpful gesture.

Arrives on Time

This is especially important for dinner invitations. The last thing a host wants to deal with is starving, annoyed guests when she is running low on appetizers and the roast beef is drying out in the oven.

Never Brings a Tagalong

A good guest would never bring someone with him who wasn’t invited. An exception may be if you called the host to say you couldn’t attend because your cousin was visiting, and the host asked you to bring her along.

But be careful about calling your host to specifically ask if you can bring someone with you. This borders on bad guest behavior.

Always Brings a Host Gift

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just a simple acknowledgement of your appreciation for being invited. A small bouquet of flowers or some little trinket will do.

If you bring a bottle of wine or a food item, do not be disappointed if your gift isn’t served at the party. It was, after all, a gift for your host – not the other guests.

Isn’t Afraid to Mingle

Even if you don’t know anyone else attending, you agreed to be there and are obligated to be fully present. If you tend to be on the shy side, ask your host to introduce you around.

Shows Respect

This includes not over-indulging in the open bar, keeping all conversations civil and courteous, and avoiding the irresistible peeps into the medicine cabinet.

Knows When to Leave

You’re having a blast, but all good things must end. Unless you are close enough with your host to stay and clean up, or have been asked to stay longer, it’s time to go once things start to wind down. You don’t have to be the first to leave, just try not to be the very last.

Sends a Thank-you

Just a little note to say what a lovely party it was and how much fun you had.

And when the time is right, a good guest also returns the invitation.

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On most days, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., people can find Krystal Harris behind a Plexiglas shield, perhaps smiling under her mask as she takes orders and packages to-go food in brown paper bags.

Harris opened her south Phoenix restaurant Early Bird Vegan in late 2020, as a spin-off of her food truck Trash Panda Vegan. The corner shop serves Quetzal Co-Op coffee, house-made pastries, sandwiches and “superfood smoothies.”

In late February, her restaurant wasn’t open for dine-in service, but she was working on adding outdoor seating.

Restaurant etiquette is so different now because of the coronavirus pandemic, Harris said. She feels fortunate she hasn’t experienced some of the worst problems her peers in the industry have endured.

Restaurants are operating a time when a server, dependent on tips, could face sexual harassment for wearing a mask. Customers, unhappy with a delivery mistake or having to follow safety rules, leave one-star Yelp reviews.

With state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and bars lifted as of March 25, it remains important that customers cooperate with staff as business owners trying to protect themselves and others.

The Arizona Republic asked restaurant and bar owners and workers in metro Phoenix about their experiences and ways customers can be more considerate. Here’s what they had to say.

​​​Check whether the business offers dine-in or takeout

Harris would prefer if customers, after placing their orders, wait outside for their food because her restaurant is only about 800 square feet and can easily get crowded. She also asks customers to respect that Early Bird Vegan’s dine-in services are closed right now.

“We love seeing our customers enjoying our food but having to stop all consumers eating indoors is something an establishment our size as well as many others in the valley are facing,” Harris wrote in an email. “Please know we want you here!”

How to be a good guest

A paper bag lets customers know there is no indoor dining at the Early Bird Vegan, a vegan cafe in Phoenix on Feb. 23, 2021. There is no indoor dining because of COVID-19 concerns. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)

It makes the process smoother if people come prepared knowing what to order by either looking at the online menu first or calling in their order ahead of time.

Many restaurants are also operating with different hours or services than they had before the pandemic. Ross Simon, owner of Bitter & Twisted cocktail bar in downtown Phoenix, advised people to find out what services are available before they show up.

“At the end of the day all these businesses are private property,” he said. “They do have rules in place, sometimes that’s to assist with service, sometimes that’s to assist with safety.”

Be kinder with reviews or bring feedback directly to the staff

Simon said it would be beneficial for “keyboard crusaders” to speak with a manager to resolve a problem, rather than leave a negative review.

“It’s not really the time for Yelp,” Simon said. “If you do have a legitimate problem, we want to hear about it and we want to fix it, as opposed to it’s a little too late when you Yelp about it.”

Simon said wanting to keep customers happy during a pandemic is like being stuck “between a rock and a hard place.” His number one priority is keeping guests and workers safe.

“That kind of overrides a few of the niceties, unfortunately, that we had before the pandemic,” he said.

Karissa Vasquez wishes customers would be more patient. Vasquez’s family operates Tacos Calafia in Peoria, Surprise, Tolleson and downtown Phoenix. She works at the register in the Phoenix location.

Just because a person doesn’t see other customers inside the restaurant, doesn’t mean they’re the only customer, Vasquez said. A customer might get upset because their food has taken 10 minutes instead of five, but they don’t realize there might be five online orders ahead of them, she explained.

“More people are calling in to make orders and someone has to get the phone,” Vasquez said. “So just be patient with someone. The person is still a priority, but we have other people on phone and online to take in consideration.”

Be willing to respect each business’ mask rules

Vasquez added that it feels uncomfortable to ask someone to wear a mask or pull their mask up, but she tries to be excessively sweet about it, using a pleasant tone of voice.

Still, some customers have gotten irritated. Sometimes, if they can’t hear her, they pull their mask down and lean closer to her, she said.

“I’m not just a worker, I have grandparents and family I would prefer to not get sick. and leaning in and pulling your mask down defeats the purpose,” Vasquez said.

Kell Duncan, co-owner of The Churchill in Phoenix put it simply: “If you are not able to wear a mask because of a health risk or concern, stay home.”

“The best customers we have come in with the expectation that in order to be open we have rules we have to follow,” he added. “They stop and read signage that explains our protocols and follow them. If they are approached and asked or reminded of a rule, they immediately agree to comply as it is usually an honest mistake.”