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.
Category: Creating and maintaining boundaries
Sites That Link to this Post
- Should Artists Ever Work for Free? - | September 8, 2016
- Is it normal for a child to have an imaginary friend? - The Friendship Blog : The Friendship Blog | July 17, 2016
- My friend wants me to store her stuff: How can I say no? - The Friendship Blog : The Friendship Blog | November 30, 2014
- How to say no to a favor - The Friendship Blog : The Friendship Blog | November 1, 2014
- Should I Charge My Friends For Work? - Content Blitz | October 18, 2013
- Say No and Still Be Friends - Personal Development and Self Help Groups, Plans, Courses, Books, Cds & More. | October 10, 2013