I was inspired to write The Art of Paying a Call after accompanying my mother on her round of social visits. Not only did I observe her behavior as the caller, but also how we were greeted and welcomed by our hostess/host. But while writing this etiquette guide, The Art of Receiving a Call, I kept picturing my grandmother who always welcomed you with such warmth and hospitality. She took you to the porch to rock awhile and gave you her complete attention. She always had a homemade desert or refreshment to offer, and she never sent you away empty handed. Her capacity for caring was immense, and I can only hope that one day I become the hostess she was.
So it is from observing my grandmother as a hostess that I gleaned the rules to The Art of Receiving a Call. As any talented hostess knows receiving visitors and making them feel welcome takes effort. My grandmother always exhibited that classic Southern hospitality with a pinch of panache and a considerable dash of grace. Below are the rules of etiquette you should follow to properly host a call:
The Art of Receiving a Call
Rule No. 1 Greet Callers Warmly
This is essential for setting a positive and welcoming mood for the visit. Ideally, one should go outside to welcome the callers in and keep your critters from leaping on the guests with dirty paws and slimy kisses.
Rule No. 2 Give Your Attention Wholly to Them
All work should cease: stop shelling beans, leave off sweeping the floor, turn off the TV, and give Facebook a rest. Put your cell phone away until sharing that cute picture of the baby or beautiful vacation spot becomes necessary to Rule No. 6. All of your attention should be devoted to the callers.
Rule No. 3 Choose Your Entertaining Space Wisely
After welcoming the callers into one’s house, decide where to entertain. Invite them to rock on the porch or sip tea on the patio or converse in the living room. One’s choice of entertaining space will, of course, depend on several variables from the condition of the weather, the tidiness of such spaces, and the degree of intimacy between you and the visitors.
Rule No. 4 Always Offer Refreshments
After seating your visitors and exchanging initial pleasantries, politely offer refreshments. The callers will most likely, at first, protest, but simply assure them it is no trouble at all and that you are just dying for them to try your latest [insert delicacy here]. The good hostess/host always has something in her/his kitchen to offer a guest. It need not be anything elaborate or homemade nor must one always offer food. Sometimes a simple glass of ice tea or lemonade is enough. It is always a treat to offer something one picked up on a recent trip somewhere that is slightly exotic or unavailable in your local region.
If it is just the two of you visiting, it may be appropriate to ask your guest to come to the kitchen with you while you prepare the refreshments. The extension of this offer will entirely depend on the degree of intimacy between you. If this is not an option, try to leave your visitor with something to do.
When refreshments are truly not desired or your guests are in a rush, just dropping something off, do not continue pressing them to take drink or food. One wants to be hospitable not make the visitors uncomfortable.
Rule No. 5 Be an Attentive Listener
Building upon Rule No. 2, one should be receptive to your callers’ conversation and whatever news they have come to share.
Rule No. 6 Guide Conversation Skillfully
As the hostess/host it is your role to keep conversation flowing smoothly. One can always rely on the Holy Trinity of Topics: health, weather, relations. One should also try to draw out your visitors and encourage everyone to partake in the conversation. Be aware of sensitive subjects that would cause unease to your visitors.
Rule No. 7 Protest Their Leaving
When your visitors start to take their leave, encourage them to stay longer, letting them know you are happy for their company. If they must truly depart, ask them to call again soon, and graciously thank them for their visit.
Rule No. 8 Never Send Them away Empty Handed
Wrap up a piece of cake; pack some freshly picked vegetables from the garden; or gift them with a jar of your latest jam. The goal is not to give them something extravagant, but to thank them for sharing their time with you and make them feel cared for and valued.
I hope these rules will help you feel confident as a hostess and know how to properly receive a call from friends and neighbors. But the most important element to The Art of Receiving a Call is to make someone feel cared for and valued — this is the secret to being a good hostess no matter what else you do!
I would love to hear what you think about this etiquette guide! Leave a comment below.
Partying at Tablescape Thursday