Unwilling Host


    An acquaintance emailed to say that her husband has some business in your neighborhood once a week for the next month and she looks forward to coming over and spending time with you while he's working. How do you get out of this unintended social obligation?

    Dear Miriam,

    An acquaintance of mine recently emailed to let me know that her husband has some business in my neighborhood once a week for the next month. She wrote to say that she looks forward to coming over and spending time with me while he's working. I have no intention of spending any time with her, let alone once a week, but it sounds like it's a done deal in her mind. How do I get out of this unintended social obligation?

    Unwilling Host

    Dear Unwilling,

    How lovely for you that you're geographically convenient for this acquaintance! You'll benefit in the long run by staying positive, so write back and say that you're glad to hear her husband has work nearby. Offer to meet her for coffee one time at a local cafe. Then the meet-up is on neutral territory and when you need to leave, you can just walk away. You could use that meeting as an opportunity to tell her about other nearby attractions for her to visit on her husband's other work days. If you can't stand the idea of meeting her even once, suggest a few nearby attractions over email and offer to make additional suggestions if there's something in particular she'd enjoy. 

    If she persists with her original suggestion to come over once a week, tell her that you just aren't able to devote that much time during the week to socializing, but if your schedule changes, you'll be sure to let her know. Also consider the possibility that if you have something to do where she wouldn't be in the way, you could invite her along. Whatever you decide, be kind but firm, and don't let yourself be talked into anything that you really don't want to do.

    If, regardless of what you say or do, there's any possibility of her showing up at your home unannounced, arrange to be out on the dates in question. It would be hard for me to advise you not to answer the door if you are home, so it would be better to avoid that scenario. Then, if she tells you she stopped by, say that you're sorry you missed her, but, as you mentioned, you have a lot of other things going on and not much flexibility in your schedule.

    Finally, if, despite all your best efforts, she shows up at your front door and you're there, let her in. Find ways to minimize any unpleasantness while she's there and be a gracious host. Then, when it's time for her to leave, say, "I'm glad I was able to provide a place for you while your husband worked tonight. I hope the rest of your visits to the neighborhood go well." Employ the previous tactics about making other suggestions and being out of the house and then, if all else fails, go ahead and don't answer the door.

    Be well,