Enryo is a familiar Japanese cultural concept that is very much prevalent in the Japanese American community. Although the concept emphasizes respecting others by being mindful, it also may mean holding back our true opinions, thoughts, or actions and avoiding talking about an issue directly. We may be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings if we do not say what we think others want to hear.

In many Asian cultures, people may not be as verbally explicit and may avoid confrontation, while other cultures may get straight to the point they are trying to make. (Brett et al., 2013). However, the pandemic has forced many of us to reconsider how best to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

One lifestyle change we may have to make is learning how to say “no.” Whether you are invited to a party or have friends who want to gather together, it is important that we learn how to say “no” if we are uncomfortable with these situations. In addition, you may no longer want to attend a previously scheduled event due to health and safety reasons. The “rules” of socializing continue to evolve, so do not be afraid to change your response during these uncertain times.

COVID-19 is still present and actively spreading. Just because restaurants are opening and your friend asks you to lunch doesn’t necessarily mean you should feel pressured to go out. It is ultimately your decision and you should do what makes you feel most comfortable and safe. Now is not the time to worry so much about declining invitations or hurting other people’s feelings. Most people should be understanding, so simply saying “no thank you” or “maybe next time” should be enough to decline an invitation. Do not feel guilty about missing out or not participating. It may be uncomfortable at first to say no to others, so here are some tips on how to say no (How to Politely Decline, 2020).

Be Polite

  • Thank the host for the invitation.
  • Even though you are declining the invitation, it is important to thank the host for the invitation and for thinking of you.

Be Assertive

  • In the event that someone disagrees with your position, do not let your emotions dominate the conversation. It does not have to be a polarizing conversation.
  • You know that the best way to stay safe and healthy is to stay home. Even if the host emphasizes, they are taking safety precautions, repeat that you are uncomfortable with the gathering.
  • You do not have to go into detail for why you are declining, and you should not have to convince someone about why that is the best decision for yourself.
  • If you do not want to be as assertive, thank them again for the invitation and change the subject.

Don’t Over-explain

  • Keep your declination short and to the point.
  • Having a long or drawn out explanation may make it seem like you are trying to come up with excuses.

It’s Okay to be Disappointed

  • It’s normal to feel sad or disappointed that you cannot socialize with others.
  • However, do not feel bad about making these decisions as they are the best you can do for yourself.
  • While declining, let the host know that you care about them and miss them, but are not ready to meet in-person.

Offer an Alternative

  • If possible, suggest a safer alternative to the invitation such as meeting online over Zoom or FaceTime.
  • Suggest meeting at a later date.

Examples of How to Decline an Invitation

  • “Thank you for the invitation. Unfortunately, I am not currently going out or gathering with friends and family.”
  • “That event sounds really fun. However, I’m not really comfortable gathering with others at this time.”
  • “Thank you for the invitation. I really miss seeing you. I’m not quite ready to meet with others in person. Would you like to meet over Zoom?”
  • “Thank you for the invitation and for thinking of me. At this time, I am not going out of the house, but I’m looking forward to when we can safely gather again.”
  • “Thank you for inviting me to _______. However, my children want me to stay home since it is the best way for me to stay healthy and safe. Hopefully we can get together soon.”
  • “Thank you for the invitation. However, since other groups and organizations are not meeting at this time, I do not think that we should gather. Although I miss seeing everyone, I want us all to stay safe and healthy.”
  • “That event sounds great, thank you for inviting me. However, as older adults we are more vulnerable to serious illness due to COVID-19, and I do not want to risk getting sick or getting anyone else sick by attending this event.”
  • “That event sounds fun. However, I want to include everyone from our group (organization, church, temple, family, etc.). I know _______’s children are not letting her go out, so let’s try setting up a phone call or Zoom meeting instead. That way we can all be together while staying safe.”

Saying no or declining invitations may be uncomfortable and difficult at first, especially if it involves close friends and family. Although we may miss our friends and getting together, we should prioritize our health and safety. Remember, older adults and those with chronic illnesses are at a greater risk for serious illness due to COVID-19. If you find yourself getting invited to outings or events, think about how comfortable you would be in that situation. The gathering will likely not be very fun if you are worrying about your safety and health the entire time. In addition, your friends or loved ones may not be able to attend due to their own health conditions, or their children asking them stay home. Instead of gathering in person, include more people by getting together on Zoom or other platforms to socialize and stay safe. Ultimately, you are the one who gets to make that decision about going out. It may take some practice getting used to saying no, but do not feel guilty about declining.

Published 7/21/2020


Brett, et al. (2013). How to Argue Across Cultures. Retrieved from

Galligher, A. (2020). How to Politely Decline Social Invitations to Events During COVID-19. Retrieved from