Hot Tempers and Houseguests

By Gina Simmons, Ph.D.

Summertime means swimming pools, amusement parks, golf courses and house guests for many of us. Vacations spent staying with relatives or friends often trigger hurt feelings, and anger. Old resentments, combined with high expectations for fun and relaxation,?? can create a climate for raised tempers.

When hosting friends or family follow these tips to improve the odds of an enjoyable visit:

  • Have a clearly defined start and end date for your visit and stick to it. This avoids the awkward, “When are you leaving?” question.
  • Stock the refrigerator and pantry with foods your guests like. Ask ahead about dietary restrictions. Plan meals for the weary travelers.
  • Prepare a comfortable, clean place for your guests to sleep. Show them where to put their luggage.
  • Welcome your guests with something special. Fresh flowers, a fruit basket in their room or a small gift starts the visit on a happy note.
  • Share pet peeves or concerns with them before they offend. Should they keep the cat and dog inside? Should shoes be removed before entering? Do you need small children kept out of certain rooms?

If you find yourself privileged enough to be invited to stay with a friend or relative, plan to treat your hosts to an experience. Our recent guest brought par-baked loaves of homemade Italian pugliese bread. Soon our home was redolent with the nutty aroma of a five-star bakery. If your cooking causes the hungry to run screaming from the kitchen, offer to take your hosts out for a meal.

Set your pace to that of your hosts. If you’re a young triathlete staying with senior citizens, slow down. Avoid zooming through the house or whipping about in the kitchen with knives in your hands. This makes people nervous. Save the speed for laps in the swimming pool.

Standard etiquette requires that you keep your inner slob in check. Don’t discipline your hosts children.If Devon, your demonic nephew smears chocolate pudding on your white shirt, refrain from clobbering him. Instead, talk to his harried parents and let them deal with it.

Allow your hosts some privacy. While you may be wildly curious about the mystery medication in the bathroom cabinet, stifle the urge to question. Sometimes your hosts may need time alone to replenish energy. Don’t bang on the bedroom door shouting, “when are we having breakfast?” Even if you grew up together snapping towels and bra straps, assume a closed door means, “Do not disturb.”

If, despite your best effort tempers still flare, try the following:

  • Take a walk and think about the importance of these relationships.
  • Think about what you can do to make the situation more comfortable.
  • Apologize for your part in the conflict.
  • Start a conversation with, “I really care about you and want you to enjoy our visit.”
  • Put aside old resentments. No one can change the past.
  • Ask for what you need.Be specific. “Please stop making jokes about my hair cut.”

Show appreciation. What infuriates you will pass. What remains can include wonderful memories of laughter, fun and thoughtfulness.