Surprise! You’ve Got Uninvited Guests
By Thomas P. Farley, What Manners Most
Unless you live on a houseboat off the coast of East Jabib, chances are you’ve gotten phone calls from friends who unexpectedly announce that they’re going to be passing through your neck of the woods. You know what’s coming next: they’d love to stop in and say hello…for “a day or two.” Sometimes these out-of-the-blue visits are welcome ones, but often as not, they come at inopportune times. Still, human nature guides us to be gracious, so we embrace the news with enthusiasm. (On the outside anyway.)
If you find that drop-ins from friends and family members are causing you all sorts of stress and strife, take heart: without seeming like an ogre, there are steps you can take to smooth the experience for you and your guests alike.
* It’s vital that you work out the particulars before your guests arrive. Don’t let their assumptions result in heartache for you. For starters, pin down their check-in-and more important-their check-out date. Work out potential problem areas in advance. For example: “I know you haven’t mentioned bringing your dog, but I just wanted to make sure that’s not the case, because my daughter is allergic.” You should also bring up transportation. Unless you want to play driver and tour guide, confirm that they’ll have their own set of wheels: “I’m sure you’ll be renting a car, but let me know if you’d like me to e-mail you directions to the house, because it can get a little tricky.”
You’re Not the Hired Help
*Be gracious, of course, but just as you are not the chauffeur, nor are you the maid. They should be keeping their room neat, but if they are not so inclined, that is not your cue to make their beds or to clean up after them. Leave their room in whatever state they’ve left it. If they are remaining for more than a few days, show them the washer and let them know they are free to use it.
Moving Right Along
*If you’ve been clear and up-front about how far your hospitality goes, there should be no issue of requests for longer stays. But if you’re faced with guests who are either incredibly inconsiderate or shockingly oblivious, be polite but firm. Thank the guests for coming, but explain that you need them to head on their way as originally agreed. Although this may sound harsh, from a friendship-saving perspective, this is definitely the best way to go. Your relationship will survive a conversation like that much easier than a scenario in which your patience is fully exhausted and your visit ends with both of you saying things you wish you hadn’t.
*Don’t hesitate to ask for a stay in kind the next time you’re in their home city. Thanks to your experience as a host, you know well the do’s and don’ts of being a guest. Make sure to practice kindness and consideration yourself, and perhaps when these friends stay with you again, they’ll follow your fine example.
And If You Don’t Want Guests Ever….
*Do not pop off phrases such as “Next time you’re in town, be sure to come and pay us a visit!” An invitation like that can be interpreted in many different ways. You might be thinking dinner, golf or an afternoon at the local museum, but your long-lost high-school buddy is thinking two weeks of free housing for him and his family. Bottom line: Unless you’re really interested in having houseguests, keep the generous-sounding offers to yourself.
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