I Tried “Maslow’s Method” for Hosting, and It Saved Me So Much Stress

published Jun 14, 2024
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Have you ever been to a party and something just seems off? There’s a stunningly aesthetic cheese board, perfectly curated specialty cocktail, and canape plates that were definitely sourced from an overpriced vintage reseller. But there’s not a water glass in sight, you can’t find a place to sit, and the soundtrack is non-existent. Or maybe the music is just right and the drinks are flowing, but, whoops, there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom and food was definitely an afterthought.

Both of these parties are missing the mark for the same reason. They’re not hitting every layer in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as explained by @aroundeight on TikTok. Yes, Psychology 101 is making a comeback. To have a successful party, this creator says, you have to take your guests’ comfort and psychological needs into account. Miss out on any one tier, and your guests will feel a sense of unease that they might not be able to put their finger on, but, trust me, they’ll notice it. 

What Is Maslow’s Method for Hosting?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that there are five levels of human needs that span basic physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. In order to live a fulfilled life, you have to work your way up from the bottom to the top. 

And, it turns out, hosting isn’t that different from living when it comes to paying attention to each of these needs.

As @aroundeight explains, you can’t have the best party ever if you’re not hitting the basics. And, without the surprise and delights of the top of the pyramid, a party that only fulfills the basics will fall flat. 

While I like to think I’m attuned to my guests’ needs when hosting, there’s always room for improvement, right? So I decided to put her theory to the test and walk through each level of the hierarchy of hosting needs pyramid while planning a recent get-together.

Credit: Heather Bien

5 Steps for Using Maslow’s Method for Hosting

I decided to test drive this needs-based approach to hosting when I had friends over for brunch recently. As someone who loves a checklist, this gave me a clear set of guidelines to run through as I was in the frenzy of getting ready. Here’s exactly how I walked through the hierarchy of needs and how I put it into action.

Address Comfort Needs First

Basic needs should be top priority. At a party, that means the space needs to be clean, comfortable, and inviting. Anything a guest needs should be readily available. Water and beverage cups, plates, napkins, and utensils should be accessible; you should serve food in a timely manner; in the bathroom, there should be toilet paper, soap, and a clean hand towel. 

All of this seems obvious! But it’s easy to miss a thing or two in the rush to prep snacks and greet guests. One need I know I’ve neglected in the past is giving guests room to comfortably move around. That’s always been tough when I live in a small space, but I’m lucky to finally have a living space big enough to entertain more than a friend or two at once. I set up the dining room table with place settings for each friend, then made sure that even with dishes on the table, there was still plenty of room to set multiple beverages or a dirty napkin. 

Credit: Heather Bien

Move on to Safety and Information Needs

Whether you’re going to a party where you don’t know a soul or just having dinner at a close friend’s house, it’s nice to know what’s going on. People like information. It makes them feel more at ease! Plus, teasing some details can get people excited about the event.

Of course, the event invitation is a great opportunity to share details about the event, but don’t let that be the last thing they hear from you until it’s showtime. I like to send my guests a quick menu preview or a note about who else is coming to get them excited and give them an idea of what to expect. If you have friends who you know don’t want to show up empty-handed, give them a task (I asked a friend if she could bring coffee to brunch).

Once guests arrive, have a quick spiel ready to go about where they can put their bags, coats, and where to grab their first drink. Don’t make them ask — be prepared at the door.

Create an Environment of Belonging

Everyone wants to feel like they belong and, as the host, it’s on you to create a welcoming environment. That means making sure you’ve made intentional choices about who to invite and checking in with people throughout the event.

Some of these considerations are more important when you’re hosting a holiday, a big birthday, or any occasion where there are multiple words colliding. At events like that, you want to make sure any guest will have two or three people they don’t necessarily know but could easily strike up a conversation with. It’s helpful to invite that friend you can drop with anybody — the small-talk expert is a key player in creating a welcoming environment.

I was hosting a small, friends-only brunch so I didn’t need to worry about guests knowing each other. However, what I could do was come to the (literal) table making sure I’d caught up on what my friends had going on that week. When I text with friends all the time, I sometimes forget to ask about those bigger topics — the huge project at work, the upcoming vacation — and making a point to ask them about these in a group setting goes a long way in making them feel listened to.

Credit: Heather Bien

Tap into the Fun

With the lower levels covered — basic needs, information and safety, belonging — you can move on to what makes a party fun. Incorporate a theme (this always breaks the ice!), have a fun activity planned, or put together a great playlist

These are the pieces that take it from a nice-enough party with everyone standing around chatting to an event that will become a core memory. I didn’t necessarily feel the need to go over the top for a simple brunch, but I did put together a jazzy playlist to go with the formal tablescape I set up. It gave it a “we’re at a fancy cafe” vibe, but with the casual air of everyone hanging out in the kitchen while I wrapped up the French toast casserole.

Add a Surprise and a Delight

Lastly, a surprise or delight is what takes a party to the next level. I don’t necessarily think every occasion needs one, but it’s what hits that final piece of the pyramid — the self-actualization as Maslow called it. You could leave guests with a fun favor or have a fun and interactive cocktail or dessert.

For me, I think greeting guests with an unexpectedly gorgeous table and music did the trick. We popped Champagne to celebrate a friend’s recent accomplishment, and sat around catching up for a few hours. And, if you ask me, all our needs were met — including the toilet paper in the bathroom.