How to Build Closer Friendships

If you’re someone who has a lot of friends, but your friendships feel very surface level – listen up. In this video we’re going to be covering the three components of creating closer, more meaningful friendships with the people in your life.

Summary:

Building deeper friendships takes time and two-way vulnerability. Here are three things to focus on to start building more meaningful connections with the people in your mind.

#1: Make one-on-one time

  • Set a reminder on your phone every 1-1 weeks, to make 1:1 plans with someone you’d like to get to know better. Make it a priority to get 1:1 time with them at least once a month.
  • Pick an activity that’s conducive for conversations (dinner, brunch, happy hour, coffee, a walk, a hike, a visit to the dog park, or a phone call)

#2: Share your struggles

  • Get beyond the surface level conversations and open up to the other person. Start sharing the parts of yourself you’re uncomfortable with, like your struggles, insecurities, worries, and fears.
  • Don’t just jump into sharing – ease in slowly, over time, and make sure the other person is receptive.

#3: Level up your listening

  • You can’t just dump all your problems on someone and expect to be close. Make space for them to share.
  • Ask the important questions
  • When they’re sharing, don’t start sharing your own stories and making it about you
  • Don’t problem solve right away. Give them a chance to feel heard.

If you’re someone who has a hard time making deeper friendships because you’re always trying to impress people or you’re afraid of being yourself, make sure to download my free guide on how to stop being a people pleaser. It includes 10 ways to start speaking up for yourself so you can build confidence and build healthier relationships with the people in your lives.

Full Transcript:

If you’re someone who has a lot of friends, but you feel like most of your friendships are very surface level, listen up. In this video, we’re going to be covering the three components of developing closer, more meaningful friendships with the people in your life.

Maybe you’re somebody who has a lot of friends, but you only see them at parties or certain events. Or maybe you feel like you can’t really open up and be yourself around the people in your life because you’re just not that close with them, so it’s hard to be vulnerable.

Whatever the case is, we got to first understand where deep friendship comes from. And it comes from two things. It comes from time spent together (so it takes time to develop deep friendship, it doesn’t just happen overnight), and it takes two way vulnerability (you have to be able to be vulnerable with the other person, and the other person needs to be able to be vulnerable with you).

So what do these things look like in practice?

Number one, make one on one time.

If you have a lot of friends and or acquaintances, but you feel like you’re not close to any one of them, ask yourself, are you spending quality one on one time with anybody? Or are most of your social interactions in groups settings.

Group settings like parties and events and all these great things are fun. They’re awesome. I’m not saying don’t go to them, but they’re not always the best settings for having those deeper one on one conversations that are required to be close friends with somebody.

It’s harder to let your guard down when you’re around a lot of people. You might be worried about getting interrupted by others or being overheard by somebody that maybe you don’t trust as much or you don’t know as well. And also, a lot of times when people are in big group settings, they’re not really in the mental headspace to have those deeper, more vulnerable conversations. A lot of times they just want to have fun.

This past December, I was at a holiday party. I was surrounded by friends and people I knew, and it was going to be this awesome event. But I just felt so anxious and disconnected from people. I just felt completely alone, even though I was around people I knew, people I could have fun with. And it was later that night that I realized that it was because it was the holidays, so I was seeing people at large like parties and group settings, but I wasn’t setting aside time one on one with people to maintain my more intimate relation relationships and connections. So a lot of my friendships were starting to feel surface level because I was only seeing people at parties and I wasn’t having that one on one time to be really able to open up with people and feel connected with them.

So how do we put this into practice? How do we spend more one on one time with our friends?

Well, you got to set aside the time. Put a reminder in your calendar every one or two weeks to reach out with somebody that you want to get closer with. Try to at least meet up with them once a month.

Set aside some one on one time and pick an activity that’s conducive for those deeper conversations and being able to being able to speak uninterrupted.

A lot of the activities we often do are great and they’re fun, but it’s harder to have deeper heart to heart conversations in those activities because they’re prone to interruption or they’re really distracting. These are things like working out, going shopping, watching sports, going to the movies, music events, going to parties, or shopping.

These are all great things. And I’m not saying you don’t stop doing them. By all means, go enjoy yourself.

But what I am saying is that those activities tend to not be very conducive to the deeper conversations that you need to be able to have if you’re developing closer friendships. So you can do those things, but if you want those deeper relationships, make sure you’re also getting one on one time with the people that you want to build those deeper friendships with, doing activities that are more conducive to deeper conversations.

So these are typically things like getting dinner or brunch with a friend, getting coffee or happy hour. If you want to do something active, going on a walk or a hike or maybe going to the dog park together. If you’re limited on the time you have, you can even pick up the phone and give someone a call just to catch up one on one.

If you want to go deeper friendships you got to go the extra mile. That means setting aside time to connect with people individually, not in a group setting, and pushing yourself to have those deeper conversations.

Which leads us to the second element of building deeper friendships, which is, number two, sharing your struggles.

You’ve got to be able to open up and share the things that you’re uncomfortable with yourself or things about yourself that you’re worried about being judged for.

That means sharing things like your fears, your insecurities, your worries, hurt feelings, problems, or issues that you’re going through. It also means sharing your hopes and dreams and all these positive things in life, but a lot of times when we’re feeling like we’re stuck at these surface level friendships, it’s often because we’re putting on a show and only sharing the great things, we’re not really sharing what’s beneath the surface… which is where, by the way, humans connect best. Push yourself to have those deeper conversations, to share what’s really going on, to be vulnerable.

