I need some advice on how to say no to friends who take advantage of me?
So, you have trouble saying “no”. Remember what did your mother used to say? Practise makes perfect.
Instead of trying immediately to say no to people who take advantage, try saying no to other stuff.
Start with the little things
You might find it easier to practice saying ‘no’ to something good. Would you like to go for dinner next week? If your default response is yes, even though you know you’re flat out, you can’t really afford it, and you’d much rather be catching up on sleep, try saying, ‘Oh, thanks, next week isn’t good for me though’. If you really can’t just let people down like that, try, ‘How about next week?’. Asserting yourself in this small way – by saying yes, but at a time that suits you – will set you up for bigger ‘no’s.
So, you’ve mastered the art of saying yes, with a caveat. Much like the rearranging dinner thing, if someone asked for your help with a move, you could have said, ‘I’d love to help, but I can only stay a couple of hours’. Setting up that expectation before you arrive can make it easier for you to say, ‘I have to go now’.
Now, you can start just plain saying no. Let’s try the dinner thing again. Maybe they invited you somewhere else, where just don’t want to go. Maybe the ballet isn’t your thing, or the opera, or a gig. THAT IS OK. You don’t have to accept every invitation extended to you. So you say, ‘Oh, thanks for asking me. I’m not really into x though’. Again, if you can’ t be that blunt, you can always add a, ‘Do you fancy going to y next month with me though?’.
So, now say you’re asked to help with a move and you just plain don’t want to. Maybe, as you said in your original question, they are just taking advantage of you.
“Bob, can you come on Saturday and help me move?”
“Sorry Jim, I won’t be able to make it”.
That should be enough. Always.
When People Can’t Take No For An Answer
But people who take advantage of other people often are just generally deficient in manners, so they will often probe…
“Why? Surely you can come for a bit?”
“Sorry, got plans. Bet you’ll be finished up in no time though”.
“What are you doing? You never do anything on a Saturday”.
I often find the best way to diffuse this type of questioning is to call them out on it:
“Dude, what’s with the inquisition? I can’t help, I’m sorry”.
You need a certain firmness. And since you asked the question in the first place… you might be lacking in the firmness department.
On Making Excuses
A common route out of this is to invent other things you will be doing.
I’m not a fan of making stuff up for this purpose. Firstly, because it shouldn’t be necessary, and secondly, because it’s like taking a fake sick day from work. It’s not fun, because you’re constantly wondering whether you’re going to be spotted.
But I know a lot of people might need easing into the world of saying no, so a fake dentist appointment, lunch with parents, or pre-arranged might make it easier for you.
I’m still just a fan of saying, “Actually, sorry I can’t”.
I don’t call it ‘Advice. With Sass’, for nothing. Ain’t nobody making me do something I don’t want to.