How to Politely Decline an Invitation to Hang Out (With Examples)

At some point or another, we may need to turn down an invitation to hang out because of other commitments.

Here are the ways to formally and informally decline an invitation to hang out:

Karen Donaldson

Certified Confidence Coach | Celebrity Communication and Body Language Expert | Executive Public Speaking Coach

Realize that it is okay to set boundaries for yourself

First realize that it is ok to say no, it’s about setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Boundaries that allow us to steer away from being a people pleaser which can lead to burnout.

When we consistently say yes due to peer pressure or FOMO, we never really get to show people our true selves and what we do and don’t like. People get to know this generic ‘yes’ person, that has been saying yes not because you want to, but because you feel obliged to.

Here are three ways to politely and respectfully say ‘no’

  • “I’m honored but I can’t.”

It’s perfect for situations where you need to say no to someone you feel close to or feel obliged to say yes to. If you think the person will be easily offended tackle the situation by saying:

  • “I’m honored but I can’t do it because I’m already busy on that day.”
  • “I wish there were two of me.”

This is a gentle and totally respectful way of saying no to someone. It shows that you’re eagerly willing to help or attend but you’re too busy with something that you can’t do it. The nice part is that the other person doesn’t not feel offended and walks away feeling that you indeed would if you could.

  • “Sadly, I’m booked up with something else right now.”

This expression works perfectly when you need to say no to a friend or relative. It’s used to refuse an invitation politely and simply. It’s great to use if you don’t want to go in the direction of justifying your no.

  • “No, I can’t.” (then stop talking)

Realize that “No”, is a full sentence, and a justification of your choice in truth is not necessary. You’re allowed to say no.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You should regularly practice politely saying no when you aren’t willing to take on the responsibility or go somewhere, so you can build your “no muscle”, and honor your own feelings and choices. You need to be prepared!

Think of situations where you feel hesitant to say no to someone, and then think of the ways you’d use to refuse the request politely. It keeps you prepared for situations where you can’t stop saying yes when you want to say no.

Natalie Maximets

Natalie Maximets

Certified Life Transformation Coach, Online Divorce

You may have different reasons why you do not want to meet someone and this is completely normal. Anyone should be able to defend their boundaries and not obliged to do what they do not like. When you’re invited to hang out somewhere and you don’t want to do so, don’t be afraid to say no.

However, if you use “No, thanks” or “I’m not into that” all the time, it can lead to the fact that in the future they will not invite you anywhere at all. So, now I will tell you how to refuse it tactfully, so as not to offend the interlocutor.

Offer alternatives of where you like to go or what you like to do

Suppose you are called to a movie, but you do not want to go there, although you would gladly spend time with this person. Offer them alternatives, such as:

  • “This sounds so cute, but I don’t really like movies. How about having dinner?”

When you give your refusal, you do not have to make excuses, finally, you should do what is convenient for you in the first place.

It is okay to not give a reason

If you are invited somewhere where you do not want to be and not meet certain people, thank them for the invitation and refuse without giving a reason. For example:

  • “I’m so happy to get your attention, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. Thank you again for your invitation.”

If your interlocutor insists on a meeting you don’t want to go to, put a polite “period” at the end of your answer.

  • “Thank you for your invitation! But unfortunately, I won’t be able to join. Have a great weekend!”

If the other person continues to ignore your rejections, well, this is a good reason to ban them.

Friendships ebb and flow just like our moods, energy levels, and interests. It’s perfectly okay to decline invitations to hang out and it’s important to allow others to decline our invitations too. Friendships get tricky when one friend places a lot of pressure on another friend or takes “no thanks” personally.

Keep it about you

To avoid this situation, be upfront about what you need simply and gently. For example, say you have no desire to meet up with a friend for dinner because you don’t enjoy the company of another person attending.

You might say:

  • “I appreciate you including me. I’m going to have to pass on Friday night. I hope you have a great dinner. Maybe you and I can meet up for coffee next week? “

No need to get into the details of why you declined. An upbeat, appreciative response and an opening to meet up another time may keep this conversation short and sweet.

