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How to 'Avoid Giving a Direct Answer'

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Uncle Dave

It can be difficult to say 'no' to people. Here Danny tells us the polite ways to say 'no' to requests and invitations.


Whoever it was that coined the phrase ‘honesty is the best policy’ had obviously never met my Uncle Dave. He observed this maxim to the letter, regardless of who he was talking to and where he was. Needless to say, Uncle Dave had a social circle smaller than a Polo mint, was invited to fewer parties than your average axe-wielding serial killer, and was about as popular as a cockroach in a hamburger. We only put up with him ourselves because he was family and… well… he wouldn’t go away when we asked him to.
There are numerous memorable ‘Uncle Dave conversations’ that will go down in family history forever, in a file labeled ‘I Can’t Believe He Actually Said That!!” A classic example of an Uncle Dave-ism is…

Cousin Tim:    Uncle Dave? Would you mind helping me with my school project?
Uncle Dave:    To be frank, I’d prefer to sleep with a diseased camel…

The Queen Of England:     One is throwing a tea party. Would one like to attend?
Uncle Dave:     To be honest, I’d rather sleep with a diseased camel…

(By the way, Uncle Dave had this weird fixation with diseased camels. Nobody knew why, exactly. To the best of our knowledge, however, Uncle Dave had never actually seen a diseased camel, let alone slept with one).

Anyway… the point is that honesty is not always the best policy. Sometimes it pays to take the time to carefully think of an appropriate and tactful reply that will stop you from losing friends and making enemies. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time to come up with the perfect excuse that will get us out of one situation while still ensuring that we get invited the next time around. Here, then, is a useful list of expressions to use in order to...

Avoid Giving A Direct Answer

  • I’ll have to get back to you on / about that.
  • I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer right now.
  • I can’t say for certain.
  • I’m a bit busy at the moment.
  • I’ll let you know as soon as I…
  • I’d love to, but…
  • I’ll have to check that X doesn’t have anything planned, but otherwise… count me in!
  • Can I let you know later?

Last week I met Uncle Dave. In the spirit of enquiry, I went up to him and said…
“Uncle Dave, would you like to sleep with a diseased camel?”
“To be honest”, he replied distractedly, “I’d rather ride a rabid hedgehog”.
Oh well. At least camels everywhere can now heave a sigh of relief…