Recently, a friend invited me to an event that was important to her.

I said "I have an appointment." but worry I may have blown her off. I didn't want to go into specifics - the appointment was for beauty (nails, etc).

This is more important to me than going to her event. But if I'm forthcoming about the type of appointment she may think it's trivial compared to the event she was inviting me to. And I didn't want to instigate a longer conversation about my priorities.

In the future, how can I say something like "I have a prior commitment" or "I've had a long-standing appointment; sorry I can't make it" without sounding passive-aggressive or rude or overly formal?

  • 1
    do you mean she asked for details the previous time you gave her this one liner? if not, you can keep doing the very same thing and that's that.
    – J A
    May 7, 2018 at 19:52
  • What sort of event did she invite you to? (The socially acceptable amount for how much explanation is expected varies depending on how important it is to your friend) grab lunch while i'm in town vs~ lets all go watch a movie tonight vs~ a get together they have been planning for a while vs~ wedding
    – Jesse
    May 8, 2018 at 4:00

2 Answers 2


You've answered your own question. The responses you've suggested are all polite and to-the-point. There's nothing rude or passive-aggressive about them.

If you're still concerned that such a response might be too short or insincere, then you could follow up by offering to meet for another event. For example:

I have an appointment for that day, so I can't make it. How about we make plans for another day?

This will communicate that you enjoy your friend's company, even though you are unable to meet for the specific event she suggested.


This is a situation we all face. What are our priorities compared to other peoples.

A funeral takes priority over most things, or a family emergency that must have direct attention.

People unfortunately lie about their commitments, and their priorities, so there is always a risk if you say you are busy it being miss-understood.

If one wants to emphasis the desire to go to the event but circumstances force things otherwise, one can say, "Unfortunately I am tied in to a commitment I cannot break or postpone, but can we do it a week later?"

This shows ones commitment, and desire to meet halfway, even if you know it cannot be moved you are showing willing.

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