Say No and Still Be Friends

Many of us have a hard time saying no to friends. Who doesn’t want to help a friend who asks for your help? Unfortunately, there are times you simply need to say no when a friend seeks your assistance. Perhaps you’re way too busy or maybe your friend is asking you to do something that you’re uncomfortable doing. It can be awkward to say no to a friend. No one wants to risk a friendship. You might be surprised to find out that it’s not that hard to say no and still be friends.

Follow these principles and you can say no without damaging your friendship:

1. Make certain you didn’t misunderstand. Misunderstandings are common. Maybe you didn’t hear what you thought you heard. Get clarification before you say yes or no. Maybe you’ll be able to say yes, if you first seek to understand.

2. Separate the issue from those involved. Once you’ve gotten clear on the issue and determined that you’re not getting involved, remember that you’re still friends. Being friends is separate from the issue at hand. Ensure they understand that it’s the issue or your own situation that’s preventing you from saying yes, not them.

3. Keep the focus on yourself, not your friend. It doesn’t go over well if you say something like, “I can’t lend you money because everyone knows you’ll never pay it back.” Let them know that you care, but explain why you can’t help. It’s important that they understand why you’re saying no. For example, you could explain that you have a policy of never loaning money because it has ruined friendships in the past.

4. Be firm and clear in your “no.” Many of us give weak, wishy-washy answers that give the other person hope that we might change our minds. Avoid giving false hope and just give a clear “no.” A clear “no” ends the issue quickly. It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid with one quick pull.

5. What is the underlying need? If you can determine what he really needs, you can help your friend come up with another solution. Sometimes, a person in need doesn’t have the capacity to find more elegant solutions. You could be of great assistance by taking the time to brainstorm and look for other alternatives in which you aren’t involved.

6. Find another way to help them. Maybe you could help with the current issue in some smaller capacity. Offer other suggestions. Maybe they have another need where you would be happy to provide help and support. One of the keys to keeping the friendship is to ensure they walk away with something from you, even if it’s only advice and empathy. If they feel worse than they did before they approached you, the friendship is likely to be strained. How we feel about others is largely dependent on how they make us feel. Do what you can to make your friend feel better without compromising your limits.

It’s never easy to say no to a friend. But sometimes saying no is the only way to maintain a friendship. If helping your friend comes at too great a cost, you’ll end up feeling resentful, which can kill the relationship altogether. Take care of yourself and say no when it’s appropriate. Be supportive of your friends and try to help in other ways if you can’t acquiesce to their request. If you can show that you’re empathetic and offer help in another way, your friendship should remain strong. It can be an awkward situation, but sometimes saying no is the best option.

5 Tips to a Happier Relationship with Your Teen

140308-family-with-teensHaving a teenager can be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting but what are parents to do? We can’t keep them from growing up so that means we have to better our skills. As teenagers, kids start to think (and act) like they know it all but our job as parents is to constantly teach them. If you’re a parent of a teenager, brace yourself because you’re in for one wild ride, and heed the advice in this article to have a happier relationship.

  1. Change your mindset. While your children will always be your babies,they’re not children (in that sense) anymore. They’re growing up and, as parents, we have to recognize that and keep up. Your teen is maturing and becoming independent. Relax, this is exactly what you want them to do.  Realize that your baby isn’t a baby anymore and adjust your parenting accordingly.
  2. Actively listen. This can be difficult, especially if you have more than one child, but it’s very important to actively listen to your teen.  Active listening is giving your teen your undivided attention,not thinking aboutwhat you’re going to say next, and certainly not interrupting them.  You want your teen to be open with you and the best way to have that is to have open communication.
  3. Set a date.  Just because your child is a teenager now, doesn’t mean they don’t need quality time with you.  It can be a move, a sporting event, the mall, anything that lets them know you want to spend time with them.  Even if they don’t appear to want to spend time with you, keep the date!
  4. Address the situation and move on. Teens tend to get into trouble….a lot.  Whether it’s an attitude, sassy comments, disrespect, or something else, it’s important to address issue in an appropriate manner and move on. Don’t engage in heated arguments with your teen about the mistake that was made. (Easier said then done, I know.) However, this just fuels the fire. You can set boundaries in a strong, love and assertive way and then let it go.
  5. Be a parent. It’s very easy to get sucked into being your child’s friend but you must be a parent first. Put boundaries and rules in place and hold firm to them. Even though you’re the parent of a teen, you’re still teaching them to make wise decisions. The truth is teens need a strong rock and this is what they want through this time that is filled with great uncertainty for them.

Congratulations on being the parent of a teen! Have faith in your ability as a parent and know that you’re doing your best. Try to remember what it was like to be that age and how you wanted your parents to act or treat you. You’re doing a fantastic job…even if you don’t think so!

Your Weekly Meditation: Love Begets Love

Love begets love, no advertising required.

Now that the month of February is over for another whole year, we can admit that it is no secret that February is the “month of love” for corporate marketing departments everywhere. But however over-hyped and overtly-marketed the sublime state of love may be each February, it is an excellent reminder that love begets love. The marketing, the slogans, the advertisements, they are like un-subtle broadcast messages reminding us of who we love, how much we love them, and even that we love them. If we buy in to those messages on a purchasing power level, we may be the poorer in our pocketbooks, but we likely have also taken the initiative to give, and have thus received in return, more overt expressions of love during the month of February than possibly at any other month during the year! Maybe, if we take this message to heart, then by next February we won’t need those advertising slogans as a reminder anymore…and we will be amazed by how much our own daily expressions of love towards ourselves and others have enriched our lives.

