How to nicely decline an invitation

One of the most difficult etiquette questions of all time is how to say no to an invitation without feeling like a terrible person. If you are a people pleaser, saying ‘no’ to a kind invitation is just not something you are used to doing, but sometimes a full social calendar can just feel like too much and cause some anxiety. There are plenty of other reasons that you might want to decline an invitation, of course, and here’s how you can do it without feeling like a grade A jerk.

It’s okay to say ‘no.’

We seem to have been conditioned to feel obligated to go to everything we have been invited to, even if we are not interested in going. A lot of us were raised to think that declining an invite is the rudest thing you could do. We’re often told that it’s much better to go and suffer through an event you didn’t want to attend than upset someone. We consider ‘no’ as a negative word and feel as though our likability is pegged on our readiness to say ‘yes’ to invitations.

This is not good for your health

When you are always saying ‘yes’ to things, you are forgetting to put yourself first and piling on obligations; taking away from time spent doing things that you need or want to do. You can begin to feel resentful when you are invited to things, and even have some anger towards yourself for your inability to turn them down. This can become very stressful and cause headaches, exhaustion, and make you more susceptible to illnesses such as colds. The negative impact on yourself to you saying yes to an invitation is likely to outweigh the disappointment a host would feel if you didn’t go. Sure, they want you there, but they will be busy with other things and will understand.

So how do you do it?

The key to saying ‘no’ is to be firm yet polite. So many of us are automatically over apologetic and over explain our reasons if we are saying no to something. You don’t have to go into specifics, just briefly explain the situation. A failsafe is ‘Thank you for the invitation; however, I have already got other plans on that day I’m afraid.’ You don’t need to say what the plans are (a mistake a lot of us make and end up fabricating some elaborate fake plans!) and you should feel comfortable that even just staying home and having a bath counts as “other plans” that you shouldn’t feel guilty about. Don’t lie about what you are doing as that isn’t fair to the host and will make you feel worse than just saying ‘no’ would.

It’s so important to remember to value your own time. We have a limited amount of hours on earth, and although it is nice to do things for others to make them happy, we also have to remember our own needs. The way you choose to spend your time should be up to you and no one else. So, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you decide you want to cut down on the parties, events, and obligations this year.