How to Say No and Stay Friends

A real friend helps you in time of need.

Maybe, but there are times when you need to say no — you could be super busy, or the favor being asked might be far too inconsiderate.

A while ago, a friend asked me to help him with a gambling scam. He needed the money badly, 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’s 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 don’t want 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 gambling-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 gambling scam because he needed the money. If you can’t help him with that, at least cheer him up.

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.


Look, the bottom line is, you help your friend far more by saying “no,” rather than agree to a favor half-assed, then resent him for it. Your friendship will deteriorate with “secret resentments.” Say “no” instead, he’s your friend, he’ll understand. If he resents you for it, then he wasn’t much of a friend in the first place.

“Look, I can’t help you with that, but let me throw you a treat. Let’s go to a bar this weekend, my treat!”

Or if you’re in a budget, “Let’s go to Starbucks, my treat.”

Dean Castro

About Dean Castro

A depressed call center agent by day, happy writer by night. Who knew?

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