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Saying NO to Friends: An interview with psychologist and author Susan Newman, PhD

September 19, 2007 | By | 114 Replies Continue Reading

People are often hesitant about saying no to friends but it might be the best thing to do.

Social psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, a colleague of mine from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, is author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and a dozen other relationship and parenting books.

Susan graciously agreed to participate in an interview for this blog about the relevance of her book to female friendships…

Why are women hesitant about saying NO to friends?

Women are raised to be nurturing and caring, which is a good thing up to a point. For many women, saying “Yes” is simply an ingrained habit; For others, it’s an addiction.

People think of the word “NO” as a negative and fear that using it will jeopardize a friendship or that their friends will think them selfish. Some women fear they will be left out of the group if they say “NO” or that their friends will think they are uncaring or lazy.

Women tend to be people-pleasers and agree to avoid confrontation and keep the peace. At times, saying “NO” is the path of least resistance, but the irony is that the fallout from a refusal is rarely as dramatic or harmful as one imagines.

If you can change your attitude about requests from friends to thinking “NO,” before you say– “Yes, sure I’ll do that for you. No problem” –your life will be a lot less complicated and pressured. It helps create boundaries and keeps others from crossing them.

What are the consequences of not saying NO to friends?

Saying “Yes” creates anxiety and stress and, in extreme cases, depression. Agreeing too often also can lead to overwork, to being overwhelmed, and to exhaustion. One of the real dangers in saying “Yes” to friends when we would rather say “NO” is that we not only become angry with ourselves, but start to resent those friends who ask for favors we don’t want to or really have the time to do. Also, if you say “Yes” indiscriminately, you may not have time for those you want to and/or really need to help.

Is it okay to turn down a friend who asks you for a favor?

Friends who ask favors with annoying frequency (and we almost all have them) are the ones you want to be wary of and learn how to refuse. The Queen of Favors, for example, is friend who has little regard for what’s on your plate; her main concern is her own agenda. You may have a Flatterer friend, the con artist who sweet talks you. She’ll tell you that you do whatever she needs done better. Another friend to be on the alert for is the one I call Damsel in Distress. She can be counted on to make a mountain out of a mole hill and her problem is rarely as horrific as she makes it out to be. She attaches to people who need to be needed and who will therefore be helpful.

You want to say “NO” to these and other friends who take advantage of your good nature and inability to refuse them. The activities that you built your friendship around (borrowing each other’s clothes, asking for advice, pulling each other out of a jam) may quickly become bothersome or even down-right unbearable, if they are not kept in check.

Look for warning signs that your friendship is unbalanced. When it feels one-way, with you doing all the giving, it is more than okay, it’s imperative that you begin to say “NO” to protect yourself. You only have a limited amount of physical and emotional energy and there are periods you can’t be there for friends without sacrificing your own physical health or emotional well-being.

What’s the best way to turn down a friend?

  • Always be polite. Use phrases such as, “Wish I could, but I can’t.” Or, “I know this is important to you, but there’s no way.” Or, “thank you for asking, but I have to say NO.”
  • Be firm and don’t offer explanations and excuses which will open up room for the person to keep pressuring you.
  • Don’t apologize; save the “I’m sorry” for the time you really do something wrong.
  • Don’t gild your NO with a lie or pad it with lame excuses. That’s counterproductive because in all likelihood you will feel guilty about your fabrications and that’s precisely what you are trying to avoid.

These approaches work with friends as well as with family and people at work. They will help you say “NO” in many sticky situations.

What’s the best way to tell a once close friend that you can’t see her?

People’s lives and commitments change and the reality is you probably don’t have time to be with her in the same ways you were previously. A slow withdrawal with comments like, “My life has gotten so complex, I can’t get together now” or, “I’d like to see you, but I simply can’t” should do the trick. Be straightforward and truthful. She will get the message and you will avoid hurting her feelings.

If you already have too many friends, how do you react to an acquaintance who wants to get chummy?

Try a positive approach: “I think you’re great and would love to spend time with you, but I don’t have a minute to myself these days.” Or, “I can’t do another thing right now. Let’s talk in a couple months.”

Should you ever turn down a “best friend?” Under what circumstances is it permissible?

Saying NO to friends is a right we have that most of us don’t exercise often enough. It’s one of the most liberating things we can do for ourselves even when a best friend is involved.

You simply can’t be all things to all people. A close friend will understand if she is a true best friend and you are normally there for her. If the relationship is open and honest, you do not have to always try to please your best friend to keep the friendship solid.