And remember, this takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. So don’t just jump into oversharing the next time that you get some dinner with somebody.

And also keep in mind, not everybody will always reciprocate. Some people are content with having surface level friendships there, or maybe they don’t realize that they actually need something deeper. Don’t go oversharing or forcing things if the other person feels closed off to it or they’re not reciprocating.

Remember, by sharing these things, you’re opening the door to deeper friendship, but you both have to walk through it together and make sure that the other person is actually being receptive and that they’re engaging with you.

And that takes us to the third element of creating deeper friendships, which is level up your listening.

Close friendships require two way vulnerability. So you have to be able to open up to somebody else, and the other person needs to be able to open up to you. You can’t just dump all your problems and all your life issues on this other person and expect to be best friends. That’s just taking advantage of someone who’s nice and is willing to lend an ear.

You have to reciprocate and create a space and time for somebody to be able to open up to you. So that means asking the important questions. A lot of times when we have surface level relationships, we’re not talking about the deeper things in life, we’re just talking about surface level topics.

So you have to be proactive in asking about those touchier subjects like stress, health, relationships, family stuff, job satisfaction. Obviously, you can’t force somebody to talk about these things. You have to be respectful of their boundaries and what they’re comfortable with. But what we’re trying to do here is encourage the other person, and let them know, “Hey, I care about how you’re doing, and I want to know what your real life experiences like.”

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you about X, Y, Z…”

“By the way, how are you dealing with this thing that happened? I heard this happened, and it sounds like it was really hard to go through…”

“How’s work doing? Is it something that you’re still enjoying? Do you plan to be there for a while? What are you looking to get out of it in the long term?”

Remember, when somebody is opening up that it’s not about you. It can be really tempting to try to relate to somebody’s story, especially if they’re going through some challenges or struggles. It can be really tempting for us to try to relate by sharing our own stories.

This oftentimes backfires because it makes it seem like you’re just looking for a reason to talk about yourself. It doesn’t make the other person feel like they necessarily have the floor to be able to talk about their stuff, because you keep bringing in your own stories. Let the other person talk without making it an opportunity to share your own struggles, especially if this is someone who doesn’t share pro-actively a lot.

You don’t want to ask somebody about their experiences and then the minute that they tell you what’s going on, you talk about yourself again. That doesn’t feel very good for the other person, and it’s not a really great way to build trust.

When you’re responding to somebody when they’re opening up or sharing with you, try not to shift the focus away from what they’re talking about. Focus on them. Ask follow up questions about their experience. So you can say something like, “Hey, that sounds really frustrating,” or “what do you think you’re going to do next?”

And also, don’t try to problem solve. Unless somebody asks you for advice, try not to offer it. Often when people are sharing, especially if they’re sharing for the first time, they’re not really looking for you to solve their problems, at least not right away.

They just want to feel heard. They want to process their feelings. They want to have their feelings acknowledged, have their experience acknowledged. Be with them as they process. Don’t just hurry or jump into trying to fix their problems, especially if they haven’t asked you about it. Level up your listening by keeping the focus on the other person while they share and you’ll be a lot more likely to be seen as somebody that they can trust.

Close friendships take time and to a vulnerability, so you have to be able to open up to the other person, and the other person needs to be comfortable sharing with you. That looks like making one on one time with with people. It looks like sharing your struggles, and it looks like leveling up your listening.

If you’re struggling to make closer friendships because you feel like you’re always trying to impress people or you’re worried about what people think and you can’t really be yourself, be sure to download my FREE GUIDE on how to stop people being a people pleaser.

Let me know what thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

How to Become More Outgoing: 3 Mindsets for Making Friends Anywhere

Summary:

If you want to become more outgoing and make friends anywhere, there are three mindsets you should:

  1. Focus on creating a friendly environment for everyone around you
  2. Be proactive. Don’t be afraid to initiate or break the ice.
  3. Practice being curious about others and asking questions.

Watch the full video for more details!

Full Transcript:

Do you ever look at someone who naturally makes friends everywhere they go and wonder what it is that makes them so outgoing? Whether it’s at work, school, or in social events, there always seems to be that one person who knows everyone. Even in scenarios where they don’t know anyone, they naturally make connections and turn strangers into friends.

If this is a skill you want to develop, stick around – In this video we’re going to be covering how to become more outgoing. We’ll go over the three mindsets that help you strike up a conversation and make friends anywhere, and what they look like in practice.

Mindset #1: Focus on creating a friendly environment for everyone around you.

You might be thinking that in order to become more outgoing, you need to become the most interesting or entertaining person in the room. That’s actually not necessarily the case.

You don’t have to be a social butterfly or the center of attention to make friends. In fact, the people I’ve seen who are most naturally outgoing, tend to bring other people out of their shell. They make friends everywhere they go not because they hog the spotlight and wow people with stories, but because they encourage others to share. They’re not the most boisterous people in the room – they’re the ones who are encouraging conversations and making sure others have a chance to express themselves.

Naturally outgoing people worry less about impressing people and more about making others feel engaged. Sure, they don’t want to make a fool of themselves, but they’re more concerned with making sure everyone feels welcome and included. If you want to break out of your shell and be that person who others gravitate towards, shift your focus from just your own personal experience, to creating a friendly environment for everyone else.

