If there’s one thing we can count on in this crazy world, it’s meaningful relationships with other people. And if there’s another thing, it’s that sometimes we’re going to want to choose a Law & Order marathon over any of them. But nobody likes a flake. Here’s the graceful, polite way to cancel plans.

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cancel plans notebook
New Line Cinema

Give as Much Notice as Possible
This is by far the biggest thing you can do to alleviate any damage. Remember that the other person has blocked out time for you (and maybe even passed on other plans). We know, it’s easy to put off sending that text, but a couple of hours could be the difference between no harm done and ruining someone’s night.

Avoid Lying
This is where the earlier notice comes in. The longer you wait, the more outlandish an excuse you’ll be tempted to use (“I was walking out the door and my dishwasher exploded!”). Trust us, you don’t want to have to maintain a big lie for the entire duration of your friendship. Just be honest and tell them you’re not feeling up to it—or if you must lie, keep it simple and just say you’re feeling under the weather.

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XL Recordings

Take Responsibility for the Inconvenience
If the activity is something that required significant advance planning—or a paid ticket—the worst thing you can do is leave the other person to figure it out. Try to find a mutual friend who might want to take your spot, and be prepared to eat the cost if no one comes through.

Take a Rain Check
If you genuinely do want to see the other person (or people) another time, offer to reschedule on the spot: It shows that your bailing isn’t a reflection of how much (or little) you value them. But be sure you really want to before you make the offer—because a secondary cancellation is rarely forgiven as readily as the first.

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Paramount Pictures

Minimize Future Flaking
Look, it’s totally human to sometimes need to bail. But if it’s happening regularly, your subconscious is clearly trying to tell you something. Maybe you’re overbooking and feeling burned out, or you feel like social obligations are getting in the way of your job or home life. Either way, there’s no shame in turning down an invitation from the get-go.

Return the Favor
The next time a friend cancels on you—and they will—be understanding about it. You never know when you’ll be the one glued to your couch.

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