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Category: Creating and maintaining boundaries

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  1. Marie says:

    I have a distant cousin that is getting married. I am in her wedding party although we are not very close anymore. She has invited my entire family to her wedding but as the RSVP date neared my husband and I realized it would be best if only I attended. My oldest daughter has some severe psychological problems that no one on that side of the family is even aware of. She will be in the middle of some intense treatment during that time which we would rather not disrupt and the cost of flights is also a concern when needing every extra bit of money to pay for her treatments. After informing my cousin that I would be the only one attending the wedding her mother and herself have been asking many questions as to why and is everything alright with everyone and so on. I don’t know how to respond to their questions. I don’t want to lie but I also don’t want to go into detail about my daughters issues.

    • Irene says:

      Hi Marie,

      Can you simply say that your daughter is having some health problems that would make it difficult for everyone to come but that you are glad that you will be able to attend to “represent” the family?

      Best, Irene

  2. Abigail says:

    I’m in my twenties and I’ve been really good friends with a woman who’s thirty years older than me. We spent a lot of time talking and supported and helped each other a lot, including through emotional difficulties. I’m married though and newly pregnant with my first ever baby, and since getting pregnant I have not been able to dismiss my anger toward her. She’s unwell and needy and we actually had a big fight because I had to tell her I couldn’t be her emotional crutch anymore. We made up though and are trying to be good friends like before but it feels so different to me. I know she means well but her emotions and imagination run away with her all the time and she’s ALWAYS saying stuff she doesn’t mean for real. I feel fed up with her drama like I never have before and I can’t get over feeling mistrustful of her even though I know she doesn’t realize she’s saying things she doesn’t mean. I’m trying to stay a friend because we were so close before but I get angry whenever she texts me and I have all these horrible feelings of dislike toward her that I just didn’t have before. What should I do to get a better grip on my own emotions and should I let go of the friendship a little bit after all, as I am changing so much?

    • Grace says:

      You’re in a different point in your life now and you have a baby which requires your energy and attention. This is going to make you emotionally and physically drained for other relationships like you weren’t before. You might even be a little hormonal from the baby which could be causing some of the irritation.

      Evaluate the relationship and see if this lady hasn’t become more needy because you’ve been busy with the baby. If I’m looking from her perspective; she’s older, she probably doesn’t have that many friends and so she feels lonely and left out because you’re a lot busier. She probably doesn’t feel reassured in your guy’s friendship and that insecurity could be showing now as neediness and clingy behavior.

      Or maybe the relationship has run its course if she’s exactly the same as she has always been. The honeymoon phase of your relationship is over and you start becoming aggravated with everything. You start seeing through manipulative tactics and realizing the person is not as great as you thought they were.

      If this lady is really adding something to your life, then you need to repair your relationship. I wouldn’t be afraid to tell her things that YOU need. Whether it’s support, or space. If this relationship is dragging you through the mud and it’s one sided and this woman is being selfish, then maybe it’s just time to cut ties and move on.

  3. vicar18 says:

    Hi there
    I have had a friend since University, so for about 17 years now. I moved with my husband and 2 year old halfway around the world to another country 18 months ago.
    Since then, my friend has got married and I was her bridesmaid and then she had a hen party 6 months after the wedding because of her father’s illness, which I also flew back for. I also went before the wedding to have a dress fitting, which meant getting a train from home for three hours to meet them at the shop. On all three occasions I have paid for expensive flights, stayed with my in laws, got babysitting sorted and then driven or got train for hours to be with her.
    This lastest visit was October. Since then her father has passed away in January and of course I have been in touch with her (I was not asked to the funeral as I didnt know him and she had other support).
    Now we are due to visit again in April, this time with my husband as well as my daughter. I have asked my friend to come to see me at my parents house as we are doing so much travelling and have lots of other people such as grandparents to see. And yet she continues to ask us to travel 35 minutes away (which will be more like 60 minutes in the rush hour) for a meal. I have explained it does not fit well with my daughter’s sleep times and we have done so much travelling and asked her to come to us.
    What do I do as she is still asking me to go to meet her? I feel like I have done all the travelling already and the least she could do is come to us this time. How to I get that through to her without losing her friendship?!

