Refusing unreasonable demands the easy way

Declining unreasonable “requests” is something we all have to do occasionally. In fact, it’s more or less a survival skill. Unfortunately, it can be a stressful process, even though it shouldn’t be. Hasn’t everyone been pressured to do things they didn’t want to do while under no obligation?

For some of us, this happens much too often. Sometimes politeness and subtlety don’t work, especially when dealing with people having an elevated entitlement complex. Therefore, proper technique saves time and aggravation.

The un-subtle art of refusal

Enforcing normal boundaries is right and proper. However, sometimes social expectations pressure us not to do so. Basically, you’re a big meanie if you say no to anything.

My native part of Flyover Country tends to be so polite that it hurts. For example, if someone offers you food, you have to decline twice. The third time you’re asked, you give the real answer: “Sure, I’d like some” or “No, I’m really not hungry”. On the other hand, if someone does you wrong, you’re not supposed to call out the bad behavior, even if it’s pretty horrid. If you do so anyway, then you’re the one with the problem. “How dare you be so unforgiving?” and all that crap. We got a bit of Jante Law too. Despite all the civility, pettiness flourishes.

Certain cultures in East and Southeast Asia have this reputation too (quite unlike pushiness common in parts of South Asia). Someone might say “yes” but mean “no”. When whoever expressed agreement to do something doesn’t follow through, confusion results from that. It’s especially so when a gaijin doesn’t understand how this works. I don’t know how it works either, other than an ambiguous answer like “it might be possible” is usually an actual “no”. Consider it similar to “I’ll get around to it” or “I’ll take it under advisement”.

Similar excessive politeness seems common in WASP society too. I suspect this, like the Flyover Country version, results from misapplied Protestant theology. Personally and (even worse) societally, this pressures us to let ourselves be played for chumps. Well, to hell with that! I’ve had to work hard to break my early Nice Guy programming.

People from New Jersey, on the other hand, have the reputation of being brusque. Still, there’s certainly something to be said for straight answers! The following lesson comes directly from the venerable college of Whatsamatta U.


Personal impositions can take many forms. Here are some fairly audacious ones:

  • Your meth-head brother wants to camp out on your couch for “just this weekend” while he supposedly gets his finances in order.
  • Your flaky “friend” is short on his upcoming rent payment, so he wants to “borrow” two hundred bucks.
  • The chick who Friend Zoned you asks you to babysit her kid so she can go on a hot date with Chad Thundercock. I’ve heard that’s a hazard of trying to date single moms.

Ineffective answers:

  • “But my dog will slobber all over your face when you’re trying to sleep.”
  • “Well, I’m also pretty low on cash right now.”
  • “I’m afraid that I have a prior commitment that evening.”

The reply will be:

  • “But you’re my brother!
  • “But we’re friends!”
  • “But we’re such great, wonderful, awesome friennnnds!”

That will begin a long guilt-fest until you scream in frustration, or submit. You might be tempted to reply with something more to the point:

  • Tell your dope fiend brother he shouldn’t have alienated all his friends who let him couch-surf before. Alternatively, give him brochures for inpatient rehab facilities; they have beds!
  • Tell your “friend” he should’ve paid the rent before replenishing his weed supply. Alternatively, start reciting the John Galt speech from Atlas Shrugged.
  • Suggest that she hire a babysitter while she tries to get herself pregnant all over again, or maybe the biological father can get acquainted with his own spawn for one evening. Alternatively, ask her why she had a child out of wedlock if she couldn’t take care of the kid by herself.

Even then, you’ll be answered by weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Cue the squeaky violin music…

Again, those examples are pretty extreme. Real-life situations might not be as bad. Before agreeing to go far out of your way to accommodate someone, ask yourself the following:

  • Is the request reasonable?
  • Am I obligated?
  • Would this person do the same thing for me?

Well, there’s your answer.

Don’t waste your breath

Flakes will likely ignore practical suggestions. Explaining how they created their personal hell will launch a tantrum like a kindergartener going cold turkey from ADD meds. Really, they already should’ve had that little epiphany. They should fix their own messes, which they should’ve figured out by the time they stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy. (Hopefully they’re past that point.) Granted, there’s much to be said for calling people out on their bullshit. Still, the main point is that your answer is no.

Any further discussion might give them the idea that it’s negotiable. So the woeful entreaties will begin, followed by pushiness and continuing to buffalo you. However, there’s no point in discussing unreasonable demands in the first place. Really, why argue? Worse, they might convince you to waffle. If you cave in, expect an escalating string of future impositions accompanied by increasing ingratitude. Never reward bad behavior!

So at this point, a frame battle is a waste of time. Not putting your foot down right in the beginning is a tactical mistake. Let’s make this much quicker, shall we?

Refusal in four easy steps

The following came from the syllabus of the Gedoudaheah 101 course at—enjoy!

Refusal 1: “Fuck no!”

Now that’s direct and to the point, right? The “shock and awe” approach should convey, with all due respect (as in none), that you’re not interested. If the flake can’t take a hint, then move onto the next step.

Refusal 2: “Fuck that!”

So apparently the flake has a hearing problem, or Is a slow learner. You might get begging or negotiation attempts. Nope, it’s not up for discussion, so cut it short with “Fuck that!” If it still hasn’t sunk into the flake’s thick skull, then ratchet it up further yet.

Refusal 3: “Fuck off!”

Your fair warning was disregarded, so now you’re making it personal. Your sharp rebuke will give something to think about before doing that again. It’s the same basic classic conditioning useful to train your dog. Humans have the same neural wiring that your slobbery critter does, just a more sophisticated version (at least with most people). However, if the flake still doesn’t get the point, then move onto the final step.

Refusal 4: “Fuck you!”

Those will be your very last words as you terminate the conversation. Well, that wasn’t very nice of you, now was it? Still—so what? This should be expected by anyone who repeatedly tries to overstep your boundaries. Flakes might get pouty and maybe even threaten to cut you out of their lives. At that point, it’s likely no great loss.

So there it is. You’ve preserved your dignity and demonstrated that you refuse to be played for a chump.

Refusing unreasonable demands the easy way