How to Say No to Your Friends

When it comes to balancing work and family, figuring out how to spend more time with family usually takes top priority. And why wouldn’t it? As a mother, my chief concern is always my girls! But our friends are crucial, too, and can’t be overlooked. They are a huge part in how we’re able to release, relax, and stay sane. It’s no wonder we value them! So when we do find a couple of hours to ourselves for a girls night, we want to go with the flow and enjoy.

Sometimes that means...

We overlook the time spent on gossip.

We excuse the friend who has really been bringing us down lately.

We write off our own jealousy as healthy competition.

These are some of our most cherished relationships, so it’s understandable to want to avoid ruffling any feathers. Saying no to the people and behaviors that have started to take a toll on your happiness doesn’t have to make you feel like a jerk, though! Friends are the family we choose, and sometimes we simply need to choose to revise how we interact with those friends.


1. Gossip

It always starts so innocently– just a “Hey, have you heard…” that’s initiated out of a desire to share and egged on by curiosity. And then there’s a few pointed looks and a certain inflection of disapproval or scandal in the narration. By the end, what began as a simple transfer of information has turned ugly with opinions, judgments, and jokes at the subject’s expense.

No one feels good about airing other people’s dirty laundry, and yet we chime in to remain part of the group and the conversation, putting aside the regret and disgust we personally feel. But this isn’t junior high or the set of Mean Girls. You won’t get kicked out of your friend group for politely declining to gossip. All it takes to say no to gossiping is a simple, “I don’t want to talk about them. I’m focusing on myself right now and can’t worry about what other people are doing/wearing.”

2. Jealousy

You’ve known them for years, would give them the shirt off your back, and… wait a second, is she wearing a brand new Diane von Furstenberg dress? Yeah, scratch that last part– she doesn’t need my shirt.

Time and closeness do not make your friends immune to being the target of your jealousy– and how you’ll subconsciously treat them differently because of it. Yes, you care about them, but can’t a girl be a little frustrated over how amazing and effortless some of our friends’ lives seem to be at times? The answer is no! They don’t deserve that, and you shouldn’t waste your time and energy lamenting the things you want but don’t have. Say no to jealousy by making a list of all the things in life you’re thankful for. Sometimes we get so distracted by what our friends have, that we forget to see how #blessed we are, too.

3. Draining Relationships

Somewhere in the unwritten friendship code is the starred, highlighted role of supporting a friend who’s going through a tough time. It’s the long phone calls even when you’re tired or the nights you skip your plans to show up with takeout and wine, just to be there for them to vent, complain, whine, and cry to. But patiently helping a pal during a rough patch is not the same as endlessly putting up with someone who is just draining. Maybe they weren’t always that way, but now every interaction leaves you feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, irritated, and altogether spent. You’re torn between being a good friend and being protective of your positive energy, which is a tough place to be.

You can say no to draining relationships without severing a valued friendship. First off, know that it’s not your responsibility to ‘fix’ them. Instead, talk to them. Point out how down they have seemed to you, and how you hate to see them this way. Is there anything you can do to cheer them up? In the future, try to steer the conversation away from triggering topics. If the situation doesn’t improve, limit the length of time you spend one-on-one and mix things up with more group outings.

4. Extra Activities That Don’t Further Your Goals

Invitations should be compliments. They mean we’re thought of and included. But we all know how it can really feel to be asked to take part in something we just don’t see the value of. You don’t want to offend your friends by frequently turning down their offers to go out and spend time together, but at the same time, you also don’t want to find yourself rushing through a project you really, really want to succeed at. Here’s the thing: you can say no to the barrage of extra activities your friends invite you to– without feeling like a jerk. Instead of just saying you have to work, include your friends on what you’re putting so much effort into. Let them see how passionate you are about your goals, and they won’t secretly suspect you’re blowing them off for Netflix and your couch.

5. Constant Social Media

You can’t blame your friends for wanting you to be as constantly connected as they are. There are only so many people you can trust to always throw you a like on Instagram, after all. Your friends will forgive you for missing a post, however. The internet is a dangerous rabbit hole for procrastination, and it’s pretty unsettling to realize how often throughout the day you feel compelled to check your phone. So give it a break! Your fear of missing out is not greater than your drive to succeed in real, tangible parts of life that actually matter in the long run (and sure, you can repeat that as a mantra until it really sinks in.) Delete your apps to lessen the temptation. You won’t erase your profiles and accounts, you’ll just be making them less convenient and easy to access.