43

I am the smart guy at school and people always want my help. I don't want to be rude, but they pester me and I try to escape but I can't -- I end up spending a lot of time helping them to do a homework task that they were supposed to do themselves, so I just make things quick (as in 2-word answers or something like "It's in the worksheet we have").

But it doesn't end there. Say we had to make a PowerPoint presentation or something, and the guys realize I finished it but they have not. They then tell me to e-mail them and say "Oh, we'll change the fonts and some of the words...". It is not even getting caught that bothers me (they're actually good at changing things up) it's that I don't want to give it to them.

I could just man up and say "No," but then these guys help me out when I need them (not in the same way; sometimes it's a problem or a question I can't answer I don't ask for everything and then "change it") so I don't want to rat them out.

How do I politely get them to stay away?


EDIT:

So someone wants a cultural tag, there it is. Also, the problem gets repeatedly when people get extended due dates, in which case I can't say "I'm not done" because I am supposed to have handed in the assignment.

  • Related; not sure about duplicate: How to refuse someone asking for additional help “while you're at it”? – A J Mar 19 '18 at 9:10
  • There is a big difference between asking for help or working with someone to learn how to do a problem and outright sharing the answers or doing the work for them. Are you sure your friends won't see the difference? – syntonicC Mar 19 '18 at 20:21
  • A note to the answerers: Remember, not every asker is too lazy to do it. Others are honestly overwhelmed -- some because they just don't understand the work, some because they have a lot of other homework and no time to do it, and some because of pressure they feel to get better grades. So whatever you do, OP, please be sympathetic towards these poor souls. – Shawn V. Wilson Mar 20 '18 at 17:14
  • Are you willing to help if there's something in it for you (so it's not a waste of your time), or do you want to shut down their requests completely and permanently? – Kat Mar 20 '18 at 23:05

13 Answers 13

46

I had to face the same problem with my classmates in my university often. After 2 years I decided to be clear about it. What I did was:

  1. Do my work without telling them that I have already done it.
  2. Helped them with combined studies, with the intention of helping them learning what we missed.
  3. Sometimes telling them that they need to do it themselves because they will not be able to learn anything if they copied my homework.

It is pretty clear that if we don't make them realize the problem with this behavior, it will always result in resentment.

Edit

There will be times, when you may need to tell people to just NO or go away. Try to understand it with this video

22

Realize that you are also saying no for their own sake.

To me, it seems that you are not at all unwilling to help. You will definitely help them if they face an actual difficulty. What you are trying to avoid is being exploited. Letting them exploit you is not going to earn you any thanks and not going to teach them anything useful for life.

You can decide in which situations you want to help out (for example if they have actual questions and ask for some kind of tutoring, or even if they had a family emergency and just didn't manage to finish the presentation). In other situations remember you are doing them no favor in the long run by supporting their laziness and letting them exploit you.

Basically, help them in the same situation and way as they would help you (giving them tips, instead of the full presentation, answering specific questions instead of doing their homework for them,...) This does not mean you are letting them down, instead, you are helping them in a more sustainable long-term useful way.

And you can tell them that. If they ask for your help, offer them the help you are willing to give. If they are disappointed to not get the "easy way out", explain to them why you are doing this. Explain how it is helping them in the long run. Explain that you will still be there in an emergency situation, but this is not one.

  • 4
    Strongly depends on the setting. If it's high school, they will most likely not care as they just dont want to work hard. If it's university it might work as they are most likely there to learn something. – MansNotHot Mar 19 '18 at 12:37
  • It's their problem if they want to learn the lesson or not. The question was about a polite way to get this to stop. Even primary school students will stop putting in the effort to ask when they realize it is not getting them what they want any more. – skymningen Mar 19 '18 at 12:40
  • 1
    No what i mean is, if you tell someone that it's for their own good, they wont listen and continue pestering. At least this is how it was in my schooltime. Noone will easily stop pestering if he needs the homework till next class and has no time to properly finish it, for example – MansNotHot Mar 19 '18 at 12:42
  • 1
    There is, of course, some time where you would need to "sit through it" and endure some pestering. People very rarely change in an instant. – skymningen Mar 19 '18 at 12:49
  • Agreed. And did not mean that this is a bad answer. Just wanted to note that the intelligent way might not work for some kids. – MansNotHot Mar 19 '18 at 12:51
10

You are smart. Now, you need to act smarter. Apart from the answers given here which state that you mention that have not yet completed your work, you can be a little more diplomatic.

