It’s nice to go out of our way to help our friends. But, where is the limit? Can you actually help too much?

If you have a pal who is always asking for a favor and it’s becoming annoying, overly time-consuming or straight up off-putting, listen up: we’ve asked experts how to say no to them — with tact, and respect to your friendship.

Keep the message clear and concise

When posed with a request for a favor and you wish to decline, say so, but use decorum. There’s a difference between being direct and being nasty. “Validate the requester’s need for help without being rude,” advises Susan Petang, a stress management coach with  The Quiet Zone Coaching. “Keep repeating until they get the message using the ‘broken record’ technique.”  

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Keep your emotions in check

As in any conflict resolution, it’s important to stay calm.  “If you feel like you’re getting too hot under the collar, postpone the discussion,” says Petang. It’s OK to tell your friend, “I’m getting angry because I feel you’re not listening to me after I’ve said no.”  Another valid way to handle it is by simply saying, “let’s talk about this later when I’m calmer.”

Stand your ground

Instead of tiptoeing around the issue to avoid hurt feelings, appeal to the actual friendship between the two of you, says Debra Carpenter, relationship manager with Sandpoint Idaho Real Estate.  “Rely on that connection being strong enough to withstand your honesty about the situation, and respond immediately when asked for another favor,” she says.  To show you care, smile, which demonstrates understanding, but stand your ground — your own confidence in saying no is what will resolve the issue.

Maintain your boundaries

Establishing and maintaining barriers with others can be difficult, especially when it’s a close friend or relative. “When someone is constantly asking for favors, they are overstepping boundaries that we may or may not have communicated,” says Jared Heathman, MD, a psychiatrist in Houston.  If you want to complete the request asked of you and it does not overstep your boundaries, then do so.

Try to help find a (realistic) solution

If it is something specific they are always asking favors for, call out the elephant in the room, says Dr.  Heathman. Let them know that you notice that they appear to be continuing to have trouble. Try to help solve the challenge. “Talk to them about the problem and see if you can problem-solve with them to end the long-term favor requests,” he says.