When you shift your goal to something external, or a purpose that’s bigger than you, like making sure others feel included, it’s easier to get out of your own head and overcome that fear of feeling awkward. Plus, when you focus on making others feel included and appreciated, it makes you more approachable than if you’re just concerned with your own appearance. People naturally gravitate towards people who make them feel included.

Think about it right now, who in your life is really good at engaging everyone around them? I know for me, it’s a coworker I had, and I often think of her when I’m in a group full of strangers at work. Let me know in the comments who your person is, and keep them in mind as we go through the rest of these points.

Mindset #2: Be proactive. Don’t be afraid to initiate or break the ice.

If you’re worried about being awkward, here’s something to help get you out of your head: Most people are just as worried about looking stupid or feeling awkward as you. So they’re relieved when someone includes them in a conversation, or breaks the awkward silence.

Think about it – have you ever been at an event where you knew nobody, and someone struck up a conversation with you? Didn’t you feel better that you weren’t alone any more, that you had a friendly face to talk with? I don’t know about you, but I’m always grateful for the person who breaks the ice first.

Be that person for others. Make the first move. Get out of your comfort zone. Yes, it’ll feel a little awkward at first, but I promise once you’ve practiced it, you’ll get more comfortable at it… AND you’ll help everyone else feel more comfortable. Most of the time when you break the ice, you’re doing everyone else a favor, too.

My go-to ways of breaking the ice are embarrassingly simple. 99% of the time, I either start with a genuine compliment, or an observation about my surroundings. And I try to always follow up with a question.

Give a genuine compliment. At the gym this might be “Hey nice shoes, I’ve been meaning to try that brand for a while. Do you like them so far?” In class this could be “that’s a cool planner, where did you get it?” Maybe someone is wearing a shirt from a band you like, “Hey that’s a cool shirt, did you see that band when they were in town?”

People often express themselves through what they wear, so a really easy way to break the ice is to compliment someone on a piece of clothing and ask where they got it. 

One of my favorite coworkers from my old job would always point out when someone had a fun or interesting profile picture on our project calls. “Hey, that’s a pretty background in your profile photo, where did you take that?” Just make sure you’re being genuine.

When a compliment doesn’t feel natural, go with an observation about your surroundings. This doesn’t have to be fancy. I’ll be honest, most of my conversation starters aren’t even really conversation starters, they’re just me verbalizing my inner dialogue. In this case, I’ll normally ask a followup question after the person responds.

“Man, that workout was hard, I can’t believe they made us do so many burpees!” “Looks like we have some nice weather this weekend, do you have any fun plans?” “The host of this party always does a great job with the food… how do you know Lisa?” You can even share a bit of recent news… “Apparently Elon Musk just bought Twitter, can you believe it?” 

Everyone always pokes fun of how adults talk about the weather for small talk but you know what, you don’t have to be super fancy about how you get your foot in the door. Give a genuine compliment, make a somewhat relevant observation, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, follow it up with a question. Help the other person by giving them an easy lead they can follow. Most people are just flattered to be included in the conversation, so it usually doesn’t take much for someone to latch on and continue engaging.

Whatever path you go with, make sure to take a moment before you approach someone to take a deep breath and smile. It’s simple but it goes a long way in conveying warmth and friendliness.

Mindset #3: Practice being curious about others.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you realized you were doing most of the talking because you were worried about awkward silences? Maybe you’re someone who worries about starting up a conversation because you don’t want to be in the spotlight. The best way to combat this is to develop a genuine curiosity about other people. Practice being curious about others’ lives and experiences.

Think about it this way. No matter how smart you are, you have no way of knowing everything. Every single person you come across, no matter their age, job, or whatever demographic, they know something that you don’t, whether it’s a perspective, an experience, or knowledge. Make it your mission to figure out what that is, to learn about other people.

Why should you want to learn about other people? Because it’s fun! It’s literally, psychologically fun. We as humans love learning – I’m not talking about formal education, I’m talking about the novelty of learning about new ideas or things we didn’t know about before. Our brains love that shit. We get hits of dopamine any time we get information that’s novel, it’s literally exciting. And just think – every person you meet has something you can learn from.

Practice getting out of your own head and stepping into someone else’s world for a minute. Next time you’re at your workout class, get curious about the person next to you. “I wonder how long they’ve been going to this class. I wonder if they’ve tried any other classes or styles of exercise. I wonder how they learned about this gym. I wonder if they have a favorite coach or a time they like to come during.”

Then, when there’s a good moment, take initiate, give a compliment or observation, and follow it up with a question. Once the conversation gets going, see what you can learn about the other person. “How long have you been coming here?” “Are you from the area?” “How did you get into crossfit?” Remember, your questions don’t have to make you look super smart or put together. They’re just opportunities you’re giving for the other person to share their own experiences and ideas.

Once you’ve chatted a little bit, if the conversation is going well, ask them their name. My go-to is “I’m Tali, by the way. What’s your name?”

Woohoo, nice job! You’ve met a new person. If you guys have a lot in common and really click, you can always ask if they’d want to grab coffee or workout together or whatever and exchange contact info. Even if you don’t become super close – which is what happens most of the time anyway – that’s one more friendly face that you know, which always makes life a little easier.

And, you’ll feel a little more confident knowing that you made the space a little friendlier for everyone around you.

