How to Gracefully Back Out of a Major Commitment You Made to a Friend

Backing out of a major commitment is never easy, especially when a friend is involved.

However, things happen, and occasionally you might need to break a promise you made to a pal. Though it can be awkward and uncomfortable, and might even have negative consequences for your friendship, it doesn't need to be.

Scroll down for tips on how to gracefully bow out of a big commitment you made to a friend.

Be Honest

You've probably heard the old adage "honesty is the best policy" dozens of times. In this case, as in most scenarios, it's totally true. If you need to back out of a major commitment you made with a friend, it's best to let them know as soon as possible and be completely transparent about why you can no longer do what was expected of you. If you're honest from the start, your friend might be hurt and upset, but chances are, they'll understand and move on. If you start making excuses, your pal will likely be able to see through your maneuver and realize you aren't being genuine. This opens the door for tension, and could potentially lead to an argument between the two of you.

Friends Talking to Each Other
(via Unsplash)


Give Them Ample Time to Make Alternate Plans

If and when you can help it, give your friend as much advance notice as you can, should you need to cancel plans you've made with them. This will hopefully give your pal a chance to potentially reschedule the outing—or, in the case that it's something that can't be rescheduled (such as a concert), this will give them the opportunity to find someone to attend in your place. If you need to renege on a commitment, the polite thing to do is to smooth things over the best you can, including by giving your friend the chance to make alternate plans.


Acknowledge That Your Pal Might Be Hurt or Upset

Chances are, if you're reneging on a promise you've made to a pal, you're doing so because you don't really have another option. Though the reason you need to back out of the commitment may be beyond your control (such as an unexpected family conflict of last-minute practice), it's still important for you to acknowledge that your friend might be hurt or upset by the change in plans. Apologize for the shift and validate what your friend is feeling. This will help them see that their friendship matters to you and that you aren't just canceling because something better came along.

Friends Comforting One Another
(via Unsplash)


Try to Make It Right

Ultimately, you want to try your hardest to make things right. This could mean anything from offering to pay them for a ticket they might have purchased, to helping them still enjoy the outing, even if you can no longer attend. For example, if you had plans to go see a show or movie together but you need to cancel, try suggesting a mutual pal who you think could make a suitable replacement for you—someone with similar taste would be ideal.


Offer to Make It Up to Them in Some Way

If your pal is reasonable, chances are they'll understand of your need to back out of a commitment for a valid reason. However, if you're concerned that bowing out of a previous engagement could have a negative impact on your relationship (or even if you're not, but just want to be especially thoughtful), it can't hurt to try making it up to your friend in some way. Take them out to dinner to apologize, or offer to reschedule your plans if you can. Even if your pal is annoyed at the cancelation, they'll appreciate that you're trying to make it up to them. Even a small gesture in this context can go a long way.

Friends at a Concert
(via Unsplash)


For more friend advice, click HERE for a list of signs your pal is toxic.