  4. MAT says:

    I have a friend who is a psychologist and I feel manipulated by her. During the spring and summer of this year I worked with her almost every day to transform her yard. I helped get great deals on plants and was at her beck and call. Whenever she wanted me to stop by, I did. I had met her one time in 2014 and was invited for dinner in early 2015, along with my husband. She would say that, since I’m from the Bahamas, I could come and enjoy the lake any time. I always waited until I was invited or we’d schedule tea. I had been taken advantage of before and wanted to be respectful of her and her husband’s privacy. Gradually, she started calling me the gardening sensae (sp) and my husband became “the professor”. I had quit my job so I had some free time while starting my business and I’d make myself available, to the detriment of my own household. But, I was hooked. I liked her. I love gardening. As the project was winding down I noticed that she started backing off, then she hired a kid to help her ($$). I had also confessed that things were financially unstable. She would invite us for dinner and talk about the upcoming trees she wanted to buy and where to plant and we’d freely give advice. By the way, she would buy gifts and show up on jobs to help me…I guess her way of paying me back. One day she offered to help me in my Garden, and after she was there for a little while she said that we should call Gregg, her gardener. I said no, that I couldn’t afford to pay him and that I’d do it myself. This was after I had worked in her yard for HOURS without pay. I would be there sometimes when she would pay Gregg or her plumber would show up and she would say, ” I owe you money “. Afterwards I was feeling used. Needless to say, I feel manipulated, especially since she was well aware of my new business in garden design. I was at fault, too, though, I should have set boundaries. It happed so quickly that I was sucked in. Now, I just avoid her. I am content not to have that kind of a friendship. The learning experience was: learn to say no! & if you want to be paid, say so! The last bit was hard for me because boundaries were not set prior to the ” friendship”.

  5. Flabbergasted says:

    I had these 2 “friends” that I met when my son was in preschool. I was pregnant at the time and met another mom who had a boy in my sons class & a baby a few months old . Met the other after she invited the boys to her sons birthday party .We would small talk & chitchat at the school when we would pick up etc . Then after I had my baby girl they wanted to hang out with me , coffees , play dates , lunches , meet at parks etc . I thought they were both nice . We have a boat so invited one of them to go out in it with us& spend afternoon on an island, we all went for lunch & my husband mentioned to me later on that perhaps they could have bought us lunch , since we took them on a nice day out . That’s what we would have done anyways. The other friend would offer to take my son to things , give me a break with the baby etc . We all seemed to get along pretty well. Then this other women I had been friendly with came to the preschool & tried to get involved with one of the 2 others . She had treated me poorly the previous few years , very bossy , very demanding person & I had started being friends with these other 2 women . One of the 2 had to work , so I offered to have her son in the mornings & take him to school one day a week ,this was every Wed until the end of school. He was very misbehaved at my house , but I only ever told her about one incident . I also took her daughter once a week to a music class that lasted a few months . I have her clothing , my time , looked after her kids & she would say ” I’d like to have your kids over one day ” & would never follow through .The other friend who was trying to become buddy buddy with the other friend , her and I had a falling out& she tried to drag my name through the mud , telling these other women I was awful etc etc . The 2 women thought she was being cruel & took my side, we were friendly & got together a lot last year & things were great . Summertime rolled around & I wasn’t being invited to things , they just got together as a twosome & occasionally invited me to come along but I started to feel like the 3rd wheel . One I would try and make plans with & she would always bail or have an excuse and the one time I did hear from her was her asking if I would look after her daughter .Then their kids ended up in same class this year & they didn’t really talk to me anymore . They invited us to a Halloween party , and we decided not to go . I had given one of them a gift card for her birthday , so she could buy one thing she had wanted , along with the other friend & no thankyou for gift , I had to ask the other friend if she knew it was from both of us . Anyways there were just more and more excuses from both of them not being able to get together , but they certainly had enough time to see one another & the one friend I was helping does all sorts of nice things for the other friend . They know I felt left out , but seemed to like it& enjoy rubbing it in my face. I’m just done , done with mommy cliques , mind games, jealous people ,takers , selfish people & fake people , those 2 women are welcome to each other!! Sometimes the nicer you are & more that you do for people the worse they treat you

  6. Maribel says:

    I “had” a friend who asked me to keep babysitting her French bulldog which was not potty trained for a extra five days due to her husband passport being lost , she texted me via FB messenger ( hate texting ) she told me that cares about our friendship and she wanted me to open and honest so I told her something like ” I shouldn’t have to take care of your dog longer than I should so the answer is No” ok yes maybe it sounded a bit mean but after that she never texted back and when we saw each other nothing got resolved as our husbands were there point is I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong as she told me to be open and honest with her didn’t want to take care of her dog even though it was in a tough time I just don’t like the fact that she expected some kind of yes out me when she should know better ! Now we are not friends anymore which I don’t care for , that’s the thing when you say ” No” yes People might not like it cause it sounds negative but if you don’t want to do something why should you feel like you need too ? Unless if it’s a death situation of course then yes ! I be learned that saying No sometimes is good for me and that people can’t just take advantage of my kindness .

