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  • It's normal to want to be a good guest; an intense wish to please tends to guide us

  • when we accept a dinner invitation or spend a weekend with friends. And we generally fulfil

  • this ambition by following a leading theory of what satisfies other humans: we mimic our

  • hosts. We follow their lead in the conversation, we discuss what they want to discuss, we eat

  • when they want to eat. We are malleable, we adjust; we laugh at pretty much anything they

  • find funny. It sounds extremely generous and deeply well-intentioned but there's a strange

  • aspect to this theory: the mimetic person is not, in practice, especially pleasing.

  • They may not be offensive, but nor are they particularly memorable, interesting or even

  • likeable. By contrast there is another social type who

  • is a great deal more winning: the person who expresses their own distinctive needs with

  • clarity while nevertheless remaining at all times gracious and socially vigilant. This

  • more richly characterful person will, over dinner, remark with a smile that they happen

  • to find the politician everyone is meant to hate oddly attractive, at least in fantasy.

  • They tell us about an embarrassing thing that happened to them recently at workor about

  • a regret that haunts them in their emotional lives. When they are our house guest, they

  • inform us in a rather precise, though always highly polite, way when they like to go to

  • sleep, how much time they need on their own and what their bathroom requirements are.

  • They apologise for being a bit mad in a way that suggests profound sanity. They add that

  • they'd deeply appreciate a boiled egg with biscuits for lunch. They are, in the best

  • way, a bit peculiar. It isn't that the mimetic person harms us; they simply don't reassure

  • or endear us. A key part of what we seek in social contact is a feeling that our eccentricities

  • and less easily mentioned dimensions find an echo in another person. And yet all we

  • see when we come to closer to the conformist guest is our own reflection. What truly charms

  • is the person who manages to possess both a character and politeness. The archetype

  • for this is the endearing four-and-a-half year old child. They'll tell a near stranger

  • their ideas about where squirrels go at night, what they like to put in their sandwiches

  • and their nickname for their elderly grandfather. We colloquially call this 'cute' but it's

  • perhaps something more serious than this implies: more pointedly, it's a relief from the customary

  • pressure to standardise human nature and to say nothing that will sound too odd or flavoured.

  • The small child is reminding us that the variegated surface of every personalitytheirs but

  • by implication ours as wellcould be put on display and, rather than hurt or offend,

  • simply charm and enliven. The good guest combines the candour of the child with the social empathy

  • of the self-aware adult. They know how to be that rare and much prized social phenomenon:

  • a loveable eccentric. There is a sad background to the people pleasing adult who doesn't

  • in the end even please so much. They are generally the outcome of a style of parenting that didn't

  • allow character or originality to show through. They had to hide who they really were for

  • fear of upsetting an angry or vulnerable set of caregivers. We cannot erase the past, but

  • we can cease waging an active war on our characters in public. Our true selves may once have been

  • unwanted, but it's only on the basis of being able to show them now that proper friendships

  • can begin. Being merely polite is, in the end, an overly low ambition. We have exaggerated

  • how much people like to be imitated and invariably agreed with. It is easy to tolerate such types,

  • but very hard to love them. To truly please people requires that we dare to show a little

  • more of the touching weirdness that lurks within us all.

  • Our conversation menus deliver insightful questions across various themes designed to spark fascinating conversations, foster friendships and bring meals to life.

  • Click the link on screen now to find out more.

It's normal to want to be a good guest; an intense wish to please tends to guide us

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How to Be a Good Guest

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/04
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