Learning how to say “No” can be tough. Just think… the holidays are a joyous time of year. Families and friends gather together, children anticipate Santa’s arrival, and chilly weather encourages us to spend cozy time indoors.

But the holidays can also be a source of stress. In the flurry of activity, we often struggle with extra demands on our time and attention. One key to maintaining inner balance during the holidays is saying “no” comfortably and with confidence. When we can say “no,” we free up time and energy for the things that matter most to us.

In this article, we explore how to say “no” during the holidays without guilt.


STEP ONE: Listen to Your Inner Voice and Decide What YOU Want…

(…and not what you think you should want or what others want from you)


In a world of constant distraction, tuning in to your inner voice can be tough.

But learning how to listen to the voice within is worthwhile. Your inner voice is in-touch with your natural intuition about your true desires. It can translate underlying, nagging stresses into verbal language, so you can clearly understand what’s bothering you.

Have you been dreading your office Christmas party but aren’t sure why? To figure out what’s really going on, listen to your internal talk. You may be surprised by what you learn.

Maybe you have unresolved tension with your boss. It could be that you are an introvert and going means you’ll have to socialize with work acquaintances. Maybe you don’t know why you’re dreading the party; you just know it’s causing you stress. Your inner voice is a source of wisdom that can tap into a deeper connection with yourself, helping you to understand what’s really going on in the background of your psyche.


Solitude is Necessary to Hear Your Inner Voice


But to really tune in requires quiet and solitude. To connect with your inner voice, try spending time with only your own thoughts. This means stepping back from things like texting, surfing the web, or streaming media. If you rarely have time alone with your own thoughts, it will be challenging to discern what thoughts are yours vs. everyone else’s.


Here’s an example of tapping into your inner voice in action: 

Christmas of 2020 was unusual. Instead of spending the holidays frantically rushing from event to event, house to house, things were uncommonly quiet and pleasant due to Covid-19. Surprisingly, you and your family really enjoyed the relaxed vibe. You’ve been feeling some anxiety about the upcoming 2021 holiday season, but you’re not sure why. 

To gain clarity, you take a walk by yourself. After thinking about it, you realize that despite the rest of the world gearing up for holiday parties, family gatherings and a return to “normalcy” your inner voice says that you once again want to enjoy a quiet, simple Christmas with just your immediate family at home. Your anxiety stems from societal pressure to participate in the hectic holidays, even though you don’t want to.



STEP TWO: Clarify Your Why 


The hustle and bustle of the holidays can throw us off balance. Sometimes what other people want for us can take precedence over what we actually want for ourselves.

It can be helpful to understand the “why” behind your desires. When our decisions are tied to our deeper principles, it becomes much easier to stand firm in our decision to say no.

Once you’ve decided what you want, verbalize the value behind your desire. For example, if you want to spend a quiet Christmas at home with your family, ask yourself what you’re seeking to gain from your decision.

Do you want time to bond with your children? Are you tired and in need of rest? Are you stressed about traveling in holiday traffic?


Clearly understanding your “why” will help you say “no” with confidence. 


Here’s the example from above, continued:

A couple of weeks before Christmas, your best friend calls to invite your family to spend Christmas day at her home. She says how excited she is that the holidays are back to normal. You notice some anxiety because you don’t want to disappoint your friend. But you also know why you want a quiet Christmas day at home: you’ve been working too much lately, and your spouse and kids could really use some quiet time together as a family. 



STEP THREE: Say “No, Thank You,” with Confidence 


If you’ve listened to your inner voice, decided what you really want, and clarified your “why,” then you’re ready to say “no, thank you” confidently and without guilt! And although you don’t owe anyone an explanation, a blunt “no” can be off-putting.

To say “no” with confidence and kindness, offer a quick explanation stating why you’re unable to meet their request. For most people, this explanation will be plenty, and they’ll accept it graciously. If someone pushes you further, reiterate your polite no with firm gratitude, “I really do appreciate the offer, but it’s just not possible. Thank you for thinking of us.”


You deserve to feel confident in your decision to say “no.” 


You tell your friend how much you appreciate the offer, but that your family will spend Christmas Day together at home. You explain that you, your spouse, and your children could all use some quality time together. Because you know that this is what you really want, and you know your “why,” you are able to say no easily and without guilt!


You might find these related articles helpful:

Counseling Advice for Surviving the Holidays

Self-Care and Stress Management During the Holiday Season




Do you often say “Yes” when you really mean “No”?

Do you feel guilty or even selfish when you say “No” to others?

Learning to set boundaries with the guidance of a licensed therapist can help. You can request a FREE Phone Consultation by completing the brief form below. A member of our team will reach out and help you determine if our practice and which therapist might be a good fit for you or a loved one. If our practice is not a fit, we are happy to offer recommendations to providers in the Denver metro area.