The Art of Saying ‘No’ to Your Friends—And Not Feeling Bad


Friendships are the glue that holds us together. Yes, it’s cliche, but I for one don’t know where I’d be without a few good friendships. They’re the ones who talk us through our heartbreaks, our meltdowns, and our toughest moments. They’re there with pizza and old Disney movies when we’ve had a stressful day or just need some quality self-care with a pal.

As much as we love our friends, it can be hard to go against them. She spent two hours talking to you last week when Chad posted with another girl on Instagram! She came over for a movie when you needed to get away from work. She’ll talk on the phone whenever you just need to talk. I owe it to her to go out tonight or let her borrow my favorite shoes or help her with a work project until 3 am, right? 

Not exactly. Saying no to our friends is a difficult and awkward situation, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be happier and closer to your friend in the process. Use this advice next time a situation arises, and you’ll find the process is much easier over time.


Understand what she’s asking

Communication (especially over text) can get misconstrued easily. Just because you heard your friend ask something in a rude or entitled voice doesn’t mean that’s exactly how she meant it. Look at the facts first. Are you reading into a text message or could there be a miscommunication? When we get into an emotional mindset, we often forego the facts and jump right into the negative emotions going through our heads. Take a minute to fully understand what your friend is asking of you before getting into your answer. 


Figure out why you want to say no

If you don’t want to go somewhere or get involved in something, you shouldn’t be forced into it. However, there are also many reasons we might say no to something that could be good for us. Say your BFF invites you to a networking event, but you’re trying to meet up with that new person you’re dating instead. Likely, the date can wait, and the networking event is a great way to level up your career. 

On the other hand, there are so many reasons we might say no to something but not necessarily know why. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve canceled on a friend because depression and anxiety got in the way. In these instances, we don’t always know that’s what’s causing our absence — we might just feel like we can’t go. In a situation like this, it’s important to understand why you might not want to hang out or be with them. This allows you to be honest with your friend about what’s going on so they can support and be there for you too. 


Validate yourself 

This is your chance to give it to yourself nice and easy. Once you’ve discovered why you want to have this discussion with a friend, it’s important to stick with the original plan. Talking to friends about potential issues in your relationship is awkward and stressful, so when we can think of ways to get out of it, we almost always go with that option instead. 

Our friends are usually the ones validating us in arguments with family or in romantic relationships, so use this time to remind yourself that what you’re feeling is normal. If you’re annoyed, frustrated, or upset with a friend, it’s OK to feel that way sometimes, and it’s OK to talk to them about it. Remember that this will actually make your friendship stronger in the long run, and if it doesn’t, then your friendship might need a reevaluation.


Figure out the best way to communicate

Does this situation deserve an in-person meeting, a phone call, or a text? Figure out the best way to have this discussion with your friend. If you’re just telling her you don’t want to go out in 20 minutes because you want to stay at home with your dog and ice cream, you probably don’t need to meet up. However, if this is a bigger issue in your friendship (your friend borrows your things and never returns them, she leaves you for a guy as soon as you get to the bar, etc.), it might be a good idea to set up a time to meet to discuss how you can move forward with your friendship. 


Be honest

Remember when we talked about identifying why you want to say no? This is where it comes into play. Forget coming up with an excuse; we’re not in high school anymore. (Harsh, but true!) 

Be honest about why you don’t want to do something or why you’re saying no. Whether it be money (the concert is too expensive, you are trying to save for a down payment on a car, you’ve spent your going out budget for the month already, etc.), work (you have work tomorrow or a big project coming up to work on!), personal situations (already have plans, having family trouble, I could really go on here), or something else, you shouldn’t have to spend a ton of time thinking about what you’ll say because it’s the truth. 



Now, I’m not saying you should say no to everything your friends throw at you as a social experiment; however, this is one of life’s many situations wherein practice makes perfect. (I’m just full of cliches today!) The first time you talk to a friend about something that’s bothering you instead of keeping it bottled inside will be uncomfortable and weird. You’ll wonder if they’re still your friend and if your relationship will suffer from this. Over time, though, that feeling will fade, and you’ll learn that good, strong friendships mean more than getting upset because someone called you out on your sh*t.