zen habits : breathe

How to Say No and Stay Friends

Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Marco Adragna of the Even Happier blog.

A real friend helps you in time of need.

Maybe, but there are times in which you need to say no: you could be super busy, or the favour being asked might be far too dodgy.

A while ago, a friend asked me to help him with an insurance scam. He badly needed the money, and I would have had my share of the pie too. Well, I am not into this stuff and I have never been: how could I turn him down without losing the friendship? How can you say no and stay friends?

It is possible, if you follow a few simple principles:

1. Make sure you got that right. Misunderstandings are not uncommon: the very same word can mean different things to different people. What is your friend asking for? Make sure you understand correctly and rephrase it using your own words.

2. Separate the people from the problem. OK, now you know what your friend wants, and it is something which you are not prepared to give. That’s a problem, sure, but you are still friends! Make sure the problem and the friendship don’t get all mixed up in the discussion.

3. Speak about yourself, not about your friend. As you can imagine, telling my insurance-scam friend that he should be ashamed to infringe the law, let alone asking anybody else’s help to do it, was not going to do wonders for our friendship! So avoid saying things like “How could I lend you money when it is well known that you never return a loan” or anything else which would be perceived as a judgment.

4. Deliver a clear, firm, and respectful NO. You only build false hopes with wishy-washy responses. He has got the right to ask, and you’ve got the right to say no.

5. Look for the underlying need. What does your friend really need? For example, my friend wanted help with the insurance scam because he needed the money.

6. Say yes to something else. How could you meet your friend’s needs in another way? Don’t be lazy here, there’s a friendship at stake! This is your chance to show that you really care, even if you can’t help your friend in the specific way he has asked. So go ahead, wear your imaginary Santa Claus costume, and organize an additional Christmas season for your friend only!

You can read other happiness-related posts by Marco at his blog, Even Happier.

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