Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Rude hostess

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Question
My neighbor, whom I'm not particularly close to, called me and asked me to come down to her house so she'd have someone "her age" to talk to when her adult daughter was hosting a sales party.

The neighbor asked me if I'd like a glass of wine so I accepted. Well, the sales rep was whispering and then actually had the nerve to say she couldn't allow drinking. The neighbor, IMO, should have intervened. Why offer something to an invited guest, only to have them be insulted? So rude. Also, I was never offered anything else to drink, even a glass of water.

Then, the neighbor just disappeared while the guests were subjected to an hour and a half sales pitch.

I'm furious with this woman. She knows I wasn't happy, but that doesn't seem to bother her as far as I can tell.

Is there any polite way to address this when you're confronted with not only a bait and switch invitation, but the appalling behavior of the sales rep chastising an invited guests over a beverage that was offered by the host's mother and the owner of the home?

I can't believe how rude some people are. I was so stunned by this behavior I couldn't think of a polite response, but I wish now I would have gathered my belongings and left rather than suffer through it.

Thank you.

Answer
Dear Carol:  I am pleased that you shared your question with me, because I believe that etiquette is more than following a script of hard and fast rules.  It's about treating others kindly and appropriately, and your hostess did neither.

The most important role of a host or hostess is to make guests feel welcome, comfortable and respected, and your neighbor failed you in all respects. IMO, she invited you in order to increase the number of paying customers at her daughter's event, not because she wanted your company.

Given the specifics of her invitation, she should have been your co-joined twin throughout the event, in as much as her hostess duties would permit. Also, it was her responsibility to jump into the conversation about alcohol by stating that she had offered you the glass of wine without knowing the sales rep's policy. It was her job to take the flak, to apologize to both you and the sales rep, and to immediately offer you another beverage.  Shortly after the wine "slap-on-the-wrist" and when it became evident to you that the hostess did not intend to spend time with you at the event, you could have excused yourself from the group, found the her in the kitchen, calmly explained how you felt, and left the event early. You had every right to do so.

I believe that often people don't know that their behavior is hurtful or inappropriate.  So, if you care about and want to maintain your friendship with the hostess, it's not too late to let her know how you feel about this experience.  Call her and, in a calm and friendly tone (don't use the word "rude", although she certainly was), let her know that you were very uncomfortable with what happened at the event.  Tell her that you came in support of her and with the expectation that you would be spending time with her and instead, you felt awkward and abandoned. A little honest, friendly feedback won't hurt a good friendship. If your hostess cannot accept this feedback graciously and does not offer a sincere apology, then perhaps this is not a friendship that you want to preserve and she is not someone with whom you want to spend time in future.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell

Expertise

Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette

Experience

Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations. www.etiquetteadvocate.com www.theprotocolpartners.com

Organizations
Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Publications
Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for Experience.com, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

Education/Credentials
B.S., University of Utah, 1969

Past/Present Clients
America Online (AOL), American Bar Association, American Society of Interior Designers, Asian Development Bank (Manila, Philippines), Association of American Indian Physicians, Association of American Medical Colleges, BAE Systems, Inc., Capital One Financial Corporation, The Catholic University of America, Clark Construction, LLC, Choice Hotels International, Coppin State University, D.C. Bar Association, 40 PLUS of Greater Washington, Dress for Success, Inc., Emerging Leaders Institute(Fairfax, VA), Fannie Mae, General Dynamics Corporation, Georgetown University, George Mason University, George Washington University (Admissions Office, Career Center, Department of Athletics, School of Business, MBA Association), Grant Thornton LLC, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, HITT Contracting, Inc., Howard University, Howrey LLP, KTA Group, Inc, Library of Congress, Life Technologies, Lincoln Military Housing Corporation, Marketing Directors Support Group (Baltimore, MD), Miss DC International Pageant, Montgomery County Commission For Women, National Center for Children & Families, National Press Club, Oberlin College, Orphan Foundation of America, Professionals in the City (Washington, DC), Ragsdale Liggett, PLLC, Ritz Carlton Hotel (Pentagon City, VA), Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, SOC Enterprises, Stratford University, Team Enterprises, Inc., Travel Industry Association, Trinity University, Umstead Hotel and Spa, University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University, The World Bank, World Travel and Tourism Commission, Year Up, Youth Business Initiative.

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