Here are a few examples of simple ways to decline invitations:

  • “Thank you so much for the invitation. It sounds like a great movie. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with work lately so I better sit this one out. I’m finding that quiet nights at home help me manage my stress these days.”
  • “Thank you for thinking of me. I’m sorry to miss the fun! With everything, I have going on now, I better pass. I don’t want to bring down the vibe of the event. I look forward to hanging out when I get my feet back on the ground.”
  • “I appreciate the invitation but need to decline this time. Now is not the best time for me. I hope you have a great time.”

Related: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work (121 Powerful Tips)

Kate Hardy

Kate Hardy

Creator, Love My Anxious Brain

Declining an invitation to hang out can feel deeply awkward. Especially if – like me – you struggle with social anxiety. You worry about offending or upsetting the person who’s invited you. Often, this means you end up saying “yes” when really you want to say “thanks but no”.

So how can you politely turn down an invitation, without causing offence?

It’s actually not as hard as it seems. Before you decline an invitation (or say “yes” out of guilt), take some time to think about why your gut instinct was “no”. You need to ask yourself two key questions:

Why do you want to turn down the invitation?

How do you feel about the person/people who invited you to hang out?

Here are some common reasons you might not want to hang – and what to do about it!

Be honest

Are you feeling tired or overwhelmed and just need some time to yourself?

If so, the best thing to do is to be honest. Explain that you’d love to spend time with them soon, but right now you’re not feeling your best. Please don’t feel guilty about this – being tired is a valid reason to politely decline an invitation.

It can help if you suggest a future time to hang out, instead. This shows them that you’d love to spend time with them when your energy levels are better.

  • “Thank you – that sounds lovely, but I’m feeling very tired from work/kids/health issues/studying right now and I’m planning on having some quiet nights in to get my energy back. Are you free to meet up next week?”

If you’re an introvert or you have anxiety issues, you may find you get burned out on frequent socializing. So it’s better to learn how to politely let people know when you need some downtime. You’ll enjoy the social events you do attend much more when you’re well-rested!

Do you feel uncomfortable with the type of hang-out suggested?

There are many reasons you might be uncomfortable. E.g. if the situation involves alcohol and you’ve quit drinking. Or if it’s a clothes shopping trip and youhate clothes shopping!

As a socially anxious person, there are lots of situations that make me uncomfortable! Especially parties and large group hangs.

It’s good to push our boundaries (sometimes it turns out I actually enjoy a party!) But if you definitely don’t want to go, honesty is the key again.

  • “I really appreciate you asking me, but parties/shopping trips/hiking around the woods just isn’t my thing. Perhaps we could go for a coffee/watch a movie/share a takeaway instead?”

Hopefully, you’ll find some common ground, with things you both enjoy. But if not, your friendship will probably just gently drift apart over time. Since you’ve been honest, no one would be left feeling hurt or wondering what they did wrong.

The positive side is that when you become very open about what you like and who you are, you tend to gain new friends who are more on your wavelength.

Do you feel uncomfortable with the people involved?

Sometimes it’s not the situation but the people involved that make you want to decline an invitation.

Are they outspoken about political or social opinions that you don’t share?

Do they bully you or other people? Do they make you feel anxious or afraid?

Are they rude? Do they talk over you and barely listen?

The important thing here is to set boundaries. You shouldn’t have to enter a situation where you’re uncomfortable.

If this is a friend or group that you no longer enjoy spending time with, you can either be direct:

  • “I don’t feel comfortable with the way you’ve been talking about X recently.”

Or politely make an excuse:

  • “Sorry, I’m catching up on some work that day.”

If you make enough polite excuses in a row, they will probably stop inviting you after a while. I still recommend honesty wherever possible, but I get how awkward it can be to call out friends or colleagues on their behaviour!

