Being a fantastic host at a social gathering used to be so simple.
You cleaned the living area and guest bathroom. You checked for food and pet allergies. You provided a snack, something to drink, and a place for people to sit and interact with each other.
You greeted everyone, prayed that the air conditioner and bathroom functioned flawlessly and that your guests would know when it was time to leave.
A Fantastic Host recognizes that social distancing has created new problems that need to be addressed.
In 2020 we moved to social distance gatherings, and they have their own unique challenges.
How to safely enter a facility, pleasantly interact with others, and then exit is the burning question of the day.
And this is further complicated by the variety of attitudes people have concerning social distancing.
One individual may feel that they are not at risk, believe that masks are ineffective, and initiate physical contact with others.
A second individual may recognize the dangers, wear masks in every social contact outside their home, hoping it might help, and cautiously interact with others at a distance.
And a third individual, or someone they are close to, may suffer from an autoimmune disease, causing them to maintain strict separation from others, at all times, in every circumstance by necessity.
Compounding the problem is that these three individuals’ status and attitudes may change at any given moment.
Is it any wonder that the thought of a social gathering may cause us anxiety?
As schools, companies, and churches begin to reopen, we are all navigating uncharted waters.
People are craving contact and social interactions with others.
Even the most diehard introvert is aware of hunger for connection with others.
In time, you will invite someone or invite themselves to come over for social interaction. Thinking about how you will handle that moment is very important.
A fantastic host (and you want to be fantastic) will have a plan in place, communicate clear instructions, and negotiate a social contract (an agreement that all parties are willing to abide by) before the gathering occurs.
A Fantastic Host will have a plan for entering, interacting, and exiting the gathering.
In this time of the pandemic, winging it is not a good strategy. Creating a safe environment must happen before people enter, not after. The CDC has some excellent guidelines to consider for social gatherings.
As a host, it is up to you to create an environment that can be safely entered, interacted in, and exited.
As a host, it is up to you to set the rules of engagement.
It is up to you to communicate fairly and empathetically why some people hug, some talk at a distance, and others isolate themselves from any imaginable contact.
A Fantastic Host will communicate clear instructions for implementing their plan for the gathering.
Clear and simple instructions are a necessity: everyone needs to be on the same page. There are two ways to make sure your instructions are clear.
First, you can invite someone over who is a part of the group for a walk-through. They can read your instructions for clarity and raise questions you might not have considered. You can enlist them in implementing the plan. Having an ally can be a blessing in gently enforcing a social contract.
Second, you can consider having someone review the instructions which are not a part of your group before sending out the invitation. Please pay close attention to any questions they ask after reading the instructions and address any needed corrections.
A Fantastic Host will negotiate a social contract from the participants before the gathering.
A social contract sets the expectations for the host and their guests.
The host promises to try and create a safe entry, an environment for interacting with others, and an exit strategy.
This would include procedures for food distribution and hand sanitizers for entry, exit, and bathroom use.
It might mean having a one-way flow of traffic in the kitchen or having multiple serving stations for each guest or family unit.
Identifying your guest’s comfort level in interacting with others and communicating this with the group is an absolute necessity.
You might use red, yellow, and green color scheme nametags to communicate how people can interact with each other. Red might be for someone who, by necessity, needs to maintain distance. Yellow for someone cautious but willing to have a conversation and maybe bump elbows. Green for someone who is open to a conversation and even a hug. Be careful not to extend a judgemental tone to anyone’s choices.
Your guest promises to abide by the communicated guidelines for entry, interaction, and exit of the gathering.
Your guests agree to respect and honor those on a different interaction spectrum.
People are not required to explain or defend where they are on the interaction spectrum.
If a green encounters a red, they will not attempt to hug them or shame them for their reluctance, or vice-versa.
A FANTASTIC HOST WILL EVALUATE AND ADJUST STRATEGY AS NEEDED.
No plan is perfect. You will discover things you had not considered. Be flexible and communicate the changes in advance when possible.
Call to Action
Can you create a plan for when you invite someone over or for the unexpected guest who won’t take no for an answer?
Having a clear, simple, and efficiently executed plan in place can allow you to relax and enjoy your interactions with others. It can place others at ease in your presence. It can allow you to be a fantastic host that others will want to emulate. It can even help you survive the uninvited guest.