The Cool Girl’s Guide to Saying No

Ah, another new year, another opportunity to set unrealistic resolutions that you will break in 3, 2, 1 … Yep, you just broke them. You just broke them.

This year, I decided to set one goal that was entirely attainable: say no more often. I’m a yes girl, otherwise called a keener. I say yes to too many classes, too many social outings, too many clubs, and too many family rendezvous. On the outside, all seems well: I attend class looking put together, I’m a superb conversationalist, I have a close relationship with my family, and I’m meeting my fitness goals. On the inside, things can be best described as churning lava occasionally popping from the overwhelming heat (stress).

So, how do I say no? In our culture, we don’t teach kids how to say no and how to receive a no without a damn good reason why we’ve been declined. We’ve created a system where people feel obliged to say yes because handing out too many no’s gives off the impression that you are a flake or just plain rude. This year, I realized I no longer cared if people perceived me as a flake because my overcommitted lifestyle was rendering me sick way too often to be acceptable. With my health deteriorating, I ventured on the “no” train and came up with a system for saying no:



1. The friendship tiers

When I’m asked to hang out, I now take a step back to ask how close am I to this person. Are they in my closest circle of friends? Are they more of a coffee-catch-up friend? Or, are they just an acquaintance? If they are the latter, that doesn’t mean you have to write them off and never speak to them again. It could be a lovely coffee catch up that both of you may very well enjoy, but just remember that you only have so much time when you are in school. So, reflect on how close you are or want to be to this person when deciding how much time month-to-month you plan on spending with them. That’ll give you a clear indication about whether to say yes or no to hanging out. If the answer is no, a simple “Thank you for thinking of me. My schedule is really busy this term, so I don’t think it’ll work out right now, but I’ll message you when my calendar clears up” will do.


2. Date selectively and be direct

Ah, dating. It’s fun and exciting and—no matter how busy we get—there always seems to be time for dating, right? Wrong. Building a romantic relationship requires a lot of time and energy, and sometimes, going on dates with different people is just impossible. It doesn’t mean you have to write off dating entirely; just be selective with who you invest time in. If you want to go on a date with someone, use the word “date” so it’s clear what you’re asking and there isn’t this long dragged-out timeframe of miscommunication. If you’re being the one asked out, consider if you really like this person up front, because their time and energy is valuable too and shouldn’t be taken for granted when they’re busy with school/work, as well. Most importantly, consider if you really want to go out with this person, because if you don’t, it’s just not worth your time. Saying something like, “Thank you for thinking of me. I’m really flattered by the offer, but I’m not interested,” will do the trick. Clear, concise, and expressing gratitude is always a win.



3. Keep your career goals in mind

Maybe you don’t know what the heck you want to be when you grow up. That’s fine, but you likely still have goals or a general direction in mind, and that should be your top priority. The people you spend time with should support your goals, not downplay them. If someone is asking you to hang out who doesn’t get it when you can’t make it because you are striving for an A in Chemistry, say “Bye, Felicia!”


4. Make exercise social time

A piece of advice my mom gave me was, “Carly, exercise matters. Join a workout team or class and make that activity your social time so you can kill two birds with one stone.” Honestly, best piece of advice ever. Thanks, Mom. I take my mental health really seriously, and part of keeping my mind sharp and my heart happy is to fit some exercise into my daily regimen. This term, I joined the UVic Triathlon Club’s running sessions. This is a way to be pushed by a coach, so I can keep improving and I get to catch up with friends while doing it! So, if someone is asking you to hang out, and you’re debating whether you should accept or finally go to that yoga class, ask them to come with you! This way, you can meet your fitness goals and get the social interaction you need to stay sane in between silent study sessions.

With these introspective exercises, you’ll establish a clearer sense of your boundaries for yourself and for your friends. As important as it is to accept opportunities when they come, it’s also important to take care of yourself, and a big part of that is being selective with your time and SAYING NO!