I'm often asked "What do I do if someone wants more of a friendship with me than I want with them?" Or, "How can I tell someone, without hurting their feelings, that I'm not interested in spending more time with them?" Most of us need more community in our lives, but some of us need to say no to some people in order to say yes to others.
I'm not gonna act like this is an easy question to answer... I still struggle with it and sometimes find myself sitting on a coffee date simply because I found myself agreeing before I could figure out how to decline the invitation.
In romance, we tend to eventually find a way to say, "Thanks, but no," but rarely do we give that gift to other women.Most of us just play nice or just go MIA. There has to be another way.
Simply ignoring women or continuing to act interested even when we're not isn't being honest with them, isn't leaving us feeling aligned, and it's contributing to our collective fear that if someone isn't reaching out to us that it means they don't like us, which isn't always the case.
Principles for Saying No to Others
Our goal in life is to live as aligned as possible: having our insides (feelings) match our outsides (situation/circumstance). Which leaves us with the options of either saying yes and truly being open to it, or saying no instead of just ignoring someone.
Here are my guidelines to practice saying no:
- Always affirm. Affirm how much it means that they invited us; acknowledge how much you admire them.
- Then say no. Then check in with yourself so you can clarify your no. "Is it not now?" Or "Not as often?" Or "Not ever."
- End with thanks. Thank them for having thought of us, for reaching out, and encourage them in any way that feels kind.
In most areas of life I encourage women to simply practice saying "no" more often as a complete sentence without needing to explain or justify. But because in these situations it feels like we're often saying "no" to a specific person and because everyone's greatest fear is rejection, I think we can err on the side of showing as much value to the other person as possible, while also gifting them with our honesty so they aren't left wondering in uncertainty.
Of course this is a hard question to answer because there are so many levels of friendships and varied reasons why we're saying no, but hopefully if I can give a couple of examples of how I'd say it, that might help get the ball rolling.....
- To someone we don't know well, but we don't feel like we have time for more friends. "That is so sweet of you to ask me and typically I'd be quick to say yes as you are definitely someone I'd love to get to know; but unfortunately I feel like I am barely making the time to give to my current friends so I've been having to say no to other fun people in order to love those people well. But tell me what kinds of relationships you're trying to build and maybe I can help introduce you to people?"
- To someone we'd consider a casual friend but we're not convinced we want to invest more time than we already are making. "I'm always so impressed with you for reaching out and inviting me to things-- I know that's hard to do and I really respect that gift you've given. And I feel like I've had to say no a bit, and while I don't see that changing anytime soon, I wanted to make sure you knew that I appreciate the friendship we do have when we see each other at x (church, work, MOPS). I used to think every friendship was supposed to become a best friend as though it had to be all or nothing, but I'm learning to really value that while I can't be close and intimate with everyone I like, I can still be happy they're in my life. Thanks for being such a positive person when we do see each other."
- To someone we'd consider a casual/close friend but we don't really want to connect with much anymore. Basically if you're thinking about "breaking up" then I invite you to read these posts about The Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship, this post about how we can decrease the frientimacy in a friendship by decreasing consistency and vulnerability without having to break up, or this post helping identify if this is a friendship rift or a drift might help, too. Because ultimately, we have to ask ourselves: is this a relationship I want to completely end (in which case I am a strong believer that we owe it to them to explain why) or is this simply a relationship I don't want to keep investing in a ton but am more than happy to still see her at parties or at the places we both frequent and keep up with her here and there? Knowing our desired outcome will help us shape that conversation where we can communicate the value of what we have shared and hopefully help establish expectations for both parties.
I often compare these conversations to going to the gym. We don't get physically healthier by avoiding sweat, exertion, and stretching; and neither do we practice being our best selves (which includes honest communication and expressing value to others) without it feeling awkward, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable.
Let's become women who value each other so much that we'll line up our words to match our actions rather than just keep saying no or avoiding phone calls....
Have you been on the receiving end? Do you prefer them just neglecting you or do you prefer their honesty? Have you had a conversation with someone you consider a success? Share with us!