How To Learn To Say ‘No’ When You Really Need To

Unsplash/Kira auf der Heide

We all reach a point when we feel overworked, overstimulated, overwhelmed and just in serious need of some personal space. Yet, we often ignore our own desires and continue opting into all of the things happening around us. “I can’t miss Sunday brunch with the girls… I promised that old friend of mine we’d meet up for happy hour after work on Wednesday… I really want to stay in this Friday but my partner planned a big bar night for our crew…” You get the idea.

But we have some seriously important news for you: You are allowed to say “no.” You are entitled to your own choices — even if that means telling people that you’ll have to join them next time. And you in no way need to feel guilty for making these personal calls for yourself.

Still feel incredibly anxious and uncomfortable about putting your needs above the wants of others? Here’s how to grow more confident in using this important component of self-care.

Call it quits early.

No one likes being bailed on at the last minute — or worse, ghosted entirely. So if you know you just want some alone time, be courteous to the person requesting your time and attention and let them know as soon as you can that you won’t be able to make it. You don’t need a long-winded story or excuse as to why you’re opting out, but you do need to get in the habit of following your intuition when it presents itself and giving the other person time and room to adjust their plans.

Unsplash/Bruno Cervera

Don’t hide (or lie) if they ask why.

If your friends push you a little bit to explain yourself, share away. But don’t make up a fake timing conflict or dance around the fact that you’re just plain tired and want a night alone. The more you practice vocalizing this sentiment, the more validated you’ll feel in experiencing it. And the more you openly share it with your friends, the quicker they’ll come to accept it as a real (and totally acceptable) reason for you needing your space.

Offer up some replacement plans.

You can always soften the blow of telling someone “no” by following it with an alternative plan for the coming week. For example, if you’re going to miss Thursday wine night, you can gracefully decline and then offer to host a similar get-together the following week when you’re likely to be feeling recharged, refreshed and up to sharing your space with your favorite company. As long as you are genuine about the replacement plan offer and follow through with it, your friends probably won’t think twice about your short-term need for quiet time.

Always add a “thank you” in there.

It’s important to remind someone that you appreciate his or her efforts to include you in plans and that you’re grateful for the friendship you share. Not to mention, “thank you” makes “no” just sound so much nicer. So on the days when you really need a break, stay mindful of how you express that desire. If you sound cranky and impatient, people will pick up on that. If you sound tired, but genuinely thankful regardless of how you’re feeling, people will pick up on that, too.