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Dave Balch: The Stress of People Who Won’t Take “No” for an Answer

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As part of her breast cancer treatment my wife had to have radiation treatments every day, Monday through Friday, for six weeks at a medical center that was about 40 minutes from our home. Our friends were stunned at the idea of driving that far and back, that many times.

One weekend during the six weeks, a woman came up to us and said, “I’d really like to help out – I want to take you to your radiation appointment a few times.”

As we found out later when we talked about this event, both of us had the same thoughts about this offer:

1. It was very sweet of her
2. Chris didn’t want anyone taking her to radiation but me! She was tired and didn’t want to have to be sociable, she didn’t know what kind of driver this woman was, and she would probably want to have lunch or some other social event.

Chris responded, “That’s so sweet of you! I really appreciate the offer, but it’s really not a problem for us.”

The woman said, “No… you don’t understand… I REALLY want to take you a few times.”

“I appreciate that but it…”


“Okay… we’ll call you.”

Do you think we called her??

I find it very difficult to turn down that kind of offer, even though we didn’t want to take her up on it, because it disappoints the person who made it. Here’s the thing I want to point out: in this exchange the woman, generous though she was, was making this about HER and what SHE needed, not about US and what WE needed.

There are two lessons in this story. The first one is for those of you who have friends in tough situations whom you would like to help. If they say “no,” it means just that. Don’t force yourself on them – it just adds to their stress. Do you think that they are just being nice and don’t want to be any trouble? Maybe they are, but the point is that forcing it on them will still add to their stress!

The second lesson is for those of us who are offered help that we don’t want or need. It is simple: DON’T ACCEPT THAT KIND OF HELP. Period. Don’t do it.

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EmpowHER Guest

Thank you so much or this article. It was succinct and gave great examples and laid everything out very clearly. It really reassured me that I am well within my rights to look after MY needs, and that it's okay to do so. I feel as though my reasons for saying "no" are not being respected and that I need to reiterate my reasons at least five times before they are reluctantly accepted. I have now been given the tools and reassurance necessary to stand my ground and not feel guilty for doing it. Thank you!!!

August 4, 2016 - 12:20pm
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