How to Say No to Family and Friends

Written by on February 1, 2012 in Family - 1 Comment | Print this page


Learning how to say no to family and friends can be such a grueling experience.  You don’t want to let anyone down, you feel guilty when you choose not to help and you genuinely want to see the people in your life succeed.  Does any of this sound familiar?

These are the self-defeating thoughts that run through our minds when we have to decide whether or not we will help someone.  Unfortunately for many these thoughts have become a way of life.  So much so that they lose sight of their own responsibilities and find themselves exhausted.

There comes a time when we all have to learn how to say no to family and friends. 


Scenario #1

Perhaps you’re working on a project that has a pending deadline but Bill wants you to help him wrap up a major report he needs to close a deal.  Since Bill’s report should only take about an hour of your time and his client is scheduled to visit the office later that day, you decide to put your project to the side and help him out.

It’s all in the name of team work and it’s for the greater good of the company.  Right? What happens when that one hour turns into three hours?


Scenario #2

One of your oldest and closest friends loves to wear skinny jeans but they are not very flattering on her.  Your opinion is very important to her.  As you enter women’s department in Macy’s she sees a pair of skinny jeans she just cannot live without.  She tries them on and excitedly steps out of the fitting room desperately waiting for your approval.  What would it hurt to tell her they look great?  It’s just one pair of jeans and they make her so happy.


Scenario #3

You’ve made conscious decision to start saving money.  This is your year to finally put some money in the bank.  You want security.  You want to start building a nest egg.  You want to take a real vacation this year and not a staycation.  You’re a little old fashion so instead of a savings account you have a shoe box in the back of your closet.

Every week, for the past six weeks you’ve put $100 in the shoe box. Slowly but surely your little bank is growing.  Week number seven roles around and you add another $100 to your shoe box.  Three days later your cousin calls you.  He’s completely distraught.  His rent is due in three days and he’s $400 short. You know your shoe box has more than $400 saved up.  You’ll still have money left if you lend him the $400.   You have to do the right thing. Right?

None of these situations are impossible to imagine.  Nor will giving in to any of them create a major problem for you.  As a matter of fact, giving in to each situation will make your co-worker, your friend and your cousin very happy.

The danger with these situations lies in the frequency of their occurrences.  Are you giving in on a regular basis? Have people come to expect that you will give in and help them? Are you putting yourself on the backburner regularly?  Are those untruthful words of flattery constant?

It’s very easy to lose track of your own goals and integrity when get used to doing what works for other people.  Life can pass you by.  They people around you can move on with their lives, accomplishing their goals while you are still the go to person who never has enough time to get her own responsibilities taken care of.

In addition, you become an enabler by always saying yes.  People will come to expect your help and some may even react in a nasty way when you say no.


Learning to say no will at first make you feel uncomfortable.  Especially if you’re not used to it.  So here’s what you can do.

1. Establish yourself as someone who is known to be up front.  People rarely approach those who have a history of saying no.

2. Make completing your goals a top priority. Remember the more time you spend on others, the less time you will have to spend on your own business.

3. Create limits and boundaries that you will stick to.  At the end of the day if you continue to give in to every request, you are the person to blame – not the people taking advantage of you.


All that being said, I’m not suggesting that you become the jerk that people are uncomfortable approaching.  You can decline requests in a tasteful, professional and compassionate way.  For each scenario listed above here are possible ways to say no without offending the other person.


1. Bill, I would love to help you out, but I’m want to give myself enough to time to complete my project before my supervisor asks for a status update.

2. Those jeans are really cute, but I’ve always loved the way bootcut jeans look on you.  I think they compliment your figure much better.

3. I’m sorry to hear.  Why are you short on your rent?  I wish I could help but I’ve been having trouble saving money myself.  This is a tough one, so if you do give in, try not to lend the full $400.


What are ways that you’ve learned how to say no to family and friends?  Share your stories and what you believe makes it hard to say no below.


About the Author

Alana Johnson

Alana Johnson tries to enjoy the simple things in life and writes for the Lifestyle category on Quality Life Resources. Living in the small New England town of Norwalk, CT, she looks forward to the warm summer months. To submit your own article for my category, please click HERE. View all Self Improvement articles.