Saying “no” to a friend or family member

Saying “no” to a friend or family member

by Eunice Chua 08 Feb 2020

In an age where self-love and focusing on one’s own welfare and needs is becoming a priority for many, being able to deliver a firm “ no” to friends or family has become an increasingly important skill. Turning down an invitation or a request for help when it’s from someone you care about is never easy – half the time, the guilt holds us back from prioritising our own needs and we end up being the loser. You may feel temporary swell of happiness in satisfying your family and friends, but in the long run your personal well-being may begin to suffer. Saying “no” is important and these tips might make the process easier for you.


1. Declare your boundaries upfront

Your rejection typically results in your family and friends being disappointed when their expectations are not met. This is why it helps to state your boundaries right from the start and make it clear that certain days or timings are strictly off-limits. For example, you may not wish to stay out later than 10PM in order to have some time to relax before sleeping or maybe having Sunday mornings to yourself is an important ritual. Being honest with the people around you will allow them to avoid making plans that clash with yours, allowing you to mitigate any possible conflicts before they even arise.


2. Be direct and straightforward

Dragging out your response by saying things like “I’ll think about it” only makes it worse when you don’t actually show up on the date itself or issue a last-minute cancellation. What’s worse is you forcing yourself to go and being unhappy as a result. Spending quality time with someone is way more important than simply spending more time together, so only commit yourself when you’re sure you want to. This way, you stay fair to yourself and the other party.


3. Thank them for their understanding

Honesty is great and apologising for not being able to spend time together soothes the blow but it can also end up with us bearing the burden of guilt. We feel like we’re somehow letting the other party down with our selfishness, when the truth is anything but. On the other hand, thanking somebody for understanding your need to be alone eases the guilt due to the difference in tone. You don’t feel like you’ve let them down and they don’t feel like they’ve been let down either. A simple change of words can defuse the tension and build trust instead – just try it!


4. Make alternate plans

Saying “no” to someone's request doesn’t mean you no longer have a chance to hang out with that person anymore. You can and should make alternate arrangements to spend time together. Doing so shows the person that you’re equally invested in the relationship and that you care enough to reschedule.


Prioritising self-care means you will have to make sacrifices and change your lifestyle to hit your goals and meet your needs. At the same time, maintaining the relationships around you is something you should also focus on because these bonds will provide you with motivation and support. It’s okay to skip a day of self-care or movie night for a special occasion or if someone you care about is going through a rough patch. Remember, if you want them to support your needs, you have to be there for them too.