How To Reclaim The Dying Art Of Hospitality Without So Much As Hosting A Party

Hospitality is about more than simply hosting parties or asking someone if they’d like a glass of water when they come over. True hospitality is more than just an act – it’s a spirit of being.

By Ella Carroll-Smith3 min read
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Shutterstock/Natalia Krasnova

What do you think of when you hear the word “hospitality”? You probably think of things like hosting dinner parties, having people stay over at your house, and generally treating guests well. defines hospitality as “the friendly reception or treatment of guests and strangers.” I think that their second definition encompasses the essence of the word more completely though: “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” 

Hospitality isn’t just about receiving people in a friendly way, it’s about going out of your way to make others feel welcome, even if it’s inconvenient for you. Being hospitable is a truly selfless act. It takes time and effort, and forces you to put the needs of others above your own. 

Since hospitality is about being selfless and putting the needs of others above your own, it’s not all that surprising that it’s a low priority in our increasingly isolated and narcissistic culture. 

Why Is Hospitality a Dying Art?

A 2021 Harvard study found that loneliness is on the rise in America – a trend that was only made worse by the pandemic. Their survey found that “36% of respondents reported serious loneliness – feeling lonely ‘frequently’ or ‘almost all the time or all the time’ in the four weeks prior to the survey. This included 61% of young people aged 18-25 and 51% of mothers with young children.”

Beyond the ramifications of the pandemic, America’s go-go-go culture keeps us all so busy that it can be difficult to stop and think about the needs of other people. The rise of social media and the death of community means that we’re all existing in our own silos instead of co-existing with each other in real-life communities. 

Social media also encourages us to compare ourselves to one another and constantly try to keep up with the Joneses. People are obsessed with getting more likes, follows, and clicks. They think more about themselves than about other people. Social media and comparison culture breed narcissism, which is the antithesis of what it means to be hospitable. 

The decline of our social bonds and sense of community is deeply linked with the rise of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. That’s why it’s more important now than ever before to reclaim the art of hospitality and build our social ties back up. People are much happier when they have a strong social circle because it makes them feel supported and loved. 

Learning to prioritize your relationships with people over your own personal checklist can be challenging, but it’s so worth it. When you think about other people instead of yourself for a change, it actually makes you happier. That’s part of the reason people feel so good when they volunteer or do philanthropy work. Being selfless makes you a better person. 

The goal of reclaiming the art of hospitality isn’t just to treat other people with more grace and kindness, although that is part of it. It’s also about preventing the fabric of our society from fraying any further. 

How To Bring Hospitality Back

For a lot of people, the idea of hospitality feels stressful because it takes effort. I know that when I was growing up, any time we had people over, my mom would go into turbo mode and deep-clean the entire house, Monica Gellar-style. It doesn’t need to be this way though. Sure, it’s great to keep your home tidy, but hospitality goes beyond fluffed pillows and a vacuumed carpet. 

Having people over doesn’t need to be a giant event with place settings and fine china. You can make people feel welcome in far more meaningful ways with much less. If a friend or family member stops by unexpectedly, stop what you’re doing and be present with them. Invite them to stay a while; make them feel like a priority, even if it’s inconvenient for you. 

Hospitality goes beyond how you treat people in your own home; it’s also about how you treat people outside it. It means that you’re able to stop what you’re doing and be present when someone needs you, regardless of where it happens or how inconvenient it is for you. 

I know it can be irritating if someone interrupts while you’re in the middle of something. Whenever I feel that spark of irritation, it takes a lot of effort to throw mental water on that fire and turn my attention to someone else. But that’s what being hospitable is all about. 

You want people to feel warm and welcome whenever they’re around you. Maybe that means stopping what you’re doing at work and giving your undivided attention to a colleague who stops for a chat. The next time you’re in the break room and someone comes in, don’t run away to avoid painful small talk. Ask them how they are and genuinely mean it. 

The next time you’re checking out at the grocery store, smile at the clerk and engage with them instead of staring down at your phone. Small acts of hospitality like this go a long way, and they add up. In the span of a few minutes, you might turn someone’s entire day around simply by making them feel important. 

Closing Thoughts

Hospitality can (and should!) still involve charcuterie boards and fancy dinnerware, but don’t forget that the real meaning goes beyond hosting parties. The next time you have someone over or meet up with a friend or have a conversation with a stranger, try to do one thing that makes them feel valued. Real hospitality means leaving people better off than when you found them. 

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