It’s even harder with family, but it’s still essential to set boundaries. You are not obliged to spend the holidays with Uncle Bob if he keeps using racial slurs or visit Auntie Alice if she won’t stop bringing up your gender identity at family meals.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Friend and an Acquaintance?

Hanging out with friends and going to events with them is a good way to deepen the relationship. But all of us have times when we’re feeling tired, grumpy or just a little out of sorts. And, of course, we may get invitations from others that aren’t really welcome for a wide variety of reasons.

If saying no is often hard for you, become aware of how frequently others say no. You’re entitled to do it too. No is a legitimate response to a request. You need to develop a repertoire of ways to say no while being considerate of the feelings of the person who extended the invitation.

Buy yourself some time before saying yes or no

The baseline technique is to buy yourself some time before saying yes or no. Clarify exactly what you’re being asked to do and respond that you need to check with your boss, your partner, or your family. Once you’ve decided to say no, don’t go into elaborate explanations.

Here are some suggestions. Notice both the positive preliminary phrase that may soften the impact of the rejection:

  • Straight no: “Yes, I’d love to participate, but I’m going to have to decline.”
  • No with help: “I love that you thought of me, but I’m unable to participate. How can I help you find someone else?”
  • No with appreciation: “I think your idea is fabulous, but I’m not able to participate at this time.”
  • No and yes: “Yes, I’d love to participate and at a later date. Can you ask me again in May?”
  • No with specific yes: “I’d love to help you, but I’m on a deadline until Tuesday. Can we meet on Wednesday?”
  • No with values: “If I take on anything else right now, I won’t be honoring my commitment to my [family] [work] [business].”

If the situation involves a sensitive relationship, you may want to use a sandwich technique where the no is cushioned on both sides by positivity. Here’s an example:

  • “I’m very flattered that you asked me to be your plus-one. However, I won’t be able to do it. Thanks so much for asking. It means a lot.”

The key in saying no is to remember that your rights and feelings are as important as those of the other person. You’re entitled to decide how you spend your time.

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.” Diogenes

Dorota Lysienia

Dorota Lysienia

Community Manager, LiveCareer

Another baby shower you don’t want to attend? Your plan for this Saturday was to read a book but somehow you ended up dressed up in pink with three balloons tied around your wrist? If you know it all too well, it’s time to learn how to say “no.”

Ask yourself what you truly want

You don’t want to live a life with your needs and desires always put last. It’s not about finding the right excuse but having the courage to express your true self.

My advice is to start by asking yourself what you truly want. If you need time for yourself and want to finally sit on the couch doing nothing, don’t hide it. Do you feel like participating because you want to be there for your friend? That’s OK too. The key is to know the reasoning behind your decision. Do things because you want to rather than should.

Another step is to find a way to decline an invitation that doesn’t offend others but also allows you to express your feelings. It takes practice to say “no” to others, especially those you like, but it’s worth the effort. With time, you won’t feel guilty for saying that you prefer one activity over the other.

Remember, as long as you frame your “no” with respect, there is nothing you can feel guilty about. Next time, don’t look for an excuse but simply say:

  • “Thanks a lot for thinking of me but I already have some other plans for Saturday. Have a great time!”

The closer your relationship with a person, the more honest you can be. If you struggle, remind yourself that each of us is unique. We have different needs, hobbies, and ideas for spending our free time. You shouldn’t apologize for being who you are.

Jessica Ulloa

Jessica Ulloa

Community Manager, MyPerfectResume

It’s all about how you deliver the message

We’ve all had a few invitations we wanted to decline but didn’t know how to. Most of us rely on telling a white lie as it’s the easiest way to get out of an invitation. “I’ll be working late that day”, “I’ll be out of town”, “My family is visiting from out of town” are the most common lies I’ve heard and used.

Oftentimes, we use any excuse to get out of an invitation to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings. Though our intentions might be good, we run the risk of getting caught in our lies and damage our relationships.

Declining an invitation with an honest response and not hurting the other person’s feelings is possible, it’s all about how you deliver the message.

Just this past weekend I declined an invitation to hang out with a friend by telling the truth. This is the message I sent:

  • “I appreciate the invitation and I also look forward to seeing you. This has been a tough and busy week for me and I’ve been very much looking forward to a much-needed me time. Is it ok if we postpone our meeting to next week?”

Her response was very positive. She was understanding and we agreed to meet some other time.

If the invitation is to a more special event, such as a birthday celebration or a baby shower. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about the time and effort they made to include you in their plans.

If you know from the very beginning that you won’t attend their event then let the person know right away. Avoid saying things like “I’ll let you know” or “I’ll confirm later”, as that shows a lack of respect for their time.

To show you are truly appreciative you can share the message below:

“Hey {name},

Thank you so much for the invitation to your {baby shower/birthday party}. I am very flattered that you thought of me when planning your special day.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it but I wanted to take this opportunity to send you lots of love and my best wishes..

I hope you have a wonderful time!”

Jagoda Wieczorek

Jagoda Wieczorek

HR Manager, ResumeLab

Declining an invitation to hang out, comes down to one thing – assertiveness. The ability to say “No” especially to those close to us (friends and family) is often difficult precisely because of the loyalty, and attachment we feel toward them. This naturally leads to a feeling of obligation and by extension guilt if we were to decline.

Related: Guilt Trip: What Is It, Examples + How to Spot and Respond

This is why we most often resort to semi-covert, and indirect language that is supposed to avoid conflict, maintain harmony and not ruffle any feathers. This however is actually counterproductive as we expect the other party to intuitively get a hint without explicitly saying it.

Be firm and polite

Instead, it’s imperative to stand up for yourself and your needs and be able to say No firmly yet politely. This is the very quintessence of the aforementioned assertiveness where we communicate our needs and wants, whilst respecting the other person as well.

Thus, one of the most famous tactics you can implement is the broken record technique. It’s vital to maintain a calm, even-keel tone of voice that is neither disdainful nor sarcastic but simply neutral.

So, for example:

John: Hey, David do you want to hang out this weekend?

David: Hi bud. No, I will not be able to join you, unfortunately.

John: Why not man? We always have fun. You’ve got better plans?

David: That’s true, but as I mentioned I’m unavailable this weekend. Let’s shoot for another day.

John: C’mon dude. It would mean a lot to me if you came out.

David: Again, mate, this weekend just isn’t good for me. How about another time?

This should do the trick, after a couple/few attempts the person will quickly notice that you’re either indeed busy or don’t want to hang out (for whatever reason).

It’s essential to not fall for the tempting trap of apologizing or justifying your choice. You simply draw the boundary and respectfully guard it against it being crossed.

Not so easy the first couple of times, but with time not only will it empower you, but you’ll quickly realize that paying attention to and expressing your needs is not a sign of selfishness, but rather a healthy expression of your growing self-esteem and empowerment. Good luck!

Alexa Doman

Alexa Doman

Career and Life Coach

Decline invitations by being vague but firm and polite

Saying no is not easy for many. Over-committing to invitations and events because of the word “should” is a very familiar position for lots of people.

Focus your attention on how you say no, rather than the wording. A firm tone is much more powerful and convincing than an excuse. Also, try not to give too much information.

This may mean you have to backtrack and further explain (or think of excuses) as to why you can’t go. This is best avoided to reduce the possibility of alternative dates or options being offered

Start your decline with a thank you, thus ensuring that you’re not only being polite but also preparing the groundwork for the rejection. For date-based invitations, a firm I’m unavailable as I already have plans. Have a great time though” is clear.

For invitations that have more date flexibility, “It sounds great, but I’m not sure it’s my thing. I’ll sit this out”. Shows that it’s a mismatch of interests rather than a personal rejection of the offer.

Mario Singelmann

Mario Singelmann

Founder, Get Game Group Dating Coaching

Just say “No”? Well, no.

