How To Cancel Plans Like An Adult

Be a grown-up about it

The time has come to accept the inevitable: you’re growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let’s face it, as cool) as the ones in our new Adultify series. Now, you won’t ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term “adulting” when you accomplish something, like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you’ll know these truths to be self-evident.

Canceling plans is a whirlwind of emotions. On the one hand, you've just given yourself a certain amount of free time. On the other, you've probably just spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out a way to get out of whatever it was without offending the host. That's a lot of energy dedicated to something any real adult knows should be a piece of cake if you were just honest upfront. 

But, hey, we get it. Canceling plans is tricky, and with Facebook, Google Cal, and more digital invites being thrown our way daily, it's easy to feel popular and stretched too thin. It's also completely valid if you truly just want to not go to something. The key is to own your feelings and actions. To help you get there, we spoke with etiquette experts. Ahead, the eight absolutes of canceling plans. Happy adulting.

Don't Overbook

"Think quality over quantity," says lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann. "That's the cue we should follow, and think about which event your presence is best served." Accepting two invites is fine; three gets tricky. Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, stresses the importance of becoming comfortable with saying "no." If you absolutely have to go to both, Gottsman adds that being proactive and letting the host know to not count on you, for say dinner, is the most respectful thing you can do. "It’s not canceling," she says. "You just have to let the person know you’re going to be juggling two things."

Don't Skip An Event For Another, Better One

"If you already have an RSVP and something better comes up, you can’t cancel," Gottsman says. "That’s what a good adult does."

Do Give As Much Notice As Possible

"The moment you find out you're not able to attend an event, especially if it's last minute, make sure to let the host know," Swann says. "If you can do so the day before, that's great because that gives the host more opportunity to make any adjustments."

Do Consider How You're Going To Cancel

Last-minute cancellations are fine to make via text. "You can shoot an email the day before," Swann says. "The key here is to use one of my three more values: respect, honesty, and consideration. That third one is just letting the host know," she adds. As long as you make the host aware that you won't be making it, that's the best thing you can do. They'll read the message at some point and, hopefully, understand.

Do Tell The Truth

There's a difference between saying the truth but not giving everything away and straight-up lying. Swann says to "be very succinct with your explanation so that way you don’t get yourself caught up in a whole bunch of stuff, because if you cancel on one event because you’re having too much fun at another, you don’t want to be in the back of someone else’s shot that they shared on social media." Gottsman echoes that saying, "If you tell a little lie, just know your picture is going to be posted from someone else’s party."

Do Offer To Reschedule

If you can't make the event and you truly want to make time for the host, offer to reschedule. Gottsman suggests saying something like, "I can’t do this, but I’d love to get together with you in a couple of weeks for lunch." Similarly, Swann says to "pick a time that works best for you both and turn it into something special." There are times when you truly just don't want to go to the event or reschedule—and that's fine!—you do still have to be polite and respectful. Own whatever reason you have, even it's a simple "I'm not going to be able to attend," as Swann says. Don't offer any empty promises, either. Swann suggests ending a cancellation with an "I hope you have a great time and that this isn't too much of an inconvenience for you."

Don't Ghost

According to Swann, Gottsman, and every decent human being, this should be a given.

Do Commit To Your Commitments

Gottsman cannot stress enough the importance of saying no. "We do need to uphold our commitment unless it's an emergency," she says. "We do need to be engaged once we're at the event." Part of being an adult is committing and if you can't do that, then don't. It's best to be honest upfront.