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Don’t Be a Chill Host

Christella Kay
February 7, 2023

‘Chill’ is selfishness disguised as kindness. —Priya Parker

The chapter titled, “Don’t Be A Chill Host” in Priya Parkers book “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters”, spoke to me in such a specific and personal way that I actually felt bad for the guests I had assembled at past gatherings, sigh. I was definitely guilty of being a ‘Chill Host’.

Stella's legs up in a hammock

Parker defines ‘Chill’ as “...the idea that it’s better to be relaxed and low-key, better not to care, better not to make a big deal.” I really thought at the time I was being chill that it was what my guests preferred and wanted from their host. I now understand that this is often very uncomfortable for guests and that a host assuming power and control is a welcome trait. Leadership is critical. When you abdicate leadership, you do not eradicate power. You just hand the opportunity to take charge to someone else!

It is one thing to understand the need to exert power and leadership, but how is it done well? Parker believes that the answer to that question is ‘Generous Authority’. “A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others.”, she says. There are three goals that someone practicing generous authority should keep in mind:

Protect Your Guests

Parker suggests that it is the duty of the host to protect guests from one another, or from boredom, or from the addictive technologies that lurk in our pockets.

Equalize Your Guests

In almost any human gathering there will be some hierarchy, some difference in status, imagined or real…

It is up to the host of the gathering to balance these differences through the use of their generous authority.

Connect Your Guests

Guest-to-guest connections rarely happen all on their own. It is the job of the host to design the gathering deliberately for the kinds of connections they want to create. Hosts must use generous authority to guide guests into making connections. When this is done well, lifelong friendships can be forged!

The idea of trading in my old, comfortable ‘chill’ attitude and adopting the use of Generous Authority is daunting! This change lies near the core of my personal identity, it forces me to look at my attitudes in a different way and will challenge me greatly. I don’t expect that I will get it perfectly right every time, but having these goals in mind should help me in making these new ideas become second nature.

YOU ARE THE BOSS. Hosting is not democratic, just like design isn't. Structure helps good parties, like restrictions help good design. —Priya Parker

This post belongs to a series of posts about The Art of Gathering.