Research from a West Virginia University consumer psychologist shows many people accept invitations to dinners, parties, shows and other events when they would rather not attend. Such reluctant attendance is driven by anxiety and fear of offending others or causing hurt feelings.
At a time of year when invites to events like these can come fast and furious leaving invitees feeling pressured to attend, Julian Givi, assistant professor of marketing at the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics, is giving introverts and other reluctant socializers permission to relax.
Declining invitations isn’t nearly as likely to bother hosts as many invitees believe, he said.
“While invitations often bring joy, they can also leave us in a predicament. We don’t always want to accept the invitations we receive. Sometimes we may not have the time or money to do something. Sometimes we just want to spend a night relaxing at home.
“People often put pressure on themselves to accept invitations, but that pressure may be misguided. In our research, we found 77% of participants accepted an invitation they did not want to accept because they were concerned about upsetting the person who invited them.
“We asked some study participants to imagine turning down an invitation from a friend and to predict how much this would upset the friend. We asked other study participants to imagine inviting a friend to an activity and getting turned down, and we had those participants report how much this would upset them. We found invitees severely overestimated how much declining invitations would upset inviters. Invitees predicted inviters would be quite upset, while inviters did not feel this way at all.
“That disconnect happened because invitees just focused on the act of declining the invitation, but inviters considered the deliberations and caring thoughts that would have gone through the invitee’s head as they considered accepting the invitation.
“This means we shouldn’t be afraid to turn down invitations. Holiday burnout is real, and declining an invitation isn’t as likely to damage relationships as we might think.
“Of course, spending time with others is how we develop close relationships, so I certainly recommend accepting at least some of the invitations that come your way.” — Julian Givi, assistant professor of marketing, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics
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