The Everybody’s Invited Social Rules

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.

everybodys-invited-social-rules

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?

Signature Cocktail: Fancy French Gimlet

Some days you just want to feel fancy, amirite? On a recent day like that, I decided to gussy up a classic French Gimlet while wearing my monocle and swinging a parasol. Okay, the monocle and parasol parts didn’t really happen, but the cocktail part is 100% true! See?

French Gimlet

elderflower-y!

A French Gimlet typically involves dry gin, St. Germain (which is an elderflower liqueur), and lime. To make it fancypantsier I added Lillet Blanc and a bit of agave. This was inspired by something I saw on a menu once, but I can’t for the life of me remember where. I do remember that the menu font was really fancy.

plus lime!

plus lime!

I think this one was a win. It’s bright and fresh, and the lime and agave are a great sweet and tart combination. Highly recommended!

Fancy French Gimlet

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. St. Germain
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 T. agave
  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled.
  2. Serve with a lime wheel.
  3. Feel fancy.

5 Ways to Sabotage Your Own Ability to Act

In recent years, I’ve developed a bias towards action. When I have new idea for a project, I want to get started right away. When I’m frustrated or sad, I’ve learned that taking a walk is my best bet for feeling better quickly. When I’m conflicted, I want to make a decision as soon as possible so that I can move on.

In some cases, I’ve had to re-learn how to take a pause before taking action, but in general, this newfound action orientation is something I’ve come to value. It helps me to not dwell on bad things, and it’s led to some surprising accomplishments and adventures.

Along the way, I’ve discovered several anti-action traps that I need to watch out for. I’ve since noticed people around me falling into them as well. These traps are 100% pure inertia. They’ll keep you exactly where you are.

These five traps are the ways of thinking that keep us from doing.

Dominoes

1. Just keep talking

For those of us who simply love to talk out our problems, with a friend or sibling or co-worker or spouse, there’s a fine line between “useful insight generator” and “toxic way to avoid actually resolving anything.” Learn to recognize the moment when you’ve crossed this line. If you’re re-hashing the same bad moment over and over again, if you’re finding new ways to express the same sentiment, or if you’re winding down just before revving up again, it might be time to cut the cord of the conversation and move on to another activity. Don’t just change the subject. Get up and physically change your location so you don’t run the risk of falling back into it.

2. Stop before you start

We can usually think of dozens of reasons not to start something. The trick is to learn to recognize those thoughts as self-sabotage. No doubt you’ve heard the “Just start” advice before. That’s because it’s a profoundly useful bit of wisdom. It takes advantage of your ability to trick yourself (“I’ll just work on this for 10 minutes, and then I can stop if I want”) as well as your mind’s incredible ability to adjust to new situations (“Now that I’m doing it, it’s not so bad”).

3. Plan obsessively

Planning is a valuable skill, but it’s an even better avoidance tactic. Planning is one of those tasks that doesn’t have a clear finish line, so we can stretch out the “planning” phase of a project indefinitely. But it’s a trap. Having a basic plan is useful, but planning offers diminishing returns over time. Over-thinking something with lots of variables, such as a creative project, can actually impede your ability to deal with the unexpected when it arises.

4. Complain, and then complain some more

Complaining can feel really good. Airing your grievances can release tension, and having a supportive listener can help to defuse a high-pressure situation. That very well may be enough to resolve any negative feelings. But in certain situations, complaining lets you temporarily free yourself from the problem without actually resolving anything. Create a rule for yourself: if you catch yourself complaining about the same situation more than once, commit to taking some small step toward resolving the problem.

5. Worry about not being good enough

A sure path toward paralysis is to focus on a far-away end game, rather than the step that’s right in front of you. That’s why goals are most useful if they’re framed as “get better” goals rather than “be good” goals. Most projects and skills require iterative progress, and you don’t get to skip ahead to the end! Don’t let the incremental nature of things prevent you from moving forward.

Do you ever fall into these traps?

