How to decline invitations from people you don’t even like

Your one, precious life is busy. And it ain’t slowing down any time soon. Even after the dumpster fire that was 2020, we are still experts at accepting way more invitations than we should or need to be.

And plenty of us continue to simply waste our time, hanging around people we don’t even really like.

We over-engineer our weekends and free time, trying to clutch at each moment or event with people who don’t ‘get us’. But this quickly becomes tiresome and puts us on the track to burnout (check out this fab article about burnout).

Whether it’s a boring work thing, a friendship you think you’re starting to outgrow, or simply someone who just gives you a negative vibe, saying no is critical.


Because when you say ‘No’ to one thing it gives you the opportunity to say ‘Yes’ to something else.  Saying ‘Yes’ to something that makes you feel good and increases the energy within you. Not people who drag you down.

Saying ‘No’ to invites can feel like a bit of a cop-out when you can’t articulate why you are declining with justifiable reasons. Humans love to be social! We often think that if our calendar is empty that we need to accept even the most benign invitations. Or sometimes we truly do just want to get out of the house or go to an event, but not with certain people. And this is where we end up accepting invitations only to (yet again!) discover we just should have put our adult foot down and said NO.

Your one, precious life is busy. Don’t waste time with people you don’t like and certainly don’t need to impress.

Learn the skill of saying ‘No’.

What to actually say: creating a go-to phrase

Below are some simple phrases to help you out when declining invitations, but are feeling the pressure to say ‘Yes’. No excuses, no clear reasons, you’re just saying ‘No’. Feel free to add your own emoji’s =)

I do think it’s appropriate to either say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ – if only to soften your response and be polite. Usually, I am 100% against saying the unnecessary ‘sorry’, but I do think it is an element of ingrained and expected politeness in the English vocab.

Select the words that feel the right tone for you.

  • Thank you for the invite, I can’t make it but enjoy.
  • Sorry, thanks so much for the invite, I really appreciate it, but I can’t make it this time.
  • Hey! Awesome idea, wish I could make it but flat chat atm. Thanks for the invite regardless.
  • I would, if I could, but can’t. Thanks for the invite tho.
  • I can’t make it but have a lovely time.
  • Soz, can’t make it. But thanks.
  • Sorry, can’t make it this time. Have an awesome time.

Stop wasting time layering up relationships with people you don’t like

“But I really should go!”

The word ‘Should’ has become a cop-out excuse of who we spend our time with. Google defines it as “a word used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”

We feel that it is socially correct to accept all invitations if our calendar is free or feel either feigned or real obligation.

Time to stop wasting your one, precious life with those whose values do not align with yours.

If someone doesn’t fit with your values, you have no obligation to continue to layer up that relationship.

Keep in mind that saying ‘No’ will feel strange and even cold to you at first. It takes time and practice to create the habit and feel comfortable saying ‘No’. There are plenty of gentle, polite and positive ways to decline invitations, but first, you need to give yourself permission to say ‘No’.

Ditch the anxiety and circular conversations of the ‘should’ and confidently choose to decline and manage your own time.

Speed wins every time. Say ‘No’ fast.

You get the invitation, roll your eyes instantly and start looking for reasons to say no. Whether you feel you need to cobble together a decent excuse or not, as soon as you receive the invite, respond stat!

Send a DM or SMS to the host letting them know you can’t make it. Or if it’s a phone call, confidently say that you can’t make it, but thank them for the invitation.  

Rip that band-aid off and decline the invitation. Saying “I’ll get back to you” when you know it’s a no is a waste of everyone’s time. Be decisive and own it. It’s your life and your time. Not theirs – seriously. 

Saying no fast communicates confidence and self-assurance. The host will respect that you let them know ASAP.

And above all: avoid the mundane follow ups and them trying to beg you to come. Respect your own boundaries and they will too – even if it takes a few times!

Say ‘No’ when you know you don’t want to go

“Ah, but what if they get annoyed that I can’t come?”

“Crumbs. I said I would go but I’m 1000% double booked…”

“ Ugh so-and-so will be there, let’s not run into them…”

Whatever the reason is, once you know you can’t go, jump on the net or phone and let the host know. A few messages back and forth now is better than being a no-show or last minute cancellation.

If you do cancel at the last minute, you may feel like you need to make it up to them. Say ‘No’ in a timely manner. It preserves your mental energy.

You don’t need to give a reason or an excuse

Concocting excuses in your head as to why you can’t make it because you don’t actually have a genuine one?

Forget it. It’s 2021. Just say no. It’s surprisingly enough.

I do beleive that lame excuses or blantant lying come back to bite you (Hi Karma!).

When declining invitations, simply saying that you can’t make it will suffice. For those that dig for specifics, you can follow up with the same line that you can’t make it. Close off the discussion. They don’t NEED to know what you are up to. 

Create a new habit of saying no without reasons. It’s tricky and feels weird at the start, but you can do it. 

Sitting on the fence about whether to say Yes or No to an invitation?

Weighing up the positives and negatives of going can be an endless circle. If your initial gut reaction is no, go with that. Even if you can’t articulate in words why you can’t go. Your body is a smart cookie and sometimes just needs a break. If you are unsure if you should make the effort, here are some ways to assess if the effort is worth it.

  • Do you like these people?

If it’s a no, don’t waste your time. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Seriously. If you have to see these people intermittently, pick and choose the events and only attend the key annual ones. You don’t need to go to every BBQ, baby shower or birthday.

  • Do you like them, but can’t be bothered?

If your bestie is having a housewarming and feels a little bit nervous about everyone showing up then you know what the answer is. Even if you feel pooped. Get up and get dressed. It will be worth it for the people you DO like. 

  • Have you seen this person/people recently?

If you saw them last weekend you probably don’t need to see them again one week later. If you’re not going to see them for another 6 months, make the effort.

  • Is it a wedding?

Make a special effort for weddings. They usually end up being fun with speeches and cake (yasss!) and are usually a once in a lifetime event, especially for the ones getting married. And RSVP on time!

  • Is it a funeral?

Go. Unless this will trigger you further. It is better to help people out when they are grieving than when they are celebrating. Even if you hardly chat with the family on the day and feel awkward, your presence there can mean more than you realise.

  • Are funds too tight?

Saving for that house deposit? Or skint until that next paycheck? You are 100% allowed to say no. Money management is something we don’t talk about enough. Chasing that big financial goal will take some sacrifices along the way, but an arvo at the pub or weekend away can wait.

  • Just don’t feel like it?

If you genuinely feel like once you get there you will have fun, go. However, if your brain is feeling a little tired and a general feeling of malaise sets in, say no. Too often, we want to be “on” all the time and have real FOMO. If you simply don’t feel like it, you are allowed to say no. Just don’t be a dick about it.

And lastly, look after yourself. Stretching yourself thin and trying to please everyone will end up with you pleasing no one.

Schedule time with others, but make sure you also schedule time with yourself.