The Professional Method to Declining a Meeting

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It has happened to everyone. You receive an emailed invitation to attend a meeting that is optional or does not fit into your availability. Some people struggle to decline the meeting because they do not want to upset the host – even if they simply don’t have time for it. Others may have no problem with telling people straightforwardly (often in a rude manner) that they refuse to show up. If you fall into one of these categories or any other category that may struggle with this, let’s walk through this.

Step one: Be respectful of the time of others. Just as your time is valuable, so is the host’s time. RSVP to the meeting promptly. The organizer will appreciate your quick response. It allows them to maintain a proper head count and be appropriately prepared.

Step two: Clarify why you cannot attend. “I don’t want to” is not a professional response to an invitation. Explain why you are unavailable. Let the host know you have a deadline you cannot miss or you will be out of the office. There is no need to go into the nitty-gritty details – “I have a dentist appointment that day to deal with a shattered wisdom tooth” is unnecessary. But it is respectful to give something other than “I don’t like these meetings.”

Step three: Suggest an alternative. Maybe you can hop on a Zoom call instead of attending in person. The organizer can either make the meeting a virtual event or allow a computer in the room so that you can receive the information from the meeting. Another option is to schedule a one-on-one meeting later in the week to discuss what you missed. Giving an alternative shows you respect the necessity of the meeting and are willing to compromise.

Step four: Show appreciation. Meetings are often exclusive. It is unlikely that an entire company will be involved in every meeting. Thank the host for the invitation. They thought of you and considered your opinion to be valuable to the conversation. They wanted you involved and aware of what was happening. That is something to be thankful for.

Bonus – for those receiving invitations declines: Be considerate of others. Most likely, not everyone will show up to your meeting. Do not take it personally. Many people will find value in the meeting, but others may have more important, time-dependent things to do. And remember… sometimes, it really could have been an email.

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AJ Jewell

Amber "AJ" Jewell started at in 2016 as a part-time admin assistant, quickly moving to be the 'Duchess of Flow" - making sure that the office is flowing smoothing. AJ is also an award-nominated author, homeschooling parent of three, an avid reader, and a college student.
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