 

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Playdate

Every time my friend Faith and I hang out, we usually eat doughnuts. It’s the best. Our kids play while we stuff our faces with deep-fried delicacies. To host a successful playdate, you have to make sure the parents are happy too! And playdates always require coffee. Lots of coffee.

Describe the Vibe:

This post is less of a theme party, and more of a delicious and slightly dressed-up kids’ playdate. It’s colorful (bubblegum pink, teal, chartreuse, and cantaloupe orange), spring-y, and fun.

Decor:

Hooray for what? Hooray for anything!

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Hooray banner by Oh Joy! For Target

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Rectangular plates by Oh Joy! For Target

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Vintage melmac coffee set from Etsy.com

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Image found on decor8blog.com

Menu:

Coffee and doughnuts!

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Cool coffee packaging by Cielito Cafe in Mexico

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Found on PartyZ.co (original source unknown)

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Found on Pinterest.com (original source unknown)

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Bear doughnuts found on CutestFood.com

Activities:

Your job is to eat, chat, and caffeinate while your kids play.

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

The cutest coffee set by KidKraft

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Play wooden doughnuts by Melissa and Doug

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Found on 100 Layer Cake-Let

With older kids, decorating doughnuts with various glazes and sprinkles could be fun. Or it could be terribly, horribly messy. I’m trying to imagine my 2 year old doing this, and all I can see are trillions of tiny sprinkles cascading to the kitchen floor in slow motion.

Attire:

One of these paired with your roomiest sweatpants.

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Lazy Wives Club doughnut t-shirt by Stay Home Club Apparel

Theme Party Inspiration: Coffee + Doughnuts Baby Playdate by Everybody's Invited Events

Doughnut sweatshirt from Forever21.com

Find more Coffee + Doughnuts inspiration on our Pinterest board!

Games People Play: Acquire

Games People Play is our game review series.

Apparently Acquire has been around for over 50 years, but I’d never heard of it until a recent game night. Now that I think about it, it has such an optimistic view of capitalism that it makes sense that it’s not a recent invention. In the age of the 99% and big corporate bailouts, the game has a kind of shady, sleazy feel to it. Nowadays, we play Acquire ironically.

acquire

Read on to find out if Acquire belongs on your game acquisitions list.

Acquire

Vital stats:

  • Players: 3-6
  • Age: 12 and up
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Replay value: High

Game play: Players take turns placing tiles on a grid-shaped game board. Two or more tiles placed adjacent to each other makes a corporation. Players can invest in corporations by buying stock. The more tiles that are grouped together, the more the stock is worth. But watch out! If someone plays a tile that connects two corporations, the larger one will acquire the smaller one. The majority and minority stakeholder in the smaller company receive payout bonuses, and any player invested in the smaller company can choose to hold, sell, or trade their stock. The object of the game, just like in real life investments, is to have the most money at the end.

This game is fun for: People who like the spirit of Monopoly, but are a little bored with the mechanics.

Risk of making someone feel bad: Low. It’s not hard to pick up the rules, though it’s difficult to figure out a good strategy in your first outing.

How to cheat:  If only there were a corporate tax haven mechanic—that might feel like cheating.

Benefits of playing: In the round I played, the players who made big bets were rewarded, so perhaps this game increases risk-tolerance.

Upgrades: Nothing specific that I know of, though many different versions have been published over the years. Someone should totally make a Silicon Valley startup version that requires players to pitch creative product ideas to venture capitalists.

Verdict: Though I had a great time at game night, Acquire doesn’t make my Favorites list. The theme doesn’t resonate with me (show me a game about socialized medicine, and I’ll gladly play all day!), and I didn’t think the mechanics of the game allowed for enough interesting choices. I could say the same things about why I don’t love Monopoly, but at least Monopoly gives you the satisfaction of placing little houses and hotels on the board. I found the placing of numbered tiles on the Acquire game board was too abstract to be a satisfying metaphor for corporation-building.

