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How To Say No To Family Gatherings: 4 Non-Awkward Techniques

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Not knowing how to say no to family gatherings you’re invited to attend is always difficult. You’re caught in a dilemma, of not wanting to disappoint anyone but at the same time not wanting to go this time round. It’s a situation that can leave you feeling uncomfortable and stuck.

When was the last time you said “no” to family as well as friends, co-workers and other people in your life? You were probably more inclined to say “yes” to their requests and invitations. After all, being invited out somewhere always feels good. You feel wanted, appreciated, loved. No one wants to look like they’re inconveniencing anybody or causing trouble by turning down a request.

That said, not knowing how to say no to family gatherings can become a major headache if not dealt with immediately.

Why You Sometimes Have To Say No

Sometimes, you just don’t want to go to family events. You might be busy, tired; or just not in the mood for any drama that can sometimes happen. Perhaps there are unresolved family issues lingering at these events that always gets dredged up sooner rather than later. Or, you might not be feeling any of these things and just want to hang out with yourself or people of your choosing.

Maybe you’ve been to too many family events this year and need a break. Maybe you’ve been socialising too much, with too many kinds of people, and want to press pause.

Sometimes we say yes to everything, because we don’t want to come across as rude, antisocial or lazy. But not knowing how to say no to family can lead us to compromise on what we do want in life.

Managing our time is also important, there is only so much of it we can give away to other people. We all have priorities in our lives, and goals and dreams we want to fulfil. Work, hobbies, partner or solo time – these can take up significant chunks of our week.

Learning to say no, and not just to family, is an important skill to know. It’s important to set personal boundaries. That’s not to say you refuse every single invite that comes your way, of course not. But it’s important to learn how to protect the time and energy you have and not feel you’re not in control.

How To Decline Without Feeling Awkward

Still, if you have no idea how to say no to family, it’s because you don’t want to let anyone down and I understand that worry. Here are 5 ways you can refuse family invitations without feeling guilty.

1. Delay commitment

“I’m not sure I can do this, let me check my calendar and get back to you” or “I think I have a commitment that day, so let me get back to you.” Sometimes, when we’re put on the spot, it’s easy to say “yes” without thinking. Delaying your decision-making puts the power in your court and out of the hands of the other person.

When you’re using this technique, it gives you the time and space to drop a message later stating a firm but polite no.

2. Counter with your own request

Sometimes we don’t know how to say no to family gatherings for fear of hurting them. We don’t want anyone to feel rejected, which is how they might perceive your answer. Instead, you want to show them how much you like and appreciate them, but that you can’t take them up on their offer.

For example, say you want to back out of a family children’s party, because you don’t want to deal with the stress. You can respond to the invite by saying, “I love these events, and appreciate all the effort you put into them, I know it’s hard work. Unfortunately I can’t make it, but let’s do lunch another day instead and you can tell me all about it.”

This way, you’re still showing people you love them and want to spend time with them.

3. Refuse without explanation

Sometimes, not explaining why we’ve turned something down can be much more effective than giving your reasons. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t make it. I have an commitment.” Or, “no, I have plans booked already.”

Most family members will respect you have your own life and won’t pry. I say “most” because there might be a few who will continue to pester you right up to the event. If this happens, just keep using the answer “No, I can’t make it” and say nothing more than that. You’re not obligated to explain yourself and you have the right to privacy.

Sometimes, the only way to learn how to say no to family gatherings is to be politely curt about it.

4. Go with honesty

If delaying a reply or being firm doesn’t feel sit well with you, then the last way is the best technique for you: just being honest about why you’re saying no.

Your reasons could be, “No, I’ve had a stressful week, I don’t want to go out this evening/weekend/Saturday,” or “I’ve had a busy week, I don’t want to hang out with family, I’ll ring them next week.” Honesty is still the best policy.

Make sure to keep your answer short and simple to stop you feeling uncomfortable when you use this technique.

A Better Time For Everyone

Learning how to say no to family gatherings is a good skill to have. There are times when you simply can’t attend events, so knowing how to say no will stop you saying yes out of guilt. It also means when you can eventually go to events, you and everyone will have a better time together.

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