Food & Drink

Dinner Etiquette: What To Do With Problematic Guests

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when throwing a dinner party. The wine can be corked... your recipe can fail... your dog can bite someone in the face. The possible mishaps are countless. But, sometimes those mishaps are out of your hands. Sometimes, it's your (not so friendly) guest that's to blame. And dealing with that is even harder than fixing the cake you dropped on the floor.

What do you do if you've invited someone to your table who is just kind of nasty? Or worse, someone who won't stop with those backhanded compliments? You want to be gracious, you want everyone to enjoy themselves, but these un-argeeable guests can get on your last nerve. We've all been there, it's hard.

We brought in an etiquette expert, Julie Blais Comeau, to help us through the next time we find ourselves in this situation. While we may not want to take Julie's advice in these difficult situations, she has a point in that it's just better to take the high road -- always.

Sometimes you can't help but have a guest over for dinner (which usually turns out to be a family member) who is just not pleasant. What's the best way to avoid a sticky situation?

JBC: An unpleasant guest could be the result of many factors. Maybe the guest is simply having a bad day or maybe they had a little ‘tiff’ with a loved and they are still stuck in that mood or maybe... You could simply ignore the guest’s mood and not take it personally. If it is someone that is close to you, the best way to deal with this sticky situation is to discreetly take that guest aside and in private to say something like: ‘I noticed that you seem a little bit out of sorts this evening, is there something that I can do for you?’ Depending on your level of intimacy with the guest he may share his turmoil or he may just brush it off. Either way, their mood generally changes or pleasantness is restored.

Some people are known for being skilled deliverers of backhanded compliments. When such a person is a guest at your dinner table, and has inevitable insulted you (or your cooking), how do you respond?

The proper and less confrontational way to handle backhanded compliments is to only acknowledge the compliment and leave out the backhand. For example: ‘This is a delicious mushroom gravy, much less salty than your béarnaise sauce.’ Say something like: ‘I like it too. I used a little bit of porto as my secret ingredient.’ This is one of those instances where you should pick your battles. If this is coming from a close family member and you are suspecting passive aggression, let the evening go by and initiate a more open and candid conversation at another time. It could also be someone’s nervous way of offering you a compliment while trying to be funny. Don’t take all backhanded compliments personally.

What would be the most appropriate response to a remark such as "This roast tastes a lot better than I thought it would?

Thank you. I am glad you like it.

What would be the most appropriate response to a remark made about your roast dinner such as "A roast is a decent cut of meat, it's nice and cheap too?

It is, I agree.

If you as a host happened to snap at someone delivering backhanded compliments, should you apologize? What would be the best way to smooth the situation over?

A host should never snap at a guest. So yes, an apology, in private, would be in order.

Do you agree with these answers? Let us know how you would deal with rude guests in the comments below!

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