DEAR MISS MANNERS: I hired a tradesperson to do some painting and odd jobs on my property. As we were discussing the bill, he said “You can either pay me, or take me to dinner.” I was so shocked that I immediately changed the subject and asked him about a piece of leaky guttering that was concerning me.
Putting aside the fact that I felt his behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional, I am an asexual woman with no interest in romantic relationships, so any such invitation will need to be declined. Could you please equip me with a phrase or two that I could use in the future, and advise me how I could have handled the above situation better?
GENTLE READER: While Miss Manners finds her interest piqued by your explanation, she assures you that it is unnecessary in declining unwanted invitations.
You may simply say “Thank you, but I am afraid that is out of the question.” That you do not date, and why, will only invite more unwanted attention.
However, there is a significant difference between declining an invitation in a social situation than in a professional one. In the latter, you may be dependent on the person’s work, or otherwise required to have another encounter. In that case, you may say, “I am sure that your boss (or union, etc.) would not want to collect their fees in dinner. Let us keep this relationship professional” --doing your best not to make it sound, at least overtly, like a threat.