July 20, 2020 – Many people find themselves in situations like these. A relative invites you to a backyard birthday or graduation ceremony. You don’t feel comfortable about it, knowing there will be too many people there who won’t be careful about Covid. But then she says “Oh, Suzy would be so disappointed if you don’t come”. A different friend might ask a favor that you know is either going to take time you don’t have to spare, or put you in a situation you don’t want to be in. Or, you are in a group where no one else is wearing a mask, making you feel like some kind of alien. How do you best manage these situations?
Declining invitations and requests for favors is always hard. You might like the person a lot, and feel uncomfortable turning her down. So, you might say yes even though you know your real answer should be no. In the Covid pandemic, however, the consequences of going against your instincts and better judgement is a lot more serious. In the balance of not hurting someone’s feelings vs. endangering your health, the stakes are high. The same goes with peer pressure. A group sending a signal that they think you are a wimp has to be weighed against your own principles.
The New York Times had a pair of helpful articles today on this topic. The advice was good, helpful not only in managing requests for favors in a pandemic, but also when (hopefully soon) our world returns to normal: “How to Handle a Request for a Favor” and “It’s OK Not to Please Everyone“. One of the best tips in the “Request for Favor” article was not to have a knee-jerk “yes”. Take your time to consider the risks involved, whether you have the time to do it, and, what’s in it for you (for example, a perennial favor requester who never reciprocates). Taking time to consider can save you from making a regrettable decision. Experts in the “Please Everyone” article point out that many of us are “people pleasers”, we often agree to something we don’t want to do because we want people to like us. Only by doing so, we might bring on resentment and depression by going against what we know was the smarter course. The articles stress that having a prepared response is a good hedge against making a decision you later regret.
Discussion: Have you had experience getting requests to do things you don’t want to do? If so, how have you been handling them? Please share your thoughts and tips in the Comments section below.