Rejecting an invitation can bruise the inviter’s feelings, or even the invitee‘s. So how do we “positively” decline offers? Research suggests a better way to smoothen the process how to choose your “excuse” with finesse.

When we invite people, we’re asking them to do more than just show up at a certain time. We’re encouraging them to be a part of something special in our life, so we can feel slighted even if the invitee has a valid cause for declining our invitation. This reaction is linked to our beliefs of control and choice. We take it less personally if we believe our invitation was denied due to circumstances beyond the intended visitors’ control rather than assuming they opted not to go. So what is a better method to decline an offer or invitation? According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, financial scarcity is the answer. Mentioning “I don’t have the money” instead of “I don’t have the time” while declining an invitation is better received by the inviter. We have a limited degree of control over money, but time is something that everyone has equal access to; we all get 24 hours a day. This makes time-scarcity rejections feel more like a choice not to create time rather than a financial constraint.

Still, the fact that it still matters to us after an offer is denied could be a positive sign. It demonstrates that we care about people and our relationships with them.