Learning to just say ‘no’ to unwanted invitations this holiday season can be beneficial for mental health, according to new research.
More than three-quarters of people in a survey confessed to accepting an invitation to an activity they did not want to attend because they were concerned about the consequences of declining.
This new study shows that not only do loved ones not care about rejected invitations as much as we imagine they do, but rejecting invitations can actually be beneficial in avoiding burnout.
This is supposedly even more prominent over the Christmas season, when invitations are at an all-time high.
Dr. Julian Givi said: “I was once invited to an event that I absolutely did not want to attend, but I attended anyways because I was nervous that the person who invited me would be upset if I did not – and that appears to be a common experience.
“Our research shows, however, that the negative ramifications of saying no are much less severe than we expect.”
To get their results the team, from the American Psychological Association, conducted five experiments with more than 2,000 participants.
In one experiment, the researchers asked participants to read a scenario where they were either invited or were invited by one of their friends to dinner on a Saturday night at a local restaurant with a celebrity chef.
The participants who were given the invitation were told to imagine they declined because they already had plans during the day and wanted to spend a night at home relaxing.
The participants who imagined giving the invitation were told their friend declined for the same reason.
The researchers found that participants who imagined turning down their friend’s invitation often believed it would immediately have negative ramifications for their relationship.
These participants were much more likely to say their friend would feel angry, disappointed and unlikely to invite them to attend future events than the rejected group rated themselves.
Dr. Givi said: “Across our experiments, we consistently found that invitees overestimate the negative ramifications that arise in the eyes of inviters following an invitation decline.
“People tend to exaggerate the degree to which the person who issued the invitation will focus on the act of the invitee declining the invitation as opposed to the thoughts that passed through their head before they declined.”
In another experiment, the researchers recruited 160 people to participate in what was called a couple’s survey with their significant other.
In this experiment, one member of the couple had to write an invitation, and the other had to reject it so they could relax.
The person who rejected their partner’s invitation to a fun activity tended to believe that their partner would be angrier or more likely to feel as if the rejection meant they did not care about their partner more than they actually did.
The researchers believe their findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, show people consistently overestimate how upset someone will be when they decline an invitation, even if they have a longstanding, close relationship.
Dr. Givi added: “While there have been times when I have felt a little upset with someone who declined an invitation, our research gives us quite a bit of good reason to predict people overestimate the negative ramifications for our relationships.
“Burnout is a real thing, especially around the holidays when we are often invited to too many events.
“Don’t be afraid to turn down invitations here and there. But keep in mind that spending time with others is how relationships develop, so don’t decline every invitation.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker