How to Cancel Plans at the Last Minute (Without Feeling Guilty!)

No lies required.

We’ve all been there: It’s 6:23 p.m. and you have 37 minutes to decide whether you’re up for the get-together you planned weeks ago with an old friend from college. If you’re ready to cancel, think before you text. In fact, don’t text at all, says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Lifeand founder of The Protocol School of Texas.

And while it’s entirely understandable to not feel in the mood to socialize, saying “no” to a friend, colleague, or relative comes with specific challenges. To help tackle our canceling quandaries, Gottsman shared some guidelines to follow when you’re more interested in a last-minute night-in. Keep your relationships (and sanity) intact, and see below for her guilt-free guide to canceling.

 

1

Don’t Cancel Unless It’s for a Good Reason.

texting-woman-phone
Photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Images

We tend to feel guilty when we know we are canceling for a better offer or because we are choosing to do something different instead of upholding a commitment. If you really don’t want to go or you know you will dread or regret it, decline when you get the invitation. But if you do accept the invitation, Gottsman says you shouldn't cancel unless you have a good reason. Valid excuses include: you are sick and running a fever, your child is sick, your babysitter cancels, your boss schedule an unexpected meeting for an unanticipated client dilemma, or you get the measles/mumps/abscessed tooth. The following reasons, on the other hand, are not valid: you got a better offer, a friend asked you to go to dinner at a fancy restaurant you've been wanting to try, or you decide you would rather stay home and relax.

2

Do It Personally.

If something comes up that is unavoidable, call immediately. Don’t text! Let them know you have an unexpected change of plans and are sorry for the adjustment.

3

Don’t Give Too Many Details.

We tend to give too many excuses, which makes it sound “fishy.” Apologize for the change of plans, let them know you are sorry to miss the fun, and mention getting together in the near future.



4

But Don’t Say “Let’s Get Together Soon” If You Don’t Mean It.

Learn your lesson. If you accepted an invite on impulse and don’t feel like you can follow through next time either, let it go. It’s more ethical to decline an RSVP than to make excuses later.

5

Do Follow Up Soon.

If you had to cancel at the last minute, make a point of calling shortly after the event to schedule a lunch or dinner. Consider treating to make up for the faux pas and—at the very least—ask thoughtful questions about the party you had to miss. It will show your friend you were genuinely sorry to miss the fun!

6

Do Post Responsibly Online.

If your friend or host sees your Facebook or Instagram account and you were at another event instead of “home sick with the flu,” you will lose credibility and a friend.