My friend, which is also my coworker, likes to organise events for his friends. He invites a lot of people, but always expects everyone to join him regardless of if they have already planned something for that day.

Since I'm one of his co-workers, but we work in different locations, he uses Skype to ask me. This is our conversation that started yesterday. We're Germans so the texts are loosely translated. (Edited to hide personal information)

Him: hey, want to go to the movie? I'm gathering some friends.

Me: maybe, what movie and when? :)

Him: To the new ***. Next Friday at 8. We might go for some food afterwards.

Me: ah, sorry man. Got something planned for then already.

Him: can't you reschedule that?

Me: nope, had it planned months before

About 2 hours later

Him: where would you like to get food after the movie?

Me: nowhere, I won't be there

Him: let me know if you change your mind

A bit later

Him: What do you think of **** restaurant?

Me: no idea, never been there

Him: here's the menu (URL). Choose something in advance so we can order ahead Friday.

Me: won't be necessary. I won't be there.

Next day, in the morning

Him: Don't forget to send in your order for Friday.

At this point I started ignoring him

Him: you'll be there right. I can count on you?

Me: I already promised others. I can't come with you guys and that won't change

Him: we're with 9 already. One more and we can get a discount.

Me: Don't expect me to help with that

Him: think a bit about it. I'll message you again.

I think I have made clear enough that I can't come and told him I was busy that night. Yet, he still doesn't seem to accept that as an answer. This happens every time he plans something, and I'm getting really tired of it.

How can I make clear to this person that I can't come and that he has to accept that?

  • 17
    This isn't an answer but might affect some other answers. Does he treat others the same way? Because if he does, he's being rude. On the other hand, if most people don't get this kind of treatment, it sounds more like harrassment. – Beska Sep 20 at 19:04
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    Is it possible that he's sending these messages in bulk, and simply hasn't taken you off the list? (group conversations are not the only option here - there are tools to send private messages to several people) – Flater Sep 21 at 7:33
  • This really feels incredibly odd for the German culture. I've a gut feeling, that there's room for an answer that bears that in mind, though personally I don't feel qualified enough to give such. – LLlAMnYP Sep 24 at 8:59

11 Answers 11

I have been told I tend to be a bit passive aggressive when dealing with those kinds of situations, but I like to mask it with a bit of humor. In your position I would reply something like:

我不会来

When he asks you what is that you can reply "I am not coming in Chinese, you don't seem to understand when I write it in German so I decided to try some other languages". Then you can proceed answering every other message about the meetup with the same phrase in a different language(yey, google translate) until he gives up.

Then as a joke you can message him in the language of your last message asking about something else as he apparently understood it the previous time.

Takes some time and effort on your part but you can both get a laugh out of it at the end of the day.

  • also distracts from working. I'd like to remind you this person is referring to a coworker at a workplace.... perhaps OP just wants to be able to work without being bothered by his/her colleagues being in his face all the time – user32882 Sep 25 at 13:03

He is not respecting you, so you can be quite blunt.

I recommend writing something along the lines of:

Hey, I feel quite disrespected being ignored. I told you my decision, multiple times, and it's final. I'd like to be there, but I've got other plans, please respect that. I'm going to ignore that topic now if you bring it up again.

or in German (freely translated):

Hi, ich fühle mich von dir ignoriert (alternativ "fühle mich verarscht", thanks @Iris). Ich hab dir genau gesagt, dass ich nicht kann, und dass sich das nicht ändert. Ich hab an dem Abend bereits etwas vor, bitte akzeptier das. Falls du das Thema jetzt wieder ansprichst werd ich dich einfach ignorieren(, sorry).

If he now writes back, just ignore him. Don't ignore him else, but if he speaks about that topic, don't respond. You've made your stance clear, he can't just say "I now assume you will be there..." from now on. If he does, it's not your fault, and you might want to rethink if he really is a "friend".

When you say no to other people, just say so without giving any further explanation because this leaves the door open for more discussion like it did in your case. It may sound rude and might make you hesitate to say, but it is fine. Just say no and don't give them any explanation.

However, this approach must be followed only when you're sure that the other person is not listening.

From this Our Everyday Life article,

Refuse to give an explanation. When you say "no," you may feel the need to add "because I'll be busy that morning" or some other explanation. This give the other person an opportunity to say, "Oh, but if you're not busy in the afternoon, you can do it then." You don't owe anyone a justification when you refuse a request, so don't open the door to further discussion and negotiation by giving one.

If they try to change your answer or get an explanation, just say (taken from the same article),

I said 'no,' and that means I won't be able to do it at all.

If you have already given an explanation, then say

I've already given my answer, so please respect it.

Be as pushy as they're being and keep saying no. This is their nature and they might be wanting you to be there.

Do you consider him a friend that you would like to keep or get rid off? If second, then you can apply the following strategy:

  • when he asks for the first time, politely say thank you but say you won't go/ do the activity
  • all further questions should be ignored, zero reaction from your side - you have already thanked him
  • if nothing improves after three exchanges like above, stop reacting in any way to the first attempt

You will probably feel bad initially but you should put your well being first in this case.