Consider what should be your “default” strategy of action…the truth. Actually, “The truth…PLUS.”

The truth may seem terrifying to share with someone you’re wanting to say no to, but why should it? Will a relationship be lost completely, beyond repair…because you wanted to decline an invitation to hang out? Probably not. And if so, it really speaks to the strength of the relationship, right?

So let’s create your response of “The truth…PLUS.”

Express what you really want them to know and hope to understand

What do you really want someone to know? Beyond rejecting the invitation, what do you want someone to know and understand? As an exercise, write this out as if you’re sharing this message with an individual whose input on this matter you greatly respect.

As a dating coach, this situation is presented to me often in one form or another, and the first thing I do is ask, “What do you want them to know and understand?”

What is that answer? (It’s not just “No,” is it?)

THAT answer…is very likely to be if not your best strategy of action, a strong candidate for your consideration.

But there’s a key ingredient you need to include…your vulnerability. Telling someone “No” is only part of your truth. You need share the “why” behind it, as is appropriate.

Without sharing every detail, open up to the real reason you must decline an invitation. Don’t let them insert their story into your rejection, which will often be worse than your real reason. (“He/she doesn’t like me.” “Thinks they’re too good….”)

Has it been a rough week? Feeling under the weather? Did you already make a commitment? While it’s nobody’s business…it’s your business to share, should you choose.

And when you do, you allow someone to hear and better understand your “Truth PLUS,” which lets someone 1) hear your “no,” and 2) helps them understand, “It’s not you/the invitation…it’s me.” You’re softening your rejection while displaying respect for yourself AND them!

Related: 20+ Signs Your Friend Doesn’t Respect You

Keep things simple and authentic the next time you want to decline an invitation to hang out with “the Truth + your Why + a splash of tact.”

As Mark Twain wrote, “When in doubt, tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”

Lynell Ross

lynell ross

Resource Director, Test Prep Insight

The best advice on how to decline an invitation is to be honest

One of the biggest stressors people face is learning how to say no. We don’t like disappointing people, so when someone invites us to do something, we find ourselves making excuses and feeling bad. If you tell the truth to your friends, they will take it much better than if you recite a list of things you need to do, or come up with a fake excuse.

For example, if your friend asks you to come over and hang out and you are tired from a long day, and just want to go to bed early, you can be honest.

  • Say: “I have had a long day and am wiped out. I need to go to bed early. I appreciate your asking me, but let’s get together on Saturday when I will be in better company.”

People who care about you will want what is best for you, and if they don’t then that probably isn’t a person you want to spend time with anyway.

William Taylor

William Taylor

Senior Recruitment Advisor, VelvetJobs

Make it short and simple

To politely decline an invitation to social gatherings, it’s important that you make it short and simple. When reasoning out, always refrain from over-explaining. As much as possible, sound polite and sweet when explaining why you can’t attend the gathering.

It is also ideal to give an honest answer

This will avoid misunderstandings in your circle and will maintain the trust you initially have. Before their attempt to force you to go, propose that you will try to attend the next time the group decides to meet up.

Lastly, keep in mind that declining an invitation isn’t wrong and this goes for both host and invitee.

Atta Ur Rehman

Atta Ur Rehman

Content Manager, Physicians Thrive

Adopt honesty

I know, rejecting an invitation is the hardest thing to do. But let’s be honest, instead of making pointless excuses, it is better to explain your reason in the honest way possible.

Avoid overexplaining

One mistake most people including me do is that we start to over-explain the reason, confusing the other person and making them suspicious. The problem with over-explaining is that you might say something irrelevant or accidentally bring up something that you are going to regret later.

Therefore, the best advice I could give is to keep your rejection short and concise with the element of sweetness in it. Trust me, it always works.