  7. Sage says:

    Had a casual friend ask to stay over at my place. Yes, it’s on a lake. They just wanted a get away and the work and expense was suppose to be on me. I get the creeps with these type of people who are so incredibly obvious and rude. They don’t even think so!! They think that they’re doing you some kind of favor by offering their company while their real motivation is so apparent. It’s obnoxious and awkward. They don’t apologize for asking. They feel righteous!!
    I do like seeing people for several hours of company, yet don’t want to put them up and have them in my private areas. Don’t want them staying over unless I give a directed invite (with a specific date and exit time)!! If you’re one of these people, “Wake Up!”. Nobody wants you at their private house! It’s annoying and people want to run away from you as fast as they can!
    Show some class in the future and rent a hotel if you want a get away. Don’t give the “I can afford it routine either”. You’re so obvious.

  8. Didi says:

    Hi all. I just need to vent. Got a friend who I have been friends with since childhood. She has always been on the needy clingy side and alienated most people. I am pretty much the only friend who stood by her all this time. The rest bailed ( guess they are smarter than me lol or have lower patients thresholds).
    Well, so far it has been somewhat bearable even though I would get annoyed here and there. But recently she has been becoming increasingly demanding, pushy and annoying to the point where I can’t take it anymore. She, just like this interview states, has little regard for what’s going on with me and in my life (and it’s a lot tbh). Her needs and wants are always way more important. Every day she seems to need a favour. She calls my cell and home phone persistently until I pick up and doesn’t even ask – demands – that I do things for her.
    Talking to her and telling her upfront that this is not okay doesn’t seem to help. I had no problem telling her straight up that calling my phone back to back is not okay and needs to stop. She said okay but keeps doing it anyway saying “I do this because I think that may be you can’t hear”. I stopped picking up and left her to talk to herself via text message. (she sends a minimum of 30 on any given day, regardless whether you reply or not)
    Don’t get me wrong, I am a helpful person and if I can I will help you out but she is crossing the line. I ran her errands every day the past couple weeks. But it’s never enough. When she was blowing up my phone (yet again) to demand I go somewhere with her on my only day off dragging my kid along because there is no one to leave her with (and she knows it!) I said No. She got all indignant and I am seriously thinking of ending this friendship.
    Is it me? Am I wrong? Idk anymore

    • Didi says:

      patience thresholds*

    • Didi says:

      Just to give an example: these past 2 weeks I juggled work, my child and my errands and in between I managed to do certified translations for her (for free and there was A LOT), print them out, mail them at the post office, go to the bank with her, go to the bank by myself on her behalf and so on and so forth. All that was taken for granted like it’s my responsibility…but that ‘s fine. Then on Thursday I was having an extremely busy day, had to work, to pick up my child from school and to travel to a few different ttownships on business in between, accompanied by her incessant phone calls throughout. I texted her at some point in the middle of one meeting – “I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you when I can”. Her response? “But I need something urgently. Call me now, it’s just for 5 minutes”. Then a barrage of texts – “I’m not going to call you ever again! Don’t want to call me – don’t call!” When I finally got a chance to speak to her she almost screamed at me asking how come I hadn’t called her earlier and that my last text was at 2:30 and what was I doing since then. Her emergency? She needed an advice on how her text to someone sounded and how to write a better one. Arrrggghh! Sorry bout the lengthy posts, I am just fuming here. Doesn’t she understand how annoying she is???

    • Che says:

      Friendship is also based on respect and right now, she has no respect or care for you. This is not a friendship as she is using and abusing you. Don’t feel bad, just RUN! and do it quickly ’cause you will make yourself sick over her foolishness. If you choose to stay then suck it up and enjoy the abuse and lack or care, respect, and love she is showing you. Good luck.

