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How To Politely Decline An Invitation

Updated on September 5, 2011
Fairy god cat says you don't have to go to the ball if you don't want to.
Fairy god cat says you don't have to go to the ball if you don't want to.

Busy people sometimes find themselves with an abundance of social engagements and not enough time to attend them all. On some occasions, one might be forced to decline an invitation to a social event either because one is busy or because one simply needs some time for oneself to wash the cat and iron curtains. Here is how to do turn down an invitation without causing offense or hurt feelings.

First however, let's take a brief moment to discuss whether or not it is appropriate to decline the invitation at all. Is it perhaps better to simply attend the gathering?

Remember that for many people, your attendance at a party is a validation of their worth as a person. The fear of every host is to throw a party and have nobody come. So consider that before you abstain from attending a party being organized by one of your friends or relations.

Parties being thrown by acquaintances need to be evaluated on their own merits. Will you be missing out on a social advantage by failing to attend? A social gathering hosted by your boss, for instance, is an excellent opportunity to create bonds that may very well advance you in your career. Unless you have a very good reason not to attend, you might want to reconsider your inclination to decline.

One would think that close friends and family members would be more understanding of absenteeism than work other acquaintances, but frequently they are the people most likely to take offense.

Tip 1: Decline early.

You are much less likely to cause offense if you decline when first asked. Telling someone that you'll attend their gathering and then changing your mind later on is much more likely to upset them than letting them know up front that you'll be unavailable.

Tip 2: Don't lie.

Don't feel the need to make excuses, or worse, lie as to why you cannot attend an event. Unless the gathering is one you really should be attending, like your best friend's baby shower or hen night, simply saying that you have other plans for that evening or weekend is okay.

Tip 3: A gift is nice.

Send a gift. A small token of your esteem is likely to go a long way towards soothing any feathers that might be ruffled by your absence. This is especially appropriate in the case of missed birthday parties, showers and other special occasions where gifts are traditionally given.

Tip 4: Raincheck.

If the inviter is a close personal friend or family member, do try to schedule another time to see them. This will assuage their fears that you simply do not care enough to come and see them on their special day.


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