How can I tactfully ignore people

The current rejection etiquette: How to tactfully cancel (private) invitations and commitments

Spare the host such a painful experience

Giving rejections is uncomfortable - it's not fun to give negative messages. In addition, the consequences are difficult to assess. It could be that the other person does not understand the rebuff and is angry.

However, not canceling is not a solution either: Anyone who does not keep an appointment or promise and transfers the other is not only rude, but also hurtful. The message is: I forgot you, you are not important. One is quickly seen as an unreliable and impolite person whom it is better not to invite or ask for a favor in the first place.

Faux pas: lack of help

It is unforgivable to forego a refusal if the other person is counting on your help or support and is confronted with serious problems as a result of your failure to appear. For example, if you promised to help move or look after the children for an important meeting. A lack of rejection deprives the other of the opportunity to organize help elsewhere and leaves him out in the rain.

Aims of a rejection

Giving notice is part of good form. The aim is to design the negative message in such a way that it is relevant to the person concerned

  • bearable,
  • understandable and
  • forgivable

is. If you take the tips in this rejection etiquette into account, the disappointment is only half as great.

Be sure to let the host know if you can't come, because that's the only way he can plan. He then knows, for example, that he has to set the table for fewer guests and that he needs fewer food and drinks. Or he can postpone his party or event if too many guests are unable to attend on the same day.

Actually, a brief piece of information should go without saying. Actually! However, everyday life shows that many invitees do not think about it and do not consider it important.

Also answer unsolicited

Let us know if you accept an invitation. Even if a message was not expressly asked for. They make planning easier for the host and prove to be a considerate, thoughtful guest. If it's a meeting or invitation in a small group, the invitee can always do something else after your cancellation, instead of waiting in vain for you and then fretting about the wasted time.

As strange as it may sound, your honest and timely rejection shows the host that he is important to you. You don't just ignore him, you at least take the time to give him proper information.

Avoid being worried about you

Especially if you are otherwise a very reliable person, you might worry if you just stay away without letting us know. Especially at parties and celebrations, the uncertainty about whether something bad could have happened tarnishes the mood and the joy. That doesn't have to be and you will probably be resented if it later turns out that you are awake and simply haven't thought about your date.


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Cancel even at regular meetings

If you cancel, please also think of the occasions when you have not received an express invitation or have made an express agreement, but you are expected to come as a matter of course, for example: the weekly bowling evening, the annual shooting festival, the club get-together or that next soccer tournament.

Here, too, you should let us know if, for once, you do not come. Then the others can adjust to your absence, do not worry unnecessarily and do not waste time waiting.

Exception: no cancellation of mass events

An exception to the acceptance and rejection requirement applies to mass events where you do not know the host personally and your absence is not noticed. An indication of this is an impersonal invitation without a manual signature that looks like a sales letter. Example: A new restaurant opens around the corner. All residents of the district are invited to the opening with a supporting program and discounted drinks. A rejection would be inappropriate here, because it is a purely promotional event in which the host is not at all about you personally.

But be careful: it looks different if your neighbor, whom you know personally, invites you to open his business. Even if it is a larger event, you should not do without a cancellation here. Appreciate the personal appreciation that your neighbor has shown you through his invitation.

The earlier you let us know, the better the host can adapt to it. If you don't get in touch when he's already waiting for you in the restaurant, it won't do him much good. If you are invited to a party or an event, a date is often given by which your acceptance or rejection is expected. It goes without saying that you will answer here as requested by this day.

If no response deadline is given

As a rule of thumb: inform the host at least one to one and a half weeks in advance whether you will be coming or not, if he has not specified an appointment. For special events such as weddings or christenings, it is better to get in touch earlier - ideally as soon as you know that you are prevented or do not want to come.

Practical tip: Get ahead of the host

You save the inviting person from asking if you cancel early. This gives you an advantage: it is much more uncomfortable to only reject the offer when explicitly asked than to cancel on your own initiative. Because: Of course, the other person will ask himself why you didn't say that right away and whether you might simply not have appeared without feedback.

A quick reaction is particularly important if others are confronted with tangible problems as a result of your rejection. You should definitely cancel here as soon as you know that you are prevented from attending. Three days before the appointment at the registry office, it is difficult to find a new best man. And if you call and cancel babysitting when your friend is already waiting for you at the front door for her interview, she will rightly find this anything but funny.

Inform the person inviting you about your situation even if there is still a very small chance that you might be able to come.

Example: They hope to be healthy again in time for the wedding. Leave it to the bride and groom to decide whether they take the risk and hope for a speedy recovery or whether they prefer to look for a replacement. At least it still has enough time to find another solution and doesn't feel let down by you.


