Delay response and dodge regret

How often do you regret accepting invitations to events? Why does this happen so often?

A well established tactic to guard your time (and your pangs of regret) from invitations is to delay your response. The next time you receive an invitation, even a casual one, try waiting a day before you text back your instant acceptance.

The underlying mechanism in the brain here is the focusing illusion. Daniel Kahneman summarized called it his fortune cookie maxim – ‘Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.’ Things always seem more important when we are thinking about them than they really are. This is why emails and notifications hijack our productivity. The moment we see that email, it seems like the most important thing in the world. So we drop everything else and respond to it.

The same cycle plays out when we are sent an invite to an event. The moment we see the invite, the event seems all important and we gratefully accept. But as the event draws closer, the feelings of regret set in. More so if this event requires travel to a faraway location.

Waiting a while before giving our response mitigates the effect of the focusing illusion. The invitations that survive despite the wait are the ones really worth accepting.

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