© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Life Kit: How To Host A Dinner Party


Let's face it. It's been a long few months without get-togethers because of the coronavirus. And while things aren't completely back to normal, people are starting to host gatherings again. But maybe your hosting skills are a little rusty. So let's assume you've worked out your guests' vaccination status and such, and you've got the logistics of organizing down. For NPR's Life Kit, Diba Mohtasham explores how to host meaningful, memorable gatherings.

DIBA MOHTASHAM, BYLINE: Hosting can be stressful, but it doesn't need to be.

PRIYA PARKER: I believe anyone can host. You don't need a fancy house. You don't need a lot of money. You need to want to bring people together for a need that you have and treat them well.

MOHTASHAM: That's conflict resolution facilitator Priya Parker. She's the author of "The Art Of Gathering." And Parker says that the role of the host is incredibly important.

PARKER: It's responsibility. It's also a lot of fun, or it can be. But the role of the host is really to take care of the life of the group.

MOHTASHAM: First, she says, before anything, a host should define a purpose for gathering. Figure that out, and the rest will follow.

PARKER: So often, because we haven't paused to think about what is it that I need or what is it that we need, we back into gatherings that tend to be vague and slightly dull. And specificity is a very powerful source of meaning and connection for people.

MOHTASHAM: Simply adding an intention, even if it isn't a serious one, will begin to shape the group's experience of the night. That intention could be as simple as wanting to catch up with old friends or welcoming new ones into the neighborhood.

Next, think about your guest list. For starters, the size of the group actually matters. Parker says four to six is a good size for a really connected conversation, whereas 8 to 12 feels more like a buzzy dinner party.

PARKER: It's not just that these different sizes are good for different groups and different reasons. They fundamentally affect people's behavior. And so the composition of the group will give you different evenings.

MOHTASHAM: When it comes to deciding the specific people to invite, There can be a lot of anxiety. But if you're worried about excluding someone, Parker says to lean into your purpose.

PARKER: So, for example, I had a friend who was - had a reunion. He used to be in the Peace Corps. And casually, informally, a group of friends wanted to get together for a Peace Corps reunion. And one of them on an email or a WhatsApp thread was like, great; are partners invited? And that's the moment when a good gatherer pauses and instead of saying the knee-jerk, yeah, of course, says, well, it depends. Why are we doing this? We haven't seen each other in a decade. Are we wanting to reconnect with just ourselves and kind of catch up on old stories, or are we wanting to reconnect and bring our - like, the life that we've built since that moment? In which case, absolutely bring partners.

MOHTASHAM: Which leads us to our final takeaway. During the event itself, a general rule of thumb is not to under-host. Parker says it's the job of the host to figure out how to make everybody feel like they belong.

PARKER: Very simply, it could be, if you are having a dance party, how do you make it as comfortable for the person who would normally dance to dance or the person who has less access to be able to dance in traditional ways to come and feel included? Like, in every time any group is getting together, there needs to be a context that's set up so that each person, regardless of their many identities, can find a way in.

MOHTASHAM: And ultimately, don't forget to enjoy yourselves, too. For NPR News, I'm Diba Mohtasham.

MARTIN: For more about how to host a great gathering, go to npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diba Mohtasham