• Keeping Friends

How to say no to a favor

Published: October 14, 2013 | Last Updated: April 2, 2016 By | 13 Replies Continue Reading
Although it may not come instinctively, saying no to a favor is the right response to many situations.


Hi Irene,

Another mother keeps expecting me to drive her daughter to gymnastics every day. It’s one hour out of my way. My 11-year-old daughter is recovering from heart surgery. She hasn’t been able to go and do things for a long time. Today, she wanted to go to mall. The other girl’s father was in town and was supposed to take her but the mom called me. I hate this. She uses everyone around her. Help me say no.

Signed, Sue


Dear Sue,

Clearly, you want to and should say no. This is more than a favor. This is an ongoing chore that is costing you time and money. Moreover, the woman doesn’t feel any obligation to reciprocate your kindness.

It’s hard to make changes but you simply need to be honest. Tell her upfront that you can be an occasional backup driver but you can’t be a regular taxi service. If you haven’t already done this, she may not even be aware of the burden she’s been placing on you and your family.

Pick the right time and place to speak to her and try to withhold your anger. Do it as graciously as you can. If your friend reacts with anger or makes this favor a condition of your friendship, this really isn’t a friendship.

Many people have a problem saying no because they think it makes them seem like a bad person. This isn’t the case. My guess is that once you address the problem, you will feel less stressed and better about yourself. This may have some repercussions on your daughter’s friendship with the other girl but you can’t allow yourself to be held hostage by that.

Hope this helps. Please be sure to read the other posts below to bolster your courage!

Best, Irene

Prior related posts on The Friendship Blog:

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Category: Creating and maintaining boundaries, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (13)

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  1. anonymous says:

    There are lots of helpful comments here! I wish I had read posts like this before when I was dealing with same type of friend. I never quite understood a friend who always asked for a lift, despite the fact that she had access to a car. Whenever she wanted to hang out, she’d ask me if I want to go to a certain place and expect a lift. Why own a car if you’re not going to drive it and keep it in the garage? I mean, nobody’s car runs off of air; everyone has gas costs. Years ago, when I didn’t drive, I made sure to pick up the tabs to say thank you and to cover for gas costs for my friends. I also repaid their kindness by driving them. But my so-called friend didn’t have the proper etiquette to do that. In Sue’s case and between any friends, it’s common sense to take turns or cover partially for the gas costs. I can see why Bronwyn pointed out that a person asking for favors constantly, is a manipulative person, and not a friend.

  2. Sheryl says:

    Saying no can be so tough…the first few times. But then, it feels absolutely empowering!

  3. Bronwyn says:

    The person asking for favors isn’t even described as a friend, just an acquaintance who imposes upon people. I liked Alberta’s phrasing, “You are being rude to yourself and your daughter by giving in to this manipulation.” I also agree about not offering to be back-up. There’s too much wiggle room there. Frankly, I do not understand why there would even be difficulty between taking your own daughter who hasn’t felt up to doing much on a fun activity or accommodating this manipulative person’s needs. I think Marisa has a point.

  4. GraceW says:

    Frankly, I wouldn’t even offer to be an occasional backup driver, because she’ll still be calling you every day needing “backup” because I doubt she’s going to find someone else willing to drive an hour to take her kid to gymnastics.

  5. Sarah says:


    I think that Irene Levine gave you the right advice here.

    I’ve been taken advantage of by so called friends two so much so I had to let go of the friendships.
    The thing I suggest that you also ponder, is how lousy you feel after you have said yes. That doesn’t feel right, doe it? It’s not! ‘I wish you the strength to stand up to this rude and inconsiderate woman who only is thinking of herself.

    My Best,

  6. Denise says:


    I agree with about 90% of the ideas here. Driving 1 hour out of your way for an acquaintance daughter’s gym class? Wow! And your own daughter recovering from heart surgery? Wow!