How to Surprise the Queen of Surprises

This is a guest post by Hannah’s sister Sarah. Note: this post references something Hannah hasn’t talked about on this blog yet—the fact that she’s engaged to be married to her awesome boyfriend Chris in just under a month.

When Hannah first told me that she and Chris were engaged I immediately knew that I would be on the planning end of a surprise or two for the happy couple. First up, an engagement/bachelor/bachelorette party with local friends (because they’re getting married out of state).

As a reader of this blog, you know how important the elements of fun, surprise, and joy are to my dear sister. And thus you may find this hard to believe, but she had never been on the receiving end of the kind of surprise party she so often conspires to create for others. I’m happy to report that this oversight has been remedied and she’s asked me to share with the Everybody’s Invited community how that came to be. I must say, it was a bit intimidating to tackle the task of surprising the queen of surprises herself (perhaps that’s part of the reason it hasn’t happened before). Thankfully, she left a few hints to guide the planning process.

Recruit Help

The first thing I did was reach out to the bride’s business partners. In this case I was pretty lucky because said business happens to include event planning. Beyond their skills in that realm, Tara and Chris also offered an opportunity to see the couple’s daily life in a new light which is much appreciated when planning from afar.

Pick a Theme

We opted to have the party at the Pope House Bourbon Lounge where Hannah and Chris had recently completed the Bourbon Derby. Their prize was a set of horse shoes engraved with their names so we took this idea and ran with it to create a “Lucky in Love” theme. We went with their wedding colors and added a few details including these “lucky stars” in mason jars, a glittery “lucky in love” banner, and fresh flowers.

Get Your Nancy Drew On

Facebook was our friend. Comparing the bride and groom’s friends lists revealed a number of mutual friends that my partners-in-crime and I would not have known how to find otherwise. Don’t be afraid to recruit more help either. Although we’d never met, one of the groom’s best friends was quite helpful after we made contact with him on fb!

Personalize It

To make the party truly Hannah-and-Chris, we knew we needed some puzzles and games. Shutterfly offers photo puzzles that added a personalized touch to our game tables (we actually went kind of meta on this one, creating a puzzle of the couple putting together a puzzle). We also included a Jenga guest book by challenging guests to first pull a piece from the tower and to then leave a message, words of advice, or well wishes for the happy couple on the piece they’d retrieved. And don’t forget the Rubik’s cubes—Tara’s talented husband even managed to create “H” and “C” in Rubik.

Include a Sweet Treat

Mini cupcakes were the perfect addition. We had four flavors and featured both traditional and gluten free varieties. Topped with glittery hearts, these little bites were just the right thing to keep everyone in a celebratory mood. Well, that and the no-host bar of course. Although tempting and perhaps logical, I would recommend not ordering from the bride’s favorite bakery. When I walked in to pick them up I saw at least three people who looked like Hannah from behind. I thought the surprise was blown for sure!

surprise3

Success! Look how happy and surprised they look!

Have you ever thrown a surprise party? How did it go?

 

 

The Good Life: It’s the Little Things

found on Pinterest

found on Pinterest

Here are two things that might surprise you:

  1. Regular small accomplishments add more to your happiness than a few major wins

  2. Two small cookies over two separate occasions are more enjoyable than one giant cookie all at once (even if the giant cookie is bigger than the two small cookies combined)

When it comes to happiness, frequency is more important than the sheer size of something.

One reason is that we tend to evaluate our own happiness based on what’s going on in our daily lives, so we’re sensitive to the small things, good and bad, that happen to us on an average day. (This is different from how we perceive meaning in our lives. In that case, we tend to look at the big picture.) This means that frequent small accomplishments can add up to a whole lot of good feeling.

We also have an amazing ability to adapt to new circumstances. This adaptation skill is a double-edged sword—it allows us to thrive in many circumstances, but it also puts us on the “hedonic treadmill” where we quickly stop appreciating things that we once believed would bring us lasting happiness.

Ever received a raise? Unless it moved you from not being able to meet your basic needs to meeting them, you likely started taking your new standard for granted very quickly.

