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How to Tell Someone They Can't Stay at Your House

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

  • Keeping relationships with family and friends is important, but not to the detriment of your personal space and privacy. Telling them no to staying at your house does not mean you value them or your relationship any less.
  • For persons who are simply distant friends or distant acquaintances, you do not owe any explanation for why you do not want them at your house. You can say no to such unwanted house guests easier than closer relationships.
  • Saying no to someone is an important social skill to acquire, and the same is true for telling someone they can’t stay at your house.

Sometimes telling someone they can’t stay at your house could be the same for you as telling them you don’t want a gift, whether its a birthday gift or a Christmas gift. At other times, it could actually be a much more difficult decision that could be the make or break in a budding relationship. But, if you’re reading this article and feeling like you don’t want someone at your house, chances are you do not enjoy the company of the person in question very much, or in large doses. You are probably dreadful of having them in your personal space for too long a time outside an occasional lunch or dinner. But being the social animals that we are, we do not want to hurt people’s feelings or tell them just how we feel about having them sleepover at our house. And so we rather suffer in silence than hurt their feelings.

In this article, we will show you that you don’t need to suffer in silence anymore or say yes when you mean no. That there is a way to tell someone that they can’t stay at your house, and do it well. How then do you tell someone they can’t stay at your house?

First things first – 

  • Understand that your space is your space and you do not need to apologize for or feel bad for not wanting anyone to crowd or cramp it.
  • Understand that how you allow people to treat and approach you will determine how they do so. If you give people the impression that you can always be taken advantage of or be pushed into doing things, be rest assured that they will always exploit it to your chagrin. Saying no is a very important step in being assertive and standing up for yourself.
  • It is important to know the category the person in question falls under. This is because the approach to be adopted is not exactly the same for everyone. While you may easily say no to someone that you are not exactly very close to or even to a friend, it is not the same for a family member.
  • And finally, in saying no, consider other alternative ways to help the person, whether they are a family member or a friend. The alternative help could be in the form of helping them look for budget and conducive lodging options, especially if they are new in town. For family members, you can consider helping them pay for the lodging.
Infographic How to Tell Someone They Can't Stay at Your House

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Your Space is Yours Unapologetically.

Your house is your safe haven. It is where you enjoy having your privacy and all your personal indulgences. There will be times when you do not want other people (aside from perhaps a lover) in that personal space. If anyone who falls outside the circle of people you would much rather be around asked to stay in your house in such times, you should not feel bad for turning them down. If we lived our lives all the time as people-pleasers, we would be miserable for all of our existence. It isn’t on you to babysit and make lodging arrangements for persons who decide to come to your town; that’s for them to do. You do not need to apologize or feel bad for refusing to turn your house to a hotel room or an Airbnb at their time and convenience. As John Wayne said in the 1949 classic, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, “Never apologize, Mister, it’s a sign of weakness”.

Stand up for yourself.

Consider this – the person you are about to bend over backward for may not spare a second in telling you just how they feel. Why can’t you be the same? Think of that family member for example (or a friend) who is considered a no-nonsense person. You will realize that people do not just approach them just about anyhow, because of their reputation for being no-nonsense. In the same way, if you always cower and say yes to someone staying at your house, when you mean no, this will always be exploited against you. But by putting your foot down and saying no firmly and graciously when you need to, people will know not to take your space and kindness for granted.

Who is this person to you? Different strokes for different folks.

Evidently, the approach you take for family members would not be the same for close friends and not so close acquaintances. And even when you come to these categories of persons, the approach you take will also not be the same, as there are still varying degrees of closeness in each sub-group.

It is therefore important to ask yourself what category this person falls under because the manner and approach taken for each category of persons differs a little. Let us look at how each category is approached:

How To Say No To Family House Guests. 

Having to say no to members of your family is never an easy thing. This is because there is a social unwritten rule and expectation that we must always say yes to members of our family. Mario Puzo, author of the acclaimed novel (and later film), The Godfather even had this to say about saying no to loved ones (in the context of the book, it would mean mostly family members) – 

“You cannot say no to the people you love, not often. That’s the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a yes. Or you have to make them say “no”. You have to take time and trouble.”

So trust us, we definitely understand your dilemma when it comes to saying no to members of your family. It is almost considered sacrilegious to say no to members of the family. But you do not have to say yes to family house guests if you do not want them to stay over. It does however need to be done with tact. As Mario Puzo says, it needs time and thought applied. What then is the approach to take with family members?

1. Tell them upfront that they cannot stay with you. This is a much better approach to lying because often lies do have a way of coming out. And when you are caught in a lie in such circumstances by family, it is almost always unforgivable. And as much as you want to maintain your privacy, you also do not want to burn important familial bridges because you never know who you will need tomorrow. Your family members would much rather you told them honestly that you cannot host them at that point in time, than have you lie to them about it.

Remember what we said about standing up for yourself, if you never take the courage to say upfront that staying with you is not convenient, you will always cower and accept and hate yourself inside for it. It is better to muster courage and be honest upfront that you cannot have them stay at that time. It also helps you grow in that area.

