No. 1: Saying No to That Small Group Hang That'll Probably Happen Again Soon
Little-known fact: if your friends get mad at you for skipping a trip to the mall or, god forbid, an impromptu happy hour, then you need a new crew of companions. In no way are you bound to hang all the time, especially when you're busy focusing on, say, your burgeoning career or, you know, mustering up the courage to ask out your crush.
Avoid a flip rejection and let 'em down easy. Say you're tired and just want to go home. Just wanting to go home is a great reason to go home. Try following that up with a simple "We must try do this next week, though," because chances are, you'll want to join in next time!
No. 2: Saying No to Big Invites When Feelings Are Involved
There are certain events or experiences so exciting that even just being invited is cause for celebration. Concerts and festivals for the music buffs, impromptu spring vacations for those who need to get away, and eventually, all at once, a slew of weddings. Here's a hard truth: Unless every night the tooth fairy's cool younger sister is leaving like, $1,000 under your pillow, you're going to have to budget, both for money and time.
The best way to turn down an invitation to something big, when the invitee's emotions are bound up in the invitation, is to be prompt and frank. If a friend invites you on a trip next month, would going mean you may not get to take a longer family vacation later in the year? Say exactly that. Have you been asked to attend a wedding in another city, state, or country, and the thought of spending that money makes you sweat? Say exactly that. Will buying tickets to Coachella at a classmate's request mean you can't make a few bigger, more practical purchases later? Say exactly that. But say exactly that within a week of your coming to a decision.
No. 3: Saying No to a Political Debate
If you've found a way to have intense, meaningful, and inspiring conversations with people who hold markedly different worldviews from you, about those worldviews—well, we want to know your secret. If, however, you're spending time with relatives, a friend's family, classmates you don't know, or in-laws, and you find that the conversation starts teetering dangerously close to intense political debate, you need an exit strategy.
Sometimes actually saying the words, "Sorry, guys, I would really prefer we stay away from politics tonight" makes people so uncomfortable and embarrassed, they actually will stick to tame topics. Most people want those around them to feel at ease more than they want to make sure you understand exactly how they feel about hot-button issues.
There are, of course, people who simply won't respect your wishes. Here's the thing: You are not required to stay in any conversation you don't like. If you're at a family reunion, excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, and scroll through your social feeds for a while. If you're getting drinks with friends, pay your check and peace. If you're at a party, move on to a new conversation.
No. 4: Saying No to a Date
It seems simple: If you don't like them, don't go out with them. But of course, it's not really that simple. Maybe you have a vague intuition that you don't like them, but you don't trust it. Or maybe they're coming on strong and they just wear you down. Or maybe saying no and just reading a book (aka, what you really want to do) feels boring.
But it's actually very, very cool to say no to things that aren't fun for you, even if they're fun for someone else! That's especially true for dates—and especially for, uh, what happens on dates. Say no! Stay home! Read your book (or hang out with your friend/mom/cat/etc)! You'll have more fun and won't have any cringe-inducing memories of gross kisses from jerks.
No. 5: Saying No to a Relationship You're Not Feeling
It's normal to fight and need time alone from time to time, but if you and your significant other's arguments don't ever seem to get resolved, the relationship makes you feel bad about yourself, or you're just not bringing out the best in each other, it may be time to part ways. But breaking up is, as they say, hard to do. Most of us want to avoid pain for ourselves, but we may also be concerned about hurting our partner, even if we're furious at them.
The thing is, staying in a bad relationship doesn't prevent pain—it only drags it out, and you and your partner may end up acting out your unhappiness in other ways (like avoiding your S.O. or trying to make them angry so they'll do the breaking up). Just Say No to long-term, low-grade relationship suffering and make the break! Like most of these "you should be saying no" situations, we're talking about a short-term pain for a long-term gain, which in this case is the happiness of you and your soon-to-be ex.
No. 6: Saying No to That Fifth Cup of Coffee
That first cup of coffee in the morning always feels right. It's like smashing a bottle of Champagne on the bow of the day, a way to make it official: I am awake. And the second cup of coffee definitely feels good, too. You're just doubling down on what we can all agree was a good decision, so what could go wrong?
Once you get past the first two cups, you have to start reaching for plausible excuses as to why another dose of caffeine is a good idea. "It'll power me through the afternoon slump!" you might say. "It's been a long day, I deserve it!" Then your right eyelid starts to twitch, and you skip the surge of energy and go straight to the crash part.
The way to avoid all of this is to take one second before indulging to consider if you actually desire coffee, or if you just want to go through the motions of desire fulfillment. You might realize that you simply want to take a walk, drink some water, or eat a banana. Or you might just want to take a nap.