Dear Alma: Politics at a Dinner Party, Potluck Etiquette and More

Dear Alma,

Most of my friends hold the same or similar political views as I do but, some do not. A friend recently told me about a dinner party she attended during which there were some very awkward exchanges between my friend and another guest who held very different political views. The exchange made everyone at the dinner uncomfortable. I am planning a dinner party and don’t want the same thing to happen to my guests! What should I do??

P.C. (Politically Concerned)

Dear P.C.,

First off, I commend you for having a diverse group of friends which I imagine you do if you are concerned about differing views being expressed. These are challenging political times to say the least. Below are some strategies to both avoid political discussions and to keep discussions respectful:

When you send your invite, you can politely request that there be no politics discussed at dinner. This may or may not go over well, as you are not the boss of your guests. And let’s face it, it’s a hot topic on everyone’s mind and it will pretty much be the pink elephant in the room.

You can also attempt to have a fun loving sign at the dinner table with “politics” written in a circle with a line drawn through it. You may get some eye rolling or some who think it is patronizing but humor can go a long way these days.

No matter your political leanings, at a minimum, if politics are discussed it is important that discussions remain respectful and that no one feels unsafe by being labeled or humiliated. This means listening to the other person’s point of view, not interrupting and only using “I’ statements. For example, “I believe that this policy of keeping certain countries’ citizens from entering the U.S. is unfair and not what our country’s values are based on. I believe it will cause serious harm within the U.S. and globally”, as opposed to “You and people who think like you are going to cause serious damage by separating families.” You will not be heard if you present your views in the latter fashion and you might get corn spit on you, accidentally of intentionally.

It’s also important to watch body language and tone of voice. It’s easy to raise your voice when you’re feeling impassioned but try not to. You may find yourself sounding really condescending and sarcastic, especially when you know you’re right, but try to put on a good show and model appropriate, respectful behavior for your guests so as not to cause discomfort at the dinner table.

Last but not least, think twice about hosting a potentially hostile dinner party and have a dinner party only with your besties who you know are in agreement with you. I don’t recommend this last one, however, because it is important that people with diverse thinking come to the proverbial table to discuss working together. Despite our very different views on how the world and the people in it should function, we need to break bread together in a safe and calm environment.

Bon Apetit and be careful with the wine flow which can lead to a lack of filter.


Dear Alma,

Please tell me if this is rude: I would like to send out recipes for dishes for people to contribute to my dinner parties instead of relying on them to bring an appropriate, complementary dish for a potluck. I can’t tell you how insane it makes me when people bring chips and salsa or a bottle of wine to a pot luck. I feel like picking what to bring can sometimes be the challenge so why not take that indecisiveness out of the equation and just send out a request for chefs to put together this great dinner idea? Is this beyond bossy??I think I would like to be told what to make (ingredients of course reasonable- no lobster bisque!). Tell me if I’m totally out of line.

Bossy Pants

Dear Bossy Pants,

If giving people specifics on what to bring is rude, then call me the Queen of Rude. I feel it is a relief for my potluck guests to not have to figure out what to bring. The best way to make certain that you don’t have a meal consisting of chips and wine is to create a sign up list using or some other site to request certain items that will round out your meal as the hostess. Always make sure to have something store bought or simple such as a drink, utensils or a prepared food so that the novice or non-cooks don’t stress out over having to create a stellar dish. Not everyone cooks and we want everyone to feel like they have participated in the fun event.

That being said, if someone truly has their heart set on bringing a particular dish and it doesn’t screw up your event, let them.

You’re not bossy, you’re organized. Own it!


Dear Alma,

Is it O.K. to clean up while company is still over?

Hate To Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight

Dear Hate To Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight,

Here’s the deal: If you can multi task and chat with your guests while you are cleaning up, then by all means, put those dishes in the dishwasher as you get ready for the next course. If you need all your attention to start cleaning up and you ignore your guests in the process, however, don’t do it!

The general rule is that you don’t want to make your guests feel uncomfortable by suggesting that they help by your cleaning up in front of them.You want your guests to feel at home and relaxed, not like they have to clean in exchange for their supper.

As a personal reality, the only way I can comfortably entertain is if I clean up while guests are still at my home. After a dinner party my schnizzle is tired! I cannot afford to clean up until 1AM or leave it until the morning when I have kids to feed who will add more dishes.

I would recommend that you tell your guests to sit and drink some wine as they are talking with you as you clean up. If you have a guest that insists, however, let them help!

Now, get to those dishes before a crust forms!


Need advice? Send your questions, queries or rants to Dear Alma at Questions will be selected and answered in future posts.



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