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Why it's OK to say no to holiday party invitations

Researchers said their findings show people consistently overestimate how upset someone will be when they decline an invitation.
Why it's OK to say no to holiday party invitations
Posted at 12:43 PM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-13 15:56:31-05

The next time someone invites you to an event, it’s OK to say no if you don't want to go.

According to a new study published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77% of respondents said they would accept an invitation to something they did not want to attend because they were concerned about the consequences of declining. But for the most part, those consequences are an exaggeration. 

Most of the people who participated in the study believed if they turned down an invite from a friend it would hurt their friendship, the study said. Participants also believed they would not get another invitation in the future. 

Researchers said their findings show people consistently overestimate how upset someone will be when they decline an invitation, even if they have a longstanding relationship.

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The study included 2,000 participants and five experiments. 

In one experiment, the researchers asked some of the participants to read a scenario where they were invited by one of their friends to dinner on a Saturday night at a local restaurant with a celebrity chef. Then they had to imagine they refused the invite because they wanted to spend a night at home relaxing.

The other half of the participants played the role of the friend extending the invite. 

Participants who imagined turning down their friend’s invitation believed their friend would feel angry and disappointed, the study said. 

However, the participants who played the role of the rejected friend said they did not feel like they would have those same emotions.  

“Across our experiments, we consistently found that invitees overestimate the negative ramifications that arise in the eyes of inviters following an invitation decline,” said lead author Dr. Julian Givi, an assistant professor at West Virginia University. “People tend to exaggerate the degree to which the person who issued the invitation will focus on the act of the invitee declining the invitation as opposed to the thoughts that passed through their head before they declined.”

The study also noted that constantly accepting invites and packing your social schedule could lead to burnout, especially during the holidays. 

So the next time you’re worried about passing up an invite, remember it’s all in your head. 


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