Enjoying a meal with friends and family is supposed to help dust away life’s daily anxieties. But in a recent British survey, half of those questioned said throwing a dinner party is more stressful than going to work. A quarter of respondents found it more traumatic than sitting down for a job interview.
A significant share of that anxiety, according to author Sandy Coughlin, is rooted in self-consciousness. When we host, we worry about being judged. Is our furniture OK? Is the bathroom spotless? Will the food turn out?
Coughlin’s mission is to help people see event hosting as an opportunity to reconnect. “The real point of entertaining isn’t to display the perfection of your domestic arrangements or your party-hosting skill,” she says. “The main thing is making people feel warm and welcome in your home.”
Barriers to Overcome
Perfectionism. “People often feel that their house isn’t nice enough, they don’t have the right space for entertaining, their kids aren’t well behaved, whatever,” says Coughlin. “I think of perfectionism as the No. 1 source of entertaining stress.” Authenticity is way more fun.
Overpreparation. Readying your home for entertaining can plant unrealistic expectations that you need to clean absolutely every surface, polish the floors and maybe even paint the walls before you can have anybody over.
Fear of the unknown. Anxiety over whom to invite, the amount of food to prepare and how to keep the conversation flowing once the festivities begin can make the prospect of entertaining overwhelming.
Absent or bad role models. Many people are fearful of hosting, says Coughlin, “because they were simply never shown how. Maybe they didn’t have hospitable parents or their parents got so stressed out in party-throwing situations that they made entertaining seem forbidding.”
Next: 5 Strategies for Success