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How can you say “no” to an invitation if you have no good excuse?

How can you say “no” to an invitation if you have no good excuse?

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Question asked by binsa_thapa

Top comments (6)

angel profile image
Angel Paudel

It is never easy to say no to an invitation as you may feel like it is like letting down the other person. For the same reason, people often don’t RSVP to an event and don’t go. This isn’t a bad practice rather one can simply accept or decline the invitation at the earliest so the host can make the adjustments accordingly. Like offering a no-opinion option reduces the pressure to give substantive responses felt by respondents who have no true opinions (Krosnick et al., 2001). But those, in this case, isn’t a valid one as not responding to an invitation, would make you look not social and rude. Here are few of the ways in which you can say "no” to an invitation if you have no good excuse:

  • Don’t act like you didn’t see the invitation. Reply back to the invitation to the earliest and as soon as possible if you’re unable to be there. Not doing anything about it and keeping that aside to only let know at the last moment or not letting know at all would show as if you’re rude and might be left out of future events.

  • Thank the person for the invitation and also for keeping you in mind for the event but clearly state why you can’t make it for the event.

  • Be clear, you don’t have to make a false story if you’re unable to attend it. Just say why you’re unable to attend the event but don’t go into the detail. An example of this can be rather than saying "I’m too tired. I’m just exhausted.” You would rather say, "I really appreciate it, but I’m taking the night off. I need some quiet downtime. I hope you understand!”

  • If the event is exclusively dedicated to you, in that case, you can request for a different date by saying something like "I already have plans at that exact time. Can we schedule a meeting for another date soon?”

  • Keep the explanatory reason to yourself, you don’t have to explain everything. With you starting to give lots of reasons might sound like you’re making excuses.


Krosnick, J., Holbrook, A., Berent, M., Carson, R., Hanemann, W., & Kopp, R. et al. (2001). The Impact of "No Opinion” Response Options on Data Quality. Public Opinion Quarterly, 66 (3), 371-372.

sachitabhattarai profile image

Working peoples’ life is very busy. They have to say “no” to some big projects, parties, get together, etc. At such situation, one finds it very hard to say “No” to their boss as they might take it rudely and find inappropriate. Politeness is the one key to say “no” in a good way. Politeness in requests is a communication strategy the speaker uses to achieve goals, choosing the level of politeness based on the relative imposition involved in the request. It is important to use the right level of politeness (Said, 2011).

Here are the following ways to say “no” to an invitation:

1. Respond in Like

When you receive an invitation, you need to respond in a timely manner as well as in a like manner. For example, whenever we are selected for the written examination in a bank. The bank send us an email conforming our response if we are going to attend the exam or not. This will help them to allocate seats according to the candidates attending the exam.

Similarly, at weddings or dinner party, people do RSVP to an event. The earlier you decline the invitation, the earlier host can invite someone else in your place. This kind of response is highly appreciated and someone else can get the opportunity to attend the dinner. Sending a response or saying “no” via e-mail may seem rude to the inviter.

2. Thanks the host for the invite

Instead of directly saying ‘no’, you can always begin your response by thanking the inviter for inviting. For dinner and party invitations, you should always begin with some version of “Thank you so much for your invitation” (Everyday Health, 2018).

For example:

(Wrong): I wish I could, but I cannot attend your birthday today.

(Correct): Thanks for thinking of me, but I have other commitments today. Let’s make a plan for some other day.

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 (Lamberg, 2018).

3. Provides an Honest Explanation When Possible

People always believes in honest people. Honesty toward strangers can be considered an important norm of any given society (Stephen Mark Rosenbaum, 2014). Always try to give short and to the point explanation for the reason behind your “no”. Overdoing it will show that you are trying to come up with excuses.

For example, you are invited for attending a rice feeding ceremony of your friend but you have already planned to go out with your wife. In such case, you can genuinely and honestly explain to your friend the reason.

4. Consider Sending a Gift

If you bring gifts while attending any birthday parties, marriage then consider sending gifts to the host. For a dinner party, you can send a bottle of wine with notes expressing your regrets on not attending, on a birthday you could send some lily’s or white roses. By sending a gift you are showing the importance of the event and you are unfortunate for not being able to attend it.

5. Follow Up

Follow up means showing your interest for the event to be successful even if you are not attending it. Emails, calls or messages helps you to show concern to the hostess and show your interest on getting invitation in the future.


Everyday Health. (2018). 5 Steps to Politely Declining Invitations . Retrieved from 5 Steps to Politely Declining Invitations: everydayhealth.com/healthy-living-...

Lamberg, E. (2018). This is the Only Way You Should Say “No” to an Invite . Retrieved from Reader’s Digest: rd.com/advice/relationships/how-to...

Said, N. E. (2011). Politeness Strategies in Requests: The Case of Elfhoul Speech Community.

