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Situation:

I am invited to various functions by someone I see regularly (peers, coworkers, friends of friends). When I reject their invitations they will continue to invite me to things even if I specifically say I do not like hanging out with people. Eventually, they will stop, but that is only after 3-5 invites.

It doesn't work well socially to reject someone that many times. It's annoying, because I usually talk to these people regularly and have built a rapport with them, so I know it sends mixed signals, but I just do not enjoy hanging out with others in my free time.

Attempted Solutions:

I have tried being honest with people:

I do not enjoy socializing outside of school or work.

This is the truth, but just ends up offending others and obviously makes me sound weird.

Besides being honest, I know I could make up an excuse like:

I am really busy so I usually don't have much free time to socialize.

But that is dishonest and not very believable.


So, I am stuck either creating animosity/tension between myself and the people I see every day or going to events I do not like going to.

How could I reject all future invitations, but maintain a positive rapport with someone?

Questions I have looked at:

These are some questions that I have looked at:

But unfortunately, they do not work for this particular situation. I want to reject all future invitations. Rejecting one or two invitations in a polite way is easy, but after the 4-5th time it creates tension and annoyance, which is what I want to avoid.

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Here's the thing: you want to convey the message:

I will never, under any circumstances, even if I have nothing else to do, want to hang out, socialize, go to a meal or attend an event with you. Never. Stop asking, the answer will always be no.

This is actually:

We are not friends.

After all, friends do those things. These people have spent time with you at work or school, and enjoyed your company, and want some more of it. You are not willing to provide that. That's your choice. You don't have to be friends with people. I have had plenty of jobs (and some school situations) where I was not friends with those people though we got along fine while working.

There really isn't a polite way to say "I don't want to be friends with you." You can lessen it somewhat by saying "I don't want to be friends with anyone" which is on the weird side, but at least isn't personal.

So I recommend working on a short sentence that starts "I don't" such as "I don't socialize outside of work, actually" or "I reserve all my free time for my hobbies." Note -- do not say "I don't enjoy socializing" -- that is not the same as "I don't socialize" and invites argument and persuasion attempts. Also note that your hobbies may include watching tv alone or sitting staring out a window, so you are not lying when you say that you wish to devote your limited free time to your hobbies rather than these invitations. (People may ask "oooh, what do you do?" if you say this, so be prepared for that before you use the hobbies sentence.)

It's my experience that telling people "I don't X", stated as a rule, almost as though it has been imposed on you from elsewhere, makes arguing and persuading stop. (Even when it's a rule I made myself!) As you've noted, talking about what you like and don't like, how busy you are, how that's a lovely idea but -- these things can lead to tension and annoyance.

If you like these people and don't want them to feel bad, you can lead with a compliment or gratitude.

Thanks for thinking of me! I'll have to decline, [your sentence eg I reserve my free time for my hobbies.]

It sounds like something you'll really enjoy! I can't join you, [your sentence.]

What a great idea, and good on you for organizing it. I can't be part of it, [your sentence.]

These introductory phrases are of course optional but may sweeten the mood a little without requiring you to accept an invitation, pretend you wish you could accept one, or pretend you might accept a future one. Notice the absence of "but", "however", and other negating conjoiners. Just two equal facts. Praise for the thing they have thought of or organized. You're not going, that's not a thing you do. You may feel an urge to toss a "sorry" in there, and that wouldn't be wrong, though it's not required. Notice also "can't", "have to" and other "out of my hands" words -- these are less blunt than "won't" or "want to" and generally make the message more acceptable.

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    Why should someone call something a great idea if they don't want to be part of it? To me this appears too fuzzy to clearly convey the message "no it's not my cup of tea". Probably this is very culture or even individual person dependant?
    – puck
    Mar 5, 2023 at 7:33
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    It must be. Taking Steve from accounting to dinner because he's leaving is a great idea. Sam and Chris getting married and having a big party for the work friends is a great idea. Throwing a weekend bar be que at your new place and having everyone over is a great idea. These are all things people do to build social bonds and enjoy themselves. Thinking of them, and doing the work to make them happen, are actions that deserve praise. Even if I personally won't be there and don't want to be there. Mar 5, 2023 at 12:40
  • @KateGregory: interesting. I don't think these are great ideas at all and if you talk to everyone alone about such events, many people won't be pleased with having to be part of those great ideas. They are often even annoyed, but don't have the courage to decline. They are usually afraid of being judged by the group so they bite the bullet and pretend they liked it. That's pathetic.
    – brown-owl
    Aug 11, 2023 at 6:58
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    If for some reason you genuinely believe that happy people hosting an event designed around that happiness is terrible, then don't use that sentence. You can try the first or second ones instead, which don't require you to think of the events from the perspective of the person holding them, nor to understand why so many people actually like those things. Aug 11, 2023 at 9:46

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