Four tips for being a good host to house guests

In my last newsletter I shared some tips on being a good house guest. A reader suggested I share tips on how to be a good host. She and her husband had a challenging visit at a friend’s house when they were relegated to a “horridly uncomfortable” couch in the office. When they were invited again for a visit, they politely declined for fear they’d have to sleep on the couch again.
While you don’t need to roll out the red carpet and give your guest your bedroom while you sleep on the couch, there are some things you can do that will ensure your guests have a comfortable and enjoyable visit and will want to return, that is if you want them to return.

Think about your guest’s comfort
Let’s start with the obvious. Give your guest comfortable accommodations. As my reader wrote, “they do not have to be luxurious but at least as good as one would provide for their own children.” Ask yourself, would I be comfortable sleeping on this or staying in this room? That said, if your guest arrangement isn’t perfect you can state up front what your visitors will be sleeping on or where they will be housed and give them the choice whether to visit or not.

My brother, who lives in Australia, was coming to Seattle for a last-minute visit to say goodbye to my dad, who was ill, and I invited him to stay with me. However, due to my basement apartment being rented out the only “bed” I could offer was my couch. I stated up front that I only had the couch in the living room available and though it was comfortable (I had slept on it a few times myself), it was not a bed in a private bedroom. I also shared that he was welcome to use my office for his luggage, hanging his clothes and dressing but that I would need to use it during part of his visit. So, not an ideal situation, but I was clear up front, and he was fine with it.

Help your guest feel welcome
Little touches go a long way in helping your guests to feel special. Make the bed up nicely with clean linens, comfortable pillows and an extra blanket in case they get cold. Put some flowers in their room. If you can offer a private bathroom, provide fresh towels and a basket of toiletries. Include items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand lotion, bath salts, bandages, cotton swaps, etc.
I also like to ask my guests what they enjoy for breakfast and if they have any food allergies or restrictions. My brother stated he typically eats cereal, “like cornflakes or Special K and whole milk for breakfast.” I was happy he was so clear, and I made sure to have not only those items but lots of snacks available as well.

Let your guests know to make themselves at home. I wasn’t going to be home when my brother arrived, so I told him what and where the goodies were and to help himself. With previous guests I’ve hosted who stayed in the basement apartment I asked what time they like to eat breakfast and if they prefer to have coffee before eating. For those who eat breakfast before I’m typically up, perhaps because of a time zone difference, I invite them to help themselves to the morning mealtime items as well as coffee or tea.

Plan fun activities
When you have out-of-town visitors it’s nice to organize some excursions you believe your guests might enjoy, not what you would love. If your visitors have never been to your city take them to some of the more interesting tourist attractions or hidden gems that you think they would find enjoyable. Treat them to a meal at a restaurant that serves the kind of food you know they would relish. However, be sure to check in with your guests to avoid over scheduling them. The reader who wrote me about her not so pleasant house guest experience suggested building in some time for your visitors to be on their own. It can be exhausting running around all day long and then socializing until bedtime, especially when jet lagged. I like to check in with my guests to see if they need some down time to either do some things alone or to just be home to read or watch a movie.

Don’t make a fuss
If your visitor breaks something or makes a mess don’t freak out. Be kind and forgiving. It can be hard having people in your space, but a good host doesn’t get upset when things don’t go well. Also, avoid chasing after your guests cleaning up behind them as if they are children. You may like a spick and span house, but your focus should be on making your guests feel comfortable, not a clean house. You’ll have plenty of time to put the house in order when they leave.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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