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Whether you're afraid of missing out on something, or you're worried about coming off as a jerk, it can be difficult to say no. Here are some strategies to help you stop impulsively saying yes, and think critically about what you want to do.

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It's just two letters long and the same across so many languages, so why is the word 'no' sometimes so hard to say?  More importantly, how can we say it with less anxiety and more grace?  There are lots of reasons why you might feel reluctant to say no, many of them fear-based. There's the good old fashioned FOMO, for instance, whether that's a fear of missing out on a fun dinner with friends or a work project that could lead to a promotion.  There's also the fear of conflict and the fear and guilt of potentially disappointing someone.  We all want to be accepted and liked and saying yes, although it might eventually lead to something that you don't actually want to do, it often feels much easier in the moment.  Basically, we don't wanna be a jerk and we don't wanna miss out on stuff.  

So before we can get to how to gracefully say no, let's take a look at those two fears.  Firstly, FOMO.  If you're constantly saying yes because you're afraid of missing out, consider this: by saying yes, you are already missing out on other things that you would be doing during the time with the energy that you've just committed to something that you aren't actually excited about.  It's important to be able to discern the difference between good and bad uses of your time, or even good and great uses of it, and we'll get to that in a minute, but in general, don't let FOMO make you miss out on the life that you actually want.  There will often by other opportunities that are just as good as, if not better, than the one that you gave that reflexive 'yep!'.

Secondly, there's the fear that saying no, like, equals being a jerk, and if that's the case, I say no a lot, and so I am a huge jerk.  I hope that's not true.  Now, don't get me wrong, there are times in life where doing something unpleasant is a kind of requirement for being a decent person, and there are instances, say, if you're interning at a company you really want to work with, where constantly saying yes is advantageous and also kind of a job.  Otherwise, though, people often overestimate how much their no is gonna actually affect the life of another person and in any case, we have some communication strategies for you to use to avoid those hard feelings.  But remember, if you're overwhelmed, overworked, and just need to treat yo'self, saying no isn't selfish, it's an act of self-care.

Okay, so that's the psychology, now for the strategy.  Here are four strategies to saying no with more grace and less stress.

Strategy #1: Take a beat.  An immediate answer is not always necessary, so it's perfectly acceptable to say something along the lines of, "That sounds really interesting.  I'd like to give it some thought before committing either way."  People will often try to get you right in the moment.  Don't let 'em do it.  Especially if they're trying to sell you something.  With the time you bought, think about how the proposal fits in with your priorities and goals and the advantages and disadvantages that saying yes would offer, and if you're not sure, you might want to reach out to friends or mentors or parents or just like, have a heart-to-heart with your teddy bear.

Strategy #2: Deliver the news deliberately.  Let's say you've come to a no conclusion or an immediate answer is necessary.  The way you give your no will contribute a lot to how the other person perceives it.  One great way to do this is to offer your answer with gratitude and with context.  For instance, if you've been invited to a party and you're giving it a big nope, you might say something like, "Thank you so much for the invitation and I'm sure y'all are gonna have a great time, but my life's been really packed lately and I need some downtime, so I won't be able to make it," or if you've been offered a job promotion that you don't actually want, you might say, "I'm so flattered.  I'm very grateful for the offer, but because of other obligations, I'm not in a place right now where I can accept a new position.  I'm sure you'll find somebody fantastic, who is fully able to commit."  You might even offer it to them that you might help them find that person.  Now the asker might try to use the information you offered as an opening to try to needle you into saying yes.  In that case, just give a firm but polite "Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I really do have to say no."  I am totally guilty of needling people when I invite them to parties and they say that they need a nap, I'm like, no you don't, you need to party, you need to party with me at my house.   So when they come back and they say, really, really for real though, I can't, then I'm like, okay, and I'm not mad at them, I promise.

Important bonus tip, don't feel the need to be overly apologetic.  That can often just make things more awkward and make you seem wishy-washy in your decision making. 

Strategy #3: Offer an alternative.  Imagine that somebody's asked you to contribute to a project.  If you feel conflicted or unable to give a flat out no, suggest another, less stressful way to be a part of it, or ask if you can participate at a later date.  

Strategy #3b is to say no, but help the asker out by pointing them toward other resources.  Like, I'm not up for this, but you might want to ask my friend Jerry.  He's great and even better than me, I promise.

And Strategy #4: Open in the case of badgers.  If somebody keeps badgering you and won't accept no for an answer, what then?  Well, develop a few badger-proof phrases to have at your disposal.  One advice columnist offers a suggestion that I like a lot.  It's this: "With my schedule, I would be unreliable and I won't let myself be that."  That puts it on you and it says that like, this is something that you are making about yourself but it also is in the best interests of the asker that you don't do this.  Another really good one: "My family would be disappointed in me if I took another obligation."  Nobody's gonna keep pestering you after you throw 'em that one.

Living in today's fast-paced, hyperconnected world can be a blessing and a curse, but whatever your situation may be and however you choose to deal with it, we hope that these strategies helped.  

We at How to Adult are very curious what your strategies are for saying no with grace and aplomb.  Let us know in the comments section below.  I don't know what aplomb means.  I don't.  I have no idea what that means.  And of course, if you want to learn more about adulting with me and Rachel, you can go to to subscribe.  

There's also the fear of conflict or the fear and guilt of disappointing someone's--someone.  That's weird.  I did that.

I'm sure you're gonna have a great time.  I would have, but my life's been really packed, and I just have to go to bed.

With my schedule, I'd be unreliable and I won't let myself be that.  Oh, I would totally use that one.

My trick: whenever I'm about to spend a bunch of money, I walk out of the store, and then I'm like, do I wanna go back inside the store and buy that thing?  If yes--does anyone know what aplomb means?  Nope?  Nobody?  I feel like it's what they say, people say 'grace and aplomb'.  Uh, I assume just a plum, just like a small purple fruit.