Q. What is the best way to turn down an invitation to something you don’t want to do or somewhere you don’t want to go?
A. Honesty is usually, as always, the best policy. “Wow, thanks for thinking of us Ann, but we are amusement park-avoiders, so I’ll say no, but will hope we can get together soon.” “What a nice thought, Sam, but hip hop has just never spoken to us so we’ll pass, but hope you have a great time, and thank you for including us!” There are times, however, when all that honesty has the potential to hurt feelings. When invited to someone’s home for dinner along with a couple you really, really don’t like, it’s difficult to say so and sometimes it’s better to be busy. “Thanks so much, Jeannette! We are possibly babysitting for my niece’s kids that night, so I have to decline your lovely invitation because, if it happens, they are counting on us.” That gives you some wiggle room to make other plans when the hypothetical babysitting event gets canceled. Whatever you say, if you are declining, do it immediately. Don’t hem and haw and say you’ll get back to the inviter. Just say no at the time the invitation is issued.
Q. My boss gave me a very nice gift for Christmas. Do I have to write him a thank-you note? It seems stupid since we are within talking distance every day at work.
A. Thank-you notes are never wrong, and if you didn’t open the gift at the time he gave it to you, a note gives you the opportunity to thank him promptly and sincerely, especially if it would be awkward to approach him in the office with verbal thanks. Whatever mode you choose, express your thanks sooner rather than later. Since a couple of weeks have already gone by, a note bridges that and you can then follow up with verbal thanks. “I’ve had time to finish the great book you gave me and wanted to say thank you again — I really enjoyed reading it!” That’s not awkward, and is an opportunity to follow up.
Q. Help! I have a friend who repeatedly uses my work email to send personal correspondence and stupid jokes, chain letters, you name it. We have a strict company policy against using our computers for personal correspondence and the IT people actually browse and check. A co-worker got a warning and I don’t want this to happen to me. I’ve asked my friend repeatedly to use my personal email. What should I do?
A. Go to your IT department, explain the situation, and ask them to block emails from your friend. This makes it clear that you are not abusing the policy and are self-reporting any potential problem. Then tell your friend that the IT department blocked emails from her and if she wants to reach you, she has to use your personal email.