How to Politely Decline Invitations


What’s the one thing you’ve missed the most over the last year? 

Ask people this question and chances are many of them will give you some version of the same answer: human connection and interaction. We miss seeing our friends, coworkers, relatives, and so many other friendly faces in our communities.

The pandemic has turned so many aspects of our social lives upside down. We’ve gone more than a good while without getting the quality time we need with some of our nearest and dearest. 

As vaccination rates rise in certain parts of the world, it’s becoming more feasible to get out and see people in person. However, reintegrating into full-swing IRL socializing after many months at home can feel overwhelming. Many people may want to take this process gradually and not immediately return to busy calendars; some individuals may want to prioritize making time for certain relationships over others.

It’s OK to not want to accept every social invitation that comes your way. However, turning people down is something you want to handle with care, as it can be a vulnerable situation for all involved. Here are several things to keep in mind for politely saying no. 

Don’t worry

Declining a social invitation can feel like a failure, but it’s never as high-stakes as it may seem. We’ve all had to RSVP no to invitations in the past; we’ve all had invitations of our own declined, too.

The good news is that social invitations are a sign that people care about you and value your company. As long as you tell them the truth, it will make the transition back to normalcy much easier.

Be direct

Congratulations! You’ve grasped the nettle and decided to respond no to that invitation. Now, what exactly should you say? The answer to this is straightforward: the truth! 

The worst thing you can do when declining a social invitation is to come up with an excuse that the person who invited you is unlikely to believe. This can have the adverse effect of making the person who has invited you feel snubbed or embarrassed, which only makes it harder to reconnect.

Be as direct and honest as possible. Go into as much or as little detail as you feel is necessary, depending on your own comfort level. At a minimum, just stating that you’re not able to make it can be sufficient. Out of politeness, people likely won’t press for reasons why.

Be appreciative

Remember the power of positivity in these kinds of situations. Using positive and affirmative language will make the interaction more pleasant for both of you. This also helps to ensure nobody emerges with their feelings hurt!

Express that you appreciate the invitation and that this friendship is still important to you. 

Here are a few phrases and can help to get this message across:

  • That sounds like a lot of fun. I’d love to reschedule down the line!
  • It’s been way too long. I’d be happy to get together another time soon.
  • I miss seeing you. Let’s try to catch up sometime in the next week/month/etc.

If you won’t be able to see this person anytime in the near future, it’s a good idea to send them a follow-up message checking in on them. This will let them know they’re still very important to you.

>>Read More: How to Reach Out to Someone Beyond “How Are You”?

Be patient with the process

With all that said, it’s important to remain mindful of where you’re at. Many of us will find our social skills have gotten rusty after all this time out of action. 

Here’s the clincher: All of these feelings are totally normal. You know your comfort level best, and it’s OK to prioritize it for as long as you need. Before you know it, social activities will hardly feel like a dilemma.



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