For e.g., X comes for help.

X : Hey, I need your help in this presentation. I would like to borrow yours and make changes.

You : Hi. I have not yet completed mine. This one seems to be a little tough. Why don't we sit together and complete it.

Offer them to come to your place, have a small chit chat, eat cool stuff, have fun. This way you are also building a rapport with the other person and ensuring that the work gets done. Once the work is done, you could go to a near by pub or watch a movie and celebrate your small win.

This strategy might not always work. Other time, it could be delegation.

X : Hey, I need your help in this presentation. I would like to borrow yours and make changes.

You : Hi. I have not yet completed mine. But, I have helped 'Y' with similar problem sometime back. Let's call him up and see if he is available. You could take his help.

Call Y immediately, put him on the speaker phone and engage in a simple talk and then tell him that X needs his help. And let X take it up from there.

This way, you are delegating the work without any negative connotation.

These strategies could vary from person to person and situation to situation. But, once you start acting, you'll come across a few ideas on your own.

Also, remember, you are just in school. May be here you are smart. Once you go to some other place, you might need help from others too. So, it is okay to give your peers the benefit of doubt and help them.

  • 31
    It's not that these are bad solutions, but you're thrusting the OP into the role of academic coach for these other people. Sometimes, when you've done your work, you just want to be left alone, not help others get their stuff done. – AndreiROM Mar 19 '18 at 13:51
  • @AndreiROM Yes, I do agree that we want to be left alone sometimes. Unless the OP devices his own techniques to keep people at bay, a blunt no will always sound rude. Once delegation comes into the picture, gradually people would understand how requesting for help with the OP works. This won't happen overnight. But, it would work. – WonderWoman Mar 19 '18 at 13:55
  • 4
    You also assume the OP is old enough to drink in his/her native country. – mbomb007 Mar 19 '18 at 19:47
  • @AndreiROM I agree with it, but teaching others is the best way to learn – Ooker Mar 20 '18 at 1:10
  • 2
    @mbomb007 In no way is there such an assumption. "you could go to a near by pub or watch a movie" explicitly acknowledges that going to a pub may not be an option. – pipe Mar 20 '18 at 12:49
6

I've been in the exact same boat as you, and it's no fun at all. It's always awkward when your friends ask you for work they know you've done but that you don't particularly want to share. First, let me be clear, you do not owe them your answers.

Yes, they're your friends, but it took you a lot of time and effort to finish that assignment. When your friends ask you for work you've already done, they're asking you to dip into your own time further so that they don't have to dip into theirs. Frankly, that's not very nice. Obviously if it's once in a while that's different, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. Here's what I did to reduce the number of requests.

1) Drag your heels. It's 8:00 on Thursday night and your assignment's due next morning. Just like clockwork, you get your weekly text, "Hey, are you finished with the ____ assignment?" Ugh, of course you are. You've always finished it by now. The problem is, your friends know this, and that makes you a guaranteed source.

The next time you get that text, don't answer it right away. Give it half an hour or so. Then once you answer and they text you back, wait again. The idea is to break the mindset that you're sitting there ready to help whenever they want you to. If you all of a sudden become a slow source of information, they may look for a faster one. Or even better, they might even solve a lot of their work on their own waiting for you to get back to them!

Just be sure not to apologize for responding slowly (I wouldn't even bring it up). If you give them the impression you're supposed to be getting back to them right away, they'll keep expecting it.

2) Ask them exactly what they're looking for. Most of the time, if I let my friends describe what they needed help with, they'd end up asking for the whole assignment. So I pretty quickly started asking for specifics. When they'd say "I need help with this assignment," instead of asking "what do you need help with?" I'd ask "which questions do you need help with?"

