It has a lot to do with how many of us were raised, according to social psychologist Susan Newman, who said we often equate being polite with saying “yes” to everything. As a result, we think saying “no” is somehow rude or insulting to the asker. “For people who are ever-conscious of social protocol and the ‘right’ way to be a friend or relative, it seems there’s no way to decline an invitation without ruffling a few feathers”.
Why people have trouble declining invitations?
Newman, author of The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say it and Mean it ― and Stop People Pleasing Forever, told. “‘No’ is, for many, a negative word by definition, so there’s an assumption that each refusal will automatically have a negative backlash ― the asker will be offended or feelings will be hurt,” she added. “Or turning down an invitation will peg you as uncaring or selfish within your family or social circle.”
Saying “yes” to everyone else and ignoring your own needs is a recipe for feeling overwhelmed and unhappy.
“As the invitations pile up, you can face feelings of powerlessness, resentment toward the people asking or anger with yourself because you were unable to say ‘no,’” Newman said. “Your own needs get pushed to the back burner. The stress of overload can manifest itself in insomnia, headaches, exhaustion and even make you more susceptible to colds or worse.”
How can you give a tactful “no”?
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman said people tend to over-explain when they decline an invitation. Instead, keep your response simple and straightforward. “When you feel uncomfortable, it shows,” Gottsman, the author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.“ said “Be ready in advance so you have a plan when an invitation comes through.” Simply say, “Thank you so much. I need to check my calendar and get back to you.” Alternatively, you can say, “It sounds like it’s going to be a wonderful party but unfortunately I have already committed to other plans.” Beyond that, it is not necessary to make an excuse.
Let us now look at the different kinds of approaches you can take when faced with the common case of an invitation that you might have been sent.
In a formal invitation case
If you have been invited to a wedding or other event, after receiving an invitation card. If you know right away that you will not be able to attend, inform the organizer immediately so that they will not be expecting you. In the same case, if you have any doubts, do not give false hope. Making the host wait for you while he/she is making the preparations is more shocking, so call him/her to explain your problem.
On the other hand, if you have another booking, let them know. If you have no other duties and cannot easily explain why you do not want to come, just politely decline the invitation without going into details. Do not make up a reason for not attending. If you lie, you will risk feeling guilty, which is precisely what you are trying to avoid when you refuse an invitation, and in the case if your host finds out, it is highly unlikely that you will maintain a good relationship, even if it was to avoid hurting his feelings. Above all, avoid useless explanations. For formal invitations, a simple “sorry, I won’t be there” will be enough, in case if the person is insistent, just say something like: “sorry, but I can’t come for some personal reasons”. For an event where a gift is expected, send a congratulatory note or card and a gift. You do not need to buy a gift to anyone with whom you are only slightly familiar.
In informal Invitation case
If you do not feel like going to a birthday party or a party with friends, wish your friend a happy birthday or invite them to celebrate the same event on a different day. Be sure to express your sincere regret at not being able to attend the party and thank them for inviting you.
When you decline to attend an informal but very personal encounter, such as a date, turn your apology into a sandwich compliment. You can say this, “that’s very nice of you, but I can’t come.” Do not shame your host by telling others about the invitation. Keep it to yourself, just as you would like others to do when you invite them.
Certainly, it is not easy to feel such pressure when you are faced with such a situation that you are struggling to cancel, but the only recipe that can help you is to respond in the required manner as soon as possible with honesty.