Remember, when it comes to being outgoing and making friends, your mindset matters more than anything in particular you say.

  • Focus on creating a friendly environment for everyone in the room
  • Be proactive (don’t be afraid to initiate).
  • Practice being curious about others and asking questions.

You’ve got this.

5 steps to saying “no” (without feeling guilty)

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a situation you didn’t like because you were too afraid to say “no”? It might’ve been a social event, a favor, a work obligation, or a plethora of other things that feel too uncomfortable to decline.

If you’ve ever struggled to say “no,” whether it’s in your personal life or at work, you’re not alone.

The ability to say “no” confidently isn’t something people are born with – like public speaking or negotiation, it’s a skill that’s developed with practice. With the right framework, anyone can start becoming more confident in this skill and reap its benefits.

This video covers how to say “no” without feeling guilty in 5 simple steps, so you can reclaim your time, become more confident, and improve your relationships with others.


When is it important to know how to say “no”?

Saying “no” was something I struggled with – that is, until I started working as a freelancer in the film industry.

This new career forced me to make decisions and say “no” much more often than I was used to. As a freelancer, I was forced to practice the skill much more often. I quickly found that saying “yes” to the wrong project meant being unavailable for projects that were potentially more interesting, provided better growth opportunities, or paid more. Learning to say “no” was one of the reasons I was able to accelerate my career much faster than some of my peers who had started at the same time as me.

Once I started getting better at saying no in the context of work, I also became more confident in saying it in social situations. I found myself feeling happier with how I spend my time, setting boundaries with people who had been taking advantage of my timidness, and building better connections with friends because I could be honest about what I did and didn’t want.  

Think about the situations you might want to say “no” in your personal and professional life….

Social situations:

  • Getting asked to do favors you’re not comfortable with
  • Spending money on activities or events you don’t care for
  • Being asked out on a date by someone you’re not interested in
  • Feeling pressured to drink or do drugs
  • Getting sucked into conversations that leave you drained (like when someone is just offloading their problems on you or gossiping endlessly)

Work situations:

  • Getting pinged by coworkers when you’re trying to focus
  • Having extra responsibilities piled onto your plate when you already feel overtaxed
  • Being given unreasonable deadlines
  • Your manager assuming you can work overtime without asking
  • Your team not respecting your work-life balance
  • Getting placed on projects that don’t align with your long-term goals

This is far from a comprehensive list, but it gets you thinking about all the situations you might feel too uncomfortable saying “no” in.

You might have a hard time saying “no” to these things because you think it would make you selfish. That’s totally normal! We have an evolutionary need to be accepted and liked. No wonder it feels so unnatural and even stressful to disagree with people in our close circles. 

Saying “no” doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t mean you’re mean-spirited.

Saying “no” makes you more honest with others so that you can show up as your best self. It protects your time and energy from being swallowed up by obligations and social pressures.

The upsides of saying “no”

Saying no is a skill that creates a ripple effect on many areas of your life. When you learn how to say “no” to people without feeling guilty, you:

Improve your relationship with yourself by…

  • Reclaiming your time and energy and feeling more in charge of your life
  • Having better clarity on your goals and values
  • Freeing up to say “yes” to things that matter to you
  • Becoming less susceptible to peer pressure or people pleasing
  • Showing up with more intention and energy in both your work and personal life
  • Increasing your self-esteem, confidence, and self-respect

Saying “no” also helps improve your relationships with others by…

  • Setting healthy boundaries with friends, family members, and work
  • Providing feedback for other to understand how to help you
  • Building more honest relationships
  • Building trust in others because they see you being authentic
  • Empowering others to speak up for themselves and be honest about what they need

When you speak honestly, you take care of yourself so that you show up more authentically in the world. When you show up authentically, you end up bringing more of your own unique contributions to those around you.

Want to develop this skill? Read on.


The 5-step process to saying “no” (minus the guilt)

1. Remember your reason

Right now, think about why it’s important for you to be able to say no.

There are plenty of upsides to learning how to say no. Figure out what’s the most important reason for you.

Don’t skip this part. Saying “no” to people is uncomfortable. It’s much more tempting to stay in our comfort zone, to constantly agree with others at the expense of our well-being. If you want to overcome that hurdle, you need to have a “why” that is strong enough to outweigh the desire to proceed as usual.

What’s the most important reason for you to be able to say “no”? Why does this matter to you? How will your life improve when you start being the type of person that’s comfortable enough to speak up for themselves?

Write your “why” down in your phone. Next time you find yourself tempted to agree with someone or do something you’re not comfortable with, open that note and reread it. Remember why you want to do this in the first place, and the rest will come with less resistance.

2. Take your time

Let the person you’re talking with know that you will get back to them with an answer.

Buying yourself some time and getting some space gives you a chance to do two things:

  1. Think through your decision in a lower-pressure environment
  2. Figure out how to say no (if that’s what you decide)

This may feel uncomfortable if you’re used to agreeing with people right away (lookin’ at you, people pleasers). You don’t need to respond to all requests and invitations right away. It’s ok to ask for some time before getting back to someone.

This can be as simple as “Let me get back to you on that” or “I need to check on some things before I can commit.”

Don’t over-explain. They don’t need to know your entire thought process. Let them know you need a little time to get back to them, and leave it at that. Give a time that you’ll follow up by, especially if the request is time-sensitive.