Stephen Mark Rosenbaum, S. B. (2014). Let’s be honest: A review of experimental evidence of honesty and truth-telling. Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 45 , 181-196.

shantamilan profile image

According to Dr. Montgomery, "We confuse [saying ‘yes’] with being polite. We are often frightened by how other people will react if we don’t meet their requests. (Ryan, 2016)” People have a behaviour where they want to please others and so cannot say no outright. Many people fall victim to this behaviour and enter into the unwanted zone of having to do something that they are unwilling to do or are even counterproductive just because they cannot say no.

Joice Russel in her article on women saying no in workplace informs readers on saying a direct no to be more effective rather than over talking and explain the point. "Be wary of tricks. Watch out for people who flatter you to get you to do something, guilt you into it, whine so much that you finally do it just to get them to stop whining or those who bully you to do something. Practice. Be direct when saying no. Don’t over talk the point, and don’t be wishy-washy. (Russell, 2013)”

According to Dr. Montgomery, “Every now and then you have to say ‘no’ to someone - ‘I can’t do that this week’ or ‘I can’t do that this year, I’m already booked out’. You owe it to yourself to say no to impossible or unreasonable requests. (Ryan, 2016)”

On the other hand, Anne Stein’s cover of a book by William Ury’s "The Power of a Positive No, How to Say No and Still Get to Yes” explains three step to say a positive no. She explains, for a positive no you first need to explain and say yes to what is important to you. You follow this with a no and then end it with a yes. This invites the other party to reach a favourable agreement which fulfils both your needs. For example if your boss call you to work on a holiday you follow the three steps and say "My family needs me on the holidays. I won’t be working on holidays. Why don’t we find a new way to get the work done when I spend time with family?” (Stein, 2007)

If you feel uncomfortable with the direct ‘no’ then you can use a ‘positive no.’ Start with a yes, follow it with a no and end it with a yes. But since you do not have an excuse, making one up would be lying which would be ethically wrong and it is not right to deceive just to avoid and invite.

If you do not have an excuse to not go then using a direct no would be better, rather than beating around the bush. Deliver a direct ‘No’ saying I will not come.

Russell, J. E. (2013, Dec 9). CAREER COACH | Why women tend not to say no in the workplace, and how they can change that. The Washington Post . Retrieved from proxy.lirn.net/MuseProxyID=mp02/Mu...

Ryan, C. (2016, Jan 25). Goal setting: How to say ‘no’ to others to say ‘yes’ to your goals: For many of us, “no” is the hardest word to say, but looking after yourself and achieving your goals, depends on it. ABC Premium News; Sydney . Retrieved from proxy.lirn.net/MuseProxyID=mp02/Mu...

Stein, A. E. (2007, April). 5 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM. Chiacgo Tribune . Retrieved from proxy.lirn.net/MuseProxyID=mp02/Mu...

ncitujjwal profile image

I know it’s not easy. In fact, something it can be so tough to say no. By virtue of human nature - we want to be agreeable, we want to be liked, and we want to be kind (Labrie, 2007). So how do you say no, you have every right to say no without feeling guilty, and as long as you don’t do it in an offensive way. The decline an invitation doesn’t mean you’re rejecting the person who sends it to you. It’s simply a statement that you are unable to attend whatever you’ve been invited to.

You don’t have to explain anything, just assure the person that you would not miss it for anything that’s unimportant. And if the situation changes, you will let them know. For example, I’m sorry, I have a prior engagement at the same time that I already agreed to. Thank you so much for thinking of me. It is clear, simple and you don’t need to provide detail. Here, are few tips on how to turn down an invitation in the most polite way.

1. Don’t Ignore the Invitation: Direct ignoring the invitation shows that you don’t know proper manner, and you might be left off the guest list for his/her next party (Ellen & Herbert, Dec., 1990). So, first, putting the invitation aside to deal with later isn’t good for you or the person who send it. He/she needs to know whether or not you’ll be there.

2. Don’t Wait: As soon as possible, you reply back to him/her. You will be unable to go there, let the person know. Most events require planning and budgeting.

3. Be thankful: Always give thank the person for inviting you and let him/her know that you’re honored that he/she’d think highly enough of you to send the invitation.

4. Be Honest: You never ever have to come up with false excuses for why you’re unable to go to event, but you also don’t have to go into detail. Let him/her know that you already have plans. That should be enough.

5. Ask for Next time: If the invitation is exclusive to you, let the person know you’re unable to make it at the time he/she requested, but you’d love to get together with her at another time.

6. Don’t over - explain: Keep your explanation short and to the point. Doing otherwise will make it sound like you’ve just trying to come up with excuses.

You can state your response in person, by phone or a check mark on RSVP note. The tone of your letter should reflect your relationship with the person who invited you. If it is a close friend, it will be much less formal than one for a business person (Liane, MAY 17, 2016).

