If you get hospitality and entertaining confused, you may never want to regularly have people over because it’s just too hard. Here’s an easy way to differentiate the two: Hospitality is about sharing time together. Entertaining is about providing an experience.
There are some times during the year when you want to put on a show and provide an experience…birthday parties, major holiday meals, baby showers, promotions. But what about an ordinary Friday night? There are times for carefully designed invitations and elaborate tablescapes, and there are times for last-minute texts for beverages and snacks-on-hand.
When I think back over the last 17 years of Army life, the people who showed hospitality the most frequently were the ones who didn’t care if they had stains on their carpets or crumbs on the floor or full kitchen sinks. They were friendly people who enjoyed the company of others. They extended casual invitations often. Jen Eddins of the Peanut Butter Runner blog recently wrote, “sometimes adult friendships take a certain amount of directness that I’m not typically comfortable with.” Yep, that’s me! But the military spouses who are the best at showing hospitality have nailed the practice of extending the casual invitation. It’s a, “Hey, let’s have a yoga and tea date next week.” Or, “Our husbands are both away. Why don’t you bring your daughter and whatever you were making for dinner over here and we’ll eat together and then the kids can play.”
Everybody appreciates an invitation, so why is it so hard for some of us be direct and put it out there? I would love to hear your reasons. Here are some of mine:
What if they say no?
Back to the above. Everybody appreciates an invitation. Nobody has ever said no. The answer might be a raincheck, but it’s never been a no.
I’m going to have to put a lot of work into getting my house and refreshments ready. Then there’s going to be the cleanup. An imperfect house actually makes people feel more comfortable because they don’t have to worry about messing things up.
Hospitality can be as simple as a place to sit and something to drink. Small effort, small cleanup. Big rewards.
I haven’t found my tribe yet. I don’t know who to ask.
In a big room of people with only a few familiar faces, look for clues about people that show you might have something in common. One friend hand-picked me out of a group of moms at a large playgroup gathering because our kids were wearing the same brand of shoes and she thought that might mean we might have similar parenting ideas. She got my number and called to follow up right away with an invitation for our kids to play in her baby pool. Back to that idea of needing to have a certain amount of directness! You could do the same thing with clothing. Somebody’s sporting a yoga brand you love as casual wear and pulls it off? Or they’re wearing stylish yet comfortable shoes? If those are things you have in common, strike up a conversation and see where it goes. If you don’t have business cards, consider having some contact cards made so it’s easy to share your email address or phone number without a lot of effort or awkwardness.
Go to where your tribe hangs out. The park, the yoga studio, the gym, the coffee shop, the shared workspace. And know that InDependent communities are here for you, virtually and in person. Training for a race and looking for a running partner? Why not put it out there in the InDependent community to see if somebody else was just waiting for the ask? Love to cook and want to share a healthy meal with somebody? Choose a cookbook and invite people to a potluck dinner featuring recipes from that cookbook. I put an invitation out for people to try a vegan cookbook, highly doubting that people would be interested. A bunch of people RSVPd yes!
What if I don’t have enough places to sit, or enough glasses for everyone?
This one is not just me because I’ve heard it a lot. The awesome thing about the military community is that everybody understands what it’s like to just start out or to adapt to homes of wildly different sizes. Sit people around your coffee table, or have a picnic on a blanket. You and your home are good enough!
I love how Jen Eddins identified that she struggled with having that little bit of directness that she needed to make adult friendships and decided to become more of an initiator while staying in her comfort zone by “frequently reaching out and saying something like, ‘I’d love to see you this week. What works with your schedule? Run date? Coffee? Dinner? Maybe just catch up on the phone? I’m flexible. Let me know!’”
The key word is “frequently.” The more we extend invitations and the more we have people over, the easier it becomes and we’ll be better able to shift from the entertaining mindset to one of hospitality. If you come to my house for the first time, I’m going to be in first impression mode. But if you come over a bunch of times, the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the basket become less weird.
Opening our homes to others gives us the opportunity to support our health through community. In her book This is Where You Belong, Melody Warnick wrote that researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and Penn State University found that “when participants reported more neighborhood cohesion, they had more positive emotions and fewer physical ailments. They even reported experiencing fewer daily stressors.” I could use some of that!
What holds you back from having people into your home? What are some of your favorite things to do when friends, old or new, come over? Share on Facebook or Instagram using #IDthrive.