    • Si says:


      1) Do not take her off your Facebook friends list or twitter or whatever social networking site you have
      this is important as part of the process of you stepping out of the friendship bc it still shows her she still has a chance of being able to make thing up to you once you put your foot down so she will actually have motivation to try to fix things between you….

      it also shows you can have a classy exit out of the friendship/drama free and that you are just taking a step back from the friendship….there is a big diff between taking a break from a friendship and from completely breaking it off. If you completely break it off it may be extremely diff for either of you to ever be friends again and strengthen your bond instead (just turn a bad situation into a good one)

      2) stop running all her errands for her. For goodness sakes, please ask her to stop over calling (again as you already have, but don’t top there- add another step—– YOU have to also STOP physically running her errands for her. They are HER problems, not yours. This is co-dependent behavior in your friendship, So break the cycle. You are being too sweet to her while telling her to stop calling too much. As long as you still pick up that phone and run those errands, she still sees she is getting the same result. This also makes you too available. You have other things to do. She needs to learn to respect that.

      3) IF you want, you can make the best out of the situation basically by agreeing to meet up in person and to have the “talk”…..I think you should tell her in persona nd with dignity and respect on both sides….no name calling or arguing…..simply tell her that you are at a point where she’s needs to learn what she is doing is too much and that she is pushing you and other people way from her by doing so. That you have standards, that she needs to learn to respect them.

      So so give her this warning first.

      see what happens. now if she starts calling back to back after this, all you do is ignore her. thats it, simply ignore her. but leave that social networking site stuff up. only talk to this gal every so often when she isn’t calling you back to back and she is starting to show you the respect you deserve.

      In other words, put your foot down nd show her what your standards are. Don’t walk away completely but walk away mostly and leave that door open for her to be abe to be friends if she learns from all of this 🙂

      • Si says:

        sorry i tried to make smiley face and it came out as a square….didnt mean to make it look like i was calling you a square

    • Mindy says:

      Get rid of her now! I got to the point where I came out and said “I’m getting rid of you! Don’t ever call me again! I like being mean. It stops people from using and abusing you!

  9. Dan says:

    I’m a pretty helpful person. However, only if I know — for a fact — that the person is TRULY in a bind. For instance, they just moved, ask me to help paint, and I know they’re in a financial bind. Or if one of my friend’s was inured and doesn’t have a way to get somewhere, I’ll give them a ride. I’m helpful in that sense.

    However, it ends there, because some are just simply out to find free labor, and I’m not cool with that. I despise physical labor. Hell, I don’t even paint my own house. Sometimes, you just need to put your foot down. I had a friend who would always ask me to help him do stuff around his house. I mean, we weren’t even that great of friends. This guy was pretty well loaded ($$) as well.

    When that’s the case, you just have to say no. I’m sorry, but I’m not someone’s personal day laborer. So, my general rule is that if they have the means ($$ and physically able) then they need to either do it themselves or pay a professional.

  10. Guy says:


    I am a male and I am an honest, loving, caring person. After reading your article, I feel as though there was an implication that these qualities are feminine qualities. I do however provide leadership, protection and shelter. Should I change my very nature to be a hard-nosed, callous and hurtful person in order to perfect my role as a male?

    Thanks. G

  11. D says:

    I have a friend who recently moved away. I am a professional in law and for many years she has asked questions about what to do in many of her situations which I have always answered. As a professional I can charge for consultation.

    It was bad enough that she ALWAYS had a problem and contacted me constantly but then her other friends started having problems and asking that I consult them….what the heck ? Let them set up an appointment and pay. This went on for too many years. Between then she has asked me for money which I have refused because nothing kills a friendship better than lending money.

    She moved away about 1 year ago and now there is 9 hours between us. She made plans with me on 2 different occasions but never followed through and then I see on Facebook that she was in town but didn’t bother to call me.

    Before she left, she gave away one of her cats because she was moving in with her boyfriend who was highly allergic. Things were not going good with the new owner of the cat and she wanted me to get the cat 1 hour away from me at 9:00 pm. I already have 6 cats of my own and had already told her that I didn’t want anymore. She was trying ti impose the cat on me. Did I mention that I am a single mother with a toddler ? Brilliant … Go to a stranger’s house at 9:00 pm with a toddler. Of course I said no.

    When she was househunting I even kept her diabetic cat. Injections morning and night for 1 and a half weeks.

    I even gave a $100 gift card to get started in her new place

    I told her that I was selling my home to go into something smaller because 1 person can’t keep up the maintenance as my hands are full with my toddler, cats and I work full time. It is no lie. I get a message from her telling me that she might be moving back and requested my basement to store her things. Ummm what part of selling did we not understand.

    This is only to name a few of the favors she has asked out of me. I have even given her a complete bedroom set. FREE

    The point is that she only contacts me when she needs or wants something.

