There are some invitations that we wait for eagerly, and then there are invitations that we know we have to decline. However, it is an art to mastering how to decline an invitation because it should never be your doing to hurt someone's feeling through a rough refusal.
Knowing how to decline an invitation is a very important part of social grace, one that will make you a likeable person among others - a person who cares about other people's feelings and emotions.
Top 9 Tips on How to Decline an Invitation
Read the Invitation Carefully
First of all, before you need to learn how to decline an invitation, you have to read the invitation carefully. Whether it is a formal invitation, an email, a text message or a Facebook post, the message would ideally contain the perfect way to accept or refuse it.
If the invitation says "R.S.V.P." you have to send a reply regardless of whether you are going or not going; also, if the invitation says "Regrets Only" you have to call or send a message saying that you are declining the invitation. If the invitation sends the signal that it is a large party with a lot of people invited, you might not even need to send a reply for not going.
Don't Wait Too Long to Decline
If you are meaning to decline an invitation, don't wait too long to do so - that's not the right way if you want to know how to decline an invitation. If it was a small affair, the host might have already made specific plans for you that would be hard to undo if you wait too long. There are a lot at stake for the host and no one feels good about cancellations at the last minute. So, if you are going to decline, the preferable way is to do it as soon as possible.
Always Thank Your Host for the Invitation
Even if it is an invitation that you have no intention of accepting, you will have to thank the host for thinking of you. When you call or message to decline the invitation, always start with a meaningful "thank you" message for the thought. Don’t think that you don't need to thank the host because you are going to decline, because you should appreciate the fact that they have taken the time to invite you. So, even if you are calling to decline the invitation, you should start with a generous "thank you".
Ask for Time If Approached Suddenly
When you get invited to something suddenly, i.e. a face-to-face meeting, but you know you are going to decline, don't do so immediately, right on their face. The best way to know how to decline an invitation in these situations would be to ask for some time before you reply because you need to "check your schedule". After a decent interval, call or message to say that you can't make it because you are busy.
Be Honest If You Have the Chance
If you are declining the invitation for a legitimate reason – e.g. you will be out of town, or if you are sick or busy at work - be honest about it. Don't go into too much details but just explain that you regret not being able to attend although you would have loved to, and don't forget to thank them for their thoughtfulness in inviting you.
Stay Close to the Truth If You Are Making Excuses
If you are making excuses because you don't want to accept the invitation, make sure that your explanations are close enough to the truth. If you decline an invitation saying you're not feeling well, try to stay at home and rest instead of going out. In the same way, if you are declining because you are "stuck at work", try not to post pictures of yourself at the beach with your family on social media sites.
Be Brief and Direct
Always be direct in your response; it helps make you seem believable and honest, especially if you are only making excuses. Have your reason ready so that you don't dawdle and hesitate when making the call to decline. At the same time, don't offer too much information when it is not needed. If you are making up excuses to get out of an invitation, don't talk too much trying to make your story more plausible - it might have the opposite effect!
Always Make the Decision Final
If you are definitely not going to attend an event, say it directly. Don't keep the matter hanging with phrases like "Let me see if I can" or "I'll try my best" and make your host confused. Even if your host is forceful after your declination, end the conversation on a negative answer from your side, like "I would have really liked to, but I am sure I can't" or "I wish I didn't have to, but I really do have to decline this one".
Keep the End of the Conversation Positive
Always end the conversation of declination positive, with yet another "thank you" to your host, and promises for the future. For example, saying "I would definitely not miss the next one" or "I would love to be included the next time" would make your host feel better about being cancelled for the moment, and reassure them that you are not cutting them off on purpose.