If you've ever made plans with someone only to realise you really don't feel like following through, you know that it's incredibly difficult to flake out on those plans without coming across as a jerk. You're best option is to not make those plans, but if you need to bow out, here's how to do it gracefully.
Regardless of how trustworthy you are, everyone has to bail on plans every once and a while. Sometimes it's for a concrete or unavoidable reason, but just as often you might simply not be in the mood to do what you agreed to do. Either way you have to start with the same thing: an apology.
Apologise And Make It Sincere
Regardless of whether you're cancelling plans way ahead of time or at the last minute, it's good to apologise for wasting someone's time. While the event might seem inconsequential to you, it's possible your friend set aside a large block of time to hang out, and you're ruining that. Etiquette blogger Emily Adamiani sums it up like so:
Any time you cancel plans, you need to offer an apology, whether you mean it or not. You've taken someone's time from them. They've blocked off their schedule or modified it so they can see you. Please acknowledge that.
Suck it up and accept the fact you're a jerk. Apologise honestly, and they'll be much more likely to take your side. Photo by Andrew Yee.
Tell the Truth And Don't Make Bogus Excuses
If you want to remain trustworthy amongst friends and co-workers, you have to tell the truth when you flake out. Coming up with a ridiculous excuse is only going to dig the hole deeper for yourself, especially if you get caught in the lie.
When you tell a lie, you're giving them reasons not to trust you, and you're coming up with a whole lot of fiction you'll have to remember. Instead, just tell them the truth, no matter how stupid it sounds. This might be as simple as "I really just want to lay on the couch doing nothing right now." Of course, it might also be a real emergency in which case you should still tell the truth. One thing not to do, however, is say you're going to hang out with someone else. Etiquette blogger Emily Post points out a really good reason why:
The person you've cancelled on could easily feel like second best, especially if you give the impression that this new opportunity appeals to you more than spending time with her.
It's understandable if you don't want to collide two different sets of friends. Just make sure you do your best to keep it honest. Photo by Wonderlane.
Pitch A New Plan
If you're anything like me, then you've agreed to do something when you get caught up in the moment. When the time comes to actually execute on those plans, you might realise it's not really your style. You should just go ahead with them, but if you can't, then suggest a new plan. For instance, maybe you agreed to go to the amusement park, but when the planned day comes around, you remember that you hate amusement parks. Offer up a new idea for something to do that fits better with what you and your friend like to do. If that doesn't work, see if you can meet up with your friend afterwards.
Reschedule (Or Don't)
In a lot of cases, when you're backing out at the last moment, you have a legitimate excuse. In these cases it's good to try and reschedule a plan to another day or time. It's simple, but it's a good point to remember.
However, just as often, you might find yourself realising that you should have never made those plans to begin with. Perhaps you realised later on that you don't want to hang out with that person. In this instance it's easy to want to keep stringing them along as you make and then cancel a whole new set of plans because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. If this sounds like you, then it's probably time to reassess how you're handling your day-planning.
Psychology Today points out that it might be time to look at your behaviour:
Perhaps you have a bona fide conflict, or a bona fide stomach bug. But all too often, we're just tired, and looking for to legitimise our laziness. Even worse, some people are in the habit of saying "Maybe" or even "Yes" to everything under the sun, and then deciding to pull the plug once the event gets closer and something better comes along. Be honest with yourself: did you truly intend to go in the first place? If the answer is no, your behaviour needs modifying.
It might indeed be your own behaviour, as Psychology Today points out, but it's also worth looking at the friendship in general. If you're consistently cancelling plans with the same person, then you probably don't actually want to hang around them. Photo by Alfonso Surroca.
More Advice From You
I posed this question to you to see what types of creative methods or other suggestions people might have. The overwhelming response was to simply not cancel, but a few other suggestions crept up.
Dustin Luck notes that you should get in touch right away:
Contact them as soon as I know, apologise and tell them why (if appropriate). Attempt to reschedule if possible.
Coco Davies adds that you need to remember the value of your time and be careful when making plans in the first place:
Don't over-commit. Don't flake. Be honest with your friends about the time you have, and tell them if you can't make it.
Finally, when all else fails, Dale Satterly suggests the go-to white lie:
Two words: explosive diarrhoea.
The end goal is to not make plans you can't keep, but it's not always possible, and things are bound to come up. How about you? How do you flake out on plans and still keep your friends?