Well, we’ve all been there at least once…
You accept an invitation to join a social gathering and then are filled with dread the day of. For people-pleasers, it’s natural to want to preserve a relationship and in some cases that means putting other’s wants ahead of your own. Birthday parties, lunch dates, and even friendly favours- it’s ok to say “no”!
Below you’ll find simple tips to help you take control and say “no” in almost any situation.
Be mindful about how you want to spend your time
Before you even get an invitation or request you should have a very clear idea about the things that are important to you. This clarity will empower you to choose to say “no” to events that aren’t aligned with your values.
You enjoy peaceful, quiet outings like going to a singing bowl meditation or maybe an art class.
A friend invites you to their birthday party at a bar with loud music and lots of alcohol.
The decision to decline will be an easy one knowing what activities/outings bring you the most joy.
Know your limits
If you find yourself wanting to say “no” because your social calendar is too full, then it’s time to get organized. You’ll need to ask yourself how many social events you can honestly attend each week or month before you start to feel the inevitable burn-out. Once you have a number, stick to it! This will help those of you reading this that suffer from FOMO, and it will clear space in your calendar for equally important downtime.
Buy yourself some time
It’s perfectly acceptable to tell even your closest friends that you need to check your schedule. Real friends will accept that you have a busy life and allow you to get back to them.
Don’t feel obligated to explain. This need to find a reason to say “no” can turn into a very slippery slope. Making up fake excuses or blaming your absence on lack of time is not something you should get in the habit of doing. Be honest and simply say, “Thanks for the invite, but I have to decline.”
A friend asks you to meet them for coffee.
You don’t want to meet them for coffee so you respond to their invite with- “This week is crazy busy, I’m sorry.”
The friend then says, “How about next week?”
Now you’re stuck. Just say “no” (politely) to avoid this prolonged back and forth. Be honest with yourself, and your friends.
Cushion your “no” with a compliment
Lead with kindness, always. This is a simple golden rule that can get you out of uncomfortable situations.
Your colleague invites you to join them in a peaceful protest for something that they feel very strongly about.
You don’t want to offend them by brushing it off as if the cause is not important, but you also don’t want to be involved.
Try saying something like “You’re always so good at standing up for the things that you believe in. The world needs more people like you!”
Follow this statement with a polite “I’m sorry I can’t join you this time.”
Your colleague will likely value your honesty and appreciate the compliment. Win-win!
Suggest an alternative
Sometimes it’s not the actual event that you want to say “no” to. How many times have you been invited somewhere that is on the other side of town and thinking about the trek alone is exhausting? Maybe you have a friend that always hosts gatherings at their house and you’re tired of being the one who has to travel. Take this opportunity to speak up for yourself. Offer to host at your house instead or suggest that you meet at a spot that’s halfway between you both. You can say “no” to the setting without saying “no” to spending time together.
While you may find yourself stuck saying “yes” to some unavoidable things, we hope that these simple tips help give you the courage to say “no” when you can. Your time is too valuable to waste. Spend it wisely!
Written exclusively for WELL, Magazine Asia by Emily Kelleher