A recent and innovative study suggests that turning down undesired party invitations can be a strategic way to prevent holiday burnout, challenging the common notion that such rejections may negatively impact relationships.
The study, conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), revealed that people often overestimate the consequences of declining invitations, even from loved ones. More than three-quarters of survey respondents admitted accepting invitations they didn’t want to attend due to concerns about the potential fallout from saying no.
This phenomenon is particularly pronounced during the Christmas season when social invitations tend to be more abundant. Dr. Julian Givi, a spokesperson for the APA, shared a relatable experience, stating, “I was once invited to an event that I absolutely did not want to attend, but I attended anyway because I was nervous that the person who invited me would be upset if I did not—and that appears to be a common experience.”
The APA’s research, based on five experiments involving over 2,000 participants, indicated that the negative repercussions of declining invitations are often less severe than anticipated. In one experiment, participants were asked to envision scenarios involving declined dinner invitations, revealing that those who imagined rejecting an invitation tended to exaggerate the potential negative impact on their relationship with the inviter.
Dr. Givi emphasized, “Across our experiments, we consistently found that invitees overestimate the negative ramifications that arise in the eyes of inviters following an invitation decline.”
Another experiment involved couples, with one partner writing an invitation to a fun activity, and the other partner rejecting it. Even in long-term relationships, the study found that individuals who declined invitations believed their partners would be angrier or feel neglected, highlighting the common tendency to overestimate the impact of saying no.
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, these findings suggest that people often overestimate the emotional fallout of declining invitations, even within close relationships. Dr. Givi concluded, “Our research gives us quite a bit of good reason to predict people overestimate the negative ramifications for our relationships.”
While acknowledging the reality of burnout, especially during the holiday season, the study encourages individuals not to fear occasional declines of invitations, emphasizing the importance of balance in social engagement. Dr. Givi advised, “Don’t be afraid to turn down invitations here and there. But keep in mind that spending time with others is how relationships develop, so don’t decline every invitation.”