Since Thanksgiving day is the most heavily traveled day in America, it’s possible a relative or friend plans to spend a night or two in your home.
You know the drill: Have a couch or bed ready. Make sure toothpaste is in an obvious spot. Perhaps brew coffee in the morning and arrange for breakfast. All of this makes for a good host.
But being the host is also an opportunity to build a closer relationship with your guests ― and part of that has to do with the psychology of surprise, according to Tania Luna, psychologist and author of the book Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable And Engineer The Unexpected.
Surprise gestures ― think welcome flowers or leaving out the WiFi password ― can give your guest a happier experience, Luna told The Huffington Post. Plus, research shows these acts could increase dopamine (AKA the feel-good hormone) in the brain.
“When you’re away from home, you’re distracted and thinking, ‘Did you leave enough dry food for the cat?’ and ‘Did I turn the oven off?’” Luna explained, which is why kind gestures can help them feel more at ease.
Hosting is also a way to sharpen those manners skills, which is another way to strengthen your relationship with your house guest, says Daniel Post Senning, co-host of the Awesome Etiquette Podcast.
We rounded up some expert-backed, courteous gestures you can do for your guests in order to make them feel happy and comfortable. Take a look at the suggestions below and take your hosting game from good to great.
1. Tidy up.
Let’s start here: Clean up your place beyond a standard you would accept for yourself, Senning said. Your guests might not notice the organized coffee table books or the sparkling faucets as standalone items, but when it’s all put together, everything just looks nice.
2. Test drive where your guest will sleep.
According to a recent Brown University study, only one brain hemisphere stays more awake when we sleep somewhere new. That’s why we’re so groggy sometimes after crashing at a friend’s house: One part of our mind stays alert to keep an eye out, so to speak, in unfamiliar surroundings. A way to help this? Try to make the guest’s sleeping quarters as accommodating as possible.
“This is one of the best pieces of advice you can get,” Senning said. “Are there enough blankets on the bed? Does the room get cold in the middle of the night? Is there an easy bedside light to reach for? All of these things affect a guest’s comfort.”
You might discover nuisances you may not have picked up on by test driving the room. For example, if sleeping on the couch puts someone right in line with a light from the computer, move it for them. Or if loud garbagemen will cause your guests to stir too early, consider an inexpensive noise machine.
3. Stock the bathroom.
Anticipate that your guest may need added toiletries or other bathroom items. Leave out extra toilet paper, soap, a washcloth and even a toilet plunger (our faces are turning red).
“I’ve also heard of putting a toilet brush in the bathroom,” Senning said. “These are all little niceties to illustrate your forethought in planning for them.”
4. Keep water next to the bed.
A carafe of water with a glass on the bedside table is a thoughtful touch in case your guest wakes up thirsty, Senning offered. If anything, just because hydration is important no matter where someone is sleeping. This too may help people from snooping around to find something to drink (research shows approximately 40 percent of guests do it).
5. Provide some plush amenities, like a pair of slippers.
File this gesture under surprise. Senning said this is an especially nice move if you run the kind of household that asks guests to remove their shoes at the front door. It’s also a great touch for homes in colder climates.
6. Print out the WiFi password.
“This is an emerging courtesy, no questions,” Senning stated.
Just say no to data overages and provide the magical combination of letters and numbers to your guest. Perhaps print it out or leave it on a Post-It on the nightstand.
7. Set clear boundaries.
“You want to help set [guests] up for success,” Senning said. This means telling your guest they’re welcome to help themselves to what’s in the fridge, but also clearly letting them know what’s off limits (like that blueberry pie made especially for Thanksgiving). Be clear with visitors to prevent them from slipping up in a way that could make them feel awkward.
8. Purchase a few treats.
If your guest is staying for more than just a night, consider asking them what they like to eat or drink. Having a few of their favorites on hand is another way to make them feel welcome, Senning said. You can also make your own snacks (these zesty cashews are our favorites.)
No matter what gestures you do or don’t do, just remember one thing: Hosting friends and family is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them. So be present. And if you need some time for self care over holidays (just us?), make time for that, too.
Happy holidays and happy hosting!