Q: How do you handle unexpected guests or somebody who calls at the last minute to ask whether they can bring a friend? A: If you can accommodate...

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Q: How do you handle unexpected guests or somebody who calls at the last minute to ask whether they can bring a friend?

A: If you can accommodate the extra person without undue disruption, do so as cheerfully as possible.

However, there are situations when you should refuse to accept the added guest. It may be that adding a plate to your perfectly set table would make you crazy. Fair enough. And you can’t fabricate a seventh Cornish hen when you have planned for just six guests.

Respond to the request honestly. That might sound like, “I’m so sorry that I did not know about this sooner. If I had, I could have planned for it. Unfortunately, I organized the meal precisely this time, and another guest just won’t work. This will teach me to prepare better. I am sure you understand.”

Muster all your good grace and good humor when you refuse the request. There is no point in hurting anyone’s feelings or, worse, creating bad feelings.

Do realize, however, that a little goodwill goes a long way. You could, for example, give your Cornish hen to the extra guest and not make a big deal out of it. Or you could stretch your place settings somehow.

Ingenuity in the face of distress only makes you appear too secure to worry about minor deficiencies when friendship and camaraderie are at stake.

Mary Mitchell is a Seattle-based corporate trainer and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” E-mail questions to Mary@themitchell.org. Sorry, no personal replies.