"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
January 24, 2013
Invitation Overload
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


Several months ago, we moved into a new ward at the same time as four other young, pre-child couples. One of the other couples —let’s call them the Greens—has decided that all ten of us should be best, best friends. They send weekly emails to all four couples trying to organize large group activities.

The emails usually say something like, “So, tomorrow is Friday! What’s the plan? How about we all go to music in the park downtown? Who’s in?” They seem to assume that all of us want to participate.

But my husband and I don’t want to participate, especially in a group of ten. We would have no problem declining the Greens’ invitations, but for the fact that we usually have plans with one of the other four couples—let’s call them the Blacks—and we feel bad excluding the other three couples. I just know the Greens will eventually figure out that we and the Blacks are hanging out together and not inviting them, and I’m afraid it will make them feel bad.

Should we try to soften the blow somehow? How would we do that? Is there any way to get the Greens to stop being so clingy?


So you like the Blacks better than you like the Greens, and you prefer to spend time with the Blacks and not with the Greens? Is that about right?

I don’t think you need to feel bad about that. It is a fact of life that you click with some people better than with others. The alternative, spending equal amounts of time with everyone you know, is neither possible nor desirable.

So the next time you get a Thursday night email and you don’t want to go, send a prompt, polite regret: “Thanks for asking us, but we can’t make it. Hope you have a good time!”

The invitations should peter out if you continue to say no. If they don’t, don’t assume that the Greens are desperate to hang out with you. It is equally possible that the Greens are just trying to be kind and inclusive, and don’t really care if you come or not.

With that in mind, you might rethink whether your absence is a blow that needs softening. Or whether their invitations indicate clinginess or a lack of friends. You should also remember that some people, unlike yourselves, obviously, prefer large groups. This is a mere preference, not a character defect.

Regardless, I recommend that you don’t broadcast whatever else you have planned for your evenings.

Generally, when you issue or accept an invitation, you do not mention that invitation to anyone else unless you know—not assume, know—that person has also been invited. The reason is that if you publicize the event to someone who has not been invited, that person will know he has been excluded. And feeling excluded can be very painful.

(Sometimes it is not, if the person doesn’t care about the people or event involved. But as you have no way of knowing that in advance, you should be discreet.)

This rule extends to all kinds of invitations: baby showers, book clubs, movie nights, parties, dinners, etc. And it has a corollary: if you have attended a function with a limited guest list, don’t publicize it to people who might have been included, but were not. This means you don’t post online pictures obviously taken at the event, or blog about how awesome it was, or talk about it in the foyer at church.

It’s not a matter of concealing your activities. It’s a matter of showing consideration for the feelings of others by not boasting about activities to which only a few people have been invited.

And please remember that if you do not accept the Greens’ invitations now, you are not allowed to be sad in twenty years when the other couples in this group are best friends with deep ties, from which you are excluded.

Now I have some advice for the Greens.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Green,

It is thoughtful and kind of you to invite your friends to activities every week.

However, I wonder why you only send invitations on Thursday evening. If you truly want to get together with these people, you need to give them more notice and a concrete plan. Try issuing invitations like this on a Monday or Tuesday:

“We will be going to Music in Greeley Park this Friday night at 8. Tickets are $5 each. We will bring a picnic basket of goodies to share. We’d love for you to join us. Please let us know if you can!”

This invitation is concrete and specific. Your invitees know what you are proposing, how much it will cost (you needn’t pay for everyone if you are clear in the invitation that you are “going together” instead of “taking them”), and when it starts. They have several days notice and are more likely to be free that evening. For more formal or more expensive events, such as a play or concert, a week’s or more notice would be advised.

Now let’s discuss your guest list.

Perhaps you invite all four of the other couples to socialize every week because you enjoy socializing often and in large groups. But remember that some people prefer less frequent activities, and much smaller groups. You will get a good idea of what people prefer by the kinds of invitations they accept, and how often they accept them. If you want to get to know a couple that routinely declines your large group invitations, try inviting them occasionally (say, twice a year) to do something with just the four of you.

Including all four pre-child couples in your invitations is a nice gesture, and I appreciate that you don’t want to exclude anyone. But you don’t have to invite everyone to everything. If you think a particular activity would be more enjoyable with only one or two other couples, only invite that many people!

(This is especially true if you send the vague emails on Thursday night because you have already made plans with one other couple but feel obligated to invite the other three new couples in your ward “just to be nice.”)

Finally, remember to include other people you meet at church, at work, and in your neighborhood. There are many friends to be found outside the narrow range of people who share your age and situation.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

Bookmark and Share    
About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
Copyright © Hatrack River Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved. Web Site Hosted and Designed by WebBoulevard.com