How To Gracefully Decline an Invitation During Covid Without Hurting Anybody's Feelings

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Playing Ask Mister Manners: How Do I Politely Decline Social Invitations During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Covid etiquette is a new concept for all of us, and navigating new social norms amid the coronavirus pandemic isn't always easy or clear-cut. Here, Mister Manners—aka Thomas P. Farley—gives advice for how to politely turn down invitations to large social gatherings from family and friends in a way that won't upset them. Plus, he shares ideas for how to connect with people you love and miss at a comfortable distance.

Kelly and Drew, who live with their three year-old daughter in Indiana, say they're taking the recommended precautions when it comes to social distancing amid the pandemic. They'd like to be able to see their friends and family, but some of those people are not taking the same precautions.

"They're wondering why Kelly and I don't want to hang out with them," Drew says. "So, we were wondering: What's a polite way to tell them why we can't hang out with them? And also, how can we encourage them to make better choices?" Kelly asks.

"This is something that we're all grappling with now," Mister Manners says, "and there may be any number of reasons why someone feels they need to stay home, or they need to quarantine or wear a mask, keep that social distance. And we're seeing varying levels of the way people interact and the way people feel they can rise to that occasion. Everyone's comfort zone is different."

"I think it's great to be wanted," he points out. But when it comes to people who don't understand why you're saying no or are upset by your decision to keep your distance, Mister Manners says it's all about wording. You want to focus on yourself and your boundaries, rather than trying to change other people's minds, he stresses.

"The key is how you phrase your declines. And I think rather than passing judgment on them — you are most likely not going to change their minds about any of this — unless you think that someone is putting themselves in dire abject jeopardy, I would just say for yourselves, 'We're at this point where we're respecting the local guidance here in our community… and for that reason, we're not seeing any friends or family in large gatherings. But, we miss you very, very much. We'd love to participate in a family gathering virtually if you can do so.'"

"You may be pleasantly surprised. Maybe they're doing a lot more respecting of those distancing guidelines when they're getting together than you imagine," Mister Manners says. He also suggests trying to find a way to get together with family members to catch up one-on-one. "You can set different ground rules, you'll feel a little bit safer and then you're also protecting them."

"I really liked how you said [to] explain how we miss them and we're trying to find a middle ground of compromise," Kelly says about Mister Manners' advice, "but it's on our terms so we know we'll follow the guidelines that we feel [are] best for our family."

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