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:
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
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