Using COVID As a Reason to Decline an Invitation…

A friend recently asked me if I was interested in attending an indoor concert in early October. As much as I would enjoy both his company and the music, I declined the invitation, stating that I was not yet comfortable attending an indoor concert because of COVID concerns. He replied that he totally understood, but I still felt bad.

However, this week’s Ask Ariely column addresses this very issue. Her is the question Dan was posed, followed by his response. It is one of the longest responses I’ve ever seen Dan offer:

Dear Dan,

A week ago, a close friend invited me to a wedding. I really want to join the celebration, but with the Delta variant and surge in Covid cases, I’m almost certain I won’t go. I have to tell my friend that I will miss this important day, but I want to do it without seeming judgmental. I’m not sure if I should mention my Covid safety concerns. What’s the most graceful way to decline this invitation? —Megan

Dan’s response:

Saying no to social events can be tough, and people are inclined to provide all kinds of made-up excuses. Your question is whether it is better to invent a pretext for not showing up or rather to explain that you will be absent due to Covid concerns. The short answer is that in this case, it is better to be transparent and truthful.

In a recent study with 822 participants, some people were asked to imagine that they were “excuse providers,” rejecting an invitation from a friend. Others were to imagine that they were “excuse receivers” whose invitation was rejected. The “providers” were sometimes asked to decline the invitation because of Covid risks.

The researchers sought to understand how people would feel about turning down invitations, or being turned down, on Covid-related grounds. They found that those making the excuse worried about hurting their friends when they offered pandemic-related justifications. Those receiving the excuse, on the other hand, actually reported feeling closer to the friends who cited concerns about Covid. They appreciated being reminded of the risks and viewed their friends as moral and caring.

Replace wedding with concert, and this seems to describe my situation perfectly, except I never even thought of my response as possibly being judgmental. It certainly was not meant to be.

I was nervous that I would hurt my friend’s feelings when I responded with my COVID concerns, but he responded by saying he understood. I’d also like to think he also thought of me as being moral and caring, but that would be a bit conceited on my part. 🙂

To me, it boils down to that old chestnut, honesty is the best policy.

And hopefully, there is a day in the near future when all these COVID concerns are a thing of the past, and artists and their fans can reconnect without any worries…

*image from Visit Philly

46 thoughts on “Using COVID As a Reason to Decline an Invitation…

  1. Glad your friend understood and didn’t make you feel bad for turning down his invitation. I just said to Bad last night how I am so ready for Covid to be a thing of the PAST! I really hope things don’t get as bad again as they were before, but ….I did see how they are cancelling concerts again. My son has been so excited to go to concerts again. Looking forward to some, guess we will just have to see what happens. One day at a time, but it always pays to be understanding of people’s feelings instead of judging them on where they stand on the whole Covid issue.

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  2. The way things are going with Covid, making plans involving large groups indoors is problematic. The same applies to my travel plans. Covid precautions and restrictions on international travel are constantly changing. We are finding that vaccines aren’t the panacea we thought they would be. Safety for ourselves and our loved ones is paramount.

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  3. There was nothing judgmental about your response or in your friend’s actions. I know you were honest, which is generally the best approach, but there have been times I’ve made up an excuse because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. That may be taking the easy way out, but sometimes an honest response (You’re terribly boring, I think you’re crude and obnoxious, etc…) would do more damage.

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    1. I think most people are so uncetain about COVID and its potential impacts, that they don’t want to make any plans until it’s completely gone…


  4. Hi Jim, I understand concerns about declining events on the basis of Covid fears. There are many people who 1. don’t believe in Covid and think it is a government conspiracy; 2. don’t think its that dangerous and won’t let it rule their lives; 3. Have been vaccinated and think that is enough and we shouldn’t have concerns any longer; know its dangerous but think we need to lead our lives and hope for the best. I respect all of these views, but I too would decline an invitation on the grounds of covid fears because I have a lot of vulnerable people in my household and their health and well being is tantemount for me. I can see that some people would see it as being judgemental, but that can’t be helped.

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    1. well said, Robbie. there are a variety of opinions on COVID, and I try to be respectful of those with different opinions as well. At some point, you need to do what you think is best for you and your loved ones…

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  5. I find honesty, albeit sometimes embarrassing, to be the best policy. My friends always appreciate the truth and, as friends, know me well enough to know that my choices are in no way judgmental. I do find it odd that if we accept an invitation we do not feel the need to give our reasoning for attending, but a negative response seems to demand justification. For my friends, a no does not require explanation. I readily assume they have valid reasons and I respect their choices without being privy to them.

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  6. I think you have to be honest and that’s the best you can do, hoping your friend will understand. I have had a couple of situations like this and I worry too, about hurting feelings but it has all turned out well –

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    1. I’m sorry to have done that to you. It seems like each concert is different; the venue and/or the artist can decide what precautions they want the venue and the audience to take…

      Who are you going to see?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m going to see the Happy Fits. I don’t know if they are a well known band. My daughter is REALLY into them and through her, my wife listens to them too. She bought us tickets. I’m really just along for the ride. Their music is fine, but I don’t ‘love’ it. Good excuse to get dinner in Baltimore.

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  7. Honesty is always the best policy and in these pandemic days I think your friend was right to accept your reason for declining. If they hadn’t, in your situation I would have reconsidered if that was a friendship worth having!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it seems like during these COVID times there is a need to be a bit more understanding, since nobody knows what the right way to behave is, and so we have to accept a variety of opinions…

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  8. Jim, thanks for sharing. I may have a similar decision with upcoming travel to see family in Maryland. My wife and I are vaccinated, but we are evaluating the impact of rising Covid cases.

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  9. I am still waiting for an invitation to somewhere to decline, because I have a reputation for being honest. I could be waiting a long time though. My circle is small and careful. We are just starting to do the odd lunch or dinner out. Concerts and movies will likely wait.

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    1. I think the weddings we are going to will be mostly outside, and the part inside will have safe distancing. COVID may give me a good excuse to avoid the dance floor though! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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