When you’re invited to a party or asked to dinner, you basically have two choices: Attend or pass on the offer. If you want to attend, the invitation is obviously welcome. But what if you can’t go or just don’t want to? You can, of course, decline the offer, but there’s a right (and wrong) way to do it.
Say no simply and politely
The best way to decline nicely is to offer a brief, suitable reason why you can’t make it. To make the excuse seem more sincere and believable, keep it short, says Ashley Dunson, certified special event professional in Birmingham, Alabama. Even something as basic as “I already have plans that night,” works. Dunson suggests adding on something like, “I wish I could be there! Can’t wait to hear about it!” The key here is to show that you have a sincere interest in the person and their event, she says. “Using this formula, you can effectively decline, forestall the inviter from trying to convince you to reverse your decision, and encourage future invitations,” she adds.
Thank the host for the invite
“Acknowledge the gift of the invitation,” says Helen Odessky, PsyD, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You. Saying “thank you so much for inviting us” lets your pal know that you care that they thought of you and minimizes any rejection that they may feel, Odessky says. Then, to bridge the relationship, ask her how the event was next time you see her.
Ask any hostess what her biggest pet peeve is about hosting a social gathering, and late, or worse, failure to RSVP is sure to be at the top of the list. “Please do not wait until the last minute to respond, this shows consideration for the other person by letting them make alternative or amended plans,” Odessky adds.
Read on for the 50 most important etiquette rules everyone should follow.