This forces them to describe up front what they expect from you, in a bit of detail too. Usually, I'd get "we're having trouble solving questions blah and blah." or something similar (if you find you're still being asked for most of the assignment, look at part 4).

When you're giving them arbitrary amounts of help, it's easy for them to say "oh, I'm also stuck on problem 4" after you've solved 1-3. Asking them to lay it all out upfront makes it much more awkward for them to tack another problem on. Don't forget you're only in this position because they're asking you something that's awkward to decline. Don't be afraid to put them in an awkward spot too.

3) Be less certain of your answers. Yeah, this one's a little underhanded. If I just simply didn't want to give an answer (if I worked particularly hard on it, or if they'd already asked me for too much), I'd tell them I wasn't sure about it. The more they pushed, the "more certain" I was it was probably wrong. This does 2 things.

First, it gives some natural sense of pushback against their request. Making up an excuse and using it over and over forces them to ask you repeatedly for your work. I've found it's already kind of awkward to ask in the first place; sometimes they'll just give up instead of ask 3 or 4 times.

Second, you can't pass off wrong work as your own. If I make a stupid math mistake and they make it too, someone plainly cheated. Telling them your answer's probably wrong translates to it being a higher risk answer. There's always a chance that means it's not worth it to them.

4) Don't be afraid to draw a line. This one's a little tough, but you're going to have to do it sometimes. Sometimes step 2 doesn't work. They'll answer "what problems do you need help with" with "I just don't understand this assignment at all," or something similar. At that point, it's ok to say "I can't just give you the whole thing!"

Hopefully, your friends know they're putting you in an awkward spot to begin with. Drawing a line helps remind them you're not completely comfortable with their request. It also helps remind them that you aren't going to give them every answer they ask for.

If they continued asking me for more than I was willing to help, I'd start dragging my heels a little more. Don't be afraid to hold your help a little hostage. I know it feels mean, but once they realize that being too demanding translates to no help, they'll hopefully start requesting help at a more reasonable rate. Often I'd wait a little while then get a text saying "ok, we've worked out most of them, but we still can't work out numers 11 or 16," which is a request I'm more than happy to help out with!

  • "Yes, they're your friends" They don't seem much like friends to me when they are pestering the OP to let them benefit from his knowledge and hard work for free. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 20 '18 at 20:31
  • Pretty good advice but being direct and more assertive is a much better approach to save time for both parties. +1 for 4th point. – Ahsan Jul 27 '18 at 13:56
5

You are looking to qualify your statement of "NO", but I really don't think anything you say will make them take it any differently.

You have done it for them in the past, any way that you say "NO" now will be interpreted as a withdrawal of help.

As they are willing to help you out in other ways it doesn't sound like the classic scenario of the smart guy being taken advantage of at school. The likely reason they make these requests of you is because they don't think they are putting you to any trouble. You finish the work before them, so you are making it seem effortless.

You need to teach them some self-reliance. If you make it obvious you are doing this, they won't appreciate it. But if you don't reveal that you have finished your work, they can't expect the finished article.

Why not save an early version of your work (say, one-third complete) and when they ask for it say:

I haven't finished it myself. You can see my work in progress if you like?

If they ask for a more complete version just say you are snowed under with work and you are hoping to complete it the night before.

Again, if they persist as late as the night before or even the morning the work is due, tell them you are still working on it.

You may need to say:

I'm really struggling to finish all this on time. I haven't got time to discuss it, sorry.

This hopefully won't give them enough time to carefully edit your work as they have been.

Although this may not seem like an interpersonal solution because it involves a degree of deception, you are communicating to them that the work is not without effort. You are also still helping them to a degree, giving them a head start - but they will have to do more of the work themselves. Hopefully this will show them that you are willing to help but that they cannot rely on you doing it all for them. It may also suggest to them that the work is getting harder (as school terms progress it often does) and that they need to step up!

