The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

How to Say NO to a Favor

Although it may not come instinctively, saying no may be the right response.


Hi Irene,

Another mother keeps expecting me to drive her daughter to gymnastics every day. It's one hour out of my way. My 11-year-old daughter is recovering from heart surgery. She hasn't been able to go and do things for a long time. Today, she wanted to go to mall. The other girl’s father was in town and was supposed to take her but the mom called me. I hate this. She uses everyone around her. Help me say no.

Signed, Sue


Dear Sue,

Clearly, you want to and should say no. This is more than a favor. This is an ongoing chore that is costing you time and money. Moreover, the woman doesn’t feel any obligation to reciprocate your kindness.

It’s hard to make changes but you simply need to be honest. Tell her upfront that you can be an occasional backup driver but you can’t be a regular taxi service. If you haven’t already done this, she may not even be aware of the burden she’s been placing on you and your family.

Pick the right time and place to speak to her and try to withhold your anger. Do it as graciously as you can. If your friend reacts with anger or makes this favor a condition of your friendship, this really isn’t a friendship.

Many people have a problem saying no because they think it makes them seem like a bad person. This isn’t the case. My guess is that once you address the problem, you will feel less stressed and better about yourself. This may have some repercussions on your daughter’s friendship with the other girl but you can’t allow yourself to be held hostage by that.

Hope this helps. Please be sure to read the other posts below to bolster your courage!

Best, Irene

Prior related posts on The Friendship Blog:

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.


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