How to Say No to Things During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which means navigating the dreaded table talk at holiday family dinners and making small talk at all of those office holiday cocktail hours. (Ugh, I’m cringing just thinking about it). Instead of putting yourself through these events, consider saying no instead of yes.

how to say no during the holidays

Yes, I know what you are thinking, not every single one of your holiday events can be skipped (Sorry!), but for the events that are optional, consider making the most wonderful time of the year the season for saying no.

Why we don’t say no

Many of us say yes to favors, invitations and requests in order to avoid the discomfort and difficulty of saying no, (been there before), but when we say yes when we really mean no, we set ourselves up for exhaustion, frustration, overwhelm and maybe even resentment.

Adina Mahalli (MSW), Certified Mental Health Specialist & Women’s Health Expert of Maple Holistics says, “Most people strive to travel the road with the least confrontation. We want to please others, meet expectations and maintain happy vibes. However, although it may seem extreme, losing the ability to say no is a form of losing self-control. When we don’t honor our true desires we just succumb to the easy way out.”

There is freedom and power in saying no, especially during the holiday season, so if you would like to use your right to say no, here are a few things to consider when deciding.

Consider your reasons

Before saying no, carefully consider your reasons for possibly saying no. If you don’t want your significant other bringing their neighbor (who would otherwise be left alone) just because it will mess up your perfectly styled holiday tablescape, then maybe you should rethink your priorities.

However, for those more difficult requests, saying yes may seem easier in the moment, but can often make things more difficult in the long run, which can create more stress for you. If you have a really good reason for saying no, just make sure you feel confident in your reasoning.

Remember, “no” is not a bad word

Maybe we don’t like using the word “no” because we think it should be reserved for toddlers reaching toward a hot stove or for dogs that just destroyed our favorite pair of running shoes, but no is not inherently a bad word. “No” isn’t negative and can actually be positive if you think about it, which leads me to my next point…

Saying no allows you to say yes

When you say no to certain holiday events, it frees you up to say yes to other events that really matter to you. Not that all holiday events aren’t important, but let’s be real here folks. If you receive an invitation to travel to a holiday party that is going to take you longer to get to than the amount of time you actually plan on spending at said holiday party, you may want to consider saying no. If it’s a super important event that you cannot imagine skipping, well then yes, go for it, but if it’s a holiday party of your friend’s cousin you have met one time, then maybe consider saying no so you can say yes to other events you hold close to your heart.

Kelly Donahue, PhD Holistic Health Psychologist, speaker and author says, “Saying no during the holidays can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding and is a form of self-care! Taking a moment to assess what is important to you around the holidays is a great first step. Once you know what you value, you can focus your time and energy there. Knowing what you value makes it easier to say no to things that don’t align with those values. For example, if you know that spending time with your family around the holidays is a top value, saying no to the third work holiday happy hour will be easier.”

7 tips for saying no

If you are all about flexing that saying no muscle this holiday season, here are a few tips that can help you say no.

#1 Avoid promises.

Since saying no can be uncomfortable, many people try and close with something hopeful or positive in an effort to soften the blow of the no. However, don’t make a promise you have no intention of keeping. That will only make the future situation even worse.

#2 Don’t apologize.

Don’t apologize for your no. Saying “I’m sorry,” often accompanies an uncomfortable no, but if you’re confident in your reasons and have delivered your answer in a thoughtful way, there is no need to apologize.

#3 Go for the “slow no.”

Laurie Brown, Customer Service and Presentation Skills Expert and author, recommends going for the slow no.

“Sometimes it is hard to say no on the spot, so say, ‘Let me check my calendar’ or ‘Let me think about it,’ then get back to them with either a no or a no with explanation later on,” she explains.

Suzanne Wylde, Holistic Coach and author of The Art of Coming Home, says, “Pauses are powerful things and help to create a space that is pivotal to boundaries, as well as making it less likely for people to assume you will always say yes.”

#4 Find a softer alternative.

If using a hard no is a little outside of your comfort zone, try using a softer alternative like, “That doesn’t work for me,” “Now isn’t a good time,” or “That’s not going to work this year.”

#5 Offer a thoughtful explanation.

If you decide to deliver a hard no, consider including a thoughtful explanation. Although “no” is an answer all in itself, you may want to offer a thoughtful explanation to help the person making the request understand where you’re coming from. You don’t need to go into too much detail, so keep it short and sweet, but be thoughtful in your response.

#6 Practice.

If you don’t feel comfortable saying no in person, practice! If you still don’t feel comfortable after practicing your thoughtful, yet short, explanation, make a phone call, send a text or reply with an email. Just remember to keep it short, just like if you were to respond in person.

#7 Use the “sandwich strategy.”

Tonya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out: Do More By Doing Less, recommends the Sandwich Strategy.

“When we need to say no to an opportunity, the no is the meat of our message, so we simply sandwich it between two slices of kindness. For example: Thanks so much for the invite to your holiday happy hour! I’m sorry to miss, but I’m trying to spend more evenings at home with my family during the holiday season. I’ve heard great things about that restaurant though, so I’m sure you’ll have a great time.”

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.