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Background

Being around people is tiring for me (the more people, the worse it is, especially if I don't know them well). It also often causes me anxiety. When I'm really too tired, I just want to stay at home and do nothing, but I often feel like I have to go and force myself to do it (even if it makes me unhappy).

What I sometimes do

When I really don't feel like going, I just pick up a lame (but true) excuse and hope the person will not resent me for not coming.

Here are some of the excuses I used in the past:

  • Sorry, bars make me really uncomfortable.

  • Sorry, I have other things to do this week-end (do the food shopping which will exhaust me and prevent me from going to the party later).

Question

Lame excuses are lame and I fear people will take it personally (like I don't like them), especially if I do it too often. So, I'm thinking of telling them about my anxiety and my tiredness, but I also fear they will take it personally (my boss did when I told him that talking to him make me anxious). Also, I'm afraid some people will translate "people tired me" as "You are really tiring" (my aunt might be one of those people).

So, how can I tell people (especially my aunt) that I might refuse some of their invitation without them taking it personally?

Notes and clarifications

My aunt is insecure and, since her retirement, she sais things like: "No one come visit me, no one like me".

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I can completely understand where you are coming from Noon, I'm the exact same as you.

Having to be around people can be utterly exhausting sometimes. In my own personal experience it is always more than okay to just be honest and tell people that you are simply too tired. If they know you and respect you they shouldn't have a problem with you not being at something they are organising. I will often say something along the lines of:

"Hey (friend/aunt/person), thanks so much for the invite! I don't mean to disappoint you but I won't be able to come to (your party/dinner/event), I'm just too tired and could use a little time to myself to recharge. I hope you can understand."

For the most part, people don't mind if you miss out on events occasionally. Your friends and family will understand that you need time to yourself and they probably won't mind giving you that time if you say you need it - after all, they're your family/friend so they care about you and your well being, if that means giving you a night to yourself to recharge then they should be okay with that.

If you wanted to, you could even suggest another time where you'd be willing to meet with whoever it is. You could grab a coffee together or go for a meal, or call over to their house or have them call to you. By suggesting something on your terms you know that it will be a small encounter consisting of just you and the person you've said it to and it will be for a more limited amount of time so you won't be as exhausted after it.

I hope this helps, just let me know if I've missed something and I will edit accordingly!

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Etiquette does not require you to give someone an explanation when you turn down an invitation. In fact, it discourages it. The excuse is likely to offend more than the refusal.

To quote Miss Manners/Judith Martin: "Miss Manners...has always declared specific excuses to be unnecessary when one promptly and graciously declines by expressing regret." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/05/AR2010010503532.html)

Just turn them down, "promptly and graciously".

"Bowling? Thank you so much for inviting me, but I have to say no."

If they're rude enough to demand "Why?" (and it would be rude), you still don't give them an answer.

"Why?"

"Oh, it's just not possible. But, again, thank you for thinking of me."

"Why?"

"Because I have to say no."

"But why?"

"Because it's just not possible. Thank you so much for inviting me--please excuse me, I have to put out a fire."

Miss Manners put it another way in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/RealMissManners/status/980966061506990083

More links:

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-turn-down-an-invitation-2017-6

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1987/08/02/why-an-invitation-is-not-an-insult/69204fdc-a91a-44a1-ae32-280e69d9d50a/?utm_term=.12d21b7423ce (with a little more discussion of why an excuse can be ruder than no excuse)

Miss Manners is a widely recognized etiquette expert in the US, though she seems quite comfortably familiar with etiquette in the UK as well.

One useful search string for even more links is "an invitation is not a summons". And that's the point. The default, when receiving an invitation is not a requirement to attend unless you have a really good excuse for declining. You don't need an excuse for declining.

Yet another search string, when you're thinking, "How can I possibly refuse to explain?" (and explain and explain and explain) is "don't JADE". The acronym stands for Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain. When you make a decision that is completely within your authority, it's often unwise to behave as if you owe the other person an explanation or need to persuade them to give their permission.

http://perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.com/2011/05/jade-good-for-jewelry-bad-for.html

Now, the smallest of pseudo-explanations ("Oh, I'm so sorry, I have plans.") may be OK with some people--people who know the etiquette and know that they have no right to an explanation. It's a little frill that may soften the interaction. But with some people, even the hint of an explanation is an invitation to debate, and you don't want to invite that.

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    Hi @RamblingChicken, thanks for the answer. What you are suggesting seems terribly rude to me. Do you mind adding a country in your answer (to know where this answer might apply)? – Ælis Sep 1 '18 at 8:56
  • I added a country. I'm also going to add a link or two for "don't JADE", in a sec.I'm absolutely confident that this is etiquette in the US. Now that doesn't mean that you won't have friends or relatives who will nag and badger you to explain explain explain. But in that scenario they're being rude. – RamblingChicken Sep 1 '18 at 16:48

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