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Personal Growth

Personal Growth

How to Decline Invitations in a Respectful Manner

When I speak to Personal Brand Enhancement, as a whole, whether it’s at a speaking engagement or in everyday life, I truly believe that it encompasses several key attributes. Demeanor and self-expression represent who we are, and how we communicate with others is a reflection on our personal brand. A message delivered politely and with a cordial manner will leave both you and your message’s recipient feeling satisfied. 

Throughout the calendar year, and even more so during the holiday months, the number of event invitations can be staggering at times. Overwhelming to many of us, and then the “guilt” begins to creep in. Not knowing how to say “no”, not wanting to offend anyone, understanding between “I must attend” because it is an obligation in our professional lives versus “I actually have a choice”–all of it can be daunting and down-right dreadful.  

We have all over-extended ourselves at some point, but during this time of year, while we try to balance our everyday life with holidays, we can end up having to go that extra, exhausting mile (or two or three). Here are some points to consider when weighing your invite options:

How Do You Feel?

Always be honest with yourself first. Do you feel elated, obligated, surprised or even stressed when you look at this invite? Don’t discount the heartfelt intention of the invite and whoever sent it, but that doesn’t mean you have to attend. Don’t throw it on the pile of invites you know you won’t attend right away. If you need a couple of days to mull it over. That’s okay. But do not overdo it.

Review the RSVP Date

Throughout the holidays, host(s) extend invitations to you and other potential guests. They, therefore, need to know the number of invitees attending. So try to be respectful and RSVP one way or the other, in a timely fashion. And the sooner the better. For everyone. It will be one less thing on your mind as you strike it off the list and the host will have their firm response, to ease their concerns.

Say “Thank You”

Whether you attend or decline, a “thank you” shows you care. If you are attending, it is a positive message, of course. It is thoughtful and endearing for the host to know you are excited and grateful for the invitation. And, if circumstances are such that you choose not to attend, it is especially important to state that you are thankful to have been on the guest list in the first place.

Honesty is (Usually) the Best Policy

We have all told a “little white lie” from time to time about why we cannot attend any specific event. But that can then cause you to feel more unsettled the next time you see that person(s). Perhaps, in the future, state that you already have committed to another event on that date (of course, if there is an illness be honest). If it is someone close to you, you should be able to say, candidly, that you feel over-extended. Then maybe suggest meeting at another time. 

When in doubt, keep it short and simple rather than making it sound like you are trying too hard to say “no”.

Be Firm, Not Unclear

When we are put in a position of not wanting to respond in a timely manner for one reason or another this can happen. We may come across wishy-washy if the response is left open-ended. You know, the whole, “sure, I’ll get back to you…” and then you don’t. If you do, in fact, need to notify them of your decline, do so at the earliest convenience. The sooner the host knows, the better for everyone.

Try to Reschedule

If it is at all possible, perhaps suggest another time or date to meet, if you are unable to attend a special event. An offer for a more intimate meeting will show you really do care. This can apply to a business event, as well–a breakfast or luncheon can be even better.

Send a Gift (this is optional)

If it is a professional invitation, catered around a business event, that you will have to decline, a note of thanks is in order. Never underestimate the power of a personal note (especially a hand-written note). And I know some of you may think it’s passé, but, trust me, it is not. 

An email can suffice if it is a professional situation stating that you were “honored to be included” as this does not require much of a personal touch. If it is a cocktail party that you cannot attend perhaps you can send a small floral arrangement or a mildly scented candle but don’t go overboard. Just be appreciative and let it be known you “wish you were there.”

Social Media

This may not be related to an event, but rather an invitation to follow someone (or perhaps unfollow someone) on social media. If you receive this type of invitation, really think about it, especially if you later choose to unfollow them, as it will send a strong message. Sometimes circumstances put us in uncomfortable situations whereby we must do the right thing, which, in this case, could be unfollowing someone. If you are continually seeing posts from certain people that bring you no value or happiness, this exercise can be cathartic. Focusing on the positive and empowering people will only elevate you and your brand and, more often than not, allow you to learn valuable insights.

No matter what the occasion or event, you’ll need to be prepared with your “yes” or “no” response. If it is a “no,” consider what we’ve discussed here and implement the strategy best suited to your situation. It’s important to always be confident in your decision, once it’s been made, and understand that you are not beholden to anyone or any event. 

You have a right to enjoy the holidays, and all of these events, at your own discretion. Don’t let any feelings of shame or guilt stop you from having the most fun and fabulous time the next few holidays weeks!

fotini xoxo

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Written by: Fotini Learn
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