hosting

co-hosting with a skilled host

pobody replied to your post “organizing fun gatherings”

why not ask one of your friends who you feel hosts better than you to co-host something together (‘wanna help me host this?’/'can i help you next time?’) and then see if something about their style works for you too

realsocialskills said:

That’s a really good idea too. And it’s true for other things too: if you want to get better at something, collaborating with someone who is already skilled can help a lot.

Another thing that can help is to watch what your friends do. You can think in concrete terms about what they’re doing and why it’s working. When you notice that something is particularly fun, there will be a reason that it’s fun and it might be a reason you can figure out.

You can also ask them about hosting and what they do that makes things fun. (But they might not actually know how they do it; a lot of people get good at things by trial and error without understanding in words how their skills work.)

organizing fun gatherings

Anonymous said to :

Ever since my depression got better, I been doing more leading in get-togethers. Like inviting people over to my house and suggesting what we’re going to do. But I feel like people don’t have as much fun at my activities as those led by my other friends. I take a lot of input on what we do, and I tell funny jokes.

Is there anything else I can do when leading a group, formally or informally, to help people relax and have fun?

realsocialskills said:

I think you might be pushing yourself too hard.

If people are having fun and liking your get-togethers, that’s success. You don’t have to be the best or the most fun for what you’re doing to be good enough. It’s not a contest, and it’s ok if you’re not as skilled at throwing parties as some of your friends. It’s a skill set that you can develop over time.

That said, from the way you’ve described things, it sounds like your gatherings might be happening this way:

  • You invite people over
  • They come over
  • You spend time deciding together what to do
  • Then you do the thing together

If you’re doing it that way, it might be making your gatherings less fun than they could be. Negotiating with a group about what to do isn’t very much fun, and it can set the tone for the gathering being less fun.

Also, if you don’t pick the activity in advance, there will usually be someone who wanted to hang out who doesn’t want to do the activity that the group decides on. That person usually won’t be very happy, and that can make things less fun for everyone.

If that’s how you’re doing it, your gatherings are likely to become more fun if you decide on an activity in advance, like this:

  • Pick something that you and some friends like
  • Invite them to come do that thing with you
  • People who want to hang out and want to do that thing will come
  • People who don’t want to, won’t come
  • There won’t be any tiresome negotiation phase of the gathering
  • No one will be stuck in an unanticipated activity that they don’t enjoy

Some examples of activities you can decide on in advance:

  • A game night (either a specific game, or whatever games people decide to bring)
  • Going to the new Exciting Movie in a series you like
  • Going out to dinner together
  • A dinner party at your place
  • Getting together for movies and popcorn at your place (better if you pick the type of movie in advance, or maybe even the actual movie)
  • (Here’s a post about things some people like to do at Halloween parties)

In any case, organizing fun gatherings is a skill, and you’ll get better at it as you get more experience. You don’t have to be perfect or the best for your gatherings to count as successful. If you like them and most of the people who come like them, that’s success.

tl;dr Picking an activity in advance and inviting people to do it is likely to be more fun than gathering a group of people and deciding together what to do.

Be careful with real eggs

whisperingkuiperbelt:

realsocialskills:

I don’t know very much about Easter, but I do know this:

If you are hosting an indoor Easter egg hunt, using real eggs is likely to end poorly.

Particularly if you are good at hiding eggs in hard to find places.

If you use real eggs indoors and don’t find all of them, the ones you miss will rot and create a very foul smell that is nearly impossible to remove.

If you use plastic eggs with non-perishable candy, your egg hunt is much more likely to end with happy people and no unpleasant side effects.

tl;dr Using real eggs in an indoor Easter egg hunt is likely to result in your house smelling like rotten eggs.

whisperingkuiperbelt said:

Another option- make an egg map. Make sure that every single egg you hide is marked on a map of your house and keep a solid count of how many are hidden and how many are found.

realsocialskills said:

You could also take pictures with your phone of where all the eggs are. 

(Cameras all still used film when the incident that convinced me that real eggs are a bad idea transpired, so I had not thought of this).

Vegetarian happiness on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday focused around coming together and eating a big delicious meal. The traditional version of the meal centers around eating a turkey, and many traditional side dishes also contain meat.

This can make Thanksgiving unpleasant for vegetarians and for people who want their vegetarian friends and relatives to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them. With some planning ahead, this is a problem that can be solved.

