How to decline an invitation without hurting someone
There is hardly anyone who has never turned down an invitation or their invitation has not been declined.
People invite their close ones to special occasions for socialisation. But circumstances don’t allow us to accept the invitations always. And the hardest part is declining an invitation without hurting someone's feelings or causing conflict.
People turn down invitations for many reasons - having any personal, professional or academic work to do, having a pre-scheduled plan on that day, or sometimes, not feeling like going anyway, etc.
Nevertheless, no reason is enough to keep others from being hurt if the message is not properly conveyed. The following are the rule of thumb to decline an invitation without hurting them.
Don’t ignore and show gratitude and honesty
Putting the invitation aside for dealing with it later is not appreciated and shows a lack of social manners. The host wants to be assured whether you'll be able to attend or not. So, respond as fast as possible.
Always express your appreciation to the person who invited you and express how honoured you are to be invited by them.
Always tell the truth without giving excuses. Having some other important thing to do or being busy is not a crime. Politely explain the reason behind your absence. Do not over-explain.
“I turned down an invitation to a marriage ceremony of my friend’s brother recently, it was a sad issue for both of us as we both wanted to enjoy this ceremony together along with my other friends,” said Maliha Kabir, a 2nd-year-student of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from Dhaka University.
Being in Dhaka with an exam to attend soon, it was tough for her to attend the ceremony in Khulna. In fact, most of her friends missed the ceremony due to staying in different cities and having exams.
After talking with her friend,, we get to know that she was sad after knowing that her close friends will not be able to come to her brother's special day.
Make up for the situation
“We planned my brother’s wedding throughout the winter. For some personal issues, it got delayed and most of my friends failed to attend,” lamented Mashiat Monjur– Maliha’s friend, who is a student of Khulna Medical College.
Although Mashiat is totally considerate about the situation, she is equally sad about it. In such cases, there are certain things you can do to make the person feel better.
For instance, send something with a card with a nice present to whatever occasion you were invited to. Mention how much you wish you could be there and add that you look forward to seeing them soon.
If a close friend invited you to a party or event, follow up with a phone call to know how it went; this is essential. This allows you to demonstrate that you are still thinking about them and you are happy for them.
You can also offer an alternative time to get together. Fix a plan on some other days when both of the person’s times get matched. It can remove the awkwardness and bring the good vibe back.
Sometimes, the person who has refused the invitation becomes more sorry than the person who has invited them. Maliha herself experienced that.
“To be honest, turning down this invitation was indeed a tough decision for me. I felt really awful while thinking of turning down the invitation. It became even worse to see their pictures (afterwards),” she said.
Escape from guilt
Always try to remember that an invitation is an offer, it is not an order. It is okay to decline it. The goal is to inform the person as soon as possible and politely whether or not you can accept the invitation.
Getting your work done is more important than trying to avoid disappointing a friend.
There are people who refuse invitations because they don’t like the person or the people who are attending. Dibbo Protim Ghosh, a 3rd-year pharmacy student of Brac University is one of them.
“I have faced a situation where I was free to attend a particular invitation but chose not to be present. Actually, I did not want to be around the other people who’d be present.
“Whenever I am invited to the same place with people I prefer not to mix or with people I’m not comfortable with, I politely decline,” added Dibbo.
This is actually a wise thing to do since both you and the people present in the program might face awkward situations due to past history.
Also, anyone should be able to defend their own boundaries and should not be forced to do anything they dislike. Don't be scared to decline it when you're invited to hang out somewhere and you don't want to.
Even it's fine if you don't give reasons or excuses. You are not obliged to go there and a simple ‘No’ with a decent smile can help your cause.
For Dibbo, it feels burdensome to give explanations. Rather, he chooses to say a simple ‘No’ politely.
“The relationship between the people invited and those who invite may be good. Upon being familiar with my perception of them, the situation could worsen.”
A person’s most valuable resources are time, money, and energy. How they choose to spend them is up to them. It is not always possible to accept every invitation. Rather, it's easy to convince yourself that your attendance isn't a big deal.
The more you do it, the more you'll learn that the majority of people can withstand your turning down the invitation and that it won't harm your relationships.