Social Etiquette and Good Manners/preparing for holiday visitors


My adult child will be coming home for the holidays with a friend.This friend has mental illness and has been disrespectful in the past.This friend likes to cook for everyone. I want to be kind but I am lost for words as to how/what to say as far as the house rules,length of stay,open communication, and cooking.Things are a bit rocky now and in the past but I feel a need to make  things clear beforehand so as to not ruin the holiday.Things are often taken wrong. This is my home and I want to feel like it is.

Dear Rita:
You are right to want to get the house rules made clear to all visitors before they arrive.  Some of the responsibility for informing your child's friend will have to remain with your child.  However, you need to state to him/her before they come the exact rules so there is no guessing on their part.  Guests sometimes go overboard with offering to do things like cooking, cleaning and "helping out" when they are unsure how to please their host and show their appreciation for being a guest in their home.  A few rules to state up front are:

1. When you expect their arrival (date and time)
2. What activities will be going on while they are visiting so they can bring the right clothes, equipment, etc.
3. What time meals will be and which ones you will be responsible for cooking and which ones they will be responsible for getting on their own.  One thing I know others do is to make a calendar for their guests' stay with open kitchen times for guests as well as closed kitchen times for the hosts use only. Available snacks are available at all times in their system.  What clean-up expectations are should also be stated up front.
4. When you expect them to depart (date and time)
5. Whether you expect your child and friend to have any specific curfew (when do doors lock for the night?)  Explain this is not only for safety reasons but so that you can expect not to be awakened by their comings and goings.

As you can see, guests need specific instructions and expectations clarified before they arrive so that they don't have to guess what is the right thing for them to be doing.  It is hard to be a guest in someone's house without instructions and understood expectations.  However, it is equally important to let the guest know that he/she is most welcome and that for the time they are with you they are part of your family; and as part of the family, there are certain expectations so that there are no misunderstandings.
The most important things you as the host can do is to make they feel welcome and keeping up the communication when they might detour from your instructions.  Of course being guided in another direction with a smile is more welcome and less intimidating to the guest than a quietly seething host.

If this guest is disrespectful, your reply might be best if you state to them that you are sure they didn't mean to disrespect you and you would like them to do something different.  Clear the air at that moment rather than holding it in to become resentful later.  Again, restating that you are glad they are there and that you know staying in someone else's home is sometimes difficult will help them open up and listen to what your rules are and thus make it easier to live together for the few days they are there.  Enlist your child's assistance with communication whenever possible to make it easier to hear for their friend.

I hope you have a pleasant holiday season.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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