With the presidential candidates making the top news headlines daily, there’s a good chance that your dinner party could evolve into one big political debate.
A dinner party can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, dishwasher and moderator in a stress filled debate with unruly politicians.
People may not remember your dinner party’s menu, but memories are pretty clear when an intriguing conversation leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed.
So how do you encourage conversations that make the meal more enjoyable without political chatter that sends some guests storming out early? Here are some tips -
As the host, you may have to put fires out at the dinner table long after the meal is done. If political rhetoric becomes a nasty side dish at dinner, the host needs to take action. You don't want to turn political debate moderator, that type of dinner is enough to sour any stomach.
Steer The Conversation
It is proper etiquette to stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These types of conversations have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path. For instance, if a friend comments that “Donald Trump’s the leader, and Republicans are doing so much better than Democrats” and you see your friend Donna, the Democrat, start to let him have it - change the tone of the conversation by asking if anyone watched Larry David as Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live? (he did a great job! You can watch it here). Once you have everyone laughing – then ask who would like more pie?
Have Your 10 Questions Ready To Go
If you are acting as host, it is always a good idea to consider the opposing views of dinner guests and plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. It is best to stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences. Pick 10 Safe topics and then think of questions to get the conversation going - include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on. Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things going on around you.
Be the Leader
Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner. Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face. Your attitude can put any guests at ease. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies your guests may require.
Be Quick To Change the Subject
If someone starts a conversation by asking an inappropriate question, you can change the subject. You may respond by saying that the question is interesting and asking for time to consider the topic. It is always good etiquette to keep the response positive and find something complimentary to say about the guest or topic and move on. If a conversation is headed in a bad direction change the topic by linking to something said in a previous conversation and continue talking. If more outgoing guests are dominating the conversations, turn the tables and look for opportunities to encourage guests who appear to be more reserved to speak.
Deflect, Deflect, Deflect
If you are ever put on the spot with an ill-mannered question, you can play politician. Most politicians will vaguely state an opinion and start talking about something positive and totally unrelated to the inappropriate question. Some ways to deflect include: discussing common interests, asking open-ended questions, discussing hobbies, using follow-up questions, or sharing life-lessons you’ve learned.
Genuine compliments can also be used to change any bad attitude and calm a disruptive guest. Saying “I like your tie” can go a long way to fostering a dinner peace treaty, but always be genuine and truthful with your compliments.
As a rule of thumb, it is never a good idea to force your ideas or opinions on others during a dinner. Also, try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by trying to listen to different points of view. The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.
Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time. Incorporate these tactics the next time you host a dinner party and you will be sure to get the most votes for “best dinner host”.