I’d like to know what EHell thinks about forced mingling.
Years ago, when our kids were small, my husband and I attended a family reunion that was held in a large dining hall. The four of us (me, husband, two little girls) were sitting with his family and chatting happily, waiting for the dinner to be served. Suddenly, the hostess stood up and announced merrily “Don’t get too comfy, folks! We’re going to mix it up a little so that you’re not all talking to the same people you can talk to any other day.” She then proceeded to lay out the “rules”. I don’t remember the specifics, but they involved getting up and moving two chairs to the left, or something.
My husband and I eyed each other in dismay, and I said, “That’s not going to happen. If we suddenly get up and leave our kids, they’ll get scared and start to cry.” So, we stayed put. Along came the hostess and, wagging her finger at us, she said, “Now now, you two! Didn’t you hear the rules? Time to move!” We said, politely, “Sorry, but that won’t be possible. Our daughters will get upset.” Hostess looked very put out, but she didn’t insist, fortunately.
That brings us to today. My department recently moved to a new building, and someone just sent out a lunch invitation. As soon as I read the words, “In order to ensure folks don’t just mingle with the people they already know, there will be two sets of randomized groupings”, my heart sank. I’m an introvert, and even if I weren’t, I absolutely hate someone treating me like a child and saying “Go sit over there and make friends.” 0909-16
In etiquette, it is perfectly acceptable for the host/ess to arrange seating around the table where married couples are separated in order to facilitate conversation. When attending a dinner party, for example, the host is the conversational gatekeeper introducing guests to each other and getting topics started that may be of mutual interest to newly introduced guests. I recently hosted a “mystery mixer” organized by my church where guests do not know who the host or other guests are. I seated couples in such a way around the table where they were opposite their spouse/date but not seated directly next to them. That way there is no “pocket” of conversation between two people like a husband and wife but rather everyone is encouraged to engage in talking with everyone. We had a great time! Lots of laughter!
In my opinion, being an introvert is not a good reason to be excused from the obligations one has as a guest. When invited to a dinner party, guests do not get a pass to limit their social interactions to only immediate friends or family but should make an effort to introduce oneself and contribute to the discussions. One of my adult daughters is very introverted and she has developed a strategy for talking with strangers. She realizes that people love to talk about themselves so she asks questions that uses that bit of human nature to her advantage. “Are you from here?” “Do you have family nearby?”