Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The Reluctant Entertainer

Do you entertain as often as you'd like?  Do you feel inadequate at it?   To be honest, we don't have company over very often at our house (hello...I'm a party blogger!), and when we do, I kind of feel like I wasn't very good at it. My husband and I always find an excuse to push an invitation back, which many times turns into never. And of course, we're the ones who miss out and lose by doing this.

The Reluctant Entertainer Book Review

Therefore, I'm setting a new year's resolution to do better, and I've found The Reluctant Entertainer by Sandy Coughlin tremendously helpful in finding the encouragement to do so. This book has a lot of practical wisdom and real-world examples. Best of all, it's a super fast and easy read. I finished it in a week!

The book does a great job of addressing a variety of issues that keep us from having friends and loved ones over to our house, so we can overcome them. It helped me see that my biggest pitfall is perfectionism. When I can't make things perfect for whatever reason, I'd rather not entertain at all. This section from the book hit me like a ton of bricks:
"[My husband] told me, 'Perfectionism is a jail cell locked from inside, creating your own misery.' He explained that there is a huge difference between trying to be excellent at what you do and trying to be perfect at something. Excellence is working toward an attainable goal that benefits everyone, while perfection comes from a place of great need--usually the need to avoid criticism and gain praise and approval from others."
This was really an epiphany for me--the need to be perfect holds me back more than anything else.  It made me feel really sad to realize how vain I am, but at the same time, I feel like it is 100% so true. Sometimes you need a little tough love to help you move forward, and that's what the the chapter on perfectionism was for me!

My husband and I are now affectionately referring to this as the "Perfectionist Monster" and have discussed ways in which it prevents us from entertaining.  Last year, I really wanted to have a Cinco de Mayo party, but my full-time employer temporarily laid everyone off in April.  I got really depressed and dumped the party, when I probably could have used the distraction and company the most.  My loss!  I can think of a lot of examples from my life when I got scared by the Perfectionist Monster (my house wasn't spotless, no time to make a cutesy craft decoration, etc.), but I just didn't know that was the reason.

What's really great about the book is that you'll realize you naturally have strengths in some entertaining areas that are more difficult for others. I found this really encouraging! Sandy lays these out in her "Ten Commandments of Hospitality" and delves deeper into each one in chapters. I'm naturally strong at Commandments 2, 6, and 7, and while not a natural strength, I have always understood the importance of Commandment 1 and try to improve on this whenever I can.
Commandment 1
Hospitality is not about you. It's about making others feel warm and welcome.

Commandment 2
Plan ahead, be organized, and know your recipe. Learn to delegate.

Commandment 3
Set the mood. Keep ambiance and the five senses in mind.

Commandment 4
Avoid perfectionism. Put fear aside--it's a robber of anything good.

Commandment 5
Share conversation. Foster friendships by keeping things real.

Commandment 6
Demonstrate thriftiness. Buying things at cost or learning to pinch pennies makes entertaining attainable on a budget.

Commandment 7
Don't apologize. It's okay to make mistakes. Learn to not bring them to light in front of your guests; it robs your guests of relaxation.

Commandment 8
Be creative. Use what you have. Keeps things simple.

Commandment 9
Learn from others. Find mentors and learn to find a healthy balance and keep things real.

Commandment 10
Life impact is everything. Experience intimacy and meaning in sharing a meal and gleaning from others' lives.
If you're looking for ways in which you can break out of your reluctant entertainer shell, I highly recommend this book!  It's got a lot of great party ideas and recipes as a bonus, too. Sandy Coughlin also has a blog called Reluctant Entertainer.

Do you know what your entertaining strengths and weaknesses are? Let's talk in the comments here or on Facebook.

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