Happy holidays! I’m here to tell you that you do not have to RSVP yes to every single invitation you receive this festive season. This revelation is my gift to you, and I’m going to put a big, fat, red bow on it by telling you exactly how to say no when you can’t, shouldn’t, or just don’t want to go to your third caroling party in as many weeks.
Are you ready? Here goes…
“No, thank you.”
“I’m not available that evening. Have a great time!”
“Oh, what a nice invitation, but I’m afraid I can’t make it.”
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? (Hint: the correct answer, here, is “no.”) But I understand. You’re probably feeling guilty about delivering a perfectly honest, polite decline – even though saying yes will send you scrambling to buy too many hostess gifts, eat too much cheese, and spend too many bleary weekday mornings wishing you hadn’t had that last glass of prosecco at your neighbour’s snowflake soirée when you have a month’s worth of work to do before you begin the “holiday” part of your holiday season.
So, let me stuff this extra swag in your stocking for good measure: you have nothing to feel guilty about. Why? Because declining an invitation is not an inherently bad thing to do.
If you were to lure your friends to a festive party, then organize a ring of hardened criminals to rob their homes while they’re out sipping overpriced G&Ts at a godforsaken club, that would be bad. And you should feel guilty about it. But simply saying, “Sorry, I can’t make it!” to an office party that someone else planned at a godforsaken club? That’s perfectly acceptable. We’ve all got priorities, and paying £15 for a gin on a Tuesday night isn’t necessarily one of them.
Plus, everyone else you know is super-busy these days and they probably wish they could also say, “Ho, ho, no!” to an invite or two (or five) when it simply doesn’t jingle their bells. So, lead by example: be the “no” you want to hear in the world. You don’t have to feel guilty about declining an invite as long as you do it honestly and politely.
Don’t have time for an eggnog tasting? Try: “Alas, I’m all nogged out these days. Enjoy!”
Can’t get behind a pie-making party? Send: “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to eat dessert this week, let alone make it. Thanks for the invite though!”
Not enough tinsel in the bank for a fancy-dress dinner with your sister and her gang of Gatsby-esque pals? Quip: “My liver says yes, but my credit card says no. Have fun!”
If you’re still feeling like a guilty Grinch, try thinking about this in terms of what you want to give your friends, family, colleagues, and significant others this year. And I like to think that the freedom and respect to let them do whatever they please with their precious free time and funds is a great start.
Because the truth is, naughty folks pressure others to show up to events they don’t have the time, energy, money, or desire to attend. Nice ones say, “No problem! Thanks for letting me know, and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season.”
Originally published in Marie Claire UK