How To Nicely Turn Down Plans When You've Run Out Of Excuses

You don’t need an excuse to not want to meet up, but you can say so nicely.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
A woman on the couch turns down invitations to plans over text nicely.
Megan Maloy/Image Source/Getty Images

As more people get their COVID vaccines, making them free to socialize with other vaccinated people, making plans now comes with the expectation that you’ll be hanging out IRL instead of on Zoom. Whether the pandemic caused you to lean more heavily on your introverted tendencies, or you’re simply not ready to mingle with the masses, having texts to politely decline an invitation at the ready can ensure you’re only making the plans you feel comfortable with.

Knowing how to opt out of plans without hurting anyone’s feelings is a crucial skill regardless of a pandemic. Not wanting to leave the comfort of your home (or your sweats) is reason enough to pass on an invitation — even if it’s from a close friend. You are not required to attend every brunch or birthday, and not feeling up to it is a plenty valid excuse, despite what social burnout culture might suggest.

Keeping your responses to invitations light and breezy will protect you from hurting anyone’s feelings or getting into a heated debate. To help keep the door open for future invites, a licensed therapist sounds off on texts that make it clear that as much as you love the person, you’re just not that into the plans right now.

“No, thank you.”

It's your right to share as much or as little context as you want. If you don't want to get into it, you're not required to, so long as you're polite, family therapist Dawn Friedman M.S.Ed., says. Just be willing to stand by the cool tone of this message, or zhuzh it up with a heart emoji. Ignoring an invitation, or being vague about your RSVP status, is actually much colder.

“Here's why I'm not comfortable...”

If it's a close friend, you might want to take the time to explain why the plans are outside of your comfort zone, without offending them. Friedman says it’s important not to try to change their mind about the plans, as everyone has a right to their own feelings of comfort. For example, if you’re overwhelmed by a party invite because the prospect of meeting new people is making you anxious, just let your friend know that you’re still recharging your social batteries and not quite ready for a big hang.

“I'd love to do that, maybe in a few months...”

“While a response like this invites further discussion, it lets them know you do want to be with them, just not yet,” Friedman says, which protects your friend from feeling dissed — you’re making it clear the plan is appealing — and leaves the door open for a raincheck. This response also gives you some time to get more comfortable with the idea, and mentally prepare yourself for it to happen on your own timeline.

“I don't think it would be fair to my household.”

If someone in your household is at higher risk for COVID or hasn’t been vaccinated, it’s fair to use your caution as an excuse. Friedman says that you might want to avoid this kind of response if you don’t feel like going into detail because it might require a little bit of context to paint a picture.

“Here's why I think that might be risky...”

“This is a good way to open up discussion about ways to connect and mitigate risk,” Friedman says. If you share that it might be risky to meet indoors without masks, the conversation might evolve to include other options that are less risky, like meeting outdoors, with masks. So if you actually do want to see someone, just not in the way they’re proposing, Friedman says this is a good way to gently explore options that work for both of you, while also drawing a line indicating your boundaries.

“It’s not you; it’s the pandemic.”

“If you need to remind loved ones that your pandemic concerns aren’t about the relationship then this is a good answer to share,” Friedman says. This text keeps it light, while also sharing a relatable sentiment that doesn’t require much explanation.

“I wouldn't want to endanger anyone's health, I haven't been tested.”

While turning the risk blame on yourself might work with some friends, if someone is particularly pushy, or not attuned to your subtle decline, they might give you a hall pass you’re not asking for. “Keep the focus on what feels safe to you unless you feel comfortable letting the other person’s limits define what you’re willing to do,” Friedman says.

“I'm just not comfortable yet with socializing.”

You can’t argue with the truth. “Lots of people are feeling overwhelmed right now no matter what the safety measures are in place — it’s just going to take time to get back into the swing of things whatever our personal circumstances might be,” Friedman says. Letting people know that you’re not there yet is appropriate and keeps the responsibility on you (your comfort) rather than putting anyone on the defensive. This also brings the ball into your court, so that you can reopen the idea of hanging out when you’re ready.


Family therapist Dawn Friedman, M.S.Ed