Weronika Cekala

Weronika Cekala

Digital Writer, MyPerfectResume

Aim for a kind but neutral and objective tone

We’ve all been there. You got up on the wrong foot, totally messed up at work, got splashed by an oncoming car on your way home where nothing better was waiting for you. And it is on this day that this buddy, with whom you have been planning to go out for coffee for like a year, invites you over. And you have no idea how to get out of it.

Not every day has been dogged by misfortune in real life, but there are times when all you desire is a cozy blanket and a hot cup of tea. And that’s perfectly okay. But is it okay to just say “no”? Well, it actually is.

Refusing such a proposition may seem awkward or impolite, but in fact, most people don’t care, and if you do it the right way, your response won’t negatively affect your relationship.

No matter what you say, aim for a kind but neutral and objective tone. Let go of asking for forgiveness and keep it short. Just be honest about why you can’t make it that day and take it as something usual.

This way, you send a vital message: I appreciate you enough, to be honest with you and spend quality time under different circumstances. The natural response shows them that you trust them enough to be genuine and vulnerable with them and that you would like to build a relationship where you both feel comfortable.

James Major

James Major

Owner and Founder, Insurance Panda

Honesty is a must

When declining an invitation to hang out, the most important thing is being honest.
If somebody invites you to hang out, and you do not want to, you can simply say, for example:

  • “No thank you, I plan on staying in tonight.”

Suggest another time

If somebody invites you to hang out, and you are busy, but would still like to hang out with them, you can suggest another time, for example:

  • “Sorry, I can’t tonight, but I’m free next Saturday,
  • “I need to do some work tonight, how about tomorrow?”

All of these responses are polite and acceptable. Again, the key thing is being honest. If you make up some wild excuse or lie about why you can’t hang out, it will eventually come back to bite you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I feel guilty for declining an invitation?

It’s normal to feel guilty or uncomfortable about declining an invitation, especially if you value the relationship or enjoy the activity. However, it’s important to put your own needs and boundaries first. Here are some tips:

• Acknowledge your feelings of guilt or discomfort, but also remember that it’s okay to say no.
• Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it’s not your responsibility to please everyone or attend every event.
• Consider alternative ways to connect with the person or engage in a similar activity, such as suggesting a different time or offering to meet in a different context.

What if I decline an invitation and later regret it?

It’s normal to have second thoughts or feel FOMO (fear of missing out) after declining an invitation, especially if it turns out the activity is really fun.

However, it’s important to respect your original decision and prioritize your own needs and boundaries. Here are some tips:

• Think about your reasons for canceling and remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place.
• Consider alternative ways to contact the person or engage in a similar activity, such as suggesting a different time or offering to meet in a different setting.
• Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes or change your mind.
• If you truly regret your decision, you can always approach the person and express interest in meeting again, but respect their plans and don’t pressure them to accommodate you.

What if I decline an invitation and the person seems upset or offended?

It’s possible that the person may feel disappointed or hurt if you decline their invitation, but it’s important to remember that you can’t control their reactions. Here are some tips on how you can handle this situation:

• Acknowledge the person’s feelings and express empathy, such as saying, “I understand you’re disappointed, and I’m sorry if I let you down.”
• Reiterate your reasons for declining, but also offer an alternative way to connect or show that you value the relationship, such as: “I really appreciate the invitation, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it. However, I’d love to catch up with you another time.”
• Avoid getting defensive or angry; instead, try to maintain a calm and respectful tone.
• Remember that it’s okay to set boundaries and put your needs first and that a healthy relationship includes mutual respect and understanding.

What if I decline an invitation and the person stops inviting me to events?

It’s possible that declining an invitation may affect the relationship or social dynamic, especially if the person feels hurt or offended. However, it’s important to put your own needs and boundaries first. Here are some tips on how you can handle this situation:

• Acknowledge any changes in the relationship or social dynamic, but also respect your decision to decline the invitation.
• Consider reaching out to the person and expressing your interest in maintaining the relationship, such as by suggesting another activity or offering to make a phone date.
• Be open to the person’s feedback or concerns and try to address any misunderstandings or issues in a respectful and constructive way.

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