We all live by a set of unspoken rules—the customs and social mores that we pick up just by existing in a culture. Greetings and salutations, how to give and receive a gift, when to offer advice, etc. All of these are things that vary from one culture to another and grease the wheels of social connection. At Everybody’s Invited we’ve been working on our own set of social rules to add to the mix. Our rules are based on a spirit of kindness and generosity, and are meant to create inclusive communities, whether at a place or work, in your home, or at a three-hour party.
Here’s what we have so far. We’d love to know what you think.
Let people have fun in their own way
If someone doesn’t want to dance at a party or sing karaoke at a bar, don’t harass them. You probably have great intentions—“I’m having so much fun, and I just want Cindy to have fun, too. She just needs to loosen up.” But not everyone will enjoy being the center of attention. In some cases, it’s true that people just need a little encouragement. But if after one attempt, they’re still not interested, don’t pile on the pressure. Everyone can have fun in their own way.
Don’t show surprise if someone doesn’t know something you think is common knowledge.
Perhaps you’ve heard something like this before: “Wait…you’ve never seen The Goonies? Hey, everyone get over here—this guy’s never seen The Goonies! What, have you been living under a rock? Did you have a totally deprived childhood?”
Seriously, what good does any of that do? Of course it’s okay to convey your enthusiasm, but not at someone else’s expense. Try: “You haven’t seen it yet? Oh man, we should watch it together sometime. I think you’ll really love it.”
Never Ever Ever Ever make fun of someone for dancing, singing, or otherwise being enthusiastic about something, no matter how “bad” they are.
As The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin likes to say, enthusiasm is a form of social courage. Be glad that someone else has it, and work on your own issues. (Trust me, if you’re making fun of someone else, it’s because you have your own thing going on.)
“Lean in” to other people’s jokes.
Don’t kill someone else’s effort at making a joke. In improvisational theatre, this is called “blocking,” and it refers to any time when an actor rejects another actor’s “offer.” So if Sally says in a scene, “This walk-in freezer sure is cold,” Joe probably shouldn’t come back with, “No it’s not. It’s hot.” Same goes for social situations. If someone’s making a lighthearted joke, it’s not a good time for you to be pedantic. Just roll with it, and riff on it if you can. Another way of thinking of this is, “The joke comes first.” (Note: does not apply to mean-spirited humor.)
And one final rule. Remember—everybody’s invited.
Of course this doesn’t apply to every situation. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons not to invite someone—limited space or high costs, for example. But, if possible, err on the side of including more people, even the socially awkward ones, in any event or outing you’re organizing. Being friendly feels good.
What rules would you add or change in the list above?