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.