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by Abigail Van Buren

Dinner Invitation Isn't a Negotiation

DEAR ABBY: Several times recently when I have invited people to parties or dinners at our home, they have surprised me by responding with not only their regrets but also with a counteroffer. For example: "Sorry, we're busy the evening of the 22nd, but could you have us over the following Thursday?"

How should I respond to this? I'm trying to invite them for a specific event, not open a negotiation. It feels like the subtext is that our schedule is less important than our potential guests' and we should be prepared to entertain them whatever day they have open. On the other hand, this has happened so often I'm starting to wonder if social obligations are now being handled in the same way as business meetings and I should just adjust to it. What's your opinion? -- COUNTEROFFERS IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR COUNTEROFFERS: You should entertain on the schedule that's most convenient for you. If someone has a conflict, you should (sweetly) tell the person you will miss having them. Period.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics