Q: I’ve been invited to an event that’s being held on an old slave plantation. I feel uncomfortable about the location’s history and have decided not to attend. Should I tell the host the reason I won’t be there?


A: It’s so easy to wiggle out of an uncomfortable situation by — let’s call it what it is — lying. A response like, “I’d love to attend but have already booked a trip elsewhere for then” solves the problem. But that is neither truthful nor ethical.

Why lie? Are you afraid you’ll be cut off from future invitations from this person, or that this person will think less of you? Do you think this person would be embarrassed if you tell the truth? You can be honest without causing an affront to the host. Respond genuinely, keep it short and end on a pleasant note. Try something along the lines of: “Knowing the history of slavery makes visiting an old plantation not for me. Enjoy, and keep in touch afterward.”

There’s no need to compromise your values or ethics.

SHARON A. HILL, diversity and etiquette expert


A: There is no law that you have to offer an excuse in order to decline an invitation. Express regrets that you’re unable to attend and let it go at that.

If a response card comes with the invitation, include a handwritten note saying, “Thank you for your kind invitation. Regretfully, I’m unable to attend the event. Sending best wishes for its success, and hope we can get together soon.”

Sharing your reason for not attending, without being asked, could easily upset your host and damage your relationship.

ERIKA PREVAL, founder of Charm Etiquette