How To Get Better At Saying "No" To Plans

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Sometimes when you agree to hang with a pal, you've already thought of what excuse you're going to use to get out of those plans when they roll around. In the moment, you don't want to let your friend down by saying "no," so you put it off until the last minute. But why is turning people down so hard to do in the first place?
Many of us avoid saying "no" to our friends, simply because we want to please people, says Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Rockville, Maryland. "We also all have a desire to want to fit in and to not disappoint others, so often people struggle with saying 'no' due to feelings of guilt or obligation," she says. While this strategy might temporarily make your friend happy — and make you feel less guilty — it usually leads to more stress and resentment in your relationship.
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When you overcommit to plans, there's a good chance you'll spread yourself too thin, which can make you feel burned out and drained, Rollin says. (And ultimately, that is not how hanging out with your friends should make you feel.) Eventually, you might start to get annoyed with your friend for always "making you" hang out. Or, at the very least, you won't be as engaged or fun to be around during those times, Rollin says.
So, how can you get better at turning a friend down? First, remind yourself that it's normal to feel guilty about denying your friend hang-time, Rollin says. But then remember that saying "no" could benefit the relationship you have with them — and the relationship you have with yourself, she says. "Self-care is so important, and we cannot be good friends to others if we are not taking care of ourselves first," she says.
Be honest with your friend about the fact that you're just not feeling up to it, so they understand where you're coming from. Also think about what you'd tell someone else in a similar situation, Rollin says. "I doubt you’d say they were a 'bad person' for turning down an invite to hang out with a friend," she says. We're often way harsher on ourselves than we are on others, so it's important to be compassionate with yourself, she says.
And finally, remember that there will be more opportunities to spend time with your friend when you aren't feeling burned out or exhausted. It's worth it to find time to hang out with your friends (or just catch up on the phone) when you want to, rather than half-heartedly saying yes just to be nice. So, go ahead and edit your weekend plans accordingly.
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