What’s the one thing you have missed most during the pandemic? When asked, many will reply that it’s people.
Even the extreme introverts give this answer. Human beings need connection and social interaction. Some need it more than others.
During the pandemic, technology has allowed us to communicate via Zoom, texting, and other online platforms. However, there is nothing that quite compares with being in the same time and space as our friends and family. We miss them all, even grumpy old Uncle Fred or bossy Aunt Mary.
Now that some of the rules of masking and social distancing are beginning to relax post-pandemic, how do you feel about venturing out into social situations? More people than you might think are somewhat reluctant to return to socializing as they once knew it. Many fear that they have lost their social skills and are afraid they won’t be comfortable mixing and mingling again.
Are you someone who is excited to see an invitation come your way; yet when it comes time to head out, you lose your nerve? Maybe you rejected the invitation to begin with. Perhaps you accepted and now need a graceful way to back out? Once again, let me assure you that you are not alone. It’s oddly part of that “new normal” we talk about.
Having established that these feelings are commonplace, how do you handle replying to invitations, specifically turning down invitations without offending someone and risk being forever blacklisted?
Try a bit of old-fashioned honesty. Most people will understand when you confess that you aren’t quite ready to go out. You can explain that despite being fully vaccinated, you are somewhat reluctant to be in groups or crowds. If you aren’t comfortable exposing your fears, you can simply say that, unfortunately, you have a conflict. There’s no need to explain further.
Keep it simple. You only need one reason to turn down an invitation. You never want to pile on a dozen excuses for staying away. Even if all twelve are legitimate, it sounds phony.
Be appreciative. No matter how you choose to respond, thank your would-be host and ask if you can have the proverbial rain check. Stress that you are grateful to have been thought of and that you value the invitation. Suggest that you get together sometime soon.
Go easy on yourself. Take your time with your re-entry. Try accepting a few invitations, perhaps those for small events. Above all, keep in mind that while you may feel alone, you are in good company. This is normal post-lockdown apprehension. When you are ready, the world will be waiting and will welcome you with open arms.
Lydia Ramsey is an international business etiquette and modern manners expert. She is the president and founder of Lydia Ramsey, Inc., a firm based in Savannah, Georgia, offering seminars, keynote speeches and executive coaching to corporations, associations, colleges and universities. She began her career as an etiquette consultant over thirty years ago.
Among her clients are Turner Construction International, Colas International, Gulfstream Aerospace, Georgia Ports Authority, PSS World Medical, TSYS, SunTrust Bank, The PGA Tour, The American Hospital Association, The US Federal District Courts and The US Bankruptcy Court and The Insurance Underwriters of Georgia. Lydia firmly believes that etiquette in business is not about the rules; it’s about the relationships.