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Social Etiquette and Good Manners/How to Say No to Houseguests When You've Hosted Them Before


Hi there, about 1-1/2 yrs ago, we moved to a great city that attracts many visitors. For the first 8 months, we had a nonstop stream of houseguests that included family, friends and acquaintances. We do not have a guest room so they stayed in our living room on an air mattress and/or couch and shared a bathroom with our 23-year-old daughter.  I'm an introvert and this eventually became very taxing and stressful for me. Recently the visits have slowed down, and I'm better able to cope with the occasional visits from friends and family.

Here's the problem - we previously allowed one couple to stay with us whom we are more acquaintances than friends. They weren't terrible houseguests or anything, but it was somewhat awkward. We really haven't communicated again in the 12 months since they stayed with us, other than "liking" thinks on each other's Facebook pages, etc. I've just received an email from them asking if they can stay with us over a weekend this summer. I am struggling to know what to do. I can't say that we don't have room or are no longer accommodating guests because neither of these things are true (and they know it).  And they're only asking to stay for a weekend. However, the bottom line is that I just really don't want to host them, and I'm kind of tired of feeling like we are the go-to crash pad for all who visit.

I just don't know how to say no in a polite way that won't hurt their feelings and won't be a lie.


Dear Tara:

The homeowner has the right to say "no" to someone inviting themselves to take advantage of their good will and hospitality.  Your acquaintances were rude asking to stay with you in the first place.  The proper thing they should have done is to call you and tell you that they plan to be in your city over these dates and that they hope they can get together with you.  Then they should have waited to hear if you were going to invite them to stay with you.  When you didn't, they should look for a hotel.

That's the proper etiquette of staying with others in their home.  This rule goes for friends, relatives and acquaintances.  Since they chose to be rude and asked for your hospitality, simply tell them that it is not convenient for them to stay with you.  That's it. No further explanations and certainly no apologies.  Just that it is inconvenient for them to stay with you.  You might want to have a few lower and mid-priced hotels in  mind that are close by for them to try if you want to be accommodating.

Remember, if you don't want visitors, then having visitors is inconvenient.  It isn't a lie.  Just a true statement.  But again, don't offer any additional explanation because they don't need to hear it and you don't need to give it.  Even though you are not offering to put them up, you are not being rude - you are just not offering your hospitality.  If you want, tell them you would love to see them while they are in town - perhaps for breakfast or lunch one day.  Or, if you don't want to see them, don't offer.  Either way you are being appropriate.

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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