3

I like your two-word strategy – a good step in the right directon. It seems that you really want to do the right thing, which in this case will also give you your lunch back too.

Helping the power-point copiers is truly not doing them any favors. Even if what they are asking to copy isn't difficult work, time management is a big part of school. Of course, saying that to their face may not be an option for you so, here is a little plan I use for many similar situations:

  1. Plan on telling (whomever) the truth, but include the good with the bad (I know, I know, hang on for a moment.)
  2. Figure out what that truth is, and how you are comfortable expressing it. Here are some guesses at what your truth might be, probably a combination:

You really do want to help them.
You would feel bad in a way about not doing it.
But you end up spending you entire lunch hour doing everyone else's work.
You're hungry and don't want to work through lunch hour!
(And if you really want to "man up")
"You know I would not be really helping you if I would do this" (with humor and an eyebrow raised)
(Get a little mad?)
You did this work last night so you could have your lunch hour free today.
You don't want to be a but you are not comfortable with that.
You're sorry, but you can't deal with it today. (On days – or months, you can't deal with it.)

Now, these truths/wordings may not be right for you (I am just a bit older than you are.) What is your truth about the situation? When you find that, I think you will know what to say to stand up for yourself,

Some possible crutches:

  1. Do it one last time, and warn them, in whatever language you find useful. For example, You really want to help you out, but you are not comfortable doing this regularly, so after they are on their own.

  2. Make a "rule" a "policy": You really want to help, but you end up not having time to eat – or, you have your own stuff to take care of today. (that can include having lunch, and socializing. We all need a break.)
    This has just gone too far, you can't help everyone, so you are not helping anyone for a while.
    You did your work last night/too many are asking for help/etc., so you made it a rule to not help during lunch hour.

By making a "policy", or "rule" (and you don't have to call it that necessarily, you can just say the rule), you sort of make it a general condition rather than a personal rejection. By saying "not during lunch hour," you are not closing the door, but you are limiting access.

If people drop you as friends for this, they were never true friends to begin with. I know that is a cheesy line but it is very true. There's a way to shake up one's thinking on a problem like this: Would you ever go up to a respected friend during their lunch hour and ask them to copy their work for you and miss their lunch hour? Repeatedly? Sounds pretty presumptious, doesn't it? Your real friends will get over it. Those that don't may have been using you, which may hurt, but at least you will know. Would you be offended and drop the person if a person who had been doing you favors said that they couldn't do a particular one anymore?

If you have asked for a less-the-ethical favor in the past, you may need to deal with that truth too. Turn over a new leaf? Or pay your "debt" and then stop. Know too that many instructors will give you an extension of you are a generally a responsible student, and if something bad has happened. If a student broke up with their boy/girlfriend, and asked for an extension, many would give it. Stuff happens.

Setting boundaries like this is not easy. If you are able to do it, you will learn some important things about yourself. When I can't seem to be able to do something I want to do, I think about what is missing, what conditions, help, experiences, anything, would help make me "ready" to leap that fence. What conditions would make you ready to do so?

And, if you are worried about friendships, know that his is probably the most difficult time – in college, there are many more people, and you will find those who are a bit more like you, and probably thoroughly enjoy yourself. You are not there yet, but you sure seem to be on the right track. LF PhD

2

Clearly your priorities are in the right place and your friends aren't. What I would do is inform them when you plan to work on the assignments. If your friends do not take this opportunity to work on their homework with you then they are the ones who are deciding not to take your help when they could have. Then if they decide to try and ask for your homework at the last minute you can tell them,

"No, I gave you the chance to work on the assignment with me earlier and you refused."

This puts all the blame on them and they can only get upset with themselves for not taking your help when you offered it to them.

2

I had some similar situations while I was in school in the US, and I would encourage you to remember people are creatures of habit:

If you do their work for them now, next week they are presented with an option:

  • Do it themselves
  • Have you do it for them

That's a pretty easy choice if you're looking for the easy way out: they'll let you do it every time.

So, how do we fix this?

Set boundaries and stick to them: for me, there were two parts, which I held very firmly:


I will help them learn how to do their work, I will not provide answers or do their work for them.

