The Art of Saying No in Casual Social Settings – Part 1: Soft Boundaries (Making Exits)

Boundaries are often a delicate art of managing feelings that leaves many of us uncomfortable in our relationships, families & friends.  Saying no to what we struggle with however is essential to living a healthy lifestyle.  Most of us do not realize that we’re saying no all the time, especially those of us who live in urban settings. When we walk down the street and we don’t make eye contact with most people, we are making sure that we avoid any unnecessary entanglements on the way to wherever we’re going. While we may find this exercise rather manageable to achieve, we are often intimidated by the more personal aspects of a one-on-one dynamic or important social gatherings. So here are some ideas on soft “no-s.” that allow you to exit circumstances as delicately and succinctly as possible in public settings, groups or some large family settings:


1) For acquaintences or people you may not know well, simple discreet boundaries are easiest.  For example, you can excuse yourself to get more food/refreshments, and be kind enough to actually go there.  Many folk will accept this without question and handle it without a second thought.  Folk who are more insecure or who are just really are into you, more than you may be to them may follow you, so you might exit to a bathroom first to refresh yourself or do make-up, etc…  Depending on the circumstances you might be able to step out for air or to have a smoke.

2) For people who know you better, a slightly more direct approach is likely necessary for exits.  For example, you may need to need to meet someone you see across the room, or talk with someone you came to see.  A polite exit is easily accomplished by expressing your exit with an “Excuse Me, I need to go meet… or talk to….”.  If you have a “chaser” who might follow you, a concluding remark, like “It’s been nice talking to you, or I’ll catch you later”.  Again, be gentle & kind enough to actually do what you just declared.  Many people will watch you to see if you do so, fearing that you are overtly rejecting them, especially if they have social fears. 

3) Change locations to sit, stand or see a tv or hear radio, etc…, again with a polite exit.  You may even exit to make a call, or check on the babysitter, etc… 


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