Expert Communication Skills for Shower Hostesses
Dr. Cindy Brown, “The Relationship Strategist,” shares tips on setting expectations, dealing with difficult guests, and handling sticky situations with grace the next time you host a Shower.
Hosting a Baby Shower, Bridal Shower, or Bachelorette Party is a big undertaking and whenever you’ve made a commitment to someone, some tension and stress are inevitable. As the hostess, it’s your job to minimize the impact of any issues so your guests—especially the Guest of Honor—have a good time. A few expert communications skills can be relationship savers when things get heated. Let's break these tips down using The Shower Diva's three-step process for planning a fabulous shower, 1. Plan, 2. Prepare, 3. Party!
When Planning a Shower, Plan to Listen
The first stage of throwing a fabulous Baby Shower, Bridal Shower, or Bachelorette Party is planning. How you handle this stage will go a long way toward setting a positive, loving tone for your event.
Beware of your own expectations
We often have our own agenda when we commit to a project and it’s easy to become very set on our own ideas. However, when we’re throwing a Baby Shower, Bridal Shower, or Bachelorette Party, the Guest of Honor’s wishes need to come first so she’ll feel honored on her special day. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since you’re paying for the party, everything needs to be your way. Remember, when the Guest of Honor is happy, everyone is happy.
The first thing to plan is a visit with the Guest of Honor
Begin planning your event by setting aside a time and place to have a conversation with the Guest of Honor and respect her by approaching the conversation with an open mind. Your goal for this visit is to set expectations, make some general plans, and create a win-win atmosphere.
Invite the Guest of Honor to share her ideas first
Listen carefully and take notes. Don’t listen with “but…but…” on the tip of your tongue. Give the Guest of Honor an open forum to express her ideas. Receiving the space to talk first will help your Guest of Honor realize you genuinely want to throw a party that will feel special to her. It will also help put her in a good frame of mine when it is your turn to share ideas.
Ask permission to share your own suggestions
The simple act of asking has an amazing ability to create a receptive mindset in the other person. So do compliments. Try saying something along the lines of, “Mary, I’ve been listening to your ideas and I really like what you’ve come up with so far.” Then talk about those ideas you particularly like before saying, “Would you be open to hearing some of the ideas I have?”
When you’re giving suggestions, watch body language closely
Start by making one suggestion and carefully observe the Guest of Honor’s body language; it will help you gauge how she feels about your suggestions. If she seems receptive, continue. If not, consider how important that idea is to you. Remember, your goal is not to get stuck on doing things your own way, but to create a win-win situation.
If your Guest of Honor wants something you can’t realistically commit to, level with her. For instance, if she has her heart set on an expensive Destination Shower that’s not in your budget, say so kindly. Don’t over commit; you’ll only end up angry. When people feel obligated, it’s common for them to agree to something they can’t manage. Putting yourself in a time and/or budget bind is not going to contribute to the fun – it’s just going to make you stressed and resentful. If your Guest of Honor is very attached to having something expensive, she should pay for that.
If you’re in doubt, defer to the Guest of Honor
If you and the Guest of Honor disagree on a particular aspect of the party, but her wishes are possible and within your budget, defer to her. A common case in point is whether or not to have strippers at a Bachelorette Party. If she wants strippers, that’s fine, but don’t force her—or worse, surprise her—into accepting something that makes her feel uncomfortable. The same goes for the other guests. If the Guest of Honor has decided she wants a stripper, specify the nature of the evening’s activities in the invitations so guests can decide whether or not they will be comfortable attending.
Beware of creating family problems for the Guest of Honor
Sometimes close relatives feel a sense of entitlement or have very strong expectations for the Shower. We’ve all heard horror stories of the Mother, Mother-in-Law, or Sister who hijacked the Baby Shower or Bridal Shower. As the hostess, it’s your job to make sure the Guest of Honor’s wishes come first, but be careful about how you handle close relatives. The last thing your favorite Mother-to-Be or Bride-to-Be needs is a family feud during her special time. When dealing with a sticky family situations, ask the Guest of Honor if she wants to talk to her family member or if she wants you to do that. If the family member is very attached to having something expensive at the Shower and the Guest of Honor is agreeable, the family member should pay for that.
Write down your plan and get confirmation
Write everything down from the beginning and keep taking notes throughout the planning and preparation stages. E-mail the notes from your initial conversation to the Guest of Honor and ask her to respond with her approval of the plan or any corrections if there has been a miscommunication. As you progress through recruiting friends to help and preparing for the big day, continue to e-mail your notes to everyone on your “Shower Team.” When sending, choose the "Delivery Confirmation Receipt" option so that you know everyone stays on the same page; you’ll be glad you did if miscommunications or new expectations pop up.