Some general principles:

  • Since the meal is centered around being big and delicious, it’s much nicer if vegetarians also get very delicious things to eat
  • Some things that often have meat in them can also be made delicious without meat
  • Vegetarians need protein as much as meat eaters do
  • Vegetarians don’t want to eat things that are made of meat or flavored with meat

Some examples of common Thanksgiving foods other than turkey that vegetarians probably won’t want to eat:

  • Pie that contains lard or schmaltz
  • Brussels sprouts that contain bacon bits
  • Green beans made with bacon
  • Gravy made from turkey drippings
  • Stuffing that has been inside a turkey
  • Stuffing made with chicken broth
  • Anything else with meat or meat derivatives in it

Some thoughts on how to make food options for vegetarians:

  • Artichokes are delicious, especially with dip. If that’s one of the vegetable side dishes, it can be a happy thing for vegetarians to eat
  • If you make mashed potatoes and meat gravy, serve them separately, and use separate spoons so that the potatoes won’t become meaty
  • Consider also making vegetarian mushroom gravy. It’s delicious and will mean that vegetarians get to share in the deliciousness of potatoes and gravy
  • Bake some stuffing outside the turkey (safer anyway), and use vegetable broth or wine or something else non-meat and delicious rather than chicken broth to flavor it
  • Use butter/vegetable shortening instead of lard/schmaltz for pies
  • It’s ok not to make all the sides vegetarian, but make sure it’s clear what has meat in it and what doesn’t. Vegetarians don’t like surprise bacon.
  • Some vegetarians enjoy Tofurkey fake turkey roasts
  • Find out whether they eat fish. (Some people who identify as vegetarian do, and fish can be a good delicious protein source for those who eat it. Don’t assume in either direction. Ask.)
  • Ask them to bring or make something delicious and vegetarian for the meal. Group contributions are fairly normal in Thanksgiving meals, and most vegetarians have something delicious they like to make/share

tl;dr If you’re making a Thanksgiving meal and inviting vegetarians, the meal will be much more fun for everyone if you include delicious vegetarian dishes in your meal and avoid feeding them side dishes with stealth meat. Scroll back up for examples and concrete suggestions.

Anyone want to weigh in? Vegetarians who celebrate Thanksgiving: what do you like to eat? What makes you the most comfortable at a meal hosted by meat eaters? People who host vegetarians at a meal meal: what have you done that worked for everyone? What would you like vegetarians to do to make it work for you?

Note for people on diets

I’ve noticed that often, people who diet assume that everyone else around them either is or should be dieting. This can cause problems when they are responsible for feeding others.

Some examples:

  • If someone is planning a conference and all the food they make available is low-calorie
  • If someone is hosting a speaker from out of town in their home, and they only offer them a very small amount of food, and it’s logistically difficult for the speaker to get other food
  • A babysitter feeds active kids a green salad and nothing else for lunch

So, here are some things to keep in mind:

Other people’s nutritional needs might be different from yours. When you’re feeding someone, it’s important to feed them according to *their* nutritional needs.

This is particularly the case if you are on a low-calorie diet. When you are responsible for feeding others, it’s quite likely that they will need more calories than you do. Especially if they are children. Double especially if they are teenagers. (And this is especially important for teenage girls, since they’re often actively being pressured into diet culture.)

Low calorie food isn’t inherently healthy. It’s healthy in a particular set of circumstances. It’s unhealthy and dangerous in others.

If you’re feeding people, meet their nutritional needs. Don’t feed them according to yours.

aura218:

realsocialskills:

aura218:

realsocialskills:

lady-brain:

realsocialskills:

 chavisory answered: If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer

realsocialskills said:

That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too. 

A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.

And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.

Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.

lady-brain said:

I would suggest, if you are a host, letting all invitees know ahead of time explicitly whether or not there will be alcohol (or drugs, or anything else people might want to avoid or be forewarned about) at your event.

I’m a sober alcoholic, I appreciate knowing whether there will be alcohol so I can make the decision whether or not I am able to attend the event. I understand when people require alcohol/other substances to socialize/feel safe (especially since I used it for anxiety myself), so I know that not all my spaces can be alcohol-free, and I don’t require that. What I do require is a heads-up, because I am not comfortable around alcohol all the time, around all people, in all locations. It depends, and I need to make the call myself. I can’t do that if I don’t have that information.

realsocialskills said:

I agree this is an important thing to do, but I don’t know of a polite way to do it. Do you know of one?

aura218 said:

I’m in recovery. I usually blame not drinking on “a bad stomach” or “It interferes with my medication” or “I don’t want to drink or an empty stomach” or “I exercised today, I really need to hydrate.” 

Remember that having a drink in your hand makes you appear social, so just holding soda will ward off anyone asking why you’re not drinking. You don’t have to keep drinking it and filling it up. Also, bottles of water, coffee, and tea are a socially acceptable alternative; water is healthy, and coffee or tea can be explained as you being tired and needing to perk up to socialize, since alcohol makes you sleepy.