If you can, get some space from the situation. Walk to another room or step away from your computer. When you physically distance yourself from your worry, you give yourself a chance to get some perspective and think clearly, rather than just reacting.

This isn’t an excuse to dilly-dally or procrastinate – get back to them as soon as you can. But know you don’t have to have an answer immediately.

3. Know your “no”

Once you’re in a place that you can think through your decision, if your gut is telling you “no,” figure out what kind of “no” it is.

It’s important to know what specifically is putting you off from the situation, so that you can communicate clearly and with conviction. Plus, it’ll help you understand what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on, or potentially come up with alternatives.

There two different flavors of “no:”

  • “No” to the timing
  • “No” to the situation (or just part of it)

“No” to the timing

Sometimes we have to say no because we have too much on our plate, the timing is bad, and taking on more would cause us undue stress. Maybe your manager asks you to do a presentation on a project you’re passionate about to your broader team, but you’re spread too thin to take on extra work this quarter. Or maybe a friend invites you to happy hour but you have plans later that night or just need some time to relax by yourself. It can even be your coworker pinging you to chat while you’re in the middle of focusing. 

In these situations, it’s often the case that we say “yes” instead of “not now, but later” because we don’t want to miss out on an opportunity we’re interested in, even though taking it on now would mean adding stress to our lives. It’s important to remember that in addition to “yes” and “no,” there are options like “sure, can we find a different time?”

“No” to the situation (or part of it)

Other times, we want to say no because the situation itself rubs you the wrong way, either in part of in full. This could be a close friend who makes you uncomfortable by constantly gossiping about another friend. It might be your boss asking to push up a deadline by a week, which would make you have to work over the weekend. It could be a family member regularly asking for last-minute rides to the airport, or a distant relative who only shows up when he needs help moving. Maybe your peers are pressuring you to drink more than you’re comfortable with.

Figure out what’s the real reason you’re opposed to the situation. Is someone crossing a line, like in the case of a friend constantly bad-mouthing another friend? Are they asking for too much, like the relative who seems to think it’s normal to demand you drop everything to help them with a favor on short notice? Are your boundaries being violated, like the coworker who messages you with requests outside of business hours? Is what’s being offered just not something you’re interested in, like a date with that friend of a friend you’ve always found creepy, or a social event you aren’t excited about?   

Identify what specifically bothers you about the situation. Are there any alternate scenarios you would be comfortable with? For example, maybe you don’t mind driving your great aunt to the airport, but you need to know about it a week ahead of time and not the day before. Or maybe you’d like to help your coworker, but not outside of work hours.

It’s very possible that the whole situation rubs you the wrong way and that you wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, even if some changes were made. That’s ok. The point here isn’t to convince yourself to do something by offering alternatives, it’s to know your own boundaries and what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on.

4. Communicate clearly

Once you’ve taken a moment to understand what you’re saying “no” to, you’ll have better clarity on your reasoning and more confidence in stating your grounds. Being internally clear on what you do and don’t want is already half the battle.

Now it’s time to do the thing and communicate!

Communicating “no” clearly comes down to three things: brevity, honesty, and tone.

Brevity

Keep it short! When you’re saying “no,” you can give as much or as little reason as you want. Most of us want to give some context, but we sometimes over-explain if we’re worried about the other person being disappointed. When we do this, we come off as less confident. Giving too much detail can also backfire by making it look like we’re trying to convince the other person of something (i.e. we’re making up reasons).

Share that you can’t make it, give a short reason why, and move on.

Honesty

Be honest about your limitations, and about what kind of “no” this is. If the timing doesn’t work for you because you need to take some time to yourself, say so. If a project is off-putting because you’d rather focus on a different area of the business, be honest.

Most people are understanding and want to help you feel comfortable. When you’re honest about what’s bothering you, you give others a better understanding of how to work with you. It’s feedback that they can incorporate in the future.

Be honest, but don’t be brutally honest. Sometimes we don’t want to do something because we just don’t like the person who’s asking. If that’s the case, you don’t necessarily have to say that to their face. Tell them you’re unavailable. No need to add reasons if the reasons will just cause drama.

Tone

Speaking with confidence and a sense certainty tells the other person that you are firm in your decision.

How do you convey a confident tone? Put a period at the end of your sentences.

If you’ve gotten all worked up and can’t remember what it feels like to speak confidently (don’t worry, I’ve been there), here’s a trick you can do. Go into a room by yourself, look in the mirror, and say the following out loud: “two plus two is four.”

Hear that conviction? That’s what it sounds like to be absolutely certain of something. Now, using the same tone, practice your “no” response.

5. End on a positive

End your “no” statement on a positive note, especially if this is a relationship that’s important to you. Remind them that even though you had to decline or enforce a boundary, that they matter to you and are appreciated.

This might be:

  • “…but thank you so much for thinking of me”  
  • “I really appreciate the invitation”
  • “Thank you for reaching out and including me”
  • “I hope we can work together soon”

If you have an alternative you’d like to propose, this would be a great time. Otherwise, if it was a hard pass, you can just leave it on a friendly note.


Now, I want to know from you:

What situations do you have a hard time saying no to? Leave a comment below and I’ll reply with my thoughts.

