Self Improvement

Do These 4 Things When You’re Cancelling Plans

posted on October 20, 2019 | by Sanhita Mukherjee

Do These 4 Things When You’re Cancelling Plans

We’re in the last quarter of the year and that means the holiday season is upon us. We’ve got family to meet and shopping to do. We’ve got vacations to book, homes to decorate and friends to catch up with as they fly into town. And if you’re like me, you also want to swap out your cold brew for steaming coffee and enjoy some cozy downtime with a huge stack of books.

And then it happens. With so much going on, we realize we’ve double booked ourselves. Or we are so worn out from doing it all, that we cannot face another day of going out and socializing. As an introvert, I find it extremely awkward to have that conversation where I tell a friend that I cannot meet them after all — but sometimes, it must be done.

Now, I feel like an old-timey finishing school teacher (Cross your legs at the ankles! Chew like you have a secret!) handing out etiquette tips, but here’s something I feel like we can all use around this time of the year. Here are a few things to do when you need to cancel plans with friends.

Cancel early

Ever felt so awkward/guilty about canceling plans that you put off doing it until the last minute? While dreading this task is certainly normal, you’re not doing your friend any favors by waiting so long. That’s especially true this time of the year when your friend is super busy too and may have declined other plans because she thought she was meeting you. Give her a heads up, as soon as you realize you might not be able to make it — don’t wait till she is already on her way to meet you!

Canceling early is doubly important when you are bailing on someone who was hosting you. Holiday parties and dinners can be pretty fancy affairs, so your friend may be going to a lot of trouble buying expensive food or spending time cooking for you. Don’t let her go through that if you know you’re going to cancel — the sooner you let her know, the better.


This might seem super obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. There’s nothing more annoying than being canceled on, with a flaky “Oh lol — I forgot, I’m the worst”. A cavalier attitude like this indicates that you do not respect the other person’s time.

So if you are canceling on a friend, let them know the reason why, and apologize — even if you are cancelling for something that you cannot help. (You’re not apologizing for your circumstance — you’re apologizing for bailing on them.) If your plan involved a movie or a concert, here’s where you do the right thing and offer to pay them back for any tickets or passes they may have bought for you.

Make a new plan

Sometimes, when you’ve had a long, stressful week, you just need to go home and watch endless reruns of Brooklyn Nine-Nine while devouring a whole pizza by yourself. And a good friend is unlikely to hold that against you. But when you’re the one backing out of a long-standing plan, rescheduling is your responsibility. Suggest an alternative date and place when you can meet. Doing so shows your friend that you genuinely want to hang out, but just couldn’t make it this time.

Do keep both your schedules in mind when you figure out a new plan. If going for that 6am Zumba class together is just not working out because you’re a late riser, maybe suggest something a little more realistic — like a brunch. Likewise, if you know your friend usually works late, don’t suggest a happy hour catch-up, and consider your job done. Figure out when you’re both free and work out a real plan if you genuinely want to hang out.

Don’t take them for granted

You cancel on your friend because you’ve got to catch up on work. You reschedule again because you got to know of a great networking event that you want to attend. You cancel a third time because your partner planned a date night.

Look, I get it — you’re busy, and what with work, relationships, responsibilities, and festivities, you’ve got a lot going on. And while it is good, to be honest with your friend when you need to take a rain check, nobody likes hearing that you cannot meet them because something better came up. So if you keep putting everything ahead of your friend, don’t be surprised when they start pulling away and are no longer available when you need them.

Find a way to prioritize the friendship. Make new plans where you involve them in some of the new things going on in your life. Maybe you could invite them to join you on that networking event, or introduce them to your partner so you can hang out as a group sometimes. This way, you enjoy the best of both worlds without making your friend feel taken for granted.

Anything to add to our list?