Bringing this down to cookie scale, you might actually stop enjoying the giant cookie after the fourth or fifth bite. The rest of your cookie-eating would be pretty ho-hum, believe it or not. But putting a couple days between bites would keep you from adapting to your new cookie-ful state of being. The optimal cookie-eating experience would be sparse, but each bite would be well worth it.

So, what are the lessons here?

  • First, it’s important to savor the little things. As trite as it sounds, the small pleasures in life really do determine how happy we feel. Striving for the big things is great for adding meaning to our life, but striving without appreciating the small stuff won’t make us any happier. Both are necessary for the good life.
  • Second, spread good experiences out over time. Another way of saying this might be: learn to delay gratification. Remember that a little goes a long way.
  • Third, when going through a crisis of confidence—something we all go through at one time or another—focus on re-building your sense of self through small, daily accomplishments. Make sure most of the things on your To Do list are small, achievable items—running errands, sending a letter, baking a cake for a friend—so that you can feel the power of small wins. Save the big stuff for when you’re feeling on top of your game again.

How do you use the power of little things in your life?

Signature Cocktail: Rum Spiked Horchata

Horchata is a delicious drink found all over Latin America and Spain. It can be made from almonds, rice, sesame seeds, or barley, among other things. The kind I’m familiar with is milky, though that’s not essential. Typical flavors include cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, lime, or various spices. Basically, it’s a whole bunch of goodness in one smooth beverage. I wanted a grown-up version so I made this.

rum-spiked-horchata

Though some recipes call for ground nuts or rice or corn, others just suggest soaking grains in water for a few hours or overnight. I adapted a recipe that called for soaking rice in water and adding milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. The original recipe called for sugar, but I skipped it entirely since I was also adding Orchata, a sweet cinnamon cream rum found in most liquor stores. (RumChata is another choice).

horchata-ingredients

It was super delicious—light and creamy, though a bit on the sweet side, despite the lack of added sugar. The hardest part was letting the rice soak for three hours!

Rum Spiked Horchata

(recipe adapted from A Beautiful Mess)

  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 oz. Orchata (cinnamon cream rum; could also use RumChata)
  1. Blend the rice and water in a blender for a minute. Then let the rice soak in the water for three hours.
  2. Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and drain the rice-y water. Discard the rice.
  3. Pour rice water, milk, vanilla, Orchata, and ice into a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled.
  4. Pour into glasses and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

 

Games People Play: Bohnanza

Games People Play is our game review series.

This weekend I went to a game night hosted by a couple friends. Between visits to the snack table (a cheese platter, chilipeño chips, dates, and chocolate) and the bar (scotch, cider, and wine), I played a few games that were new to me including the bean-farming card game Bohnanza I’ve been hearing so much about.

I don't understand the spelling. Seems like a missed opportunity for a bean-themed game, right?

“Bohne” is bean in German. Now it makes more sense, right?

Read on to find out if Bohnanza is the real deal or full of beans.

Bohnanza

Vital stats:

  • Players: 2-7
  • Age: 13 and up
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Replay value: High

Game play: Players are dealt a hand of cards—each card has one of 11 types of beans, including ones you’re familiar with like “soy” or “green,” along with some more unusual ones like “stink.” Players take turns drawing new cards, “planting” their beans, trading beans, and selling their beans in exchange for gold. The object, as in real bean farming, is to rack up the most gold by using your resources wisely. The constraints include having a limited number of fields for planting, having to plant beans at least once per turn (even if it means uprooting a well-planted field), and having to play cards in the order they appear in your hand.

This game is fun for: Bohnanza is great for a low-pressure game night with a range of player experience levels. People who appreciate jokes about stink beans will get the most out of this game.

Risk of making someone feel bad: The mechanics, while clever, are pretty easy for anyone to learn, so this game is unlikely to cause any hurt feelings or embarrassment.

Benefits of playing: The stink bean jokes.

