We all want to be liked, but saying yes to everything – like that additional project at work, running an errand for your friend, or the invite to an event you have no interest in – means you end up being stretched super thin. And face it, tired and miserable isn’t a good look on anyone. So here’s the case for saying no:
We’ve all been there. After a long day at work, you can’t wait to get home and collapse on your bed. You’re about to make an exit when your man texts to say he’d love to see you for dinner. You don’t feel up to hanging out, but you also don’t want to hurt his feelings or start a fight.
It pays to be honest. We’ve all got different needs. Your partner might be energised or comforted by your company at the end of a busy day, and expect you to feel the same. Explain how you feel and why you want some alone time. The key is to phrase it kindly.
“It’s good to discuss your expectations early on [in the relationship],” says Kenneth Oh, relationship coach and marketing professional at Executive Coach International. Give your partner a heads-up that you’ll need time to yourself. Then help him feel more secure by telling him what you plan to do (“binge-watch Netflix”) and for how long (“five episodes or till I fall asleep, whichever happens first”). That’ll make your refusal sting a little less.
You’re meeting friends for dinner, and one of them suggests a high-end restaurant. You’re not that keen on the food, plus it’ll blow your budget for the week. Everyone else is excited, so how do you voice your objection without sounding like a wet blanket?
Suggest an alternative – maybe a new place everyone’s not likely to have tried yet that’s been getting rave reviews, or an option that’s generally popular (like Thai food), so you have a higher chance of an enthusiastic response. If you prefer not to confront all your friends, Kenneth says you could also privately text the friend who usually calls the shots in the group, and tell her your concerns so she can throw out an alternative suggestion.
Or just sit this one out. Recognise that you aren’t obliged to turn up for every get-together. It’s all about what you’re prioritising at the moment, says Kenneth.
Your boss commends you on juggling three big projects and delivering great results on all of them so far. As a reward for your good work, she wants to give you another assignment. But you’ve already been clocking extra hours, and you don’t think you can handle anything more on your plate.
If your workload is not manageable and you’re afraid of burning out, tell your boss, says Kenneth. Don’t wait till the work has been delegated – it’ll be much harder to extricate yourself without making a mess of the workflow.
Arrange face-to-face time to talk with her about your concerns. Be specific.
“Tell her you don’t want to overpromise, and can’t guarantee you’ll be able to handle all four projects at once. Ask which of your projects need to be prioritised,” suggests Kenneth. “Even better, lay out what you think the top priorities are, and request that the other tasks be put on hold temporarily.”
A close friend is getting married and has asked you to be a bridesmaid. Problem is, the wedding’s in Hawaii, and the plane ticket will be on your own tab. Maybe you’re strapped for cash, or you can’t take that much time off work – whatever the case, it’s the biggest event of her life, and she’s not going to be happy if you don’t show up.
Right now, we guarantee your friend thinks her problems are more important than yours.
“It might be good to gently bring up the challenges you’re facing,” says Kenneth. She might not know how tight your finances are, or how difficult the circumstances at work are. Don’t focus too much on explaining. Be proactive and offer to help in other areas, like sorting out the logistics back home in Singapore. “Show that she means a lot to you by offering to go above and beyond – as long as you can realistically afford to.”
You’re chilling at your favourite cafe, nursing a cappuccino and a good book, when some random guy plonks himself next to you and tries to make small talk. You know he’s just trying to be friendly, and you don’t want to overreact.
When a man works up the courage to start a conversation with a girl he doesn’t know, we say he should get props for it, no matter how clumsy his attempt to impress. But it stops there.
Kenneth says: “Thank the person and follow up with one or two niceties to be polite. You don’t need to prolong the interaction – just be upfront and say you’d like time on your own.” It’s way more eff ective than that fake excuse about waiting for your boyfriend – that’s just insincere and mean-spirited.