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I hate all forms of social gatherings (Parties, Weddings/Receptions, etc).

A perfect day for me would be to avoid all human contact (unless it's absolutely necessary, for example, your life is in danger and for some reason I'm the only one that can help you), binge watch a show, write code, or read a novel.

One of my relatives is having her wedding in January, problem is, Star Trek Season 2 will begin that same week. During the week, I'm tired when I come from work, and when the new episode airs, I'm most likely sleeping. The network re-airs the episode on the weekends.

Whenever I don't show up for other social events, I get phone calls from relatives asking why I didn't show up? My usual answer is, over 100 people were there, how would my presence make it any better? This time however, I want to politely tell them:

I'd rather {insert favorite activity here} than go to your {insert social event here}.

What is a more polite way of saying the above?

From the Comments:

Is there anything in the reaction your relatives usually give, that you're trying to avoid by saying this? If so, could you describe what it is you're trying to achieve, so that answers can take that into account too?

I have a fear that they may not understand that I don't like social events. Usually they're slightly disappointed when the call or get into contact with me.

I want them to understand, it's not the person holding the event, it's the loud music, the number of people, and the the fact I hate being around other people.

How do I explain that I rather be alone than with people in a polite way?

  • Is there anything in the reaction your relatives usually give, that you're trying to avoid by saying this? If so, could you describe what it is you're trying to achieve, so that answers can take that into account too? – Tinkeringbell Dec 9 '18 at 20:06
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    @Tinkeringbell - Done! – user23128 Dec 9 '18 at 21:12
  • Are you asking specifically about not wanting to go to the wedding? What is your cultural background? Weddings in particular typically have a lot of (culturally-dependent) expectations, especially for relatives, which may require a different approach than declining a generic social event. – Em C Dec 9 '18 at 21:13
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    @EmC - Are you asking specifically about not wanting to go to the wedding? Yes! The wedding is a hindu wedding, but I have no significant part in the wedding, other than to show up. I also want my answer to apply to any social event, not just weddings. – user23128 Dec 9 '18 at 21:15
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To avoid going to an individual social event, the polite and generally inoffensive way to decline is to minimize excuses while maximizing good wishes on the person who invited you. Never say that the reason you won't be there is that you simply don't want to. That comes across as intentionally mean and a personal insult. Also avoid lying. They reason you don't attend, in general, doesn't really matter to the person who invited you unless you make it a big deal.

I won't be able to attend your wedding, but I wish you all happiness and I'm sure you will have a lovely time.

Remember that the person who is inviting you to a social event sees the invitation as both something that will give you pleasure and happiness and a sense of inclusion, and something that will bring them happiness by having your company. This means that a polite no to an individual event is not likely to offend, but a general pattern of refusing to attend any event will convey that you don't enjoy their company and don't wish to see them. They will likely be hurt if they care about you.

If you wish to keep on good terms with your family, you can mitigate this by giving up your preference, once a while, for the people you care about. Compromise is a major part of human relationships. You will have to attend, occasionally, important events or at least part of them. You can chose those that are most import life events, and/or those that you find the least distasteful. Your relatives will have to do their part by accepting that you won't always show up, and won't provide them with an elaborate reason as to why.

If you like to socialize in smaller groups or one-on-one, you can also maintain relationship by spending time with people you enjoy in more comfortable settings-- invite them out to a quiet coffee shop, or to come over for a movie night, or whatever activity is more mutually enjoyed. This is also a good time to talk to them about the fact that you find large group settings stressful/unpleasant/etc, and isn't it so nice to be together when we have the space and time to just talk or enjoy something together?

It's an easy thing to address politely when you are just talking, but a very hard one to address while that invitation to a 500 person wedding is staring you down and you're thinking it sounds like the least fun things you can imagine.

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Find a compromise you can tolerate

The joy and happiness that your relative gets from sharing their wedding day with you is no less real and valid than the enjoyment and happiness you gain from staying home and avoiding the wedding. Even if it seems incomprehensible that they should gain a benefit from your presence as one of a hundred guests, that's not so different from how they can't comprehend why you should prefer your own company. Even if you can't understand it, it's important to accept that it is true.

This means that if you wish to remain on good terms with your relatives, you need to find a compromise that everyone can live with. On a macro scale, that means identifying the most important social events (weddings and major holidays primarily) and attending them, while avoiding the less important ones (birthdays, minor holidays, etc).

On a micro scale, this means that you don't need to attend an entire celebration. Maybe you only show up for the ceremony, but leave before the party. Maybe you help set up for the wedding, but avoid the wedding itself. (Caveat: I know nothing about Hindu weddings, so I cannot suggest the most effective way to be a part of the wedding spending the minimum amount of time being social).

Separating the social parts of the wedding from the wedding itself has a major benefit in that it allows you to express your dislike without saying that you dislike the wedding as a whole. The wedding symbolizes happiness for your relative - dislike of the wedding implies a dislike of your relative's happiness (true or not). But by separating the wedding from the social aspects you can give your support for the wedding while at the same time expressing your dislike of actually being there.

Frame your refusal as being for your relative's benefit

I recommend a reason along the lines of "I want to avoid your wedding because I don't want my dislike of social events to harm your enjoyment of your special day."

This sort of reason reframes what is fundamentally a selfish desire into a selfless one - You are not choosing your self interest over theirs - instead you have considered both your and their positions and found the solution that best benefits both of them.

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The two current answers already address the need for compromise, but I think that that's a vital part of this. I also dislike social events and get easily overwhelmed, but if you wish to maintain your relationships with these people, you will have to bite the bullet and deal with them sometimes. Weddings are definitely very significant.

To address the question of:

I'd rather {insert favorite activity here} than go to your {insert social event here}.

What is a more polite way of saying the above?

There is no polite way of saying this. There is no way to express to someone that watching a television show and sleeping is more important than their wedding that will not sound dismissive and rude. Star Trek does not vanish into the ether after it airs; once a wedding or other social event is over, it's over forever.

If you're determined to not go at all, I would simply offer your regrets to be unable to attend, and then send them a nice wedding present, so that you are fulfilling the expected niceties around weddings. But I would strongly suggest you attend. Relationships require compromise. If you expect to always get your way and have your perfect day, you can also expect to have your family feel alienated.

There is nothing innately bad about saying that you prioritize reading and watching television over interacting with family members. But they are allowed to, and almost certainly will, react to your priorities. And in this situation, their reactions are unlikely to be positive.

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