Open thread

by EPI Staff on March 21, 2011

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This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Christa March 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Everything I have read in etiquette books, columns and on this site have said that if you do not want to attend an event or an informal gathering, all you have to say is “Oh, I won’t be able to make it” or “I have other plans.” Yet, every time I use this, the person doing the inviting presses on for more information. I never get a response of “oh okay, maybe another time.” I always get more questions! This just happened twice in one weekend. On Friday I called my cousin to wish him a Happy Birthday and my uncle got on the phone and said “are you free this Sunday for dinner?” I said “oh no, I have tickets to a game” and he said “Oh what time?” and pushed on for more info. He ultimately let me off the hook, but it was still nerve wracking. I end up feeling guilty, but I wasn’t aware of a birthday dinner until I made the call 2 days prior! Then, today, online a friend invited me to something in the middle of this week. It would mean my traveling after work for an hour and then back home. I am just not in the mood for it this week, so I said I would not be able to make it. Then she asked “oh too bad. are you working late?” So I said “no, i have plans with Pamela.” So, I ended up lying and that made me feel bad. I feel so guilty, like I am doing something wrong not saying “yes” to every invite. In the past I NEVER said “no” to any invite, no matter how badly I did not want to go. As I have gotten into my late 20s I decided to stop making myself miserable by doing that. I still say yes to many events, just not all. What do other people do??

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Alicia March 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Well it is common for people to press for more info. I tend to use what deflection. Can you come to the party saturday at 7? “No I’m sorry I can not attend. So do tell me about your latest underwater basketweaving/movie you saw/boyfriend/kid/ anything. If pressed I tend to then again say No I am not able to attend but I hope you all have a good time and then change the topic again. After a few repeats people tend to realize that pressing is rude and they take the topic change.

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Elizabeth March 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Christa,
It’s too bad that these individuals have no sense of boundaries and question you so. I agree with Alicia’s advice, but it will only work if your interlocutors are self-aware enough to realize that you are politely evading their rude questions. They may not ever come to this conclusion, and may actually ask you why you keep evading their questions! I think you should be more direct. For friend inviting you to the mid-week event, just say “I have a busy and stressful week at work, and I’m just too tired to make it this time.” For the uncle, reiterate that you have plans and that you would have an easier time making events if you were given more notice.

As you well know, an invitation does not obligate you to an event, nor does it require you to make elaborate and detailed regrets. However, if you express genuine regret that you can’t make it, your hosts will feel as if you really wished you could be there and will empathize with you. “Oh, Uncle, the dinner sounds like great fun, I wish you would have told me about it earlier, but I have plans!”

Also, if you are pressed for details why you cannot attend something, you don’t have to make up other plans, but you can simply say that you’ve scheduled time for yourself to do something like chores around the house or even just me-time. “Sorry, friend, I can’t make the thing this Wednesday. Work’s been so hectic, I have a date with a bottle of wine and a rented DVD that night!”

Lastly, if you feel that someone is really pushing you rather rudely, you could say “I don’t want to bore you with the minutia of my plans, but suffice it to say that I just can’t make it.”

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Country Girl March 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Though pressing for more information can indeed seem rude, in some cases the invitor might just want you to come so badly that they are possibily willing to change plans, make exceptions, etc so that you will be able to make it. (I’m not saying this is the case), but for example if your answer to the invitation from your uncle was “Oh I wish you’d asked earlier, we really would have loved to have come, but…” perhaps your uncle thought you really would like to make it, so by asking what time the game was he may not have been trying to be rude or trip you up, he might have been thinking they could possibly schedule the dinner a little earlier/later in order that you could still make it.

I think it sounds like you have been doing a great job keeping your cool, just remember not to take it too personally when an invitor presses forward. I think sometimes it never even crosses an invitor’s mind that someone might actually just not want to attend their event. =) It’s also fine to give vague answers “I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend, I already have plans.” (those plans could be having a restful evening for all it matters) giving a more vague answer usually will halt the invitor from pressing forward so much as they would if you give a more specific answer. If you give a specific answer, sometimes the person will think they are just being friendly and continuing the conversation by talking more about the game, plans with Pamela, etc. And I like Alicia’s advice also about simply giving the answer then quickly changing the subject or moving forward, not inviting the opportunity for further questions. The invitor should take the hint.

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Sam March 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Although they may not realize it is not proper ettiquitte to ask about your plans, they may be trying to express an interest in what you are doing. (Oh, this is harder to explain than I thought!) Unfortunately, I probably would be the one to find myself asking what you were doing. Not because I wanted to be rude or try to make you change your plans if you may not have truly had any. I am just interested you and what you are doing (and quite sure you were doing something fabulous!) And, for the record, staying home to watch NCIS is pretty fabulous to me.

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Lady Antipode March 22, 2011 at 2:52 am

I agree, Sam. I am more likely to ask about other plans or declined invitations out of interest in the other person’s life, or out of care and concern that they’re OK (I know several people who decline invitations due to depression).

Having said that, if one of my friends did say they were planning to stay home and relax, I generally say something like “That sounds lovely. Enjoy every moment” or “It sounds like you really need some peace and quiet. We’ll catch up another time”. If they were going to see someone else or do something else, I’d give a similar response hoping they have a great time.

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