Whether you've made plans with someone, have to go to that work thing, or been invited somewhere and expected to show up, you sometimes just need a way out. Whatever it is, it's not always a bad thing to cancel plans. As much as you'd like to be perfect, you can't be, and sometimes you just need to give yourself a break and say no.
Photos by MsSaraKelly
Keep Your Commitments Loose
If you're dealing with something you already know you're not stoked about, try not to commit all the way to begin with. Hate the place your friends are meeting or know that night is the only night you'll get with your significant other all week? You've already made your decision. Give a response that has some wiggle room, like "I'll let you know" or "I have to check, but I'll get back to you." Now when you back out of your plans, the other party is bummed you can't make it, but not surprised or hurt.
Give A Lot Of Notice
If you've made the plans already, but decided you want out, act on it. Meg Malone at weblog Gurl suggests letting the other party know as soon as possible. It might seem like it's easier for you to wait until the last minute to cancel, but it's very rude and it wastes the other party's time. On top of that, if you give them enough time, whoever was expecting you can make other plans and reduce the chance that they will be upset with you.
Find A Good Scapegoat
It's a bad idea to lie or make up excuses, but if you really need a way out, there's nothing wrong with using what you got. Maybe your pet needs to be fed or you're taking care of someone else's. Maybe your significant other is demanding you spend time with them and tonight's the night you're going to finally surprise them. Or maybe you have the best scapegoat of all: kids. The kids come first, so they have to understand, right? Finding a good scapegoat not only gives the other party a forgivable reason for why you can't make it, but it also makes you seem more responsible. (Just make sure you don't blame your scapegoat too much, lest they start blaming them for stuff that isn't their fault.)
Be Selective With The Details You Give
Depending on the obligation, you may want to give out as few details as possible. You don't have to tell everyone what you're doing all the time. It's your time and if you feel like the other party doesn't need to know why you can't make it, then limit what you say. Sometimes real life issues come up that aren't for others to know. Explain that you're having a personal emergency, or express that you're dealing with some more pressing issues at the moment. Being honest is all well and good, but you only have to be as open as you want to be. If they respect you, they will respect your need for privacy.
Say You're Sick
This is an all-time classic. Everybody knows what it's like to be sick, so this is an easy way to get a pass. The more details the better, especially if they're gross. Anything that involves vomit, diarrhoea, mucus and the word "buildup" should do the trick. Another good way to approach it is simply saying you got food poisoning from "insert random fast food chain." Lying is never the best way to handle things, so keep the "I'm sick" button under the "break in emergency" glass in your brain's control room.
Be Apologetic And Sincere
Tell the other party that you're sorry and mean it. Even if it's something — or someone — you dislike, you should be sorry about backing out of something you were expected to go through with. Someone was counting on you in some way or another, so dig up as much remorse as you can for them. If you're lying about why you can't make it somewhere, being apologetic and sounding sincere will make it sound more believable. And even if they know you're lying, they will at least see that you cared enough to apologise to them. The words "I'm sorry" can go a long way.
Offer To Reschedule
After you've apologised for backing out, make some sort of effort to reschedule plans as soon as possible. If you got out of something you don't have any desire to do, you can be polite by showing some interest. Keep things open with phrases like, "Maybe we can reschedule sometime soon?" or "I'll get back to you when I have time to try again." Of course, if you do actually want to reschedule, it's even better.
Reassess Your Priorities
You only become a flake if you back out regularly. It's completely OK to do every once in a while as long as you don't make a habit of it. Everybody needs to recharge their batteries or spare some sanity on occasion, but if you find that you're constantly breaking plans or avoiding events, you may want to reassess your priorities. Stop making plans with people you don't want to hang out with. Only show up to events if you have to, and when you do, set yourself a time limit. You're most likely breaking plans because your plate is too full, and you just need to say "no" more.