It’s Saturday, which means there’s a decent chance I’ll be sharing one of Dan Ariely’s responses to an email he received from a Wall Street Journal reader. And today is one of those lucky Saturdays.
When I host friends for dinner, can I ask them to help with cleaning up afterward? I hate doing dishes, but maybe it’s impolite to ask guests to share the load. —Evelyn
Here was Dan’s answer:
I think that you should ask your friends to help. Doing dishes isn’t fun, but if your guests pitch in they will derive satisfaction from knowing they are helping you out. Not only is it a way for them to express appreciation for the meal, but working together on a task is a way of increasing social bonds.
But since the end of an experience is important in determining how we remember and evaluate it, you may want to avoid ending the evening with this chore. Instead, try cleaning up together right after the meal and then invite everyone for a final drink. Of course, that would create a few more glasses to wash, but you would end the evening on a positive note.
I’ve never been to a dinner party where the host has asked a guest to help with the dishes. And we’ve never had people over for dinner and asked them to help with the dishes.
Asking for such help just seems incredibly rude, and I would never do so.
On the other hand, guests should volunteer to help with the dishes. And such help should be readily accepted, for the reasons Dan notes above.
But there’s a big difference between asking for help, and accepting an offer for help.
Volunteering to help with the dishes is common courtesy, but if someone doesn’t offer such help, I do not think it is appropriate to ask for such help. I think doing so could possibly embarrass the guest, and make the host seem demanding.
The good news is – it will probably all work out in the end anyway.
Guests that volunteer to help will likely continue to be invited back for dinner, so there would be no need to ask for help with such guests.
If guests don’t volunteer, there may be a good chance they don’t get invited back again.
And if a host does ask for help, they may find that people may not be so eager to come back for another party. Thus, no party, no dishes to clean up.
So my answer would have been to not ask the guests for help.
If they volunteer, great.
If not, that’s what your naughty list is for…
*image from Reader’s Digest