I'd like to say something about a word we use every day, lots of times. It's "BUT.” Practically any warm sentiment you've expressed before the "but" is forgotten.
For example, suppose she asks for your help, and you respond: “I’d really like help you but I haven’t finished my work.
Or he asks you for a date and you respond: “I’d love to but I have a previous engagement.”
All they hear is the negative part. Your sincere “liking to,” or “loving to” gets buried in their disappointment.
So how do you get around it and make sure they hear the friendly part?
Simply make it two sentences. Express your warm sentiment in the first. (Be sure to pause for a moment to make sure that sinks in.) Then explain why you can’t do what they want in the second. Add the substitute word, “however,” at the end.
See how deleting the “but” makes it softer:
I’d really like to help you. (Pause.) I haven’t finished my work, however.
I’d love to. (Pause) I have a previous engagement, however.
Sure, they’ll still be disappointed. However, wording your refusal without the "but" helps preserve the relationship.