Friends coming to town – Hosting anxiety?

Dear Alice,

I am a New Yorker who is in college at the moment. Several of my friends from school are living and working in the city this summer, and I love having them around. Whenever I make plans with them, though, I feel a great pressure to make sure they have a good time. As the person who knows New York best (the subway, good restaurants, etc.), I feel like it is my responsibility to make plans and decisions when we go out, and I feel inordinately guilty or embarrassed if the plans ever go awry (e.g., if I mistake the address of a bar, if a restaurant turns out to be unexpectedly expensive, or even if the local subway line unexpectedly switches to the express — things that are often totally out of my control). I know this is silly; my friends can clearly take care of themselves, and I know they don't depend on me for fun. But the pressure that I create for myself is detracting from my own enjoyment. How can I stop holding myself to these absurd expectations and just enjoy myself?

— New York Native

Dear New York Native,

It’s understandable that you might wind up feeling responsible when the night goes awry if the onus was entirely on you to plan everything. Even though you know that these types of mishaps aren’t actually your fault, being in control of the plans may make you feel like everything has to go perfectly, otherwise it’s a failure. This type of hosting anxiety — whether that be hosting a party or event or, in this case, hosting transplants in your native hometown — typically stems from a propensity for people-pleasing. Of course you want everyone to have a good time, but putting that kind of pressure on yourself to make everyone happy will make even the smallest hiccups feel like the end of the world. Thinking about how to approach these nights in a different way may help ensure that everyone (including you!) gets to have a good time.

It might help to put things into perspective when the night does go awry — is this setback temporary? Is it going to ruin the night, or just put a dent in the current moment? If your friends seem annoyed, are they annoyed at you, or are they annoyed at the general situation? And in what ways can they also help find a solution? And, as you mentioned, is it out of your control? Asking yourself these questions is one way to ease your anxiety and think more productively about the situation. 

You could also try taking note of how you react when these setbacks occur — are you profusely apologizing and making your guilt known? Are you making a bigger deal out of these setbacks? Rather than fixating on the problem, you could simply acknowledge that the situation is unfortunate and suggest a potential solution (if possible) without feeling obligated to claim responsibility. Odds are your friends will appreciate this reaction and it’ll put you all on more of a level playing field for turning the night around. 

Another solution to this dilemma could be to suggest sharing the planning obligations with your friends. You might be the native New Yorker, but your friends are living in the city, too. Chances are they might be interested in learning how to navigate the Big Apple as well as you do. As you said, New York can be unpredictable, even for the best planners! Subway lines change, restaurants and bars close, etc. It's virtually impossible to plan for every possible snafu! Running into unexpected diversions and last-minute changes of plans is unavoidable because that's how New York operates. Perhaps part of helping them get to know New York is showing them how to deal with the unexpected in a city this size.

Sharing the planning with your friends would serve at least two purposes: First, you'll surely feel less responsible for their enjoyment, and second, your friends will get a little taste and appreciation for planning fun stuff to do in New York. They'll also learn how to think on their feet when unplanned stuff comes up. Who knows, maybe you'll all find new and exciting elements of the city that you never saw before! Time Out New York and nyc.com are among the many websites that share about upcoming events in New York City. Share these with your friends so you can plan your next adventure together!

Hopefully, taking some of the pressure off yourself will allow you to enjoy things more when you are out with your friends.

Have fun!

Last updated Jul 15, 2022
Originally published Nov 02, 2007