Communication Reduces Frustration in the Preparation Stage
Hosting a Baby Shower, Bridal Shower, or Bachelorette Party is a big job, but you don’t have to do it alone. Enlisting the help of a few friends is a great idea as long as you handle things well.
Keep a log of everything you do. It will help immensely. If you’re not organized, you’ll have trouble when you try to organize other people. BadaBadaBingo Fun Games Co! has a great shower checklist you can use to help keep things organized, but if this isn’t your strong suit, enlist the help of a friend who is very organized.
Choose your volunteers carefully
Look for friends who are naturally responsible to help with preparations. Remember, as the hostess, you’re ultimately responsible for getting everything done, so don’t entrust important jobs to friends who don’t perform in the rest of their life. If you know they’re already flaky, they’re going to be flaky with this too. If someone isn’t showing up for meetings in the beginning, they won’t come through in the end. Be honest with yourself about your friends’ capabilities.
Before you assign tasks to someone else, it’s smart to explain your expectations. Then, test each volunteer by giving them one small task that can be completed quickly. Don’t have high expectations in the beginning. It’s better to start with low expectations and be wowed if they perform well. Make yourself available to your volunteers and give them encouragement along the way. Once they’ve proven themselves, express your appreciation and give them a larger task. Don’t delegate tasks that will make or break the occasion.
Stick to your plan
Flexibility is a good thing, but straying too far from the plan approved by the Guest of Honor, or letting new expectations creep in during the preparations stages, can create havoc, especially if you’ve already spent money on the original plan. As you get closer and closer to the event, stress increases and sometimes people start trying to undermine your plans. If you have faithfully sent out e-mails, you’re in a position to say, “I’ve already put out money according to our plan so if you want to change that, you’ll need to pay for it.” Savvy planners make sure everyone realizes the financial commitments involved, particularly if the money can’t be refunded.
On the Day of the Shower, It’s All About the Love
Once the Baby Shower, Bridal Shower, or Bachelorette Party begins, your focus should be on cultivating an enjoyable experience for all your guests—especially the Guest of Honor. If trouble starts, it’s your job to handle it before it disrupts the fun.
Deal with bad behavior privately and positively
If a guest is acting badly, don’t correct her in front of the other guests. Embarrassing her in front of the group will only escalate the problem. Instead, find a discrete way to call her into the next room for a private conversation. Ask her to step aside and help you with something. Once the two of you are alone, you can address the subject.
You may want to start by asking her if there is something wrong
For instance, ask, “Are you having a hard day? Are you feeling upset or worried about something?” Try not to be judgmental when you ask and listen with an open mind. If your guest is troubled by something, ask, “Is there anything I can do to be helpful?”
If the guest doesn’t see the effect her behavior is having, explain the problem clearly and seek a caring solution
You might say something like, “I’m having a difficult time with what is happening in there. Is there a way I can support you in helping this event, because I can see what you are doing is not helping and I see the Guest of Honor is not happy.” Again, try not to be judgmental. Your goal is not to punish, but to find a win-win situation that will resolve the problem.
In many ways, Baby Showers, Bridal Showers, and Bachelorette Parties are no different than any other situation we encounter in life. Communication skills and relationship management have the potential to make or break the event. If you’ve honed your diplomatic talents with your own family, on the job, or in your community, draw that knowledge and experience. If communication isn’t one of your strengths, use this opportunity to improve your people skills. It will pay off in all areas of your life and you’ll feel great about giving your Guest of Honor the gift of a fabulous hostess on her special day.
About Dr. Cindy Brown, “The Relationship Strategist”
Dr. Brown is a relationship expert and best-selling author. If you want to improve your communications skills, try Dr. Brown’s workbook and DVD set, Relationship Secrets.
Her latest book, The Cinderella System teaches women how to transform themselves from ordinary to extraordinary and attract the relationship of their dreams. Dr. Brown also offers private coaching, either onsite or over the phone, including premarital coaching that focuses on helping the Bride- and Groom-to-Be plan for the rules and expectations they have for their marriage. Contact Dr. Brown, learn more about her, or sign up for her free eNewsletter at her website: SuccessfulRelationshipsNow.com.
If you're in the Culver City area, see Dr. Brown in person June 13, 2009 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel at 6161 Centinella West, Culver City, CA 90230. She'll be hosting a workshop on Transforming Yourself and Your Relationships with Men. Tickets are available online.
Interested in more guest contributors stories? Check out our May 2009 featured guest!