Carolyn Hax: People who won’t take no for an answer

Tuesday, 01 August 2017, 04:47:39 PM. Actually, it’s your boundaries, not theirs, that need to be reinforced.

Adapted from a recent online
discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: You’ve said that “No, thanks” is a complete response. But what happens when that response isn’t accepted?

I have friends who won’t take “no” or “I’m tired” or “I want to spend time with my dogs” for an answer. If I don’t have a prior commitment, they don’t see any reason I shouldn’t join them, and they pressure me to do so. So I end up making up lies to get them off my back.

I love the idea that “No” is a complete sentence but it never ends there.

— Anonymous

carolyn-hax-people-who-wont-take-no-for-an-answer photo 1 (Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Anonymous: This is a problem with your boundaries — both setting and enforcing them. People do not get to decide for you whether it’s a good time to go out. They just don’t. So you have to make clear you won’t let them.

You can do this by spelling it out — “I’m actually the one who decides whether I do something” — which is so absurdly obvious that it’s likely to come across as inoffensive to all but the thinnest-skinned. Interrogative version: “Aren’t I the one who decides whether I want to do something?” When someone tries to answer it for you: “That was a rhetorical question.”

You can also say, “Please don’t press. You’re asking me to say no four times instead of just one.”

And you can just end the conversation in one of the many ways to end a conversation, including, if needed, responding to what you wish they’d said instead of what they actually said. “Thanks for understanding. Hey, are you going to finish those fries?”

Really. It “never ends there” only with your participation. If you’re a pleaser by nature, then force yourself against that grain. Watch as the world doesn’t end; it gets easier after that.

Dear Carolyn: Good friends have twin boys the same age as our oldest boy, 11. The boys have all known each other since birth.

These two boys are difficult, at best, to be around. This is new — within the past two years — and many of us in our great community no longer want to spend time with these kids.

We’re not sure bringing this up with the parents will get us anywhere, and we also don’t know who should bring it up. While we try to redirect poor behavior, or engage the kids in discussions for better choices, we are met with resistance in the form of direct rudeness and name-calling.

Should we let this go? Go to the parents as a group? Engage one parent or both? For what it is worth, we all feel that one parent would be responsive, while the other will take great offense.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Welp — there’s your behavior problem. That one parent who won’t accept his or her kids might be at fault.

So. One of you talks to the potentially receptive parent, citing specifics. Parents need to hear how their kids behave in their absence — good and bad.

Speak for yourself, though, not the group, lest you send the message, “We’ve all talked behind your back.” Please also frame your words as more “kids in a bad place” than “bad kids,” because 11 is still so young.

Even receptive parents might get defensive, but I hope for the twins’ sake they don’t.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.

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