We like to say we stand our ground. We feel proud when we’re capable of voicing our opinion. We’re quick on the draw to shut people down when we think they want something out of us. We have no trouble telling someone random a firm no, because we’ve learned it’s easier to be closed off than to open up.
Yet at the end of the day, we struggle saying no to our friends or family for fear of a negative reaction. Inevitably, if we do decline, an excuse comes attached; our mind thinks it’ll help soften the blow.
Guess what? Not everything needs an explanation.
Next time your friend invites you out somewhere and you don’t feel like getting involved, just say no. That’s it. But this time, say no without an excuse. Say no and that you don’t feel like it.
Does this feel weird?
It might. But two things will come of it. If you can get used to saying no without some elaborate excuse (that’s more than likely a partial or big fat lie), it’ll become easier. You’ll also quickly realize people don’t give a fuck if you say no.
The Dreaded Maybe
If there’s one thing that has wiggled its way into our social vocabulary, it’s “maybe”. “Maybe I’ll join”. “Let me think about it and get back to you”. “I’m not sure let me see my schedule”. “Give me a bit, I’ll let you know soon“. People have this grand idea that if they avoid a commitment until the very end and keep pushing it off, even if they know they don’t want to do something, the other side will eventually understand through mental osmosis and come around with a peppy “oh that’s ok! Come to think of it, don’t worry about it! You can join next time!” Everything will be grand, they’ll forget they asked you, and you make out like an indecisive bandit.
Unfortunately, you come across as indecisive and fucking annoying by sitting on the fence. It gets to a point where swapping a “no” for a “maybe” often enough puts you as “that” guy/girl; in other words, your friends know that a maybe from you means a no. It gets so bad, before you even have the time to stutter out a maybe, everyone just stops inviting you. As much as you might hate going to some things, you probably do want the option because you aren’t that anti-social. Yet if you keep insisting on using “maybe” because “no” is the equivalent of cutting off your left testicle, your invites will dry up faster than your attempt to get rich quick off of Amway or Herbalife.
People Don’t Care as Much as You Think
If you’re afraid people will flip out on you for bailing or declining their favor, you can rest assured knowing that they’re so busy in their own head, they won’t really give as much of a shit as you think. Sure, you might garner a bit of the classic “oh come on man, why not?” in the form of some peer pressure. Stay firm; if you suddenly go back on your decision, you’re back in maybe territory and look like a faltering fuck.
Not to burst your ego or anything, but I bet you’ll find more often than not that you receive an extended invite with the hopes you actually do bail. This could be for a myriad of reasons, but generally if it’s some activity, it comes down to two reasons: they themselves don’t want to go anymore, so by bailing you help them avoid canceling and looking like the bad guy, and secondly, they felt they had to extend an invite on the spot because they didn’t want to lie on what they are doing. This happens more often than we like to admit, but it’s ok: don’t take it personally.
Excuses Are Like Assholes; Everyone Has One
That’s right, we’ve heard that one before. Not only that, but generally it’s an excuse because it’s probably a lie. That’s the difference between an excuse and a reason: one is usually a lie, the other is a legitimate concern. On occasion, we can’t agree to an invite or favor because we’re already committed to something else. That would be the definition of a reason. If you can’t agree to something because your girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin is having a piano recital about two hours before the event you got invited to and you have to see what time it ends before you commit, it’s probably an excuse. Did you follow that? Yeah, I had trouble too. Which brings me to my next point: not only do we like to give random excuses, but we ramble on with them, almost as if we’d be better off splitting it up into chapters like a book. Trust me, not only do people not care as much as you think, but they also don’t care to read a short story as to why you aren’t able to make it. Get to your fucking point.
There is No Pressure to Please People
If you suffer from the disease to please, you’re probably the type who has trouble saying no. Inevitably, you’re stretching yourself thin trying to squeeze in every invite you get, every favor you’re asked for, and every assignment your coworkers try to pawn off on you. No wonder we all get overwhelmed in our daily life, and the root cause is right in your face. If you could learn to put your foot down, your stress levels will decrease. And if you could learn to go with your gut feeling, your anxiety will more than likely decline.
The inevitable question I always get then, is how to determine whether you want to do whatever you’ve been invited or asked to do? How do you know if you should take it on or not? Again, go with your gut. We all know pretty quickly whether we want to get involved or not. Sometimes, you have to wait to see if your other plans don’t pan out before you can commit. Other than that, your initial reaction will give you all the internal data you need. Before we can even check our schedules to see if we’re free, we’ll know if it’s something we want to do. Now it’s just about going with what you want, not with what others want. This can be the hardest part if your mindset or mood is tied to how others view you. It’s important to remember that for your good friends, agreeing to a favor may not always benefit you or be of value to you, but you volunteer or agree because, hey, they’re a good friend. This is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes we take the fall in the name of a friend. The difference is that a truly good friend won’t ask you all the time for favors. It’s the ones who notice your inability to say no and take advantage that are a problem.
Just Say No
Start practicing on the small things – invites to dinners, a concert, a movie, and an event. Learn to say no without writing a novel as your reason, or rather excuse (who knew we could effortlessly script a book when we need an excuse). Be content saying you just don’t feel like it, or you’re already busy, and leave it there. If you get peer pressure, call them out on it. Quit wavering with the maybes, and definitely don’t go back on your choice if they get upset. They’ll get over it. We just can’t seem to understand that.