5 Times You Should Absolutely Say No When Someone Asks You for a Favor

two friends talking outdoors

Saying no is hard. Hell, even Oprah Winfrey confessed she struggles with “the disease to please” in her book What I Know for Sure. But between carpool and work deadlines and never-ending laundry, we’re pressed for time to whittle down our own to-do list, let alone help with someone else’s. So, next time Judy from book club reaches out asking for a favor that immediately fills you with dread, consider protecting your time and saying no in any of these five situations. We promise, it doesn’t make you a sucky friend.

Say no to someone asking for a favor…

1. If It Requires You to Change Your Plans:

You made plans for a reason and you owe it to yourself to fulfill them. So if you’re on your way to Pilates when your neighbor asks you to pop in and help her hang a painting, say, “Sorry, Cheryl. I’m on my way to a class. Why don’t you text me and we can set up a time for later?” Problem solved. 

2. If You’re Given Less Than 24 Hours’ Notice:

You love your best friend from high school, but if she keeps asking you to help with her pitch deck ten minutes before her big meeting, you’re going to scream. Instead, let her know you’re actually in the middle of something right now, but would be happy to carve out an evening to go over the deck in greater detail. Advice and some vino? She can’t say no to that.

3. If It Makes You Feel Uncomfortable:

A friend of a friend who’s trying to get her child into your preschool texts out of the blue to ask for a letter of recommendation. You don’t want to be rude, but guess what? You don’t know this kid, and definitely can’t vouch for him. It’s completely acceptable to tell this person that you don’t feel comfortable speaking on Timmy’s behalf because you don’t have a ton of insight into whether he’d be a good fit. Throw in a cursory “thanks for thinking of me” and you’re good to go. 

4. If You’re Already Feeling Overwhelmed:

Adulting is hard, and there are some days when it’s all you can do to stay afloat. So if you’re barely holding it together with your own obligations, it’s not the right time to add anything else to your plate. Any good friend will respect your honesty and appreciate the lesson in self-preservation.

5. If It Leads to Resentment:

You’re only hurting yourself if you agree to do a favor, all the while rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath. When you notice a sense of anxiety or resentment toward a friend’s request, nip it in the bud by saying no—or offering a solution that feels more palatable. To the pal who’s always asking you to dog-watch so she can travel the world: You can’t look after Buddy this time around, but you heard there’s a fabulous pet hotel right down the street.

Do You Have a Mirage Friend in Your Group? Here’s How to Tell


Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.