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?
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.
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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