Thinking of others makes you the real life of the party.

By Kathryn Jessup
June 04, 2003
Becky Luigart-Stayner

You can spot them at any party. They hover over the buffet, blocking anyone else from trying the food. They park their cars in the middle of the driveway. And they insist on holding private conversations with the host as if nobody else were present.

Rude party guests are everywhere. In fact, rudeness results from being inconsiderate and we have all been guilty of that. Luckily, when you start to think of others, you can instantly become the perfect party guest.

"You have to take responsibility for coming in a positive mood," says California psychologist Susan Rosenblum Rabens. "Have a positive energy and do what you are best at―whether it's helping out, listening, entertaining other guests, or just appreciating the party."

To be your best, take a nap before going to a party. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready so you can enjoy a leisurely shower or bath. This quiet time does wonders for your mood.

If you have young children, arrange for a babysitter well in advance unless your children were expressly invited. Don't call the host last-minute and ask if it's okay for your kids to come.

Bring a small gift for your host. It doesn't always have to be a bottle of wine. You could bring candles, flowers, decorative napkins, fancy mints, a six-pack of beer, a beach toy―whatever you think fits the mood.

Don't expect your gift to be unveiled and used at the party. Let your hosts know they can put that bottle of wine in the cellar or crack open that can of nuts for a future occasion. If you bring flowers and your host is swamped, put them in a vase yourself. The real gift to a busy host is not having to stop everything to acknowledge your gift. He or she will thank you for it later.

Susan does caution partygoers to label all host gifts with a small card. She once accidentally gave a hostess gift back to the woman who originally gave it to her.

After you have dropped off your gift, take a look at all the guests. Stand back a moment and consider the picture of the entire party. Remember you are one part of the picture.

"Be inclusive, not exclusive," said Susan. "Everybody should be included. Don't stereotype people. Give everybody a chance."

Mingling with other guests without being prompted is polite party behavior. Introduce yourself to others and try and get their names. Particularly at a cocktail party, you should try to be self-sufficient.

When it comes time for the food, appreciate the color and beauty of the spread. Take small portions and savor them. You should never treat party food as your Last Supper. Enjoy the meal, but don't stuff yourself.

The same caution applies to cocktail parties where appetizers are available. Two servings of each appetizer are more than enough, and you don't want to be the guest caught with 82 empty toothpicks on her plate.

Never plan to leave a party early, particularly a dinner party. Your departure could encourage others to do the same and disrupt the entire event. Another no-no is asking for something that's not out. Little requests such as margarine instead of butter may seem reasonable, but can still be stressful for the host.

Always offer to help clean up, and mean it. Compliment and thank the host. Give him or her a call the next day to say thank you again and describe what a nice time you had. The next time you play host, you'll appreciate your considerate guests.