    I don’t have many friends but enough is enough. She is starting to be a burden and I don’t think I want that as a friend.

    I have requested one small favor ( a photo to send me by text or email) and she couldn’t even do that.

    Please help

    • Grace says:

      I had a similar circumstance with a friend (regarding having do your work for free). At first it wasn’t a big deal, I was in training for the profession I was going into and she feigned helplessness so I would help her out. I didn’t mind so long as it was on my terms. But I became busy with school and work and she started asking me to do these things for her and I had a hard time saying no. Then when I made up excuses to refuse like saying, no I’m too busy, she would get upset or ask me to ask someone else I knew to do it which I was not comfortable with so I never did.

      Eventually I got fed up. It seemed like everytime she talked to me she wanted something or I would be tutoring her. So I finally was honest and wrote an email as non accusationary as possible and said, I don’t mind helping you out from time to time and supporting you as a friend but as I am trying to do this professionally I am no longer going to do things for you for free, it is my time and I feel like I should be compensated for spending time that I could put toward my career/school etc. I feel less like your friend and more like a tutor and it’s not much fun for me. I like you a lot but if you continue this way it is feeling one sided and I am just getting embittered and I don’t want that to happen.

      After that she started offering me pay for things and asks favors less. I still help her time to time but I feel like it’s more on my terms.

      • Grace says:

        PS. If she is really a friend she will stick around. If she’s not really a friend than you get no loss if she ditches you.

        You don’t need someone using you for your professional services and trying to put things on you. It’s not right.

    • Didi says:

      Cut her loose. I’m in a similar situation and cutting mine off for a week to let her chill – i.e. not picking up when she calls and not responding to her texts. If that doesn’t get the message across – I think I’ll cut her off for good.

      Friends like that are a burden, causing anxiety and stress. A friendship should be a 2-way street, not one-sided like that. They are selfish, inconsiderate, needy, annoying and pushy. And moochers. I say ignore her for a bit and see if she comes to her senses. If not – cut her off for good.

    • Mindy says:

      GET RID OF HER! She’s using you! I got rid of so many people and tell them right to their face “I’m getting rid of you don’t call me ever again”! I like being mean it keeps the users and abusers AWAY!

  12. sharon says:

    An old friend came back into my life a few years ago. It started off as an occasional visit, then occasional spending the night. Then it became once a month, then more nights and unannounced visits. I was brought up to be a gracious hostess. To cook, clean and wait on your guests. Then came a gift, which they lied about the price. I tried to refuse three times and finally accepted thinking it was a wonderful gesture. I’m reminded at least once a month how much my gift cost. Meantime this person comes over unannounced, invited themselves to sleep over, invited themselves to placed I’m going. My health has declined, I’m in pain alot. Does me no good to mention this because “oh I know I have that also, I’m in pain too.” I’m at my wits end and want to give their gift back and put a huge locked gate around my house. How can someone who’s raised to be gracious say no

    • Amy F says:

      I think you need to think about the difference between bring gracious and being a doormat. You can be gracious and assertive at the same time. Remember you don’t have to apologize or make excuses for having healthy boundaries.

      If it were me, I’d call her and say, “In the future, if you’d like to visit, I need you to call ahead and check my availability. This isn’t personal, it’s a house rule I’ve implemented for all friends and family. I’m so glad close enough friends I can trust you to respect my boundaries. I’d hate to lose you.” Even if you don’t trust her to respect your limits, you’ve reinforced that she has to play by your house rules if she wants to stay your friend.

      About the gift, next time she mentions it, I’d say, “I feel the white elephant you’ve given me as gotten in the way of our relationship. I’m not comfortable keeping something so generous. Would you like it back, or should I donate it to Goodwill?” This way you’re taking charge, you’ve given her a choice which doesn’t include you keeping the gift.

      The reason I’d do the first scenario proactively, before the next time, is because it’s less personal and a general rule that may or may not apply. If you talk about the second case in the absence of a comment, you’re creating the discussion and conflict, rather than resolving it.

  13. Sash grey says:

    All the above who replied are right. I have a best friend. We are now in 2 far away places and only see each other every couple years. We only so much as drop each other a message when we can and also reply when we can. There is no pressure because real friends don’t pressure each other into doing certain things & we know we will always be friends no matter what. On the other hand I have another friend who constantly calls despite me explaining how busy I am or even just that I want time for myself – I don’t even HAVE to be busy to not take her call. She just has to respect a person’s space & boundaries. You are not married to your friend. Of course, help your friend, but once she starts calling you her therapist and thinks u are the go-to person to call for her broken toilet or husband problems then she is stepping over healthy boundaries – we all have our own lives to tend to.