Source: Fotolia © Monkey Business

Of course, you know that you collect sympathy points with sensitivity and a confident demeanor. But - did you also know

  • should you say hello when you meet your boss in the toilet?
  • how do you react in style if you make an embarrassing slip of the tongue in a meeting?
  • At which events are you expected to appear on time - and when is it more stylish to be a little late?
If you know these etiquette traps, you will be ahead of many of your colleagues: You will not only be considered personable, but also CAREER-FRIENDLY ... and you will have job opportunities that others will never see. Simply because you are confident about your company and your job.

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Avoid vague phrases such as “likely”, “maybe”, “possibly”, “it could be ...”. If you definitely won't come, say so too. This is the only way for the host to actually plan. On the other hand, if you remain vague and vague, the other person may get false hopes or feel put off.

Exception: In fact, you don't know until the end whether you can come or not. In this case, explain to the other person why you are not yet able to give a clear acceptance or rejection and ask whether it is okay for you to give notice at short notice or whether he would prefer to plan without you.

When you turn someone down, you always set a priority, to the detriment of the person who invites you: something is more important than him. So that the other person does not feel hurt, you need a comprehensible reason for your rejection that does not question the value that the other person has for you.

Are you allowed to lie?

Lies are never stylish, only use them in a dire need, for example to avoid offense. Stick to the following creed: Don't say everything that is true. But what you say should always be true.

Example: “I don't feel like it” may be honest. But it also shows the other person that they are of relatively little importance to you. Otherwise you would either want to do something with him or accept his invitation, or you would put your own interests aside for once.

If possible, point out other commitments

  • "I already have something else in mind."
  • "I don't have time that day."
  • "Unfortunately I'm prevented from doing that."

However, such vague formulations are also only a stopgap solution. Because they are often interpreted as what they usually are: as excuses and excuses.

Understandable reasons for rejection are:

  • vacation
  • illness
  • professional obligations
  • Obligations in the immediate family (family celebrations, caring for sick relatives, important parents' evenings, etc.)
  • Commitments and invitations that precede the current one and that you have already promised
  • Deaths
  • force majeure, for example black ice or a car breakdown (short-term)
Sample formulations
  • "I was in bed with a fever all week and I just don't feel fit enough for a longer hike."
  • "Unfortunately, I'm on vacation at this time."
  • "On this day I myself have guests whom I invited some time ago."
  • “Meiers invited us for the same day weeks ago. We have already made a firm commitment. "
  • "My father-in-law is celebrating his 75th."
  • "During the week I am in Bremen for work."
  • "I'm so busy at work right now that I can't take a day off."
  • "We are currently closed on vacation."
  • "Lisa has a performance in kindergarten that I, as a mother, would like to see."
  • "We currently have to work overtime and I always come home after 8:00 p.m."
  • "I can't find a babysitter."
  • "I have a terrible cold ... (and have to go to bed ... I don't want to get infected)."

Your reason should be all the more plausible and understandable,

  • the more important the event is in which you do not want or cannot take part,
  • the greater the unpleasant consequences of your cancellation and
  • the shorter you cancel.

If you have to cancel after you have been accepted

If you had already agreed before, only really valid reasons count, such as illnesses, deaths, important and unexpected work obligations and force majeure.

The inviting person showed you his special appreciation with his invitation. You are so important to him that he wants you to be there at his party or event. Show that you appreciate this award and say thank you for the invitation, even if you can't go.

The purpose of your rejection is to gain understanding for your absence. You can do this if the person concerned notices that the rejection was not easy for you. Show him that you are not indifferent to him. Do not leave it with the classic "I'm sorry", because this phrase is so often used as a phrase that you can no longer believe the real feeling behind it.

Sample formulations

Replace or supplement your "sorry" with a friendly and personal one
  • "I would have loved to come ..."
  • "I would have loved to do this friendship service to you ..."
  • "What a shame, it would have been so nice to see you again ..."
  • "I wish I could reschedule the appointment ..."
  • "If I had known that, I would have planned differently ..."
  • "I'm so angry that I can't just that day ..."
  • "I'm really sad that I can't come." Etc.


Modern business manners have nothing to do with being polite to other people or not. That is a matter of course.

Modern manners today mean: You know the order in which you greet guests of different origins and nations in style. How to deal confidently with your own mistakes and turn them into opportunities instead of defeats. Which clothing is appropriate for which occasion. How to communicate with different types of employees.

Knowing how to behave correctly when dealing with colleagues, superiors and national and international business partners is a real business and career factor:

Professional careers are often not only determined by personal skills, but also by social skills, style and charisma. “The great etiquette” provides you with the knowledge and know-how for this. Turnkey. Month after month, condensed and to the point, inside information from 20 years of personal experience in modern business etiquette, communication, international etiquette and career etiquette.

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