If on the other hand you want to keep him as a friend and go out perhaps only sometimes, you have to be way, way more diplomatic. In all above cases, you were starting explaining yourself ending up in multiple answers, but one answer per conversation and only if there is an explicit question, is fine. If your friend makes a remark that is not a question, ignore it.

Good luck!

  • 2
    Hmmm. This is pretty much exactly what I'd do regardless. Are you implying I'm driving away friends? :-) – T.E.D. Sep 20 at 15:49
  • I'm afraid ignoring people (especially coworkers) in this type of situation can have very bad consequences. Ignoring him could potentially really piss off this friend/coworker, to the point where it could severely jeopardize working relations. Some kinds of people (especially immature ones) don't get the message when you ignore them. They need to be chastized/firmly but kindly put back in their place....like children – user32882 Sep 26 at 13:47

Don't say anything. Just ignore him. The next time you talk to him, if he mentions something about you not going, you tell him that you already told him no. Don't forget that he can not force you to do something that you don't want to do.

With this kind of people you need to be blunt. A no with some excuses won't do it. You need to be energic like when you tell your dog "No, do not do that!".

EDIT: In my experience, these people are a bit selfcentered, they have a big ego and tend to see themselves as superior to you. They don't listen because, why would they? the know what's best for you, so your excuses are not good enough.

I've met people like that and, if I am honest, I could say that I've been like that a couple of times. A touch of attention is a good medicine.

It might be a bit harsh, but if he is truly your friend he'll get over it.

  • 1
    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? We require that answers provide some sort of backup, such as personal experience or an external source, for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Arwen Undómiel Sep 22 at 17:32
  • @ArwenUndómiel You are welcome! Thanks for being more insterest in my answer and the request. I don't see you asking other people with comments similar to mine to provide some backup but I don't mind offer some more insight. :) – potato Sep 22 at 20:28
  • You can read this meta post to learn more about what we expect from answers here. Why are you telling OP to try this - have you done this in the past in some situation and it was successful, or did you read about this technique somewhere, or some other reason? BTW, if you see other answers that don't give some references or explanation feel free to flag them as "not an answer" as well, it may be that others simply haven't noticed that yet. Thanks! – Em C Sep 22 at 20:48
  • @EmC. Thanks for the link. I'll take a look at it in order to provide better answers. Then again, I don't see any other answer in this post providing the information that you request – potato Sep 22 at 20:52

Are you close with that person? Are you good friends or is he just someone you met once and don't want to associate with?

Maybe he IS pushy and thinks you're just making up an excuse to not go, but he really enjoys your company, so he keeps trying. Then:

  1. You like his company in general, but not this particular instance - you should make your excuse more believable. Add a couple details to why you can't go. Suggest going some other time.

  2. You want nothing to do with him. - Then keeping good relationship is pointless and nigh impossible. Just be as rude as you need to to decline.

Maybe that is just how he is. He doesn't mean anything by it, he's just being social. Maybe he doesn't think, that sending a couple texts a day to a friend (and you're friends, right?) is such a big issue, so he doesn't really expect anything besides what you reply with.

  1. Ask around, is he always that talkative? If so it's your call - Changing people is hard, so if you want to keep your relationship with him, I suggest you treat his subsequent invitations as jokes. Reply lightheartedly, since oftentimes all the other side wants is a reply. They're just checking if you're still on the other end of the line.

I've had all kinds of friends in my life, some are quite peculiar. For example one was really keen of making and receiving birthday presents. He would always find out everyone's birthday and give them some small present (but not just junk, good stuff), however if you miss his birthday he'd start hanging out around you more and more until at some point he'd remind you of his birthday and appropriate some of your belongings after asking for it as a present, mostly a pen or a cactus or something very insignificant. From my point of view it was pure madness, but it was ultimately not malicious and just his way of keeping in touch.

There're all kinds of people and worldviews. Oftentimes these worldviews collide, not because they are hostile to each other, but because they are different. In that case you just need to try to get a glimpse of that other worldview and act from there.

Sounds like he is hassling you because he really wants this group discount. You could also solve his problem by either suggesting someone else to invite, or advising to poll the other members if they know someone.

But really, you shouldn't have to do that. Respond very courtly:

Sorry, 100% not coming, maybe next time!

And then do not reply to that question again. (Feel free to reply to unrelated things though)

You need to bypass skype and talk in person. This is exactly the kind of situation where your friend is using social media (skype) to act in ways which would be difficult if you were talking face to face.

If this is still relevant, I would walk up to this person face to face and state the following:

Hey there, I saw your messages on skype regarding the outing you are planning next Friday at 9. Thanks for the invite, I really appreciate you inviting me. But I wanted to let you know that I will not be able to come because I have other plans. Perhaps another time. Thanks!

Place big emphasis and stress on the not so that they understand that its a no. If they persist with questions, like what do you have planned instead of the outing, make sure you do notsay, since this is not their business. Respond instead by diverting the conversation:

Them: But why can't you come?

You: I have other plans

Them: But what other plans? Can't you tell me? Am I not your friend?

You: So anyway, again really thank you for inviting me and sorry I can't come. I will see you another time!