Upgrades: There is apparently a hard-to-find expansion called Mutabohn that allows you to “mutate” beans into higher value bean types. Hooray for plant genetics-themed game mechanics!

Verdict: We’re keen on beans!

St. Patty’s Day Merrymakers: Talking about luck with Karla Starr

Karla Starr

Karla Starr

Karla Starr is a writer living in New York City. She writes about social science, and is currently writing a book about how and why people get chosen for opportunities. Recently I had the chance to talk with Karla about whether luck is real, how to create more of it, and how to avoid the bad kind.

 Feeling lucky? Read on!

Everybody’s Invited!: What is luck?

Karla Starr: It’s one of those words that can have a slippery definition. It can mean a million different things, and some people don’t believe it exists. The definition I like best is “probability interpreted personally,” because you can’t argue that probability doesn’t exist.

EI!: Are some people really luckier than others? Because sometimes it seems that way.

KS: It depends on how you interpret it. Looking at the bell curve of probability distribution, if events really are random, then some people will be the recipient of more unlikely occurrences than others, by definition.

One of the main things that explains why some people might have more good things happen to them is rooted in personality. If you’re an extroverted optimist, you’ll have a larger social network which leads to knowing about more opportunities, such as cool parties or jobs.

EI!: What else contributes to feeling lucky?

KS: Whether you have an Approach/Promotion mindset or an Avoid/Prevention mindset. People with the former are more focused on the possibility of rewards. They’re focused on new friendships and experiences. Those with the Avoid/Prevention mindset are more concerned with preventing pain or bad things from happening. They’re more likely to focus on not being rejected, and not losing what they already have.

The Approach/Promotion mindset leads to the exploratory behavior that is associated with better luck.

EI!: I’m listening to you describe these two types of people and I’m thinking that one is clearly better. Is that just me being biased?

KS: It’s not that we all have one mindset or the other all the time. We can change from one to the other, depending on the situation or the domain. You might be risk-averse when it comes to money, but have a high risk tolerance in social situations. It’s also easy to prime people to behave in one way or the other.

EI!: Phew! Good to know. The Avoid/Prevention mindset sounds like it’s related to scarcity.

KS: It is! Or, rather, it’s related to perceived scarcity. People who perceive something to be scarce end up being overly focused on whatever goal they’re trying to reach. Here’s an example from earlier today when I took a walk outside. I wasn’t walking with a specific goal in mind, like, say, to the train, hurriedly. I was just wandering around my neighborhood. Because I wasn’t overly focused on getting from point A to point B, I was paying attention to the different things in my neighborhood. And I found five dollars.

EI!: Lucky!

KS: Yeah. So then I went and bought kale, and an onion, and a mango, because that’s how I roll.  You see that all the time here in New York. People are in such a rush that they only see the step in front of them. They wouldn’t notice if Benedict Cumberbatch walked right by them.

EI!: Um…I would definitely notice. Hey, if this is just about probability, then wouldn’t paying more attention open you up to more bad luck, too? If you’re looking around more, aren’t you more likely to notice your ex on the subway platform and start crying uncontrollably?

KS: That leads us back to another part of the equation which is optimism and, specifically, resilience. If you’re resilient you can recover from seeing your ex on the subway, and you might not consider yourself any less lucky for having seen him. What looks like an average amount of good luck might actually just be an abnormally high amount of resilience.

EI!: Word.

To create more luck in your life, check out Karla’s practical strategies for bringing on more unexpected rewards:

  • Always leave a lot of time to get from one place to another, and look around you. That’s when you notice the really cool stuff that can change your life.

  • Maintain a wide, diverse social circle. Increasing your network increases the number of opportunities you’re aware of. It’s just a numbers game.

  • Say yes to new things. Optimistic people imagine the world is full of potential rewards, and therefore they’re open to new experiences.

  • Don’t take rejection personally. While there are certain things you can do to set yourself up for success, there are so many factors that go into decision-making, many of which are out of your control. Resilient people can bounce back because they don’t personalize failures.

Be sure to visit Karla’s website for more.