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The day after a party a gracious guest will follow up with a thank you note or phone call. Do this within 1-2 days so your appreciation does not seem stale. The formula for a thank you looks like this:

Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Lisa Lou

How to Listen Effectively

Do you find your spouse often saying, “Are you listening to me?” Or maybe you feel your child is not being an active part of the dinner conversation. If this resonates with you, it might be time to brush up on the finer points of being a good listener, while teaching your family to do the same. Below are 11 tips to help you get back on track so you can start enjoying deeper and more meaningful communication with those you love.

1. Whether at a party or in a business meeting, a good listener will always make eye contact with the person they are speaking with. Put yourself to the test. After you walk away, can you remember the color of their eyes?

2. A respectful listener will not look around the room while speaking with someone. This sends the message you are not interested in what is being said. Give the person your full attention and do not be distracted. After the speaker has finished, you may politely extricate yourself from the conversation.

3. An active listener will mirror back what the speaker is saying.

Speaker: “I just returned from New Zealand.”

Active listener: “You just returned from New Zealand?!? How fabulous! Where did you go during your trip?”

4. An active listener will ask questions, when clarification is needed, but they will not steer the conversation a different direction.

Good Example:

Speaker: “We just returned from our church’s trip to Israel, and it was truly life-changing.”

Active Listener: “I have often heard that it is life-changing. Can you point to anything specific that made you feel this way?

Bad Example:

Speaker: “We just returned from our church’s trip to Israel, and it was truly life-changing.”

Selfish Listener: “You went on the trip with the church? I heard Nancy and her husband were on the trip. Her daughter was supposed to go with them but could not since she is expecting her first baby. I do not think she is pleased with her doctor. Did you hear that medical facility is closing down?”

See what just happened? In the first example, the active listener showed interest in the speaker by seeking more information about the trip and keeping the focus on them. In the second example, the selfish listener diverted the conversation to what SHE wanted to talk about, instead of being a good listener and staying engaged in the subject the speaker brought up. If you find yourself guilty of this, quickly get back on point so the person does not view you as uninterested or selfish.

5. When someone is telling a story, do not interrupt to complete their sentence. I recently attended a party where I attempted to tell a story 3 different times, only to be interrupted at every turn. The person in our group was not intentionally being rude, but they were in a state of excitement and could not calm down enough to be a good, active listener. It was exhausting trying to speak. I finally stopped trying and moved on to another group. An active listener practices patience by focusing on the speaker’s words.

6. Do not just listen to the words. Listen to the tone of the speaker. Our physical body and our words do not always speak the same language. Concentrate on the person’s heart, not just their words, and determine what the speaker is really trying to convey. If someone is upset, their words will come out as complaints, but deep down they are trying to express they are hurting.

7. Let the speaker know you are listening AND interested. Give little tidbits of feedback throughout the conversation. “That must have been very exciting!” Or even a simple, “Oh, wow!”

8. When listening to others, NEVER check your phone. Even just for a quick peek. By taking your eyes away from the conversation, you have allowed someone else (the person on the other end of the phone) to interrupt your conversation. If someone walked up and interrupted your conversation in person, you would not allow this, because it is rude. Think of your phone as a person because guess what? It is! Just in digital format.

9. If you are in the middle of a project and your spouse comes into the room and begins talking, put down what you are doing, make eye contact, and give them your attention. If you cannot take a long break at the moment say, “I want to focus on what you are saying. Give me two more minutes to finish this task, and then I can give you my full attention.” Or, “I have a deadline I am trying to meet. I want to hear what you have to say. May we talk at dinner?”

10. Body language is important if you are to be an active listener. Good posture, whether standing or sitting, will tell the speaker if you are interested or bored. When someone is speaking, lean forward and show you are physically engaged. Stay within 18”-24” of the person you are speaking with. Any further back and your body language will be screaming, “I’m trying to leave this conversation!”

11. Repeat back to the speaker what you heard them say. This becomes more important when you are engaged in talks that are not just social in nature. In a marriage, you might say, “Let me make sure I understand what you are asking me to do.” This is good active listening, and it greatly improves communication. It is amazing how often two people hear things differently. By clarifying the comments, you will save yourself a lot of problems later.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou