Saying “yes”. Then saying “no”.

Saying “yes”. Then saying “no”.

We’ve all been there. We’ve accepted an invitation and then we've needed to cancel. Is there really any good way to do this? 

I think not. But there are ways to lessen the blow. 

First of all, let me say, you should always respond to invitations. Sometimes they come with “respond by” dates, but even if they don’t, it’s just rude to not respond. Verbal or written, by email, by text, by carrier pigeon... all invitations deserve a response. 

You’ve been invited. You did the right thing and responded in the affirmative. And you had every intention of showing up. And then, life got in the way. It could be a sudden illness or your car has broken down. Your flight was cancelled or the babysitter has cancelled on you at the last minute. You need to work late or need to go out of town. Whatever the reason, you now need to cancel.

Just do it and do it right away.

The optimal way to cancel is to pick up the phone and call the host. It’s not pleasant, but better to let them know rather than just not show up. If the event is a major affair (a wedding for instance), try not to call the bride directly. Let someone in the family or wedding party know. If the event is a gala dinner, unless you are the keynote speaker, call the event planner.  If it’s for a family event (for which you surely must know you will likely never be forgiven anyway) just “man up” as they say and make the call. Be honest and make your apologies. 

Never lie to get out of an obligation you now wish to cancel. 

Not only are lies almost always uncovered, by lying you are compounding an already uncomfortable situation. By cancelling honestly you are telling people that in spite of your very best efforts you simply cannot join them. If you think your family/friend/date is angry now... how do you think they’ll feel when they catch you in a lie (and they always do)? 

Be prepared for push back. 

Take an aspirin they’ll say. I’ll pick you up, they’ll say. Take the next flight they’ll say. Just bring your kids anyway, they’ll say. Quit your job, they'll say. These will probably have already gone through your mind and all, rightly, rejected. If attending this event has become impossible, don’t let the host bully you into moving heaven and earth to arrive. If it were truly an event you just could not miss at all cost, you would have already acted on those options already, no? 

Just remember, no matter how many times you did show up, it’ll be the times you didn’t that will be remembered. There’s just no getting around that. Try not to do it too often. Be upfront and be honest. And the next time someone cancels on you, be understanding.

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