How to say no to invites during COVID-19 — without preaching

Your mom’s birthday is this weekend, or friends want to try to hit a patio for drinks before it gets cold —
it seems many people are craving more mid-pandemic meetings.

But for many, saying no can be unnerving or complicated by the fact that everyone has a different level of risk they deem acceptable.

Patio visits and group hangouts now leave many balancing the tolerance for risk and the desire to be social, which can make saying no to an invite during COVID-19 feel awkward

Read more: Patio heaters won’t cut it. What will it take for restaurants to survive winter?

“We are all in different places on this risk tolerance,” University of Toronto Scarborough Prof. Steven Joordens said. “There are certain amounts of risk, certain levels, that we are accepting.”

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Joordens said there are ways to turn down an invitation politely and without offending the other person, but it can be tricky.

“The tricky part of this, of course, is the potential that the other person might feel like we are judging their position or saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing X.’ So avoid that,” he said.

He said the best way to avoid having the other person feel like you are being judgmental is to turn in on yourself and not make it about the other person.

Click to play video 'Winnipeggers thoughts on Thanksgiving dinner amid coronavirus' Winnipeggers thoughts on Thanksgiving dinner amid coronavirus

Winnipeggers thoughts on Thanksgiving dinner amid coronavirus

“It’s very perfectly reasonable to say, ‘You know, I really appreciate it. You don’t know how much I would love to spend that time with you. Like all of you, I’m really missing that horribly. But I’m worried,’” Joordens said.

“Almost like a self-sacrifice. It’s not like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that, you scare me,’ it’s, ‘No, I so badly want to do that but I’ve chosen to sacrifice my own social life for now.’”

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He said many people are taking care of elderly family members or those who are immunocompromised and for some people, they simply are not comfortable yet.

Joordens said to thank the host for their offer and then give them a new timeframe, where maybe you check in again together in four weeks and see what the case numbers are like and if your feelings of risk and safety have eased at all.

But when it comes to family invitations, some people may feel like there is an implied expectation to be there for dinner or Thanksgiving regardless of the situation.

Read more: Canada surpasses 150,000 coronavirus cases

“Your family wants you to part of them and it’s just because it’s a change,” said etiquette expert Jessica LoRusso of In Good Company Etiquette Academy & Finishing School in Winnipeg. “They don’t know how to do it.”

LoRusso said the best thing you can do is to go into the conversation with a solution in hand.

“Be armed with a solution for them and that’s the important thing,” she said. “Give yourself pause and then participate in a different way.”

She said there are many different ways to still participate in family events but at a distance. You can teleconference in from each family home or drop off a homemade dish to the host that you would normally bring.

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But in the end, LoRusso said everyone needs to be gracious and kind, especially right now.

“Your host or the people asking you to join them need to be thoughtful, respectful and kind that you’re not comfortable,” she said. “That’s what respect is all about, it’s looking after that other person and making sure they’re OK.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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