It’s totally reasonable to say No, clearly and directly, to an invitation to something you don’t want to do, but it’s not often done out of the fear of hurting the inviter’s feelings. For example, a guy I knew from work once asked me to coffee after he had quit. I had no interest in going with him, but I also wasn’t feeling ill, that busy, or out of town. I couldn’t find a polite way to say no, so I caved in and went. Long story short, acquiescing to this hangout distorted my schedule for the rest of the day—having to squeeze in lunch during writing time, writing time useless because you can’t write when there’s Chipotle in front of you, no time to head to the gym in order to compensate. All told, my inability to say No essentially threw off my schedule for the entire day.
I do practice saying No now—to friends or close family members who I know won’t get their feelings hurt from it — but for the most part conventional society hasn’t reached the level where we can say this directly without feeling afraid. Some strong, enlightened people can, but most can’t or don’t.
In the meantime, until we can all say No, we resort to excuses, or dodging schemes. Below is an analysis along with a ranking system of the top ten excuses out there.
The way I gauge the success of the excuse is based upon three things: The first is the degree to which you imagine this excuse suppresses any suspicion about its truth—or how well your reason is accepted as genuine. The second need is to measure how well it sends the message of you not being able to come. For example, if you say something like ‘I’m busy,’ your bud might say: ‘so what? So is everyone else,’ and you might not be let off the hook. Thirdly, I take originality and innovation into account, because, I don’t know, I value originality.
10. “I have finals.”
Not only does this excuse not get the job done, it just makes you a little lame. Why are you still taking finals? Finals were from high school. Do you have prom coming up next week, too?
Sorry to all my buddies out there in grad school–you know what, I’m just going to stop talking here, shout out to all the future lawyers and doctors out there.
9. “I’m tired”
It may very well be true. It probably is, because everyone I know can say that they’re tired with some relative truth at any point of the day, but it’s also not very convincing. Odds are you’re going to have to fight for your right to be left alone.
8. “A little Under the weather’ / ‘not feeling well’
Not feeling well is probably the most classic excuse in the modern world. But not only does it not fully alleviate suspicion, it’s just plain overused and unoriginal. Dropping this line does not reflect the sort of execution that gets it done, week in and week out.
You can always post an Instagram of you watching Netflix on a Saturday night to prove that you’re sick: #snuggles #sick #advil – but at that point the guise goes too far.
7. “This Week is Nuts, but let’s shoot for next week.”
Perhaps one of the more sheepish ways to dislodge oneself from a plan of no intrigue, millennials can’t deny that it seems to work well. By not denying plans outright, but rather simply delaying them for the week and hoping they don’t recur, the one who uses this line is generally perceived more as a victim to circumstance than a culprit of flakiness. Pretty solid move.
6. “Going to be out of town.”
Exercise with caution. In the off chance that you bump in to whoever you said this to, you can forget about retaining this relationship.
5. The Blatant Ignore
The blatant ignore is one of the more brutal ways to respond to somebody, but maybe it’s exactly that sort of direct and straightforward message needed to balance relationships in modern times. Text-ignorers can get a lot of heat these days, but I contend that it’s a fairly reasonable way of dealing with this.
4. “Have to take my housekeeper to the bus stop, and she needs a ride because I also have to be somewhere later and also my foot hurts, I felt like this before but a long time ago, probably in high school, and also a headache, it really hurts, and also my sister is sick and she needs my help.”
Sometimes a great move is to just throw really random yet specific explanations at your adversary. The depths of your details and explanations serve as deflators to any suspicion about what you have to do. What I like to do is say that I have to take my housekeeper somewhere, and merge that fact with some other, extraneous specifics. at that point, they’re pretty confused, and they’ll be happy to just end the conversation, anyway.
3. “I’m depressed.”
There was actually this dude I met at Peet’s Coffee who started telling me he was starting a new band. I told him I’d practice with him, but long story short, I quickly realized it wouldn’t be a good idea to spend time with this guy. When he asked to spend time and work together, I resorted to the most truthful thing.
‘Hey man –can you meet up this Tuesday to work a little?’
‘I’m actually depressed.’
Almost immediately, the dynamic shifted, and he was the one offering apologies to me.
2.” Unfortunately, I can’t make it. I have conflicting plans.”
I think this is maybe the best excuse out there, because it’s both effective and honest. In addition, it’s more of an open-ended reason, rather than an explanation, so there’s not much for the recipient to question—odds are you do have conflicting plans, because everything you do is technically a plan.
1. “I’m hanging out with my mom”
Saying you have to spend time with your mom is one of the most reliable ways of getting out of something you don’t want to do. For one thing, it makes you look like a good person, and if the person on the other end seems to challenge the truth of this claim, well, shame on them. What kind of monster would seek to separate a friend from their mom?