January 20th, 2021

The art of mindful socializing

By Submitted Article on July 29, 2020.

One of my friends just knows how to throw memorable parties! My favourite party of hers is the one she holds once a year, drawing around 30 ladies to her home.

Upon arrival at her house, we are offered drinks and food. Each invited guest shows up with a different dish to share with the rest of the party; and who doesn’t enjoy trying someone else’s cooking? None of us is assigned a seat, so we dish up whatever we fancy to eat and find an empty seat. This allows us the opportunity to sit next to someone we are not necessarily familiar with. We make informal introductions amongst ourselves as we enjoy our food.

If one is so inclined as to get a second helping or dessert, we are always guaranteed that our spot won’t be available upon our return; our next task is to eye another empty seat and meet another new face. After everyone is well fed, we make ourselves comfortable in a circle where we make formal introductions to the group. In all this, the common denominator is our host – as most of us don’t really know each other. After our formal introductions are made, we get to bond over whatever fun game has been planned for the evening.

What I’ve observed over the years of attending these parties is how civil these ladies are. There is an unwritten rule of shared politeness that we observe with each other throughout the whole evening. If there is a guest who is expecting a baby, no one who is not a close friend of hers asks her prying questions about her pregnancy. None of the ladies asks what someone does for a living unless something is said that would lead to that line of questioning. No one asks unmarried ladies why they aren’t married or when they plan on doing so. You certainly do not get to witness those who have known each other for years sitting in a corner by themselves and whispering in each other’s ears or pointing fingers as they talk. Most of these ladies seem savvy in reading the room and navigating it with grace and ease. Finally, and most importantly, food is not cleared until it is time to leave; just in case someone wants another helping as the night proceeds.

All of this could not be possible without a host who creates such a positive environment. I have always wondered if she plans her guest list each year based on which people she thinks would get along well. She always seems to hit the sweet spot and I have always left each party with my circle of friends extended. As a host, she has a gift of being present with everyone. None of the guests ever feels left out or out of place. Comments of deep satisfaction are consistently made at the end of each party, with everyone looking forward to the next one.

These annual parties serve as a strong reminder of the true art of socializing well done. A mindful host creates a warm environment for his/her guests to thrive in. Guests who follow the cues set by their host are a delight to have. Next time we find ourselves in either position, let us make a positive contribution and help create good memories for everyone involved.

Mable Stewart is a Lethbridge-based etiquette and image consultant. She can be contacted by email at helpfuletiquette@gmail.com.

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