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February 6, 2014
The Real Issue
When a Friend Always Wants Something
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I have a friend that I don't want to be friends with anymore. Almost every interaction I have with her ends in her asking me for something. She'll call to see how I am, but then ask me to help with her daughter's wedding (I plan weddings professionally), or to host an Avon-type party for her, or to drum my friends and clients for money for whatever her latest scheme is.

She suggests we carpool to the temple, but then always expects me to drive, and never offers to chip in for gas. It's always about her using me to make or save money.

I try to say no to her, but she badgers me until I agree to help. I feel like she is taking advantage of my kindness, and I'm sick of it. I can't totally avoid her because I see her at church.

How can I get her to stop?


Friendship requires a certain give and take. There must be a balance of favors, enjoyment, watchcare, and affection between friends. A relationship in which every interaction ends in person A asking person B for money or a favor, with no reciprocity, is not a friendship.

Reciprocity in friendship need not be exact. Perhaps friend A treats friend B to lunch. Friend B, in turn, invites friend A to her home for social engagements. There is no exact exchange, but the tally is roughly equal, each person bringing what she has to the friendship, and each person being satisfied with the balance. This balance allows them to fully enjoy each other's company and companionship without resentment.

The relationship you are describing seems less like a friendship and more like a perpetual sales pitch. It is not surprising that you are tired of a friendship where the other person constantly asks you to use your time and money to promote her businesses and interests.

However, you are not blameless in this situation. No matter how ardently this person wants you to drive her places or buy her products, she has no actual power to make you do it. Sure, she badgers you when you say no, but badgering is not power. It is just badgering.

Its effect on you should have been firm refusal, not acquiescence to her demands. Instead of showing her that you were perfectly sincere in your refusal, you showed her that you will give in if she presses hard enough.

Given this backstory, I think your decision not to engage with this person beyond superficial pleasantries is entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, there is no way to get her to stop asking you for things or badgering you after you've said no. No matter what you say, or how you say it, she will probably approach you again.

So don't think you can come up with a magical phrase or perfect little speech that will stop her forever. And don't hold out hope that she will develop a sense of propriety and stop asking.

Instead, expect her to act as she always has. It is not your job to reform her. You are the one who needs to behave differently if you don't want to spend your time and treasure on her behalf.

First, you will not drop everything to take her calls and answer her texts. If it is not convenient for you to answer your phone when she calls, you will let her leave a message. You will call or text her back when you have time.

Second, you will say "No" whenever this person asks you to do something for or with her. You will not promote her ventures or buy anything from her. You will not carpool or co-host a baby shower with her. You will not go to lunch with her so she can use an awesome coupon and stick you with the bill.

You will not say "maybe," or "not this time," or "this is a busy month for me." You will just say, "No."

If she presses, you can rely on "I can't" or "that doesn't work for me." Your refusal should be cordial, but it must be unequivocal, no matter how many times she asks.

Third, when she begins to badger you about something you have already declined to do, you will immediately end the conversation. You are under no social obligation to let this person badger you.

Instead, you will politely end the call, change the subject, or excuse yourself from her presence.

Fourth, and I hope this is obvious, you will not ask her for any favors in return. You have downgraded your friendship to a cordial relationship in which favors are not exchanged.

You don't want to be in any way involved with any of her money-making ventures. You don't want to do her any favors that involve your professional skills or your possessions. You don't want to do anything to save her money, time, or energy. You, in turn, cannot ask her to do you any favors.

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