• Keeping Friends

Saying No To A Friend During The Pandemic

Published: August 7, 2020 | Last Updated: August 11, 2020 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
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It’s always hard to say NO to a friend but especially during a pandemic when your friends are feeling stressed and lonely. 



My friend Jenna keeps complaining about feeling lonely and has asked me to have lunch at her apartment. Because the virus is pretty widespread in our city, I’m really uncomfortable going to someone else’s home and eating food that I haven’t prepared myself. I haven’t had any social get-togethers with friends since this thing started, and haven’t even seen my family for months. 

To tell you the truth, I’m busy with work at home, catching up on reading and movies during evenings and weekends, and although I like Jenna, I don’t really feel a need to see her or anyone else right now. I do stay connected with Jenna and a few other women by text and phone. 

But she’s really putting the pressure on me. How can I say NO?

Signed, Emma


Hi Emma,

People have to make their own decisions about the risks they want to take during this pandemic. Being in an enclosed space with even one other person does increase the risk of your contacting the virus. 

It seems that you and Jenna have different feelings about the risks and benefits of socializing during the pandemic. No one is right or wrong. These are personal decisions. Perhaps you are less social than she is.

It’s alway tough to be in the position of having to say NO, especially when you consider someone your friend. It sounds like you are sensitive to your friend’s feelings and don’t want her to feel like you are letting her down. Although no one wants to disappoint someone they care about, you have a right to protect your own health and well-being.

It seems to me that although the circumstances may be different this time, some of the rules that apply to saying NO to a friend are the same.

  • Try to be as forthright and honest about your feelings as possible.
  • Recognize you have the right to say NO without feeling guilty.
  • Be kind and understanding in acknowledging your friends’ feelings and disappointment.
  • Reassure your friend that you value the friendship, and make it clear your decision has more to do with you and your health concerns than it does with the friendship, per se.

You aren’t the first one who had had to say no during this pandemic. Readers have written about how to gracefully bow out of zoom meetings and how to turn down invitations to parties and wedding receptions. 

Assure your friend that you siill want to stay in contact regularly (but at a safe social distance). Once you’re clear about your feelings, I’m hopeful that this will be a non-issue in your friendship.

Best, Irene

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  1. Pink Amy says:

    I think saying No is easier during the pandemic, because people have health concerns as a built in excuse. On the flip side, people who have difficulty setting boundaries might have a harder time with the extra stress of the pandemic.

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