How Do You Gracefully Get Out of Plans? (When You’re Overbooked or Just Really Don’t Want to Go)

How Do You Gracefully Get Out of Plans? (When You’re Overbooked or Just Really Don’t Want to Go)

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Julia Brenner
Nov 29, 2016
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Ever get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach at the realization that you have plans when you just wanted to snuggle up on the couch for the evening? Or because you accidentally double booked for the same night and you don't want to let people down? Or because you found out a certain person you don't want to see is now in the mix and you no longer want to go? Yep, yes, and yessir. So let's figure out what to do in these situations without feeling like we're the worst.

As your resident shy introvert who also likes being extroverted, I'm a veritable treasure trove of mixed emotions when it comes to socializing.

This is my brain on plans:

  1. Strong out of the gate with my "yes!" because I really do like people and socializing... just, um, not all the time.
  2. Very soon after my gung-ho "sounds great!" I get a little anxious.
  3. Once the anxiety wanes, a feeling of mild dread set in.
  4. I second guess my original decision to say "yes."
  5. I feel bad about second guessing my original decision because, c'mon, you like people and like socializing, remember?!
  6. I look at my cat. He looks at me and meows. I interpret his meow to mean, "Why do you make everything so complicated?"
(Image credit: Erin Galvin)

These days I most often wind up following through with plans (and also being glad that I did). But sometimes I need to bow out, and in those situations I've found these tactics to be the gentlest ways to cancel:

Honesty is the best policy, but with this caveat: keep it vague if you need to.

If you really are working late, having car issues, or whatever the unforeseen issue is, most often people will be very understanding, but if you just don't want to go, resist using white lies as excuses, especially with friends. White lies can lead to a whole mess of other problems and I've found an equally gentle way to excuse myself is to say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not feeling well and I'd make terrible company tonight." Not feeling well can mean any number of things and I like to give others the benefit of the doubt that they'll understand, as long as I cancel in a timely way, which brings me to Step 2...

Cancel ASAP.

If the part of yourself that doesn't want to go is winning the should I-shouldn't I battle, then let others know right away. People are usually cool if you cancel a few days up to a few hours before, but there's nothing worse than canceling on someone who is actively waiting for you.

Try and reschedule right away or offer to treat next time.

If you've accidentally double booked two sets of plans for the same time and need to cancel one, as a show of goodwill, offer to treat next time. Also try and reschedule in the same conversation, something like, "I just realized I have a work event tonight so I can't meet you for drinks but let's get something down for next week." Try and seal the deal or else the rescheduling can turn into a Shouts & Murmurs bit.

Now... for your tips!

Ok seasoned introverts and double-bookers: Here's your chance to help out your Internet pals by passing along any tactics you have to gracefully get out of plans. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

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