Ellen, A., & Herbert, H. (Dec. 1990). What are some polite excuses to give when declining an invitation? Cambridge University Press .

Labrie, T. (2007). How to decline invitations. BBC Learning English , 2-4.

Liane, D. (MAY 17, 2016). Polite Ways to Decline a Meeting Invitation. Harvard Business Review .

ujjwalpoudel profile image

When there comes an invitation for an event there would always be hard to say "No” in an invitation. From our childhood, we are groomed after accepting the request, respecting the elders and similar alike. And it is really hard for us to deny the invitation when we don’t have a good excuse. At a time, we also tend to think in a negative way and this can cause problems in their relationship. This habit of not denying or not saying "No” always hampers us. But in the professional setting, it is as much as important to say "No” like saying "Yes”.

Respecting and thanking for the invitation and reasoning shortly for excuse for not attending the event with polite and humble words can helps to maintain the emotions and relationship. This is why; while saying "No” one should always be graceful. Saying "NO” is very important because this habit helps to established the prioritization of events, works and people, builds a habit to say polite deny or refusal (Whitemore, 2014).

I can relate this with one incident in my office. One of my friends working in another organization invites me for the event called "HR meet” which is hosted by their organization. The organization where she works is our strong competitor. Knowing this, I was not allowed to attend their event by my company. Then I wrote a message for her saying

Dear Sanju,

Thank you for the invitation. The event theme "HR meet” is very interesting that we will really get chance to meet the corporate personnel. This event is going to be an important and successful. But sorry to say that I’m not able to attend the event due to some meeting which I had already fixed some days ago. I would be glad if you share me the events’ thoughts in our next meet.

Good luck for the event.

Thank you.


Dinesh Shrestha

When concluding negative response, we can express goodwill or well-wishing for the reader and their projects but we should not sound hypocritical. As soon as we realize we cannot commit, we should let that person know quickly because most events require planning & budgeting (Mayne, 2017). Also, honestly inform them the reason for not attending the event and respect their invitation by thanking them, will always works better rather giving the false commitment. We might also suggest some alternatives.


Mayne, D. (2017). How to politely decline an invitation. In thespurce. Retrieved from thespruce.com/how-to-politely-decl...

Whitemore, J. (2014). Why ‘No’ is the most important Word you’ll ever say?. In entrepreneur . Retrieved from entrepreneur.com/article/233122

dipadhungana profile image

Invitation is a written or spoken request to join certain event. When we receive any invitation for any professional or personal event, we find it very difficult to say "no”. It is because for many of us, "no” is a negative word by definition and we think that each refusal will automatically have a negative backlash. We assume that the ones who have invited us may feel offended or we might hurt their feelings by saying "no”. We also fear that other people in our family or circle may call us uncaring or selfish if we turn down an invitation (Newman, 2017).

Though refusing is uneasy and downright uncomfortable, sometimes we must say "no”. We need to understand the fact that we are not obligated to accept every invitation we receive. But there are certain ways to decline an invitation in polite manner. This includes:

  • Do not ignore the invitation or wait for the last minute to respond. It shows that we lack proper etiquette. Timely response helps the organizers in for planning and budgeting of the event (Mayne, 2017).

  • Be thankful to the host and acknowledge the gift of invitation. We need to show that we have sincere interest in the invitation even if we could not make it to the event (Lamberg , n.d.).

  • Be honest. Do not lie or make false excuses. If the refusal needs explanation, keep it short and to the point. Do not over-explain (Mayne, 2017).

  • Ask for a different time if the invitation is exclusively for you and your presence have significance impact on the event.

  • Send something (gift) along with the information that we will not be able to be a part of the event or celebration.

The invitation can be rejected in person, over phone or through notes or emails. We need to select the right medium along with the appropriate tone depending on our relationship with the person who invited us. In my opinion, the indirect approach of responding is more appropriate in saying "no”. The indirect approach as mentioned by Bell and Smith (2006), suggests while declining an invitation, we have to:

  1. Begin with a buffer statement suggesting positive thoughts. It helps to prevent disappointed readers from thinking that you are totally not interested in that invitation.

  2. Say "no” and explain the reason but do not make it too lengthy. We could also suggest alternatives for the event or invitation.

  3. Conclude with a positive message to prevent the reader from feeling ignored or unwanted.


Bell , A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2006). Management Communication (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley.

Lamberg , E. (n.d.). This Is The Only Way You Should Say “No” To An Invite . Retrieved from Reader’s Digest: rd.com/advice/relationships/how-to...

Mayne, D. (2017, December 23). How to Politely Decline an Invitation . Retrieved from The Spruce: thespruce.com/how-to-politely-decl...

Newman, S. (2017). The Book Of No: 365 Ways to Say it and Mean it - and Stop People-pleasing Forever. New York: McGraw - Hill.