How to Handle Unexpected Guests When You’re Unprepared

Getting a call from a dear friend saying they’re in town is both exciting and dreadful.  

The dread comes from likely having to expect them at your door in a short period of time. Your home may not be in a presentable state, and you may not have showered in longer than you’d like to admit.

Though you have things to do, those things may not warrant a withdrawal of the, “always an open door,” policy. The situation you may find yourself in, is one of needing to get a some essential tasks out the way prior to the arrival of guests you didn’t expect.

The situation calls for you to communicate effectively. You wouldn’t want to expose just how much of a burden to your day a guest’s visit may be, but you‘d also want to let them know that you have a lot of things to do prior to their arrival.

This article is about handling the social situation surrounding an unexpected guest making their way over to your home. Two things to remember are presented for you to keep in mind while communicating your need to get things done, being unprepared, whilst also not labeling your guest to be a burden.


Forgiveness Softens the Interaction and Numbs the Expectation

A first thing to do would be to apologize for your lack of preparedness. It would obviously not be your fault for being unprepared for an unexpected guest. However, the fact remains that you’re unprepared for their visit. The apologetic tone here, would be a strategic barrier to you inadvertently labeling your guest as too much of a burden.

Take the following into consideration:

“Wow! I am totally not prepared for your arrival, James. Make your way over though!”

The quote above, leaves the door open for interpretation. James can take that line to mean that he’s infringing on your comfort and list of to dos. If you’re intentionally attempting to dissuade James from making his way over to your place after you get off the phone, then there’s nothing wrong with saying what’s above.

However, the difficulty of wanting / needing to have the guest make their way over to your place while, at the same time, being unprepared is what this article is about. A common example of this situation is when a family member or a close friend unexpectedly makes it into town. The line above wouldn’t do well to encourage their desire to visit you whilst also communicate your lack of preparedness.

“Make your way over! Forgive me for the state my apartment is in though, I haven’t had time to do a proper cleanup in a while. I hope the mess doesn’t bother you.”

This quote, would numb James’ expectation of your state of cleanliness whilst not discouraging his visit / presence. His likely response would be, “It’s totally fine don’t stress it, I’m the one with the unexpected visit.”

Asking the guest to forgive your lack of preparedness encourages a mutual understanding of how much of a burden that guest is without you needing to say it. It also lowers the guest’s expectations of their visit, along with encouraging them to value your deed inviting them in when you didn’t expect them.


Use Your Excitement for Their Arrival as an Excuse to Finish Your Tasks

Another tactic that works well is using their unexpected arrival as an excuse to get all the things you need done in a hurry, and them attend to the guest themselves. Rather than stating that you’re unprepared and leaving it at that, say that you’re unprepared but really want to meet up with the individual. Seem excited for their arrival and let them know how excited you are.

The excitement would be a tool to encourage the guest to wait patiently while you finish what you needed to do.

For instance, you can let the guest into your home and sit them on the couch while you finish washing the dishes. Your excitement for their arrival would make you move quickly, and your act of finishing the dishes would communicate that you were unprepared. You’d still be able to give the guest some attention, but they wouldn’t have your full attention until you’re done the task you needed to do.

You can also communicate excitement for their arrival while you quickly shower. While they wait in the living room, they’d value your deed of having them as a guest when you weren’t as prepared as you needed to be. They’d be forgiving of your lack of preparedness, and will likely feel a sense of shame for catching you off guard.

Showing the guest how unprepared you are firsthand, encourages your interaction to be more pleasant. In essence, they’d be thankful to you for going out of your way to have them over.  

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.