Engaging strangers at dinner: Not everyone’s cup of tea

house dinner 2I’ve learned a lot from the Myers-Briggs, especially when administered and explored by my favorite former clinical psychologist. As an ENFP, one of my major take-aways is how differently I recharge my batteries than, say, someone whose profile begins with an I instead of an E. In Myers-Briggs terms, the difference between extroverts and introverts is a bit more nuanced than the popular understanding of the terms. In brief, it’s all about where we draw our energy: from interaction with groups or from more intimate, one-on-one or solitary settings.

Which brings me to the dinner table at Beacon Hill Friends House. When I hear we have guests for dinner, my ears perk up. I hope I end up sitting close enough to them at our long table to find out a bit about them and answer questions about the house. I also realize this is not a reaction shared by all.

Perhaps especially not by people just home from more demanding days at work than their semi-retired housemate looking to make new friends at dinner. Before we moved into the house, I got some sage advice from Holly, the BHFH director. Ease up a bit on all the questions, she counseled. Sometimes people just want to relax.

Although I’m not sure it shows, I really have tried to rein myself in accordingly. But following up on Carol’s post about hospitality, there’s one circumstance in the social life of the house that has me stumped. It’s happened several times, most recently when we invited a couple of friends for dinner on an evening when both Carol and I were on dishcrew.

After dinner, as Carol was loading the Avenger and I was clearing the table, I noticed that our friends were surrounded by avid conversation on either side, none of it involving them. At house meetings, we’ve talked about how to create a more hospitable environment for guests at dinner. But I felt like I needed to do something now. So I walked over to the housies sitting to one friend’s right and introduced a topic I hoped they shared. And then I did the same with the housies to the left of our other guest. A bit awkward, but it seemed to work. The conversations were still going, our friends included, as Carol & I finished the dishes with Ali and we headed back to the dining room to join them.

Hosting guests at a table not entirely ours is not the same as inviting friends for dinner in our own home. But then we didn’t move into BHFH in search of more of the same.

Especially interested to hear from friends who trend more toward the I than the E on personality profiles: How do you feel about newcomers — and sometimes strangers — showing up at dinner?

3 thoughts on “Engaging strangers at dinner: Not everyone’s cup of tea

  1. For 35 years I hosted an open house for dinner every Wednesday night. Everyone from the artistic, to academic, to homeless community showed up unannounced week after week. You might think I am an E but actually I am not. I have discovered that if I have a job, like welcoming people and assuring that everyone is fed and the dishes are done, I am happy (yet perhaps tired) in this kind of situation. At our UU church I am the organizer, the convener, the gurl who gets the job done. BUT, I must say, I don’t relish meeting strangers nor finding friendship. I am full of admiration for Bill and Carol’s intentionality. Thank you for posting your musings.

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