Passive Aggressive Sarcasm: Why we do it & how to nip it in the bud

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We all know someone who seems to pride themselves in their passive aggressive comments. They snap “nothing” when asked what’s wrong, respond to texts with a “K” to make their disapproval known, and seem to always have a strong opinion they’re not explicitly stating. This might be a friend, your partner, a family member… heck, it might even be you!

If you’re trying to understand why people respond passive aggressively, or if you’re constantly finding yourself saying petty and sarcastic things when you’re upset, look no further. In this guide, we’ll cover why people respond in this way and why it’s a problem. Once we understand the “why,” we’ll cover how to both stop being passive aggressive and how to respond to someone acting this way.

Hang on, Tali, what makes you the expert?

The best way to learn about an experience is through the eyes of someone who’s lived, it, right?

I spent an embarrassing chunk of my twenties doling out passive aggressive comments. I snapped that “nothing’s wrong” and gave silent treatments. I doubled down on petty remarks instead of being upfront about things that bothered. It was dumb, and rarely resolved the issue at hand.

But passive aggressiveness was how I saw other friends, family members, and partners communicating, and it felt like the only tool I had at the time. So I used it.

Then, in the last few years, I started spending more time with two people who made me question why I was behaving that way. They constantly disarmed me with their genuine desire to understand. While everyone else brushed off sarcastic comments, they responded with patience and compassion. They made sure everyone felt comfortable enough to be direct and honest instead of hiding behind petty comments.

With time, I learned to communicate in a much healthier and more productive way. I’m not perfect, I still have my bad days when I make snarky comments instead of being candid. But I’ve come a long way from the person I was before.


Why are people passive aggressively sarcastic?

I made a 3-part video series on just this topic. The first video covers this very question: why are people passive aggressively sarcastic? I’ll summarize it in the sections below.

What is passive aggressive sarcasm?

Passive aggressiveness is anything that’s meant to deliver a message of anger, spite, or frustration instead of directly acknowledging a problem. While there are many forms of passive aggressiveness, such as backhanded compliments and patronizing, this guide will focus on sarcasm.

Sarcasm in the context of passive aggressiveness is using irony or mocking to express irritation without outwardly stating we’re upset. Some classic examples:

  • Saying “fine,” “whatever,” or “OK then” when we’re unhappy with an outcome
  • Texting “K” when we’re annoyed
  • The good ol’ “nothing” when asked what’s wrong,
  • “Wow, sounds like fun” or “woulda been nice to be invited” in response to learning about plans that took place without us
  • “Fine, I guess I’ll just…” followed by whatever task we weren’t able to outsource
  • “I love it when…” followed by whatever someone did to upset us
  • “Big surprise” when a friend does something we find frustrating and predictable (i.e. running late, cancelling plans)

All these phrases can be used in regular conversation and not necessarily be passive aggressive; don’t worry, your grandma isn’t being petty when she comments “Wow, looks like fun!” on your vacation photos. And not all sarcasm is malicious.

Like all communication, it’s not about what’s being said, but how it’s being said. The tone, inflection, and body language often give it away (eyerolls and raised eyebrows reign supreme). Not to mention, when someone is being passive aggressive, they want you to know something’s wrong.

Why we respond passive aggressively

Like breaking any bad habit, to stop being passive aggressive, we need to first understand why we’re doing it.

Passive aggression is a defense mechanism rooted in fear. We use passive aggressive sarcasm to indirectly express that we’re hurt or angry when we’re afraid to be honest about our feelings.

We may feel feel upset, disrespected, disappointed, excluded, or rejected. We’re afraid about being upfront about our feelings might get us rejected, laughed at, dismissed, or misunderstood, so we avoid sharing them explicitly.

This fear may come from…

1. Believing we’re not worthy

This is fear that if we speak up, our friend, family member, or partner may leave us. If a friend makes us feel unimportant, but deep down we think we’re barely fitting in as is, we feel powerless to say anything for fear of stirring the pot. If a partner makes us feel disrespected, but we subconsciously believe we don’t deserve them to begin with, we fear asking for too much.

2. Thinking people don’t want to listen or change

We may resort to sarcasm if we think people are unwilling to understand our needs or change their behavior. If someone does something that hurts us, and we believe that’s just the way things are, we conclude that speaking up won’t accomplish anything anyway. Why risk the embarrassment of sharing how we feel if nothing will change anyway?

3. Not having better communication tools

We might also lack the tools or confidence to communicate our emotions. If all we’ve ever seen is our parents, friends, or romantic partners being passive aggressive as a way of communicating their feelings, it’s no wonder we’d fall into the same habits.

See the source image

Kermit sipping tea: The ultimate symbol of passive aggressive sarcasm. The meme takes a dig at a person or group, and then pretends not to actually be bothered.

The problems with passive aggressive sarcasm

Passive aggressive sarcasm is pretty much the most ineffective form of communication. Not only does it fail to resolve whatever issue is bothering us, but it also damages our relationships and self-esteem.

1. Passive aggressive sarcasm undermines our relationships

When we respond to anger with sarcasm, we send the message to whoever we’re talking to that they’re incapable of dealing with the issue at hand. We’re deliberately making the situation uncomfortable by playing games. We’re punishing whoever upset us, instead of trusting them to hear us out and giving them chance to respond.  

Passive aggressive sarcasm tells people that we don’t trust them or value the relationship enough to be honest about what’s bothering us.

2. It doesn’t actually resolve the thing we’re upset about

Here’s the kicker: All that those sarcastic remarks are for naught. They don’t get whatever bothered us in the first place resolved.

