Most everyone knows this feeling: An event invitation arrives. You don’t want to go but accept anyway in order to not seem rude.
Now, new findings by West Virginia University researchers show it’s OK to say no. That’s because people often overestimate the social consequences of declining an invitation.
It’s a pervasive sentiment: More than three-fourths of the people in a pilot study admitted accepting an invitation to an activity they didn’t want to attend because they were worried about the social stigma that comes with declining.
To determine whether those concerns were founded, the researchers conducted a group of experiments with more than 2,000 people. One of them involved either inviting or being invited by a friend to dinner with a celebrity chef at a local restaurant. The invitees were told to imagine declining due to having a busy day and wanting to relax that evening. Those who envisioned extending the invitation were told their friend declined for those reasons.
The researchers found that the invitation-decliners expected immediate, negative effects on their friendship. Those people expected their friends to be disappointed, angry and less likely to socialize in the future.
Throughout the experiments, clear evidence emerged: Invitees consistently overestimated the negative fallout of declining an invite. The researchers said that’s because people put too much emphasis on the actual refusal. In other words: The person extending the invitation may be far more understanding than you think.
So, go ahead, just say no — and then don’t give it another thought.