The other evening, a dear friend of mine text me with, as she called it, a wording question. She’d been invited to a party, you see, by someone from her work who she doesn’t like very much, and was struggling to articulate how to RSVP with a “Thanks but no thanks” yet still be polite. In her text to me she said, “I don’t want to say I’m unable to come but should I make an excuse? I don’t know how to combine politeness and integrity!”
I text her back and suggested she write: “Thanks for the invite, however I won’t be able to come”.
With the holidays coming up, you too might be struggling a bit with the sudden blitz of festive party invites and family gatherings to go to. Maybe you’re feeling that you have to be part of the office ‘Secret Santa’, when really, you just think it’s stupid spending a tenner on a pointless gift for Andy in Accounts—who you barely even know—and yet you’re feeling the pressure and don’t want to say no.
I struggled for years with this. I would go to parties I didn’t want to go to and chip in for gifts I didn’t want to chip in for and smile and nod along and say “Yes, that’s fine!” when actually, it wasn’t fine, it was crippling.
It’s difficult to say “no”, isn’t it? Because when you say “no”, people might judge you and dislike you and think you’re not very fun and a party pooper.
Talking of party poopers, I decided to leave a party at 10.15pm last weekend, mostly because I was really tired and also because I am a raging introvert and don’t really like parties. It took me close to half an hour to actually leave though, because as I said goodbye to everyone, I was fire-hosed with “Don’t go!” “Just stay, for one more hour!” “But the party hasn’t even started yet!” and “Oh come on, don’t be boring!”
I left anyway. Despite the peer pressure to stay. Despite the nagging voice in my head that said, “Well, what if you are really boring and now everyone hates you and thinks you’re weird?”
The truth is, they might now think I am really boring. They also might hate me and think that I am weird.
I can just about tolerate this though. Because a) I know I cannot control or do anything about what other people think of me, and b) I am not obligated to do anything I don’t want to.
And the same is true for you.
You don’t have to go to the party. You too can say, “Thanks for the invite, however I won’t be able to come”.
You don’t have to spend every single Christmas with your parents and that weird old Aunt you only see once a year.
You don’t even have to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever festivity you think you have to celebrate! You might think it’s all a bit daft and commercialised and you can’t be bothered with all the faff. (A few years ago, before my kiddo arrived in the world, I chose to spend Christmas day on my own. I ordered a takeaway curry from my favourite Indian restaurant and watched Will and Grace re-runs all day long. It really was bliss).
You don’t need permission from anyone.
But if for some reason you feel like you do, here it is:
You can say “No”. Or “No, thank you” to the parties and the invites and the Secret Santa and the hours and hours and hours you feel you must spend with your family over Christmas when really, your family drive you slightly bonkers and each year you’re already tearing your hair out before your mum has even served up the trifle and everyone’s got a bit pissed and opinionated on Baileys.
You can say “No.”
You don’t always need a reason. You definitely don’t need an excuse.
You’re allowed to say “No” because that’s what feels right and the best thing for you*.
Over and out.
*This also applies throughout the rest of the year, not just at Christmas.