2. In telling them that you cannot host them at that given point in time, be as gentle and kind about it. This is especially important for your nuclear family members like your parents, siblings, nephews (and maybe your first-generation cousins). You know them better than anyone and know those trigger words that would not sit well with them. Avoid using those words and apply much tact and gentleness in the way you break it to them. They are after all your very close loved ones.

If the family member in question is a distant relative and one that isn’t exactly a favorite of the larger family; an unwanted family house guest(s); you don’t need to do more than respectfully decline to host them. Such relatives are often no good which earned them the reputation in the first place. And such relatives often know that they have such a reputation, and would look for that distant relative that gives in easily, to take advantage of. Don’t be such a target. So simply tell them, “uncle (aunt) my home isn’t available for you to stay but we can always catch up over coffee or brunch while you’re in town.”

3. Give them reason(s) why you cannot have them over at your house at that particular point in time. Unlike, others who are not members of your family, you cannot get off easily without cogent reasons where members of your family are involved. This is again especially important for members of your immediate family. Imagine that your mum or dad wanted to come over, it cannot possibly be alright and reasonable to simply say “mum (dad) you cannot stay with me at this time.” and leave it at that. Put yourself in their shoes and ask if you would feel rejected or unloved with such a terse answer and chances are you most certainly will.

If they have given you advance notice, like say a month’s advance notice and this clashes with something else you have planned like maybe an anniversary celebration or vacation or anything else, gently inform them that you sadly have other plans for that period and are unable to have them stay with you. Inform them of what these plans are so that they know that you’re not just making up an excuse not to have them stay at your house.

4. Offer to help them find alternative lodging for their stay while in town. Since they may want a more homey place to stay, Airbnb or other types of serviced apartments are usually preferable. If you are able to afford it, perhaps consider going an extra step to help them pay for that alternative lodging. This would also show them that you are sincerely sorry that you cannot have them stay over at your place. It would also go a long way in easing any feelings (small or however), of resentment they may have for your refusal. Understand, this does not mean you are responsible for how they feel or chose to take your refusal, but the goodwill gesture is important because of the uncertainty of life. As we earlier said, you may still need them to give you or a member of your family a place to stay tomorrow.

5. They took out time to come and spend time with you, especially if they are members of your immediate family. It would be a double blow if you refuse to let them stay with you and then also not make out time to spend with them while they are around. Unless they turned up unannounced and while you were already on your way out of town for whatever reason, it would be good to spend some time with them even if for an hour or 45 minutes every other day, for the duration of their stay. Since their stay is temporary, consider it a worthy sacrifice to make for that short period of time.

Doing all of the above would give you the privacy of your home that you so crave, and still maintain the important relationship you have with your family.

How To Say No To A Friend Who Wants To Stay At Your Place. 

A good friend who is mature and emotionally intelligent will understand when you say that you are unable to have them at your house, even without any reason(s) given.

When it comes to your friends, it is not as complicated as for members of your family. Remember that if the tables were turned and your friends were in your shoes, they would not hesitate to let you know that it is not convenient for them.

Points 1 and 2 above on how to tell your family members also applies to your friends. With closer friends, just like with your immediate family members, you have to gently and kindly let them know that it is not a convenient time to have them stay with you. Be firm but gentle and kind, to ease the pain. With distant friends, however, especially the ones you know are simply using you and free-riding to avoid paying lodging fees, you need not do more than respectfully decline to host them. Just like the distant relative who is an unwanted family house guest, don’t let yourself be a target for so-called friends who are only users more than friends.

Point 3 does not apply to your friends because you actually do not owe them any explanation as to why they cannot stay in your house. It is your space and you do not need to explain to anyone who isn’t a member of your immediate family why they cannot stay at your house when you don’t want them to stay. The less that is said is always better. It is enough to simply say “My dearest friend I am truly very sorry that I cannot have you over at this time because it is not a convenient time. But I promise to make out time for us to catch up over coffee, lunch, or dinner while you are in town.” Keep it simple and to the point.

Point 4 applies to the extent of helping them look for alternative lodging. You have no obligation to pay for their lodging. Since they made the conscious decision to travel to another town, it is their responsibility to make financial arrangements for all eventualities; that is not on you.it is enough to simply offer to assist them in looking for an alternative lodging that falls within their budget. And this would be especially helpful if your friend is new in town and does not know much about good places to stay. As a good friend, it would be good to help them with looking for such alternative lodging.

For the friend that is genuinely in town to spend time with you, try and make out time to spend with them, especially since they are there for a short time. If you have other engagements that make it impossible to spend a lot of time with them, help them with suggestions of the top 5 things to do and try out in your town while they are there and top places to see. This would help keep them occupied and also make their stay enjoyable.

And finally, a good friend who is mature and emotionally intelligent will understand when you say that you are unable to have them at your house, even without any reason(s) given. A good friend will also appreciate the value of privacy especially of one’s home, and would not even bat an eyelid if you said it was not convenient for you at that given point in time. This is the kind of friend you should keep around, not the “friend” who only knows to use you as free accommodation for his/her holiday rendezvous. So, you can also think of this as a barometer against which to test the real and quality friendships in your life.

