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10 Diplomatic Phrases for Saying “No” this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it a whirlwind of festive activities, gatherings, and requests for our time and energy. While the desire to spread joy and participate in every celebration is strong, it’s essential to learn the delicate art of gracefully saying “no” when necessary. Mastering diplomatic phrases can help you navigate the season with kindness and maintain a healthy balance. In this week’s “Ten-to-Win,” Kim shares ten phrases to elegantly decline invitations or requests without compromising relationships:

  • “I appreciate the invitation, but unfortunately, I already have plans for that date.” Starting with gratitude sets a positive tone, and explaining a prior commitment helps convey that your decision is not a reflection of the event’s significance.
  • “I would love to join, but I have a prior engagement. Can we plan something for another time? “Expressing enthusiasm while proposing an alternative reinforces your desire to connect and shows that your current schedule is the only obstacle.
  • “Thank you for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I have a commitment that evening, but I hope you have a fantastic event.” Expressing gratitude and extending good wishes allows you to decline gracefully while maintaining a positive connection with the person extending the invitation.
  • “I’m honored you asked, but I’ve got a full plate at the moment. Let’s catch up after the holiday rush!”Acknowledging the honor of the invitation and attributing your declination to a busy schedule helps set a context for your decision.
  • “I’ve had a hectic week, and I’m taking some time to rest this weekend. I appreciate your understanding.”Sharing the need for self-care during the holiday rush emphasizes the importance of personal well-being, and most people will respect your decision to prioritize rest.
  • “I wish I could attend, but I have a family commitment that day. Let’s plan something for the following week?” Highlighting family commitments underscores your priorities while expressing interest in rescheduling for a less busy time.
  • “Thank you for including me, but I’ve got a work deadline to meet. I hope you understand.” Tying your decline to work commitments helps communicate that it’s not a personal choice but a professional necessity.
  • “I appreciate your invitation, but I’m taking some downtime this holiday season. Wishing you a wonderful event!” Emphasizing the need for personal downtime conveys that your decision is about self-care rather than a lack of interest in the event.
  • “I regretfully can’t make it due to a prior engagement. I hope you have a fantastic time, and we can catch up soon.” Expressing regret softens the decline, and the hope for a future catch-up leaves the door open for continued connection.
  • “I’m touched by the invitation, but I’ve reached my capacity for commitments this season. Thank you for your understanding.” Communicating your limitations and expressing gratitude for the invitation ensures that your decline is understood as a matter of practicality rather than preference.

Remember, saying “no” with diplomacy is about preserving your well-being and maintaining authenticity in your relationships. By choosing your words carefully, you can gracefully navigate the holiday season, fostering understanding and connection even when declining invitations.

This holiday season, let these diplomatic phrases be your guide to maintaining balance and spreading joy in a way that aligns with your well-being.

Kim Anthony-Morrow is an ICF-Certified Coach and Founding Director of the International Coach Federation-accredited Urban Excellence Coach Academy. She brings more than 35 years of experience in the personal growth and development industry, more than 2,500 hours of direct coaching experience, and speaks on adapting transformational training, coaching and methodologies to uplift and empower socioeconomically-challenged communities. For more information visit UrbanExcellence.net.



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