If the questioning persists after this face-to-face contact, such as them asking you again why you can't come and what are your other plans, you have now reached the realm of harrassment. This individual is now harassing you and you have to take it to the next level. Another face to face contact (lets say their name is Frank). This has to be done in private, and in a cool, collected manner. You cannot and should not get angry/emotional during the following exchange. Stay in control. You need to have a firm tone that shows them there might be negative consequences if they are not careful with you:

You: Listen, Frank, I noticed that you are very persistent about inviting me to these outings. I also noticed that you like to ignore me when I say no, and ask me about my private plans in evenings and weekends? Could you please explain why you do this?

Them: Well you know I just like to make sure you are having fun on evenings and that you are not getting bored.

You: Right, I don't want to be rude, but I don't need you to babysit me. What I do on evenings and weekends is up to me. I appreciate you trying to look out for me but it has gotten to the point where I am quite annoyed by this behavior. I want us to be good coworkers who respect each other's private business. Would it be possible for you to stop this behavior?

At this point they will probably realize that you mean business and they will either apologize or agree to stop. If they do not stop, or otherwise come up with some immature/mind-bending excuse why they think they should continue the behavior, it means that they enjoy harrassing you, which could eventually take a toll on your productivity at work. That would be a good time to escalate this to HR or your manager. It is better to avoid this, however. Start with the above two steps and most likely they will stop.

I think what is happening is that by responding you give him the impression that you are still responsive and could perhaps be persuaded eventually. You said that you started ignoring him at some point, but you did not. I think that right after "Him: let me know if you change your mind" you should have simply said:

No means no.

And delete every subsequent message from him about that matter.

Sometimes, you must put your foot firmly down and follow right through if you want others to take you seriously, otherwise some of them will always treat you as a footstool that can be pushed around.

You have to tell this guy his behavior is stupid. Rather than saying abruptly, use humor to make him understand he acts stupidly. This is an alternative to Ontamu's answer:

Him: Don't forget to order your meal.

You: By the way I have an important question for you...

Him: Yes ?

You: In the sentence "I already promised others. I can't come with you guys and that won't change" - what is the word that you don't understand ? I will be glad to help.

  • Your last paragraph sounds a bit passive aggressive for me – undefined Sep 24 at 10:12
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    Sorry, which part of this is humorous? – David Richerby Sep 24 at 15:33

Sometimes, there is no substitute for directness. I once got a phone call from an acquaintance - I really couldn't call him a friend, then or now - from the book club where we were both members. He asked me if I was going to a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society that evening and, if so, could he have a ride with me. The meeting was a two hour drive away - longer by train or bus - on a bitterly cold winter day and I was not a member of the Society nor had I ever attended a meeting of the Society in the past. In short, he had absolutely no reason to believe that I was attending this meeting. When I said that I had other plans, he implied that I was leaving him in the lurch and asked how he was supposed to get to the meeting. In as neutral a tone as I could manage, I suggested taking a train or bus. I did NOT tell him off or take him to task for his effrontery in asking/demanding that I give up my evening to chauffeur him to an event in another city on very short notice, although I was tempted. (I should mention that he made no offer to pay for my gas or buy me a meal even though this trip would have taken at least six hours counting travel time and the duration of the meeting.) He never asked me for another ride again ;-)

The same individual gave me grief on another occasion. He was supposed to present the topic for the monthly meeting of our club that month and either the day before or the day of the event, he emailed me asked me to print 14 copies of a document that was already present on our wiki, just in case some people hadn't seen the wiki. (He said his own printer wasn't working.) He made no offer to repay me for the ink in my inkjet cartridges so I assume I was just supposed to donate this. I had no intention of absorbing that cost simply because he demanded it. I offered a compromise: I'd print ONE copy of the document, give it to him just before the meeting, and he could copy it (at HIS expense) on the photocopiers at the library where our meeting was taking place. I arrived about five minutes later than we'd planned due to circumstances beyond my control and then spent several minutes trying to find him, which I eventually did. He was furious with me for not meeting me where he thought we were meeting - we'd agreed to meet at the entrance to the library and he assumed I'd meant the outer entrance but I'd meant the inner entrance - even though you could see one entrance from the other. As for the document I'd printed, he didn't need it because he'd explained what he wanted to a librarian who helped him print it from the wiki. He did not so much as thank me for printing a single copy of the document as promised or coming early to help him out.

Following this event, I avoiding talking to him entirely beyond bare greetings and he no longer attempted to put any demands on me. Eventually, he stopped coming to the club altogether.

Of course this is a different situation than yours but nonetheless, I think just saying no a few times is enough. If your "friend" persists in not taking "no" for an answer, just ignore him and if he admonishes you for not coming, remind him that you said no. Unless he is completely dim, he will eventually understand that when you say no, you mean it and it is pointless to keep asking you. Naturally, if you want to accept a later invitation (assuming you get another), you should feel free to go. If you actually like this person or the other people he meets with and you are available, don't be afraid to go if invited. "No, I can't make it this time" is NOT the same as "No, and don't ever ask me again" :-)

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