This week I resolve to: Remember that love begets love, no advertising required. When I am feeling unloved, giving love to myself and others is the surest path towards an experience of receiving the love I need. When I am feeling loved, giving more love to myself and others is the surest path towards an experience of receiving more love in return.

Texting: Is it helpful or harmful to your relationships? A therapeutic look at one of America’s most popular forms of communication

Looking back over the past few decades, it is amazing to consider the ways in which technology and communication has dramatically evolved. My experience with the whole phenomenon began in middle school, when I discovered the bountiful gifts of the Internet.I remember it like it was yesterday… Spending a couple hours here and there in chatrooms while my mother periodically wandered in to read conversations over my shoulder (despite my incessant protesting). In high school, I got my first cell phone and began using numerous AIM screen names, spending a few months to a year with each until I outgrew it and registered a new one.  In college, I remember walking to classes and being fascinated by the amount of people talking on their cellphones. You became more of an oddity if you did NOT have a cell-phone in plain view than if you did. And you were equally shunned if you didn’t have an account on facebook, but that’s a blog for another day. Now, texting… texting didn’t blow up so-to-speak until around the past few years or so, I’d say. And while I could take each of these various forms of communication and offer my opinion as to how they have come to shape the ways in which we communicate in relationships involving significant others (and I probably will, in time, explore each in a blog post), today, I’m only going to focus on my experience, and the experiences I’ve gathered from others, with regard to texting.

In DBT (Dialectical-Behavior Therapy), Marsha Linehan offers the notion of Reasonable Mind and Emotional Mind. Reasonable mind denotes your rational, thinking, logical mind. This mind state most appropriately handles things such as making plans, solving logical problems, following instructions, and managing things objectively. The second state of mind Linehan identifies is Emotion Mind, known as a state of mind that occurs when one’s emotions are in-control and running the show. Emotion Mind is beneficial for fueling various types of motivation. When driven by intense emotion, people undertake exceptional feats. It is our emotions that separate us from each other and make each of us uniquely different. 

So, what does that have to do with texting? Well, to better facilitate my understanding of texting’s pros and cons, I will metaphorically and literally utilize Linehan’s two mind states. Texting’s most easily identifiable pro is its ability to swap information quickly; yet, as with most things, its biggest pro is often inappropriately used. Texting can efficiently, and fairly successfully, communicate thoughts that occur in reasonable mind, without leaving much room for over-analysis or unnecessary speculation. “What time do you want to meet?” “Where are we meeting?” “Did you bring the book?” “There’s traffic” “It’s raining here.” “The meeting ran over.” “I’ll be late.” The list of appropriate phrase usage goes on and on. It’s hard to misunderstand facts and logistical details. My clients rarely come in to my office obsessing over what he/she meant by, “I have a doctor’s appt. tomorrow at 3pm” (What does he meeeeeeean?!?).

The problem arises when people start using texting to communicate thoughts that are born in Emotion mind. There are just too many opportunities for misunderstanding…and the lack of associated body language, facial expressions, and voice tones creates unnecessary and could-have-been-avoided anxiety. I’ve had clients recount distressing arguments that occurred entirely on texting, (“hold on, this was on text, let me just read you the conversation” [pulls out her phone]). A study by Albert Mehrabian concluded that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice, and only 7% has to do with the words spoken/typed. While these numbers might be challenged with regard to preciseness, the overall point remains that we are missing too many communicative cues when using text messages. This lack of cues produces a potentially damaging over-analysis of emotion mind texting, which seems to affect my female clients/friends more so than my male clients/friends. In my opinion, this excessive rumination has proven to lend itself, at times, to an increase in anxious and obsessive thoughts, and ultimately, a destructive and exhausting waste of time.

Does Emotion Mind texting have any benefits? As much as I don’t want to admit it, I have identified what I think are some benefits. Despite the aforementioned types of communication for which texting cannot account (body language, etc.), texting provides a certain level of security under which certain emotion thoughts can be uttered that might otherwise be fearfully stifled in an in-person or over-the-phone conversation.  While one begrudgingly gets off the phone with a loved one after being unable to voice his/her opinion on something, he/she might find it quite easy to send a follow-up text, expressing the very thought they could not find the courage to voice. However, while texting allows people a space to communicate hard-to-communicate thoughts/emotions, one could argue that this very seeming benefit is turning us into a society of cowards by reinforcing our inability to express ourselves in difficult interactions.

So, where do we go from here? It is my recommendation that one stick to using texting to fulfill the expression of reasonable mind thoughts. While you may feel more comfortable using texting to communicate difficult emotion mind thoughts, you strip yourself of the ability to grow and build mastery with regard to effectively handling and interacting in difficult situations with others. Furthermore, when you communicate emotion mind thoughts in text form, you open the door for potentially destructive misunderstandings and the possibility of turning an anxiety-provoking situation into an unavoidable anxiety-producing occurrence. Be kind to yourself, validate your fear, and choose to grow.

For more information on me, visit my profile on psychologytoday.com

Julie