If you’re driving, you always have that out. If you’re a woman, you can always say “I’m leaving soon, I want to be alert to walk to the subway” and who cares if you’e not leaving for an hour. IF anyone says “I thought you were going,” you can always say “I thought i was, but I’m having such a great time!”

But really, you don’t need to explain why you’re not drinking. Just, “I’ll have a soda/water/coffee, thanks” should be reason enough (and remember you don’t have to drink it, just hold it). No one needs to know your medical history and it’s rude to insult the drinks that the host chose, so no one expects you to overexplain why you aren’t drinking. “I don’t want to drink tonight” is fine.

realsocialskills said:

I absolutely agree that no one has to explain to anyone else why they aren’t drinking. What I meant is that I don’t know how to politely warn people that there will be alcohol at a party.

Those sound like good suggestions for deflecting pushy people though.

The one I’m a bit hesitant about is saying that you want to be alert to walk to the subway, though. Because then what do you do if a guy who is giving off creepy vibes says “Don’t worry about that, I’ll walk with you?” It strikes me as likely to open the can of worms rather than close it. Have you used this one successfully?

aura218 said:

Sorry, yeah, I just woke up when I replied to this, and I didn’t realize til later that the question was for the party HOST, not the party guest. 

I’ve used this one successfully with friendly people who agree that drinking isn’t a good thing to do near the end of the night if you’re leaving soon. I don’t have the kind of friends who creep on me, and I don’t talk loudly to announce my issues to the whole party. Always protect your privacy - my responses were intended for the person who’s pouring your drink. 

I wouldn’t broadcast that I’m walking home alone on dark scary streets to someone who is giving off creepy vibes. If someone seems that way to me, I either don’t talk to them, or I get away from them. I don’t have a problem being a bitch to someone I think isn’t worth my time, but other people aren’t like that.

As for the original question, it depends on the party, and other people have given good responses. Most parties and dinners are assumed to have a mix of alcohol and soft drinks. The only good way I can think of to warn people is to say something like “Drinks and appetizers will be served at x o’clock.” Or talking about the menu in general and including the drinks as well as the food.

realsocialskills said:

I think that’s my concern about explicitly stating that there will be alcohol. The presence of alcohol at adult gatherings is so assumed that saying that there will be alcohol implies that there will be *more* alcohol than usual.

This is not a message you want to send unless you really are trying to have that kind of party. Especially if your social group has one of those guys who is really into getting people to do shots with him. (I’m not sure why, but a lot of social group seem to have someone like that.)

Having people over for dinner

aura218:

realsocialskills:

dinosaurusrachelus:

realsocialskills:

One potentially enjoyable form of interaction is to have people over for dinner.

Some ways this can be good:

  • Eating together can make conversation easier
  • Since it creates an activity and a focus
  • But it doesn’t take up all the attention; you can still talk
  • Eating at home can be cheaper than going out
  • It can also be less overloading, since your place is probably less noisy than a restaurant 
  • It can also be more private, because you’re less likely to run into unwelcome people, and because there aren’t as many people around who could overhear

Some things about guests:

  • Invite people who you like
  • Invite people who like each other
  • It’s not very much fun to hang out with a group of folks who dislike one another, even if you like all of them separately
  • Don’t invite too many people. It’s much more fun to have dinner with a group of people that’s a comfortable size for you
  • It’s often considered rude to invite someone but not their partner, with two major exceptions:
  • If you’re hosting a single-gender event and their partner isn’t the relevant gender, or:
  • If you’re hosting an esoteric interest gathering and it’s something only one of them likes. (Eg: If you’re having a party for people who like to talk about spiders, it’s probably ok to not invite a partner who hate spiders)

Some points about food etiquette: 

If you are in your 20s and living in the US, it’s likely that you’re in a culture in which it’s normal for guests to bring some of the food. (This is different from a potluck, which is a communally-hosted kind of meal at which no one person has primary responsibility for making the food. I’m planning to write a different post about that later.)

