How To Say No To Dreaded Dinners

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Have you ever had someone you don’t know that well, maybe someone at work or a friend of a friend, say why don’t we grab lunch sometime, or dinner?  You get a sinking feeling in your stomach, but you say, ‘Sure! Sounds good…’

And then hope they never follow up with a date and time.

At work, I was recently asked to start teaching workshops to English language learners, something I had never done before, and in the process of learning to teach, I discovered principals about how to learn to do anything well and to do it consistently.  These principals could be applied to learning to say no to these dreaded dinners, or any other change you are wanting to make.

Be Clear Why You’re Doing It

Research on teaching English language learners shows that if you make the lesson meaningful, students will practice not only in the classroom but in the hallways and beyond.[1]  For example, if you have a group of students who love soccer, you can use playing soccer as the content for an English language lesson. Then, when the kid from Brazil runs into the kid from Nigeria in the hall, they’re more likely to keep practicing English because they’ve learned the vocabulary and sentence structure to talk about soccer.  If the content for your lesson was based on Canadian geography or math or mundane examples like, “The girl walked to the store” “The boy ate the cake” they probably won’t keep practicing.  Because, who cares?

So it’s the same with the change you want to make too. You have to understand WHY you’re doing it.

If you want to say no consistently to these dreaded events, you have to know what you’re saying yes to.   Maybe you have a creative project you’ve always wanted to do or a particular friendship you want to improve but you spend a lot of your time at these unpleasant social events instead.

Or if the change you want to make is improving your sex life, maybe the reason for it is you want to start with developing a more meaningful connection with your partner and you think improving your sex life will help with that.

If you know why you’re doing it you’ll be motivated to keep practicing, even if it’s hard.  And the other reason you need to know why you’re making the change because is that learning to do something well and consistently requires making 1000 mistakes.

Make 1000 Mistakes

One of coolest thing I learned about how students learn a second language is that when they are making mistakes, those are the moments when they’re learning the most.[2]  If your students aren’t making mistakes, it means they aren’t stretching the language they’ve learned so far and they’re not learning how to use new language structures.

This applies to other areas of our lives as well.  Whether you’re learning to say no to dreaded social events or trying to improve your sex life, you are going to make mistakes.

In his Ted Talk, Bob Mankoff, the New Yorker’s cartoon editor reveals, “from 1974 to 1977 I submitted 2,000 cartoons to The New Yorker, and got 2,000 cartoons rejected by The New Yorker.”[3]

Then in 1977 got his first cartoon published, in 1980 he got a New Yorker contract and in 1997 he began as the cartoon editor.

He had to fail 2000 times before he even got one cartoon published.

If we want to do anything well, we have to make 2000 mistakes.

And it will probably be scary. Saying you don’t want to hang out with someone is scary.  As is asking specifically for what you want in the bedroom.  But trying and sometimes failing is absolutely essential to do something well.

So if you want to say no to these events, improve your sex life or learn a second language, get out there, and make 2000 mistakes!

Do you want to:

  • Overcome shame? 
  • Stop feeling so drained?
  • Have more time for what you love?

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You in?



Take care of yourself!!

Bryn Bamber
Career Burnout Coach
The Courage Compass


[1] Phone call with Steven Weiss who works on Standford’s Understanding Language project, Jan 22, 2015.

[2] Gibbons, Pauline. Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching ESL children in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann, 2002.

[3] Mankoff, Bob. Ted Talk: Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon. Found at:


Author: Bryn Bamber

Career Coach Bryn Bamber helps people like you find a career that’s aligned with your goals. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up tons of energy for the things you really love. Start today with your FREE Checklist: Decrease Stress and Get an Hour of Your Day Back! Get it here - Learn more about Bryn & the Burnout to Brilliance program at

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