Advice for handling sensitive topics of conversation
when hosting a dinner party
When entertaining, there are two secrets to a host’s success: An ability to bring together people and create lasting memories, and the foresight to see — and resolve — problems before they arise.
Once a week, our resident experts Mindy Lockard and Coryanne Ettiene will weigh in with helpful advice to help the modern host tackle even the stickiest of situations with grace. Have a question you want answered? Send us an email with your dilemma, and then check back every week for new tips and advice.
This week’s question:
I was recently at a dinner party where the table conversation turned to a topic I was not comfortable with, and the host failed to steer the conversation back on track. I’m hosting a dinner party next week, and am not sure what to do if that happens. What tips do you have for redirecting the conversation should sensitive topics arise?
Coryanne: Sensitive topics are tricky, especially when you add cocktails to the mix. If you are planning a formal, sit-down dinner, add a conversation starter to the back of the place card. This gives something neutral for everyone to share should the need arise — it also makes for a great ice-breaker if you’re mixing together guests who may not know each other very well.
Mindy: This is an oldie but a goodie — just change the subject. Although this is usually the host’s job, if the conversation is on a one-way track to uncomfortable, it's okay for a guest to hop in and intervene. For example, say something like, “Sally, I totally forgot to ask you about your trip to Italy,” or “John, I hear you just bought a new boat, any fun adventures on the horizon?” Sure, everyone might know what you are up to, but most likely, they will all be quite appreciative.
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