You've been here who-knows-how-many times before:
Someone invites you to something—a dinner, drinks, a hangout at their place, a show or a movie or a party where you have to buy stuff—and you think to yourself, "There is literally nothing in the world I want to go to less."
But what does your mouth say?
"Yeah, I'll be there." And now you're stuck going to this thing you have no desire to go to.
OR you run through a list of excuses:
"Uhh...I have a ton of work to get done."
"I've been feeling kinda sick."
"My wife/my kid/my dog needs me."
If you're prepared, like Ryan Howard from The Office, you have a pre-loaded list of excuses: "doctor appointment, car trouble, plantar warts, granddad fought in World War II."
It seems to work because you do indeed get out of the thing you didn't want to do. The problem with your excuses, though, is that most people know you're giving them excuses. It's not too hard to figure out. And the more excuses you use, the more apparent it becomes to people that you're being less than honest.
So you have a dilemma on your hands: agree to go to something you don't want to do, or make up an excuse that we're not buying.
What if there was a better way? How about this simple solution:
Say you're not going. If asked why, be honest.
Most of the time when someone asks me if I want to do something I don't want to (or legitimately can't) do, I say, "I'm out." You know what I've found? Most of the time, nobody interrogates me. They just leave it there. The more I use that strategy, the more people simply accept my "no" as a "no."
And if they do ask why I'm not going? I'm honest: "I really just want to spend the night at home and get some rest," or "That's not really my thing or my scene." Almost everyone accepts an answer like that, too.
The tiny, negligible amount of people who've ever given me a hard time when I decline an invite? I'm comfortable enough in my own skin to hold fast to my boundaries. If they don't want to accept that, I don't need to be spending much time with them anyway.
Flip the situation: anytime someone's given me an excuse as to why they can't be at something, I always think, "Just tell me you don't want to go. That's totally fine." I'd rather have someone tell me they'd rather be at home than to give me some unbelievable story or excuse. (Literally—you can't expect me to believe this, do you?) It's not a good look. Be straight with me; it's okay.
The greatest thing I've found about just saying "no," or just being honest about why I'm not going to do this thing I don't want to do is that it sets me free.
I don't have to think of excuses. I don't have to make the story sound believable. I don't have to worry about someone finding out that I didn't actually need to go to the doctor. I don't have to pretend about anything. I let my yes be a yes, my no be a no, and I get to just be me. People ultimately appreciate authenticity over being fake. They know that what they see is what they get.
Best of all—I'm free to not be stuck doing some stupid thing I never wanted to be doing in the first place. Winning.
At the end of the day, we all prefer authenticity and honesty over obligation and fabrication.
Don't be afraid to just say no. It's fine. Really.