After months of strict lockdown restrictions and social distancing, rules are gradually being loosened to help boost the economy again. Staycations were given a nod and people can dine in restaurants again. After months of isolation, it’s understandable that people would want to go out again. The holidays are fast approaching and if times were normal, it’s the season where Pinoys go ham on celebrations with back-to-back parties and family reunions.
The invitations are going to arrive sooner or later, but what if you think it’s a bad idea to get together physically (especially when COVID-19 cases are still on the rise)? The answer is: it’s totally okay to say “no”. Here’s why that is, and how you can politely decline those social invitations.
REMEMBER: Your health should be your priority
With more than 200 days in isolation, it’s totally understandable that our social battery would need a little recharging. But your health should still be the priority, and physical distancing is still the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others. We only have one body, and we must try to take care of it in the the best ways we can. Though the interaction might be labeled “safe” by authorities, remember that you are at more risk the closer you interact with other people and the longer that interaction lasts.
Remember hearing stories of people attending weddings in the US where one guest turns out to be COVID-19 positive? According to a study conducted by MIT on 60 super-spreading events, they found that one person can infect more than six attendees, and those attendees can go on to infect even more.
Now’s not the time to be a people pleaser
Just like in the “old normal”, we all have those friends or family members who don’t completely understand social boundaries. They’re the ones who throw “ang KJ mo naman” or “minsan lang to” whenever you would respectfully decline an invitation. It was easier to say “no” then, but saying it now — after months of being apart — just adds more guilt. Will they be mad? What if they just need someone to lean on?
If you’ve been spending your whole life being affected by these remarks, this time, try not to let them get to you. After all, you’re clearly uncomfortable with the idea, and you shouldn’t sacrifice your wellbeing just to appease others. One tough conversation about declining an invitation is better than the anxiety you’d feel before, during, and after meeting with people!
Some things to consider
Having a hard time deciding? Here are some things to consider:
- Are you at a high risk to contract the virus, or care for or live with someone who’s high risk?
- If you have a job that isn’t remote: does your job require you to interact with other people like grocery stores, restaurants, or hospitals?
- If you don’t live alone, are the people you live with comfortable with you taking the risk?
- And the most important of it all: are you willing to take the risk?
Something else to think about is whether or not the other attendees come in close contact with other people in their day-to-day lives. You can’t guarantee how safe others are when it comes to sanitation and social distancing, and it’s totally okay if you feel uncomfortable with that. Remember, assuming that everyone’s practices are the same as yours is unrealistic.
You have the right to decline
Like any other gathering, remember that you have the right to decline an invitation. You may feel guilty or scared of disappointing the person sending the invitation, but let’s be real. There are still many unknowns to the virus, confirmed cases are still growing, and it’s okay to stick to your boundaries. Your health always comes first.
Explaining your reasons can become a task you’d rather avoid completely, but you don’t have to feel pressured at all. Here are some ways to politely say “no” to gatherings you’re uncomfortable with:
Keep it brief
According to the author of Everyday Etiquette Patricia Rossi, it’s important to keep it brief. Begin with a positive remark: “thank you for remembering me/thank you for reaching out!”, “it’s great to hear from you!” or thank the host for the invitation.
Be direct to the point and don’t beat around the bush. Tell them you’d love to be there if it weren’t because of the pandemic. Given the factors you’ve considered earlier, you can give them a brief explanation of why you still feel uncomfortable. You might feel you need to go into detail but you don’t really have to convince them.
Keep it short and sweet. After all, everyone knows the drill already: we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Let them know how you feel
Be honest. It’s easy to fake a response or come up with a lame excuse just so they wouldn’t feel disappointed, but it’ll only lead to a spiral of adjustments and “buts” until you eventually agree. Remember that it’s okay to feel disappointed or guilty, but you don’t have to feel bad about it. You’re doing what’s best for you and the people around you. As the saying goes, “honesty is the best policy”, and the strongest relationships are founded on honesty. It’s cheesy AF but it’s real!
Be polite but assertive
Even if you’re declining the invitation, it’s still important to thank the host for sending you an invite. However, what if someone disagrees or has difficulty in understanding? You know how hard-headed some Pinoys can get! Be assertive and don’t let your emotions take over. It’s very unproductive to get into a debate and your views will always differ, one way or another.
In case you’re having a hard time being assertive and hate confrontations, try thanking them and quickly changing the subject.
Offer an alternative
Declining an invitation doesn’t automatically mean you’d ignore them completely after. You can offer different alternatives, like going on a phone or video call for the much-needed catching up, or having a movie night. These months of quarantine has given us different alternatives to stay connected: even work and school have adjusted too. Reconnecting with friends or family may be different this year, but it’s still possible to maintain your bond. Don’t let the free video-conferencing services like Zoom or streaming platforms go to waste!
Sending a gift would be sweet too. There are many care packages you can have delivered to the host or you can even curate them yourself. ‘Tis the season of giving after all!
Declining invitations can be a daunting task the first few times you’re doing it, especially when it’s with close friends or family members. Sure, we miss them dearly but health and safety must be prioritized during this trying time. We’re all finding ways to cope with different challenges these days, but with extra caution, we’ll get through them eventually.
Stay safe, folks! Always wear your mask and just like cars on the road, keep your distance.