This photo has been used for illustrative purpose only. TNS
In a year without a Great Plague, we’d be in peak wedding season right about now.
Even though the situation has improved, gatherings are still not allowed. But, what if someone plans a wedding or a party? How do you say no? Can you say no? How do you phrase it without sounding judgmental?
If you don’t care at all about the person who’s asking you, saying no is easy: Say “no.” But assuming this is someone with whom you’d like to continue a relationship once the pandemic is over, it can be a little trickier. We turned to some experts for guidance.
How to say no politely
Of course you are allowed to say no. You are allowed to say that at all times, to all invitations, under all circumstances. But especially right now, in the middle of a pandemic.
So it’s less about whether you can say it and more about how, experts say. Tone matters. Put a smile on your face when you make the call and keep it simple: “Thank you for the invitation, I’m so sorry but I can’t make it.”
You don’t need to explain why or start adding qualifiers or caveats. That’s where you run the risk of veering into judgmental territory.
But what if I’ve already RSVP’d?
Even if it’s something you’ve already RSVP’d to, like a wedding, you can still go back to the host and decline. It isn’t rude to change your mind about going to an event where your attendance could be risking your life. What would be rude would be to wait until the last minute to do so: As soon as you know you won’t be going, get in touch with the hosts and tell them. Give them time to adjust their seating charts and catering orders.
When conveying the message, again, graciousness and simplicity are key: “I wanted to update you about my RSVP for your wedding. Thank you so much for inviting me, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it.”
You can still send a gift
Just because you can’t go to an event doesn’t mean you can’t be appreciative toward the host. If it’s a milestone birthday or a wedding, send a card and a gift. If it’s a more casual get-together, have flowers delivered or send the hosts some money ahead of time with a note: “So sorry I can’t be there. Dessert’s on me!” Reach out to the hosts again the day after the party and tell them you wish you could have attended and you can’t wait to see the photos.
You can also offer alternatives to getting together on that day: Plan a time to sing “Happy Birthday” on video chat the day before or offer to drop off dinner at their house later that week.
If you do decline an event, be consistent. It would be extremely poor manners to post photos of yourself a week later throwing a party of your own.
Inquiring about social distancing
It depends on your relationship with the host. If it’s a family member or someone you’re close to, it’s more acceptable to inquire. You could also use their past behaviour for reference: If they’ve posted a bunch of photos of themselves in crowded public areas or at other parties with no mask on, it’s reasonable to assume they won’t be strict about things at their own house.
If you do ask, phrasing it as a yes-or-no question will probably yield more useful information than broadly asking about social distancing, since not everyone has quite the same understanding of what “good social distancing” looks like. Will you be asking people to wear masks? Will families be seated at least six feet away from each other?
When social distancing gets overly social
You’ve been reassured that masks will be on and distance will be maintained. But after a couple of hours, you notice social distancing and masks starting to slip. That is your cue to exit.
Don’t ascend your soapbox and deliver a speech about why you’re leaving, as satisfying as it might feel in the moment. And don’t go tattling to the host.
If you’ve reached the point when other guests’ behaviour is making you uncomfortable, it’s probably best to go over and thank the host for inviting you and say you had a wonderful time but you have to get going.
If you know ahead of time that certain guests are probably going to ignore social distancing protocols, no matter how much the host says they’ll be enforcing things, it’s better to not go at all.
Defusing difficult conversations
In most cases, when you’re saying “thanks, but no thanks” or making a hasty departure, the host will understand. But not always. But, it isn’t your responsibility to convince everyone in your life that you’re right and they’re wrong. Remember, some minds can’t be changed.
Even knowing someone firsthand who’s been affected isn’t always enough to persuade people to take it seriously. At this point, everyone is aware of the coronavirus, and everyone has formed their own opinion about it. You’re unlikely to change someone’s mind with articles and graphics and well-reasoned arguments, so don’t bother.
Politeness still matters
And on the other side of the debate, some people reading this might be wondering why we should care about etiquette at all in these situations. Doesn’t a pandemic take precedence over politeness? Yes — but that doesn’t mean manners are now irrelevant. Manners are a guideline so you still have friends when this is over.
Tribune News Service
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