If you are invited over for a meal:

  • It’s considered polite to offer to bring something
  • The most polite way to ask is to say something along the lines of “What can I bring?” because it suggests that you’re expecting to bring something rather than hoping they’ll tell you not to bring anything
  • If they say not to bring anything, don’t
  • Some people prefer that you don’t, or might have cultural or medical reasons to want control over the food that’s in their space
  • Also, in some cultures it’s considered rude, so if someone doesn’t want you to bring something, it’s important to respect that

If you are doing the inviting:

  • It’s usually considered rude to ask people to bring things if they haven’t explicitly offered to
  • If people offer, it’s ok to assume that they mean it, and to ask them to bring something
  • But be reasonable about it. Don’t ask people to bring something expensive or complicated unless you are planning the meal together and hosting jointly
  • It’s usually considered reasonable to ask someone to bring one of these things: bread, wine, salad, soda/juice, or a dessert

Some specific things about food:

  • You should make/buy a main dish that is filling and has protein of some sort
  • And also probably a side dish or two
  • And drinks of some sort - but it’s ok if it’s mostly water
  • Make sure you have enough plates/cups/knives/forks/spoons/etc for everyone
  • Find out if people you’re inviting are allergic to anything
  • If you are serving meat, find out if there are any vegetarians
  • If some people are vegetarian, it’s nice to make a vegetarian protein in addition to the main meat dish
  • But in any case, at least make sure that some things don’t contain meat (eg: don’t put bacon bits on the salad or use lard to make a pie)

This is a good kind of gathering. Are there other things people should know about how to do it?

dinosaurusrachelus said:

Depending on the type of event and the age of participants, it’s often considered polite to bring a bottle of wine even if the host says you don’t need to bring anything. It’s not a thing you have to do, but if you’re able to afford it and think it would be appreciated by the host and other guests, it’s nice. Providing alcohol for a gathering or dinner can get expensive quickly, so it’s a nice way to take some of that burden off a host without making them ask you to.

In addition to vegetarians, it might be nice to ask if anyone’s vegan, gluten free or lactose intolerant, since those are fairly common dietary restrictions. Most vegans are used to not having a ton of options and will often gladly eat side dishes or salad in my experience, but it’s polite to ask so you can make minor modifications to dishes. For example, if you were going to make a salad with greens, nuts, feta and dressing, you could put the feta on the side if someone’s vegan so they’re still able to eat the salad.

realsocialskills said:

It can be polite to bring wine, but be careful about that. It can put the host in a bad position if they’ve intentionally decided not to serve alcohol and you show up with an unexpected bottle of wine.

Agreed about other dietary issues. That’s a good thing to do.

I don’t know if this is a thing? But? A friend of mine hosted a potluck, and she brought out each dish *individually.* Like, courses? It was super-awkward, because people brought different amounts of each dish, like an enormous pasta dish and then a small fish dish. And then the dinner dragged on forever, and some dishes weren’t served at the right temperatures. Plus, it made people feel obligated to eat things they didn’t want, just because everyone was passing the plate around and it seemed rude not to take it. 

So, don’t do this. Either make the dinner a buffet (which is the easiest type of party for everyone, imo, both practically and emotionally) or put out all the dishes at once. It doesnt’ matter if all the food doesn’t go together, people can decide how they want to eat, or they can get up for seconds if they don’t want to eat two particular flavors together.

Another thing: especially with a buffet or appetizers, plan for how people eat, including grazers. For example, if you put out shelled nuts or endamame, put out an empty bowl so people can discard the empty shells. If you have a communal pot of coffee, you can cut down on dishes by setting out a few stirring spoons on a saucer and one spoon in the sugar. Most people will have enough sense to spoon sugar with the dry sugar spoon, and stir with the wet stirring spoon, and then leave it on the saucer for the next person. 

When doing a buffet: tell people to arrive about 45 minutes before you set out dinner. Have appetizerrs set out at the arrival time. After everyone except people who are chronically late have arrived, announce that dinner is being put out (you can dispatch helpful people to round up far-flung guests outside, in the tv room, etc). About 45 minutes after dinner has started, start putting away perishables. Ask people if they want seconds, etc. Depending on what dessert is and the time-table for the party, dinner cleanup and dessert can happen anywhere from half an hour to two hours after that. 

If it’s a daytime party, brew coffee after dinner. There’s always people who get tired at parties or didn’t sleep well, or whatevever. Everyone likes coffee at parties.

orima-kazooie said: It’s probably relevant to mention this is assuming the spouse knows you won’t get along but has nothing against the partner coming. Or are you supposed to invite them and let them/hope they decline?

little-mourning-magpie said: In my experience this is only ok if you do the same to everyone. So you can say no partners but not specifically uninvite one person’s partner if other partners are coming.

 

realsocialskills said:

I think that it works like this:

  • If you invite a coupled person to a party, the invitation is generally assumed to include their partner unless explicitly stated otherwise
  • It’s usually considered rude to explicitly uninvite someone
  • Partly because it’s considered rude to tell people about parties they aren’t invited to
  • But it’s considered ok if there’s a general reason partners aren’t invited that isn’t personal, because then it’s not an insult
  • Eg: if no one’s partner is invited, or if it’s a single-gender event and the partner isn’t that gender

Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s always wrong to be rude in this way. Just that it’s a convention it’s worth being aware of, because ignoring it can have unintended consequences.