Saying No To Other Unwanted House Guests And Overnight Guests.

Persons in this category could range from that socially obtuse stranger you just met (perhaps at a function), who somehow thinks it’s okay for them to invite themselves to your house; to maybe an old schoolmate who you are not friends with but bumped into in town; or a distant acquaintance that you only know because of a close friend; or just a total stranger.

For persons in this category, no explanations are needed. You don’t even need to bother to engage with them on the issue because their asking and expecting to stay at your house given the very tenuous connection you have with them, is absurd and unreasonable. For persons in this category, do well to point out the fact as you do not have that kind of connection or relationship with them at any level, you find their request odd and unacceptable, and one that you are certainly not going to countenance.

The only caveat or exception here is this. Perhaps the stranger in question is someone that you owe a duty of care to in terms of the law – say a pastor to a member of his congregation; a doctor to his patient; a counselor to their client who may either be dealing with addiction or is suicidal. If that is the case, while you have no obligation to have them stay at your house, you do however have an obligation to ensure that as much as it is within your power you take them to a safe place. In those circumstances, it is advisable to actively assist them in being in a facility where they are safe and out of harm’s way and can be monitored.

How can you still help the person without having them at your house?

As we point out above, while you may not want them at your house, it is important to see how you can still help them. This is especially important for members of your family and your close friends. As we said above, you can help them by suggesting helpful lodging alternatives that they could consider. For the member of your family, where you can afford this, you can go the extra mile of paying for that alternative lodging. For your friend, you can additionally suggest other fun activities and things they could do while they are in town.

Finally, consider the following:

1. You cannot always refuse to host members of your family. It would give you a bad reputation that may not help you in the future should you or your children need the help of any of your family members. If your family is labeled as the anti-social one that refuses to host other members of the family, it may be detrimental for you and your family, especially your children, in the future. As we earlier said, no one knows tomorrow and which of those family members you would need their help.

If perhaps it does happen that your family members always ask at the wrong time, consider having the hosting on your terms and at your own convenience. So, organize family gatherings and get-togethers at least once a year, that does not involve people sleeping over, but which would see that everyone has a good time and bond as a family. If you’re known as the family that always hosts the cool get-togethers, your refusal to let people stay at your house won’t always be felt.

2. The same also goes for your close friend(s). If your answer is always no, even when your friend(s) give you advance notice that they want to come to your town and spend a few days with you, you can be rest assured that your friendship will not last for long. You also want to make a friendship work, and spending time together is one of the most important ways to do so. If at the time they ask, your schedule is not convenient, rather than just tell them your schedule isn’t convenient without more, go the extra mile of actually suggesting an alternative and making alternative arrangements on the spot that suits the both of you.

3. And if circumstances make it an absolute necessity that staying at your house is their only solution, consider taking the following steps – ask them to contribute financially to their stay because let’s face it, hosting them is costing you more than you usually would spend; ask them to help out with menial chores in the house like mowing the lawn and/or taking out the trash and/or washing dishes. Since your house is not a hotel or an Airbnb this is a reasonable request to make, especially if they are staying longer than a night or two; lay down some ground rules if they seem to be overstepping boundaries that are important to you.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

How do I politely tell a friend that I do not want them to stay at my house?

It is never an easy thing to tell them, but you have to tell them. As we point out above, be as polite and gentle as possible in telling your friend that the time is not a good one for them to stay over. As we point out above, if they are good friends they will understand. But whether or not they understand, you are not responsible for how they choose to feel after you politely decline to let them stay at your house.

How do I say no to if the relative is my parent(s) and I do not have a spare bedroom?

Follow all the steps we highlighted above about how to tell a family member. Since it is your parent(s), have a genuine heart to heart conversation with them and explain all the circumstances and factors as to why they cannot stay, especially the fact that there is simply no space in your apartment. Then find them an alternative lodging not far from all essentials, and pay for it. Then spend time with them because if they came all the way to see you they probably miss you or need your help, and they are after all your parents.

How long should a family member stay over if I decide to host them?

A reasonable length of stay should be under a week, say two to four days. At worst, an entire week. Anything beyond a week is too long and unreasonable. You do have a life of your own and commitments and engagements; it is unreasonable to expect you to put your life on hold for that length of time. If a family member wants to stay for more than a week, you have to from the outset decline letting them stay at your house and rather suggest to them alternative lodging arrangements they could make.

Conclusions 

Your home is your safe haven and you should not have to apologize to anyone that you don’t want them to stay at your house. Save for members of your family, you also don’t need to explain to anyone why you don’t want them staying at your house.

In protecting your privacy, it is also important to keep key and important relationships in your life alive because you may need their help tomorrow. And this is why it is important that you follow the steps in this article, for the different categories of person(s), in letting them know that they cannot stay at your house at a given point in time. We have exhaustively shown you in this article, how to tell someone they can’t stay at your house.

And finally, remember that you cannot always be seen to say no. To avoid coming across as someone who is anti-social, rather have people around at your convenience – close friends and close family members. That way, it is on your terms and you still maintain your privacy while keeping the important relationships in your life intact.

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