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How To Say No To A Friend: It’s Never Easy

Published: March 10, 2024 | By | Reply Continue Reading
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Saying NO to a friend can unravel a friendship but sometimes there’s no way around it. 

Of course, when someone  is your friend, as opposed to a frenemy, you want to help the person out, however and whenever you can. But some “asks” are unreasonable. The request leave you with two choices: 

  • Saying yes when you don’t want to, or
  • Having to say NO, which is never easy.

What types of situations might call for you to say NO?

When a friend is asking too much of you

Many times friends asks us to so something that seems unreasonable, either morally or logistically. 

For example a friend might ask you to lie to her husband about her whereabouts because she is having an affair. Or a friend may ask you to pick up her child from school every day and shuttle him home when it’s a half hour out of your way on a trafficked route. Another friend may always prevail upon you to do the driving whenever your’e together. 

Some “asks” are simply over the top. What about the friend who asks to borrow a significant sum of money and you know it isn’t likely that canl ever be repaid? What if a friend asks to stay at your home with no end date in sight? Or a friend may ask to join you on a vacation when you and your husband really need the time to be alone.

When a friend is asking for favors too often

For friendships to work, they need to be reciprocal, with a balance of give and take. That doesn’t mean that they are equal at every point in time but over time, one hand washes the other. If you are always on the giving end of a friendship, however, you are going to begin feeling put upon and angry. The relationship is going to feel too one-sided.

Some tips on How To Say NO to a friend

If you are in a situation in which your friends is asking for too much or asking too often, here are some tips for handling the situation graciously.

1- Don’t wait until you’re fed up

Whether it’s spouse, lover or friend, when you squelch your feelings, you’re eventually going to explode. You can ignore little things but if your friend has really upset you or is grates on you by doing the same things repeatedly, don’t let ill feelings fester too long. 

The longer the delay, the harder it will be for you to summon up the courage to say something so try not to delay. Also, the longer you delay, the harder it will be for your friend to accept your decision.

Initiate a discussion about the problem when you’re calm and before you’ve built up resentment.

2- Don’t feel guilty about saying NO. You can’t say yes to everything

Even the best of friends don’t always agree or see things eye to eye. Your friend may think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a favor of you but you may feel otherwise. 

True friends have to be sensitive to each other’s feelings and be willing to accept NO for an answer, whether or not they think it’’s reasonable. 

Sure, we all want to help out our friends and support them but if the personal cost of saying yes is too great, either morally or logistically, it’s okay to say NO.

3- If your friend can’t accept NO for an answer, recognize it as her problem not yours.

Some people are extremely self-centered and demanding, to the point of taking their friends (and others) for granted. 

Your friend may be overwhelmed by problems or just totally wrapped up in herself. This person may have a hard time accepting NO under any circumstances, particularly if she is accustomed to hearing you say yes. In this case, you need to be firm, stick to your guns, and not back down.

Moreover, you need to consider whether this is really a health friendship.

4- Carefully consider why you’ve decided to say NO

Saying NO can have ramifications for a friendship so mull over why you’ve decided to say NO and whether it’s appropriate. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying NO to a reasonable request if someone has made too many unreasonable ones in the past. 

Examine each situation on a case-by-case basis. This may not be the right time to say NO.

5- Try to say NO as politely and graciously as you can

Saying NO doesn’t necessarily have to come off harsh and can actually be couched in some tender terms to help soften the blow. You might say, “I wish I could but” or “I really can’t because…” 

Try to be polite and craft your message in advance so you don’t blurt out your frustration.

Providing a reasonable but terse explanation of why you’re saying NO always helps the other person understand your decision.

6- When you’re both relaxed, talk about limits and boundaries in friendships

With an ounce of prevention, you may not need to be in the position of saying NO. Even the best of friendships require minor tune-ups to remain vital. 

Good friends need to be able to communicate regularly to make sure the relationship works for both people. If you feel your boundaries are being violated, it’s better to talk about it before it becomes explosive.

7- If you are unable to say NO, even when you want to, find out what’s holding you back

Some people are unable to say NO because their need to be liked is so great and their self-confidence is so lacking.

If you have this problem and it’s interfering with your relationships-personal or professional-you may want to speak to a counselor, coach, or mental health professional who can help you better understand the problem and address it.

What are some of the hardest times you’ve had turning a friend down and simply saying NO?

Some other posts on The Friendship Blog about saying NO:



How To Say No To A Home Party Held By Friends Selling Stuff

Saying No To A Friend During The Pandemic

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