  14. josie salmons says:

    My freind expects me, and anyone else she knows, to pay for her. Aged fifty, she is in debt to credit companies she got involved with to pay for her gambling, but her mother pays for her food, and has a fancy mobile as does her son, ok, nice mom, but…

    She tried to set me up to pay for a weekend treat, but I was blunt enough to suggest that she sorts out her debts. Reducing the weekly budget for them, takes longer, but is less of a weekly spend. I had to ask if she would pay me back her half of the treat, then I realized there was a sting. The setting up con is something some gambling friends of hers (not mine) do to some people they know.

    Although she claims desperation, she does not help hereself, just keeps paying out a fortune to creditors.

    • Sash grey says:

      There is a saying that true friends help each other especially in times of need. Sounds strange but to help certain friends you have to stop “fixing” their problems. This forces them to help themselves and when they do, you have “helped” them in some way. Ask them what they intend to do to solve their issue instead of constantly giving them advice (and they often don’t even follow it). Plus they don’t even realize their friends have their own issues and that those friends have given a lot of their energy to try and solve THEIRS. Some friendships last and some don’t. Don’t put it on your shoulders and open your arms to other people who do respect (and not take advantage of) you.

  15. Mary94949 says:

    My problem is a bit different. My friend insisted she wanted to come visit us at our new house. Great ! I invited her, then called the day of dinner (6 other guests) and she ‘forgot’ and thought it was ‘tentative’ so we agreed to reschedule 3 weeks later. Excited to see each other, as we haven’t seen them since Xmas although they live 4 miles away. So, dinner is this Friday, and we invited 4 other guests. Today I called to remind her, as they went out of town last week. Guess what? Her husband has another commitment which he can’t change. Only she can come. Now I have a dinner for 3 people plus us? Yuck. I know she’s a bit flaky, but — seriously?
    I was flabbergasted. Who does this? Now I have to uninvite the other couple who accepted, and withdraw the invite to the second couple. I feel like a jerk doing this. To top it off, she seemed nonplussed by her second screw-up. We’ve been friends for about 10 years.
    My sense is, I will invite her and her husband for a glass of wine, or when we have like 20 people coming, but not to a ‘dinner for 8’ which is my preferred setup for people I care about. Am I wrong to feel a bit insulted?

    • Candice says:

      Could it be that she only wanted to see you and you family, not other people?

      • Mary94949 says:

        no, because she likes to meet new people. that was the point of my having them over. I wanted them to meet some of our new friends 🙁

      • Mary94949 says:

        Mystery solved! My friend is very involved in relocating sooner than I realized. She was so busy that details fell off her radar. She called and we are back on for an impromptu dinner soon. Glad to know I wasn’t clueless and missing signals. All’s well that ends well.

    • Shannon13 says:

      Actions speak louder than words. If one of my friends were to “forget” about a dinner party, it would tell me: it was not their priority. I think your continued efforts to see your friend (giving her reminder phone calls, planning another dinner) show that you are more interested in seeing her than she is in seeing you. I didn’t understand why you would cancel a dinner party based on the absence of a person you already admitted was flaky–that seems unfair to your other guests. If you want to see your friend again, perhaps you could suggest the two of you meet for coffee or lunch. If she is unable to do that, then she really isn’t worth any more of your time, effort, or money.

      • Mary94949 says:

        That’s basically what I did. I still don’t think she forgot on purpose, she invites me to her house and she said several times that she wanted to come over. But, agree, effort needs to go both ways.

  16. Kelly says:

    It always starts with giving someone a ride to an appointment because they don’t have a car. Before I know it every week this person is calling me and asking to take her to the dentist, doctor, hospital, etc. I finally just said no because she never offered gas money and I am disabled and need my rest after work. She doesn’t work or do anything but see doctors. The other reason is she never was able to help me when I needed it which was only once or twice. I felt used.

