When Singapore’s circuit breaker measures were finally lifted, I received an excited text from a friend that read, “Hey guys, so shall we meet next week??!!! 😀 ”

After whining and telling my friends that I couldn’t wait to meet again in person, I couldn’t quite explain my apprehension. The pandemic was still far from over, and I preferred to minimise my social interactions.

I hesitated before I replied, “Suree… when are you free?”

Why Learn To Say No?

On hindsight, I said “yes” before I was actually ready to meet. I even felt relief when our plans got cancelled last minute. But saying “no” right off the bat would have saved me all that unnecessary mental stress.

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to socialising during this pandemic. I’ve learnt that you shouldn’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Your friends may be excited about hanging out in person again. But if you still have your reservations, don’t cave into FOMO or peer pressure.

Saying “yes” before you’re ready puts you under unnecessary pressure and can lead to burnout. As women tend to exhibit such behaviours more than men, it’s time we learn how to say “no” to things we aren’t comfortable with.

Why Do We Say Yes?

While women get a bad rep for being afraid to say “no”, there are times when saying “yes” is good. Lockdowns and social distancing might leave some of us with a heightened sense of isolation and loneliness, which can affect our mental health.

After all, we are a social species. There’s only so much back-to-back Zoom parties can do for us. If you find yourself spiralling, say “yes” to hanging out with friends and family for the sake of your sanity.

When To say “Yes” Or “No” In These Crazy Times?

Firstly, take time during this pandemic to reflect on what you feel comfortable with and what makes you nervous.

While I tend to say “yes” out of habit, I learnt to gently turn down friends’ invitations and realised I didn’t always have to give them a reason too. Tone and delivery matter, and saying “no” could be a simple, “Sorry, I won’t be able to join you this time.”

More often than not, people won’t ask why. So don’t over-explain or you might cause a misunderstanding and complicate matters even more.

Set Boundaries When Working From Home

learn to say no work from home
Image credit: @mohammadshahhosseini on

With work from home becoming the norm, you literally can’t put boundaries on your work and home space. You might even realise that you’re spending more time working than when you were in the office.

While it’s easier to be a “yes (wo)man” in these times to prove your worth, especially when job security is low, sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is focus on what you’re good at. Learn to say “no” tactfully to things that pull you in many directions. You may end up trying to be everything to everyone, but instead, do nothing for anyone.

Ease into it by only answering work emails during office hours (except in emergencies). Communicate your workload clearly with your team. So you’re realistic about any extra work you take on and have a legit reason to say “no” when you need to.

Actually, when you learn to say “no” to superfluous tasks and say “yes” to enforcing work boundaries, you might even be more productive.

Saying “No” Takes Practice

learn to say no woman
Image credit: @crystalsjo on Unsplash

Learning to say “no” is an art and with time, you’ll be more confident with the choices you make and what you say “yes” or “no” to.

Remember, you don’t have to feel obliged to step out of your comfort zone during these hectic times. As long as you turn down your friends and extra workload with tact and good reason, you should not have anything to worry about!

Here’s a quick recap: Don’t let peer pressure convince you that you have to go hang out with your friends if you don’t want to, and a simple rejection will suffice. When you learn to say “no” to social obligations, you’ll start to notice that you’ve got more free time for yourself. Stay safe everyone!