    I’m thinking the biggest problem here is you not wanting the uncomfortable feeling of saying No to someone who’s used to hearing Yes. Please say No, with or without explanation, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, but not guilty, the feeling will pass, and you will feel stronger and more positive about yourself. It’s only gym class and mom will find another way if it’s possible. Otherwise, the girl needs to find a closer-to-home activity.

  7. cathy says:

    I was wondering if you get any favors/borrow money/owe these ladies anything/etc causing you to not be able to say no to them?

    • Alberta says:

      A manipulation tactic I’ve observe is the person who wants to manipulate will give a small thing unsolicited – that you didn’t want or ask for, thus creating a sense of obligation – to make it hard to say no.

      I don’t know the dynamics of Sue’s relationship but here’s an example since she is the original poster with this concern : Sue’s friend could have given her some cat food, canned goods, a cup she had sitting around – Sue maybe doesn’t want these items but accepts them – then the problem ladyfriend uses that ‘gift’ as obligation that Sue would owe her because she gave her that stuff she didn’t want but accepted. Those 4mingthoughts videos illustrate this as does Gavin DeBeckers book The Gift of Fear as mentioned in a previous post.

      That is why you have to be careful about accepting unsolicited gifts in the beginning of a friendship – if someone starts out giving a lot at the beginning then this is creating obligation and guilt, making it difficult in the future to say no.

  8. Marisa says:

    Dear Sue, no offense but get a backbone. You are putting someone else’s child above your own child who has serious medical issues. Simply tell this woman it will not be possible for you to drive her daughter anymore. Start today. You are allowing yourself to be a doormat. What exactly are you afraid of? Making her angry? So what. Your own child is more important than your need to overly please. And do not offer to help as Irene stated, once in a while. Cut it off now and for good.

  9. Amy says:

    I agree with Alberta, offering to be a sometimes backup is leaving the door too far open for this woman who seems to have no boundaries or filter for the time/energy constraints of others.
    People, particularly women, sometimes think that when they say NO, they need to qualify no with a reason or an excuse. You can refuse requests, politely, without explanation. Be firm, even and kind. You might even want to extend an invitation so she realizes you still want to be friends, you just don’t want to be chauffeur.

    “Can you take Mary to gymnastics tomorrow?”
    “No, I’m not going to be able to take her any more.”
    “Why, you’ve taken her before.”
    “Yes, but I can’t do it in the future. I’ve got obligations and home and with _____ (daughter). I realize that if I continue to help you, it puts a strain on me and on our friendship. You’re resourceful. I’m sure you’ll be able to figure something out. Do you want to have coffee next week?”
    “I really need your help.”
    “I can’t do it. I need to get going, are we on for coffee? ”

    If your friendship doesn’t survive your setting very reasonable boundaries, then it wasn’t much of a friendship, in my opinion.

    • Tracy says:

      to me this is great advice! Amy is spot on with dealing with the aspect of saying “no”. You leave no way for her to get around your “no” and she will have no choice but to see you as a person rather than a convenience in her life.

    • Ken says:

      I agree with Tracy, this was very sound advice.

  10. Alberta says:

    I respectfully disagree with Irene that you tell this lady you will be back up – that gives an area of manipulation. From your post it comes across that this person will try and bulldoze you into saying yes if you say you’ll do it once in awhile. She obviously doesn’t care that it is an inconvenience to you and lacks empathy.

    Your time with your daughter is much more important than doing favours for someone who is just using you anyways – you don’t even need to worry so much about being ‘polite’ to a rude person – this is how many people get taken advantage of. You are being rude to yourself and your daughter by giving in to this manipulation – if the person gets mad and calls you names, let her be mad. If you keep doing this you will be mad at yourself for giving in and not having the precious time with your family. Your daughter is worth more than this so called friend.

    Read the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker (substitute she where the author writes he) and you’ll never be afraid to say No again. Also check out the book Who’s pulling your strings by Harriet B. Braiker. They may have copies at your local library – well worth reading. Also google 4mingthoughts emotional vampire series on you tube – the video called saying goodbye to toxic friends is well presented information.

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