How to say “no” without being a butthead

It’s cringy. It’s awkward. It’s bad.

But the Netflix movie The Knight Before Christmas taught me a foolproof way to say “no.” Feel free to steal it.

Stranger: “We’re having a little party tonight. Will you come?”
Goofy knight with awful dialogue throughout the film: “Ah — while I appreciate your asking me, I am afraid must decline because I am previously committed.”

Previously committed to what? The stranger never asks. Nobody ever does.
Half of building a life you enjoy is choosing what goes in it. The other half is keeping out the things you don’t want. The “previously committed” template is a good silver bullet for the latter.

Or you can just say what E.B. White said:
“I must decline. For secret reasons.”

This article originally appeared in Medium.