These indirect jabs rarely get an honest conversation started about what’s really going on. Sure, the other person can tell we’re angry, and they might have an idea of why. But it doesn’t make sense to expect someone else to do all the heavy lifting of addressing the problem if we don’t meet them halfway. Meaningful conflict resolution can only take place when we’re honest about what’s going on.

3. It’s damaging to our self-esteem

This is the most troubling thing about passive aggressive sarcasm. It’s a behavior that reaffirms whatever negative beliefs cause it in the first place.

Every time we respond sarcastically instead of telling someone how they made us feel, we’re teaching ourselves that we don’t deserve to be heard and have our problems addressed. Because sarcasm rarely leads to conflict resolution, we’re confirming our subconscious beliefs that nobody cares about how we feel, that we’re powerless to say anything, and that this is the only way we can respond when things don’t go our way.

That’s a pretty shitty lesson to be teaching ourselves over and over again, when really what we want at the end of the day is to feel seen and heard.

If you truly want a different outcome – for your buddy to stop canceling last minute, for your partner to put away their phone and spend quality time with you, to be included in your friends’ plans, to feel your opinions are heard – you have to take responsibility for communicating your needs.

And if you don’t want a different outcome… well, ask yourself: why not? If someone made you feel so angry that you want to lash out with a sarcastic remark, doesn’t that warrant at least some introspection about your own self-worth?


How to stop being passive aggressive

If you want to take a break from reading, watch the second video from my three-part series that answers this question. Otherwise, read on for a summary.

While sarcasm sometimes feels like the only socially acceptable way to respond when we’ve been wronged and we’re worried about stirring the pot, there’s a healthy alternative that allows us to have our needs met and improve our relationships. It’s deceptively simple, but it’s not always easy, and takes practice (along with a healthy dose of vulnerability).

Right now, take a moment and write down a simple phrase that can keep you grounded next time you’re itching to say something passive aggressive. Think of something that can make you feel open to responding differently, something that will trigger you take a step back from the situation. I’ve included some examples below:

  • “My goal is to be authentic and honest with the people I’m close with”
  • “I’m respecting my friendship by being honest”
  • “I’m respecting my relationship by not playing games”
  • “I’m worthy of this relationship”
  • “People deserve the benefit of the doubt”
  • “It’s up to me to communicate what’s wrong”

The next time you feel the urge to respond to something that bothers you with sarcasm:

1. Take a breath.

Take a moment to catch your breath. Take a step back. Remember the phrase you chose keep you grounded and honest.

2. Identify what’s really bothering you

Be honest with yourself. What made you angry or annoyed just now? Anger is almost always fear or hurt in disguise. See if you can dig a little deeper.

Did you feel disrespected? Embarrassed? Rejected? Excluded? Ignored? Unimportant? Unseen? Unheard?

3. Give your feedback

Tell the other person how they made you feel. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to feel like a dramatic affair where everyone sits in a circle and talks about their feelings for hours. You’re not derailing the whole conversation or starting an intervention. It can be much more casual than that.

It helps me to think of this as giving feedback. We give and receive feedback at work all the time – addressing and working through problems is something we expect as a key part of keeping business running. You can think of giving feedback in your personal life the same way – it’s a necessary part of keeping relationships healthy and strong.

A simple way to bring up something that bothers you is through a “When you…, I feel…” statement.

“When you cancel our plans at the last minute, I feel like my time isn’t important to you, and like our friendship isn’t a priority”

“When you pull out your phone in the middle of a conversation, I feel like you don’t really want to spend time with me, and it makes me feel unimportant”

“When you invited everyone but me to your party, I felt like I was being excluded, and it hurt”

You get the idea. “When you… I feel” statements bring attention to the problem objectively. This keeps things from escalating by avoiding accusations like “YOU always cancel,” “YOU never listen,” etc.

Nothing’s guaranteed, but it’s worth trying

A quick reminder: We can’t always get what we want. Even when we do our best to communicate, others may disagree with our expectations, proceed with their plans regardless, or repeat the thing that bothered us in the future.

That’s fine. The world doesn’t revolve around us and doesn’t owe us anything just because we decided to set a higher bar for ourselves. Not to mention, people aren’t perfect, and some level of disagreement is inevitable no matter how healthy the relationship. We may not always get the outcome we desire, but that doesn’t mean the effort to communicate our feelings wasn’t worth it.

Worst case scenario is we tried but didn’t get what we wanted anyway. That certainly feels better than not trying at all, or saying something snarky, and wondering what would’ve happened if we were honest instead. Like most things self-growth, there’s not a lot to lose, but a whole lot to gain.

The message we send to ourselves and our loved ones when we choose to speak candidly instead of resorting to passive aggressive comments is in itself worthwhile.


How to respond to passive aggressive sarcasm

Check out video 3 of my mini-series on passive aggressive sarcasm (but don’t worry, I go over the same steps below)

So you’ve found yourself a target of a snide remark. Or maybe the conversation isn’t going anywhere because someone is dominating it with passive aggressive one-liners.

Hopefully by now, we agree that passive aggressiveness stems from fear. Yes, there are plenty of articles that will tell you that people who say passive aggressively things are toxic. Those articles recommend ignoring their behavior, treating them like a kid throwing a fit, or shutting them down by “killing them with kindness.”

