Commencement season is upon us, and with it typically come multiple events, dinners, parties and other gatherings for the family and friends of graduates. Often, such invitations come in multiples, and deciding which ones to accept can be challenging.
A reader from New England, an area quite congested with graduation ceremonies, writes that he finds himself invited to multiple events, many for the same date and time at different locations. None of the grads are close relatives, but many are the children of close friends. As the reader sorts through the invites to commencement programs, graduation dinners and parties, he doesn't want to disappoint any of the people who've invited him.
As the events draw closer, he has yet to respond to any of the invitations. He'd like to attend at least one event, but is concerned that limiting himself will hurt the feelings of other friends and their graduates.
"I figure if none of them hear from me, they won't plan on me being there," he writes. "(However), it gnaws at me that that might not be the best thing to do in response to all of these invitations. What if I really want to accept an invitation from someone who invited me after everyone else did? That doesn't seem right, either."
So, instead of deciding to accept or decline an invitation, he wonders, why not just offer no response?
"How can I decide which invitation to accept?" he asks. "And if I can't decide, is the best thing simply not to respond at all?"
The reader will have to answer the first question for himself. There's nothing wrong with choosing the event(s) he wants to attend -- if he wants to go to any at all -- based on whatever criteria he wants, regardless of when he received the invitation.
He could decide to go to the closest event, the one that promises to be the shortest, the one that features a speaker or campus he really wants to see, the one that might prove the most relaxed, the one likely to serve the best food, or the one that involves the people to whom he has the closest relationship.
If there are conflicting events and he can only choose one, there's nothing wrong with that. It's also perfectly fine if he decides not to attend any of the events. People turn down invitations all the time.
The right thing to do is respond to each invitation. Leaving his friends in the dark about whether or not he plans to attend should not be an option. Not responding to any of the invitations in hopes that friends will forget they invited him or assume he's not coming is akin to a toddler putting his hands in front of his eyes and assuming no one else can see him because he can't see them. The reader owes each friend a response.
He need not make up a reason for not attending an event. No good will comes of a lie. He should simply let his friends know he can't make it and wish them and their graduate all the best.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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(c) 2014 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
AGREED. Could not have said it better.
Thanks. I read this and finally responded to the invitation to my 40th high school reunion. It is always nice to be reminded to do the right thing, particularly now that my mom is no longer around.
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