Being a Host

Until this point, Ren and I have emphasized the individual aspect of social skills. We have written about the actions you can take and the mindsets you can adopt in order to be comfortable and have fun in various settings. These are important skills, but they are only part of the picture. The next step is to put those around you at ease.

For instance, suppose you are hosting a party where your guests don’t all know one another, and the challenge is to engage your guests and help them feel comfortable mixing among strangers. While you cannot guarantee that everyone will have a good time, you can take meaningful steps to help out.

If you’ve been talking with Joe for a while, be conscious of how your other guests are doing. As the host, you have a natural excuse to leave a conversation, and there are many ways to switch things up. Hey Joe, let me introduce you to some friends. Joe, I’m going to grab some food, would you like anything? Focus on the people who are left out or uncomfortable. Handhold introductions and delegate responsibility. Susan, can you see who’s at the door? Sam, have you met Alex? Sara, can you show Joe where the drinks are?

When introducing a friend, feel free to throw in an interesting fact about him like “Alex is a professional skateboarder” or mention something that he has in common with the people he is being introduced to such as “Alex is also interested in chemistry, he’s working on efficiently synthesizing compounds with multiple metal centers.” These bits of information can help people find commonalities and can provide the condensation nuclei around which conversations can take hold.

Be aware that different groups of friends will be familiar with different references. When such references come up, explain them to everyone else. If your physics friends start talking about qed, qcd, and qft, expand the acronyms and give a brief high-level overview. If the Luna Lovegoods’ at the party start talking about glacial deposits in the tropics and how the Earth used to be a giant snowball, mention to the others that actually the Earth maybe used to be a giant snowball.

Involving multiple people in a group conversation can be hard. The topic may not interest everyone present, or the content of what you’re saying may be mostly directed at one person. You can preempt this by making eye contact. Looking around the circle while you talk will make everyone feel like a part of the discussion, and being a spectator is much more fun when you are acknowledged.

This piece is about being a host, but the utility of these lessons extends beyond the specifics of throwing parties. They apply in any group setting. Your ability to enjoy yourself and have fun is largely prerequisite. With that in place, you can turn your attention to others. And surprisingly, when you focus on mitigating the insecurities and discomforts of your guests, you often end up forgetting your own.

-Robert