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December 1, 2023 6 Min Read

Ask a Coach: How Can I Say ‘No’ to Yet Another Holiday Invite?

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Emotional intelligence Coach Ruth Dollinger empowers you to set boundaries for your schedule and say ‘No’ to the things that aren’t serving you this season. 

Dear Coach, 

Let me preface this by saying that I’m really not a grinch — promise! I absolutely love the holidays and spending time celebrating with family and friends. But this time of year is insanely busy! With so many important commitments (think: work deadlines, the kids’ school parties, catching up with friends), the end of the year always stretches me too thin. By the time I get to celebrating with loved ones (and breathe…), I’m too exhausted to enjoy it! I’m determined to do things differently this year. 

How can I prioritize the get-togethers that matter most, but politely decline invitations to the rest? I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I’m feeling burned out and need to carve out some time for self-care before it gets snapped up by party invites. I just can’t do it all! Will everyone understand? 


An Over-Committer Turned Burn-Out Preventer 


Dear Over-Committer (Hopefully Not Burned Out Yet),

You’re definitely not alone with any of these feelings! The holidays have notoriously become the season of “let’s squeeze one more thing into an extremely tight time frame” — turning the already difficult game of “Schedule Sudoku” into something that feels impossible to figure out. 

This hectic time of year makes self-care and respecting your own boundaries even more important than ever. And recognizing your need to refocus on where (and to whom) you’re giving your time is such an important first step. I’m actually going to start with the punchline, and then we’ll dive a bit deeper. Ready?

When you say ‘Yes’ and add another thing to your schedule, what are you saying ‘No’ to?

Each time you’re tempted to accept an invitation, think of the intent behind the ‘Yes’. Ask yourself: “Why am I about to say ‘Yes’?” Are you saying ‘Yes’ because you want approval, acceptance, and to avoid upsetting someone? Or is it to help, support, and be willing to participate in that person’s event?

If it’s the former, give yourself permission to skip it! Figuring out the intent behind the ‘Yes’ will help shed light on when you actually want to say ‘No’. Remember that all your choices are equal — although different, one is not better or worse than the other. You don’t need to make everything work. Let’s go a little deeper, shall we? 

Related: 4 Fail-Proof Ways To Set Healthy Boundaries During The Holidays

Your time is limited, so always ask yourself: “Where do I actually want to show up?” 

If the invitation in question is not one you can prioritize, you may feel rude admitting it even to yourself. You mentioned wanting to be polite, so here’s something to consider: 

Being polite is being aware of and respecting the feelings of other people. But setting your own boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care about others. You can acknowledge the good intentions behind the invitation and care for yourself.

Here are some polite ways to send your regrets: 

  • “Thank you for the invite, I won’t be able to join. Looking forward to hearing all about it.”
  • “Thank you, I won’t be able to attend.”
  • “Sorry I’ll miss it.”

But, what if they want a reason or ask why?

Well, we don’t owe people explanations for our boundaries. You don’t have to give a reason. If you want to, just add the word ‘because’:

  • “Thank you, I won’t be able to attend because I have something else”. 

You have the option of sharing more only if you choose to… because it’s your life. Not theirs. Shifting your behavior and responses may create a feeling of tension within your relationships, but boundaries are there for you. You’re not in charge of how others feel about your decision. It’s not your responsibility to explain or justify your boundaries. Saying ‘No’ is hard. Feeling nervous when you say it is normal. Just like any new skill, it requires intentional thinking and lots of practice. 

As you say ‘No’ throughout this holiday season, hold on to that feeling of freedom. How can you continue this practice of making space for self-care throughout 2023? Let’s chat more in a 1:1! 


Coach Ruth


Interested in chatting with Ruth or another emotional intelligence coach? Head to the app to book a session! 

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