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The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but life rarely works out that way. When it comes to backing out of plans, the majority of us tend to take more of a winding road approach. Don’t blame us, though: People are naturally complicated, and we could easily compile a list of extraordinarily complex reasons why we flake on plans that keep us from being straight-up about the situation in the first place.

For instance, some of us actually feel bad about canceling plans, so we do anything to avoid the awkwardness that it takes to say, “Sorry I won’t be able to make it.”

There’s a psychological reason why merely typing that sentence makes us cringe that we haven’t quite figured out yet. But here’s something your hot mess friend who always bails on you will definitely attest to: Plan-canceling karma has a way of coming back and biting you in the butt at the least convenient of times, so be extremely graceful about the manner in which you execute the dreaded bail-out.

Because we could all use them from time to time, here are some genius ways to cancel plans with someone.

1Include a reschedule in the cancellation.

The same logic that applies to offering a solution when bringing up a problem applies here. Offering a time and place to reschedule when you bail on plans shows accountability and consideration on your part, which help to smooth over any discord over the cancellation.

2Make a phone call.

Clearly, this isn’t the most creative way to cancel plans, but hear us out. Considering our collective aversion to using vocal cords to communicate these days (*insert cranky old-timer scoff*), calling someone to cancel is officially a genius way to get out of plans. SERIOUSLY. They’ll never see it coming.

In fact, they may not answer (because who even talks on the phone anymore?!). By placing a phone call, you give the impression that you were *really* invested in the meeting (even if you weren’t). There’s something direct about a phone call that implies you aren’t trying to blow someone off, whereas something less formal like a text, email, or direct message on social media could get lost in the shuffle and suggest that you weren’t actually trying to successfully deliver the message.

3Don’t respond to the invite until after the event.

If this sounds a little shady boots, that’s because it is. But helloo — we are human, and this is how it works sometimes. Not everyone is savage enough to say, “Ew, heck no, there’s no way in hell I want to attend [insert horrible event you can’t believe anybody thought would interest you] so I most certainly will not be there.”

As with any under-handed tactics, this one comes with a caveat and some conditions. You clearly don’t want to use this method if a) said event won’t take place in the near future, or if b) you have to see the person who invited you prior to the event.

4Promise to make it up — and keep the promise.

The word “keep” isn’t there for decoration. Seriously, it’s the most important part of this approach that accomplishes the mission of bailing while simultaneously taking the sting out of skipping the planned meet-up.

5“Excuse” yourself.

And this doesn’t mean just any old run-of-the-mill, transparent reason that literally anyone could see through. We’re talking those foolproof excuses that will make the plans you’re flaking on pale in comparison to what supposedly ails you so badly that you can’t make it.

Disclaimer: Manipulation tactics aren’t cool in general. Being straightforward is the almost always the best approach. But as adults we understand that life is messy, and sometimes the end justifies the means. As long as you don’t make this a regular practice (the cancellations, the light manipulation, or a combo of the two), you’ll probably be able to avoid being labeled as that really terrible friend who is genuinely sorry but still deserves to live the rest of her life in isolation.

6Be honest.

This old-fashioned approach takes pressure off the entire exchange. Being upfront will alleviate some of the anxiety you have when you’re about to flake on someone — you won’t have to exert any energy coming up with a lie or do all the subsequent legwork it takes to make sure that said fib remains believable after the fact.