Dear Carolyn: My husband and I adopted a dog that does not like strangers; he is in intensive training, and part of that is having strangers over to our house to practice meeting people. I usually invite a friend over after explaining the situation to them and promising free dinner and drinks.
I invited "Katie" over last month, and she proceeded to invite 10 mutual friends to my "party" while we were all out as a group. Leaving me in a really awkward spot.
I ended up canceling because 900 square feet plus 10 strangers and a nervous dog is a terrible combination I never would have signed up for.
I really like Katie and would like to have her over, but I'm nervous she's going to invite more people again; she works with a lot of our mutual friends and sees them every day. Is it rude to have a talk with her about not inviting people over to our house?
— Awkward Spot
Awkward Spot: There is zero need to be hesitant or awkward about handling this, because it doesn’t involve anything mean or wrong or anything that appears mean or wrong.
So whenever a would-be guest presumes to extend an invitation to your home to everyone at the table for you, a la Katie: “Ooh, wait, no — I’d love to have you another time but can’t all at once.”
And when you talk to Katie: “I realize you meant well, but please don’t invite people to my place without checking with me first.”
Awkwardness is when there’s a risk of a perception gap between what you mean and what you appear to mean. The (one) advantage of the wild overstepping Katie has done is that it’s so clearly overstepping that it will be clear to anyone with a clue that you’re just pulling her back — i.e., not disinviting people because you don’t like them personally.
As always, it’s possible some people will be clueless, but there’s not much you can do to manage the impressions they get.
Dear Carolyn: Is there a kind but effective way to deal with a person who interrupts, talks over or starts to act loudly goofy in a group situation to get attention? I've tried "When you talk over me, I feel disrespected," but she said she developed this as her only way of getting attention as a child. Help?
— Talking Over Everyone Else
Talking Over Everyone Else: Unless she is still a child, please point out the following: “Okay, but you’re an adult now, and maybe it’s time to trust that your good traits are enough on their own for people to like you.”
Thereafter, your best one-two pairing is to be calm and firm: stop midsentence and say, “I’ll wait” — or say nothing and just go silent; when she finishes her interruption, ask, “May I continue now?”; put your hand gently on her arm and make eye contact; excuse yourself and step away for a moment.
That is, unless you can pull off humor without sounding bitter: “I’m sorry, did I talk while you were interrupting me?”
And don’t rule out just seeing this friend one-on-one — and telling her exactly why.