How to say ‘no’ to something when it’s hard to do

Just because something is uncomfortable, doesn't mean that you can't do it. It just means that it is uncomfortable

I don’t know what to do.

A few weeks ago, a co-worker and I started talking about how much fun it would be to go on a cruise. Next thing I know, she’s bringing in information about different cruise lines, and options of times. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point she got the idea that I would be willing to go on a cruise with her, and is really trying to organize it.

I sort of talked about how one cruise line had an option that I liked. Now she’s talking about it like that is “the one.” She wants to know what days will work for me and have I booked off the holiday time yet.

Yikes. I was just daydreaming. I can’t afford to go on a cruise, and if I was going on a holiday, it wouldn’t be with her. She’s a co-worker, not my friend. But she is nice enough, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings by saying that I’m not going on the cruise. How do I get out of this?

What a difficult situation!

The short answer about how to get out of this, is that you will have to do what you don’t want to do: Tell her that you aren’t going on the cruise. There is no way to avoid that uncomfortable reality.

If you are not used to doing this sort of thing, be aware that when you do it, your heart may pound, and your hands may be sweaty. You might even feel a little tearful, or find yourself stammering your words.

Be aware also, that you will survive that.

Just because something is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means that it is uncomfortable. The discomfort will be pretty short-lived, though, if compared with going on a cruise that you don’t want to be on, and can’t afford.

Will your co-worker be disappointed — even hurt? Quite likely. Know that both you and she will survive that.

Will it be uncomfortable at your work for a while after you tell your co-worker that you aren’t going on the cruise? Quite likely. Know that you and your co worker will survive that, as well.

So knowing that you have to do this, even if it is uncomfortable, prepare yourself. To deliver this message, it will be helpful to be as clear and kind as possible.

Here is a process that may help you to talk to your co worker:

Firstly set up a time to speak with her privately. Making a “talk time” will right off the bat alert her that something you have to say is important.

Step One: Emphasize with your co-worker’s possible feelings. Put yourself in her shoes and try to see how she might be feeling about this situation. Something like, “I need to tell you something. You are really looking forward to the cruise, and have put some effort into it already, so this may be hard to hear.”

Step Two: Deliver the message as clearly, and as kindly, as you can. For example: “I need to tell you that even though it sounds amazing, I will not be going on that cruise that we have been talking about.”

Step Three: Convey an attitude of sorrow for your part of this. “I’m so sorry for disappointing you in this way.”

Be prepared for her questions about what has changed.

It is up to you how much information you give her. Once again, be aware of being clear and kind. Perhaps you let her know that when you really think about it all, you realize that you can’t afford the time or money to go. On the other hand, you may be more comfortable just stating that, “It’s private.”

The sooner you are able to let her know, the better for both of you. Being prepared, and using the ideas of being clear and kind as your guidelines, will help. Good luck.

If you find that you end up in situations like this a lot, or that you end up doing many things you don’t want to do in order to not hurt another person’s feelings, it may be helpful to consult with a registered clinical counsellor.

If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at askpacific@shaw.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells and Andrew Lochhead. It appears every second Friday.