A couple of situations in which it might be a good idea to violate this convention:

  • The person you don’t want to invite is or was abusive towards you or someone you’ll be inviting
  • The person you don’t want to invite ruins parties by telling racist or misogynistic or otherwise hateful jokes, and has repeatedly refused to knock it off

Having people over for dinner

One potentially enjoyable form of interaction is to have people over for dinner.

Some ways this can be good:

  • Eating together can make conversation easier
  • Since it creates an activity and a focus
  • But it doesn’t take up all the attention; you can still talk
  • Eating at home can be cheaper than going out
  • It can also be less overloading, since your place is probably less noisy than a restaurant 
  • It can also be more private, because you’re less likely to run into unwelcome people, and because there aren’t as many people around who could overhear

Some things about guests:

  • Invite people who you like
  • Invite people who like each other
  • It’s not very much fun to hang out with a group of folks who dislike one another, even if you like all of them separately
  • Don’t invite too many people. It’s much more fun to have dinner with a group of people that’s a comfortable size for you
  • It’s often considered rude to invite someone but not their partner, with two major exceptions:
  • If you’re hosting a single-gender event and their partner isn’t the relevant gender, or:
  • If you’re hosting an esoteric interest gathering and it’s something only one of them likes. (Eg: If you’re having a party for people who like to talk about spiders, it’s probably ok to not invite a partner who hate spiders)

Some points about food etiquette: 

If you are in your 20s and living in the US, it’s likely that you’re in a culture in which it’s normal for guests to bring some of the food. (This is different from a potluck, which is a communally-hosted kind of meal at which no one person has primary responsibility for making the food. I’m planning to write a different post about that later.)

If you are invited over for a meal:

  • It’s considered polite to offer to bring something
  • The most polite way to ask is to say something along the lines of “What can I bring?” because it suggests that you’re expecting to bring something rather than hoping they’ll tell you not to bring anything
  • If they say not to bring anything, don’t
  • Some people prefer that you don’t, or might have cultural or medical reasons to want control over the food that’s in their space
  • Also, in some cultures it’s considered rude, so if someone doesn’t want you to bring something, it’s important to respect that

If you are doing the inviting:

  • It’s usually considered rude to ask people to bring things if they haven’t explicitly offered to
  • If people offer, it’s ok to assume that they mean it, and to ask them to bring something
  • But be reasonable about it. Don’t ask people to bring something expensive or complicated unless you are planning the meal together and hosting jointly
  • It’s usually considered reasonable to ask someone to bring one of these things: bread, wine, salad, soda/juice, or a dessert

Some specific things about food:

  • You should make/buy a main dish that is filling and has protein of some sort
  • And also probably a side dish or two
  • And drinks of some sort - but it’s ok if it’s mostly water
  • Make sure you have enough plates/cups/knives/forks/spoons/etc for everyone
  • Find out if people you’re inviting are allergic to anything
  • If you are serving meat, find out if there are any vegetarians
  • If some people are vegetarian, it’s nice to make a vegetarian protein in addition to the main meat dish
  • But in any case, at least make sure that some things don’t contain meat (eg: don’t put bacon bits on the salad or use lard to make a pie)

This is a good kind of gathering. Are there other things people should know about how to do it?

More on restricted diets

More on restricted diets

Do not take food issues personally.

If someone can’t eat something, it’s not personal:

  • It isn’t a rejection of your hospitality
  • It isn’t an insult to your cooking skills
  • It isn’t a comment on your health, your lifestyle, or your diet

It’s also not any of your business:

  • Don’t expect an intimate conversation about the reasons behind the food restriction
  • Don’t make a big deal about it
  • Do not comment about weight loss
  • Do not offer unsolicited medical advice
  • Do not offer unsolicited health advice
  • Or unsolicited religious commentary
  • Or your views on vegetarianism

And especially, don’t do dangerous things:

  • Don’t try to trick people into eating things
  • Even if you think their food issue is a ridiculous phobia and that tricking them would cure it
  • Seriously, seriously, don’t do that
  • It won’t help, and this kind of thing can and does kill people
  • And, in any case, irrational people also have the right to say no

You do not need to agree that the person is correct about what to eat in order to interact with them respectfully. You just have to arrange for it to be possible for them to be in spaces you’re in, and for it to be predictable whether there will be anything for them to eat there.