That seems pretty patronizing. If you don’t care about the relationship or just need to get through the day without your coworker’s sarcasm bringing you down, feel free to take that advice.

But I think there’s room in our world for a bit more compassion than that. After all, we’re dealing with our friends, partners, and family members here. We should at least try to come from a place of understanding before we start labeling them as malicious.

From my personal experience, the most effective way to disarm someone who makes sarcastic remarks is to see their comments as a cry for help, and show them that you take their concerns seriously.

But doesn’t responding with compassion just reward the behavior?

You might think that responding this way just encourages the other person to continue their behavior in the future. Quite the opposite. This response shows the passive aggressive person that your relationship matters enough to want to resolve any issues. It teaches our passive aggressive friend that they are safe to be honest. It shows our partner that we do care about their feelings. It reminds our family member that they can trust us.

As I mentioned earlier, I have two people in my life that do this effortlessly. For them, addressing the passive aggressive comment doesn’t come from a sense of frustration (“ugh, Tali’s being passive, here we go again”). It comes from a sense of curiosity and understanding (“oh, Tali seems afraid to tell me why she’s upset… I wonder what’s really going on here”).

My relationships with these people deepened because I learned I don’t have to hide my feelings with sarcasm. They continually responded with compassion and kindness. Eventually, I learned I don’t need to be sarcastic to get my message across to them. I found myself comfortable enough to skip the snide remark altogether and get straight to what’s really going on.

This response opened my eyes to how I can better communicate my feelings. More importantly, it taught me that I do deserve to be heard up when I’m upset. That’s a beautiful thing, and I’m eternally grateful for the growth I’ve experienced because of their kindness.

Most of us ignore passive aggressive comments (because they’re annoying and make us uncomfortable) and then gossip about them with others later. I’m certainly guilty of this myself. Instead of just letting passive aggressive comments slide (or rolling our eyes), let’s have a plan for how to respond to people in a healthy way:

1. Take a deep breath.

Take a step back before reacting. Give yourself a moment to see the bigger picture.

2. Remember that this person is probably hurt

If someone is lashing out, chances are it’s not about you and more about their own insecurities and fears. Beneath the obvious anger, there’s probably pain they’re afraid to share. If we care about this person at all, we must remind ourselves that they’re just asking for help with the best tools they have. It really sucks to have your feelings hurt but feel powerless to say anything.

Think about how you can convey curiosity and understanding, rather than frustration.

3. Offer open-ended questions

This can be as simple as “Hey, what’s going on? It seems like there’s something bothering you” or “What do you mean by that?”

Keep it open ended. Asking a defensive person yes-or-no questions like “is something bothering you?” or “is everything OK?” will likely just elicit more sarcastic responses like “NOPE, I’m fine” or “Oh yeah, TOTALLY.”

It’ll probably take a few attempts and some prying to get the passive aggressive person to feel safe enough to open up. They may not take your question seriously. In that case, follow up by letting them know you’re truly interested in understanding: “It feels like you’re upset about something I said. I want to understand so I can help.”

If they’re not budging or insisting on moving on, you can always say “OK, but if you change your mind later and want to talk, I’m open to it.” This is less about stopping the sarcasm right away, and more about creating an atmosphere where the person knows they can be honest when they’re ready.

Remember, people don’t stop being passive aggressive overnight

You’re not going to get someone to stop being passive aggressive right away. Sarcastic remarks are a result of many years of someone feeling like they’re not allowed to express their true feelings, and of having that belief reaffirmed by everyone who shrugged them off. It takes time and effort to undo that kind of learning.

Have some patience. We’re all just doing our best with the tools we have, and most of us are still working with the rusty old hammer that our parents handed down to us when we moved out. If you’ve been blessed with a better toolbox, all you can do is share your knowledge and demonstrate to that person they have a whole range of other options to consider.

And if after months or years of trying, someone still refuses to meet us halfway and continues to be passive aggressive, at least we know we’ve done our part. At the end of the day, that’s all we can really ask for.


We all deserve better.

Passive aggressive sarcasm is a defense mechanism that keeps us from communicating how we really feel. Many of us have learned it to be the only response available to us when we’re upset. When we instead choose patience and honesty, we teach ourselves and the people in our lives how to communicate in a healthier and more effective way.

I hope you’ve found this guide on passive aggressive sarcasm helpful. What tips do you have for dealing with a passive aggressive friend or partner? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Summary of this guide

Passive aggressive sarcasm is using ironic or mocking remarks to indirectly express frustration without actually admitting we feel angry or hurt.

  • People respond in this way because they’re afraid sharing their feelings may get them rejected, laughed at, dismissed, or misunderstood.
  • This can come from feeling unworthy, believing that people are unwilling to listen, or not having any other communication tools.

Problems with passive aggressive sarcasm:

  1. It undermines our relationships
  2. It doesn’t actually resolve the thing we’re upset about
  3. It’s damaging to our self-esteem

How to stop being passive aggressive and sarcastic:

  1. Take a deep breath. Think of your grounding phrase
  2. Identify what’s truly bothering you. What do you feel beneath the anger?
  3. Give your feedback using “When you do XYZ, I feel…” statements

How to respond to passive aggressive or sarcastic comments:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Remember that this person is probably hurt, but too afraid to say it
  3. Offer an open-ended question. Remember that it’ll likely take a little prying to get the passive aggressive person to feel safe enough to open up

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