Does your calendar through the end of the year look like a pen factory exploded?
I know, mine does too. Between church activities, community events, family obligations, parties, exchanges, and traditions, let’s just say, the only way I could manage all of it is to tell myself I can sleep through the whole month of January.
Y’all, that is not going to happen.
Since my husband is in ministry and both our families live nearby and we have a teenage daughter, something has to give. And somehow that has to happen without hurting anyone’s feelings.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned there are ways to say no, even to the things we’ve done for years, without making the other people involved feel rejected. They may not fully understand but they know I still value our relationships.
Before I share these three ways I’ve learned to say no graciously, let me make a quick disclaimer. (You knew that was coming, right?)
This isn’t always easy and there will be people who get upset with you, at least initially. I’ve learned that each of these ways works with a certain type of person. Be sure you choose the best response for each person and situation because one size rarely fits all.
3 Ways to Say No Graciously During the Holidays
The Preemptive No
The preemptive no works for those situations like the all-day shopping trip with your besties from four jobs ago. Often, this no is applicable because the activity began when you were in a different season of life and somehow it’s just continued on.
The preemptive no takes the initiative. You contact the person or people and offer your regrets but be honest about how your life has changed and that, as much as the activity or event has meant to you in the past, this year you simply can’t do it.
The key to making this no work is being very specific about two things: why it met a need in your life previously and how much the person or people involved are still very important to you now.
The Rescheduling No
The rescheduling no works perfectly for those activities that aren’t holiday specific. For example, a small group gathering that could just as easily happen in January.
When you offer a rescheduling no, it is important to identify the benefit to everyone for choosing a time after the holidays. Remember, pretty much everyone lacks breathing room during this season. Don’t be afraid to say, “I love spending time together! But honestly, I think we’d all find it much more relaxing if we planned something after the holidays.”
I remember the first time Scott suggested doing a party for the worship team and band in January instead of December. At first I thought he was crazy. But when he told them his idea, every single person expressed their appreciation and gratitude for him not adding one more thing to December. And in January, we had the best time without any of the stress December often brings.
The Combination No
Do you have several small get togethers with different groups of friends? Maybe your book club has a fun dessert night and your mom friends go to an annual concert and you have a cookie exchange with some ladies you know at church.
Each of those involves about 5 or 6 people and maybe there are even some people who, like you, are a part of two or even all three groups. What if you combined all of these and hosted or planned one event for all those people?
You could invite all three groups to go to the concert and then come to your house for dessert (or better yet, get dessert at a favorite restaurant). Or maybe you invite everyone to the cookie exchange. This works well for people like me who like to connect others and since you’re inviting people who will already know at least one or two other people, even your shy or introverted friends will have a “buddy.”
So, there you go … three ways to say no graciously during the holidays. They won’t completely empty your calendar but they can make it much more manageable.
What is your best tip for saying no?
For more tips on time management during the holidays, I suggest: