For many, the word “holiday” conjures up images of heartwarming gatherings with family and friends. Replacing this scenario for one in which you’re separated from loved ones can be a tough decision, even if you are confident it’s the right thing to do.
Can you turn down a holiday invitation without upsetting a friend or disappointing a parent?
While declining those invitations can be especially nerve-racking, the best way to soften the impact of gloomy news is by communicating gracefully and remaining considerate to their feelings.
Here are some tips on how to politely turn down a holiday invite while preserving your closest relationships:
Lead with honesty
Perhaps you have some financial constraints, health concerns, or maybe someone you live with is more susceptible to illness, which is making you second-guess travel or social engagements this holiday season. Whatever the reasons behind your decision, you should be honest and transparent with the host. Reply as soon as you receive the invitation, giving the host enough time to adjust their plans and budget.
Start by emphasizing how much you appreciate being invited and how eager you are to spend time with them. Then, explain your situation in simple terms. Resist the urge to go into too much detail, defend yourself, or over-apologize. Etiquette experts at Emily Post suggest honesty compels us to find the positive truth to act upon. Phrases like “I want to protect you” or “I want you to be happy and healthy,” will make it easier for friends and family members to accept the explanation with empathy and feel that you’re putting them at the forefront of your mind.
Telling the truth is part of good etiquette. Showing your close ones the honesty they deserve is the ultimate act of love. And, you’ll feel good about doing what is right for you. Ideally, you’ll have a one-on-one conversation, so the other person can pick up on your nonverbal expressions of empathy such as gestures and tone of voice.
Offer alternatives to stay connected
Despite your best efforts to break the news as gently as possible, there’s still a chance that your family members and friends will feel disappointed or rejected. They’ve probably been looking forward to this gathering for months and your presence was one of the highlights.
Give loved ones the space to share their feelings or voice their frustrations and then try offering some solutions. Rather than joining this event in person, suggest participating virtually, via Zoom or Houseparty. Ask for details about the event to see if you can recreate the same atmosphere at home, so it’ll be like you’re right there, celebrating with everyone else.
Another option is to host an online party, at a later date. Propose fun, bonding activities such as quizzes, video games, trivia, online treasure hunts, or even a dance party, all while enjoying delicious take-out, and homemade cocktails. Custom shirts are also a great way to make virtual reunions more special without breaking the bank.
Be proactive but make it clear that you welcome new ideas, and include them in the planning. The goal is to show loved ones how much you treasure doing something together, even if you’re apart.
Send a thoughtful gift or a handwritten letter
If you can’t shake the feeling of guilt or grief from saying no to those that matter the most to you, consider sending a gift. Use the time you save on commuting to the event to put more care into a gift or holiday card.
While it won’t be accompanied by a warm hug from you, a little surprise delivered to your loved ones’ doorstep can go a long way.
Snack boxes, craft and meal kits, books, subscriptions to wellness apps, and streaming bundles are just a couple of entertaining gifts that will cheer up anyone. If you enjoy DIY projects, you can create practical and meaningful gifts such as candles, soap bars, photo frames, hot cocoa kits, photo coasters, and more. There are plenty of affordable and personal ways to give gifts at the holidays.
Whichever path you choose to take, make sure to attach a handwritten card. You don’t need to have any writing talent to come up with a few genuine words that let your friends and family know how much you loved them. Your personal gesture will be appreciated.
Saying no to holiday gatherings is challenging, but it can represent a valuable opportunity to learn an important life lesson about saying no when it makes sense for you. Maybe you didn’t plan to skip your family get-together this year; sometimes life can throw an unexpected curveball at you. Planning ahead is the best way to ensure you’re prepared for the worst.
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