Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
How Do I Politely Turn Down an Invitation to a Family Member's Event?
Q. My aunt has recently joined her church’s choir, and every couple of months she invites my husband and me to the concerts. My husband is Jewish and I’m not religious, and as much as we want to support her passion for music, we just can’t bear listening to hymns. I love her, but I hate the guilt that’s accumulating from all these unaccepted invitations. How can I (kindly) tell her to stop asking us to attend?
A. Be honest and explain your feelings to your aunt with as much transparency as you can muster: “We’re happy that you’ve found your passion, but church really isn’t a comfortable setting for us. Please don’t be hurt if we don’t come to your concerts.” She may be disappointed, but at least she’ll understand why you and your husband have turned down her invitations, and you can stop feeling guilty about it.
But may I offer another suggestion? What about setting aside your personal feelings about religion and simply attending a concert every now and then? After all, your aunt is not asking you to kneel and pray—just to listen to some music. We all attend plenty of dull (or even shriekingly unpleasant) events in the name of love: Grade-school recorder concerts come to mind.
In this case, maybe spending a couple of squirmy hours in a church could count as a selfless act of familial devotion.
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Want to Ask Your Own Etiquette Question?
Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at realsimple.com/modernmanners. Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.
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