  17. tyler says:

    thank you so much this helped me alot

  18. Lisa says:

    I have been practicing saying no and being more assertive in my communications. I have been feeling better, but really getting people very mad. My sister flipped out when I told her a simple thing that I could only talk for fifteen minutes(meaning listen to her endles complaints). She was so furious she hung up on me.
    Another freind of mine , but not a close freind blew me off and did not answer calls or emails or show up on a few occasions, much to my inconvenience. She barely apologized, and I forgave her. We had somewhat tentative plans to meet at my house. I tried contacting her twice by email and never heard not one word back, so I just gave up. On the morning of our “date”, she called me frantically saying she was on her way over, but didn’t have my address. I said sorry, I never heard back from you and thought you weren’t coming by, and I am in my pajamsa not prepared for any visitors now. She was very angry and said I was not welcoming her to my house and I was selfish and didn’t care. She sounded like she will never talk to me again. Could I be dealing with someone with a personality disorder? I can’t understand what the big deal is- we were just going to hang out and talk at my house. If I were that important to her, she shoudl have called back in advance. I did not feel it ok for me to be chasing her down with no response. She went on and on about how valuable her time is and how making plans with me was keeping her from booking clients and she was now losing money that she needed to pay her bills. It was a Sunday afternoon, and she lives at home with parents and does not have a w-2 job.

  19. Nancy says:

    I have a wonderful friend, she wants to come to my house and make dinner after I have major surgery, I don’t know how to say NO because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.

    I saw her yesterday and she meation it again, how do I tell NO

    • Sheila says:

      When I don’t feel well, I don’t like to be around people. I just want to be alone to recover. It is nothing personal. Maybe you could tell her you appreciate the offer but would like to be alone until you feel better. If she is a real friend that shouldn’t offend her.

  20. faith 8246 says:

    I have a question. My supposedly best friend is always really busy, and I try to understand and all, but lately she has been forgetting when we set up to meet, turning down all invitations- can understand some because I am trying to be a friend to her, but she will not even sit with me in Church anymore, and when we do talk it always has to be at her convenience. I have been patient for 6 weeks, but after that I told her how I was feeling- that she never had time for anyone or anything anymore. She proceeded to tell me that she was really busy. We would talk later, so she could go unwind. To me, that just confirmed my feelings. Do you think I am being oversensitive? I just do not know what to do anymore.

    • pinkster says:

      It may not b right but it soubds like your driend is going through a stage like I do everyso often that she just needs space. Not that anyone has done anything wrong sometimes I need to get my head around life in general and I get upset when it feels like im being almost stalked. Rather than think ur friend is being funny mayb think their could b things in her life shes working through and Is finding it easier to b a bit of a lone wolf. Uve most prob came across as slightly over bearing so stand back and b ready to give a few hugs and make a cuppa when shes ready. Sometimes being a friend means backing off but make sure she knows u r there if she needs u xx

      • Kim says:

        Faith, Pinkster is right. It’s possible that you are overwhelming you friend in some ways. I am on the other end of the fence, too. If I may give an advise, I think it will be best to back off a little.

    • Aventador says:

      I am going to tell you from experience to back off. If she is really busy, I could tell you from my own experience, she doesn’t have the energy for a social life. You are not her significant other that you should be demanding her time like that. She does not owe you that. When she has some down time, then maybe you both could get together, but give her some space to breathe. I hope since it has been a year, that you have been doing this. I don’t know how many times I had to tell my friend that until she got the message and then knew what it was like when she became busy and tired herself.

    • Sash grey says:

      Everyone seems to think friendship is static and don’t go through changes. As we grow older we go through a lot of changes with work, attitudes, principles and other aspects in life, so do our friendships (not necessarily a bad thing). The thing is, friendships should be EASY despite these ongoing changes. Friendships don’t have contracts stating you must call or see each other a minimum of times per month to stay as “true” friends. If your friend says she is busy chances are she is. It doesn’t even have to be work. Could be busy with family. Busy eating cake. Or busy having alone time.

  21. Evan says:

    Learned my lesson but wanted to share my story. A friend asked me if I wanted to go out for lunch. I agreed and brought along a small gift as she had a birthday that had just passed. We get to the restaurant and she says, “Oh my gosh, you didn’t have to! You buying me lunch today was more than enough!” WTF???? 1.) SHE asked me if I wanted to have lunch (I assumed we would pay our own way as we have done before) 2.) I NEVER said to her or implied that I would be treating her for her bday. I was mad at myself because recently we went on a trip where we rented a place that had a kitchen. While I was preparing dinner, she ran down to the corner tourist trap stand and bought an apron for me as a “gift”. Yeah, right! She actually was tacky enough to say that I owed her $10 and she was serious! So that was a red flag I should have heeded. Don’t need friends like that. I would just stay away, period as trying to assert myself is more trouble than I’m willing to go through and they won’t change.

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