For example:

I need to write a MySQL statement to get all the rows where the user last name is "Murphy".

I can answer this question, and I may be tempted to do so, but that doesn't help them (or me, in the long run). It just increases their reliance on me and I don't want them to rely on me for their homework.

So instead, I would guide them to discovering the answer. Usually after helping them through 3 or 4 problems they can then complete the rest of the homework themselves.

If they are unable to continue on their own, it's not my job to be their teacher: while I'm perfectly willing to help in many cases, I would also frequently suggest they go to office hours, seek out the TA, or go to the study center for help, as they needed more help than I was willing to provide.


I don't cheat/share answers/allow copying/etc...

You don't have to stick to this very long before people stop bothering to ask... but this also means don't expect them to let you copy a homework you stalled on. It's a two-way street, so be prepared for that.

I've had to have the hard conversation before of: "Even if I did your work for you, I might not finish in the time you have left. In the future, don't wait until 11pm for a 2 hour project due at midnight." And yes, they may blame you for their poor time management, but ultimately they aren't entitled to your help.


I'd also make deals like: I'll help you if you buy pizza. Then at least I'm getting "paid".

  • 1
    I had the OP's problem back in school; this is the technique that I tried that finally worked. It worked better for me than you suggest; most of them gave up before I helped them through one problem; they wanted a gimme or nothing. It also helped me more to do this, because later on I got a job as an official tutor - and this was exactly how we were supposed to do it, except with much more patience for them since we were being paid. – Ed Grimm yesterday
2

How about selling your help instead?

I had this exact problem while getting my graduate degree. After some time, I had started charging for every homework I helped.

I didn't just start doing this without telling people, I told a few people in class who wanted my help previously and then they just spread it to others.

This stopped most people from asking and it made others pay for the help. I had more time to myself and more money.

  • But this won't work in my case. "Come on don't be a rat! O my God why are you such a scavenger?..." So this looks out of place – user8979192 Mar 20 '18 at 7:01
  • 1
    Handing people your answers to claim as their own is bad. Selling them is even worse. This is grounds for immediately dismissal from the educational institution, and good luck getting a job in your chosen profession after that. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 20 '18 at 20:32
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit How is selling your help grounds for dismissal? I'm not saying he should be selling his homework I'm saying he should be selling his help. Also, even if he was selling or giving away his homework, how is that grounds for dismissal? Maybe, if the teacher is really strict, he'll immediately fail his class but a dismissal? Hardly. – John Hamilton Mar 21 '18 at 6:41
  • 1
    @JohnHamilton The type of "help" described in the question was literally handing them the OP's work for only minor obfuscating modifications then passing off as their own. If you mean some other kind of help perhaps clarify that in your answer :) And, yes, doing other people's homework for them, for a fee, is obviously and absolutely grounds for expulsion. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 21 '18 at 10:54
1

How about: "I'm sorry, I'd really like to help, but I'm really busy with a lot of things right now. Maybe later." You're still being friendly, and at the same time non-committal.

Frankly, it might be valuable to actually learn to say No. It might be one of the most important lessons you'll ever learn. I'm not talking about saying No all the time.. but well, try reading this: Say No without feeling Guilty

  • 3
    "Maybe later" can sound like a "yes" to someone who is looking for a yes. It may not help the OP in this situation, but rather just defer the problem. – Sam Mar 19 '18 at 16:40
  • 1
    This is the opposite of strong refusal skills. If it's about feeling guilty, then your motives are wrong. You have to realize that it's not just about how you feel, it's also about helping them learn to learn. They have to be able to figure it out on their own and learn the material. – mbomb007 Mar 19 '18 at 19:49
1

While some people here are saying you can learn to say no, I would personally find this difficult, probably because the people asking for help are my friends and I don't want to ever be the cause of tension between my friends and I. I suspect this is the same for you, and you're asking how to say no, or how to get out of it, without making your friends feel like you're not helping/dont care etc and that you're the cause for a bit of tension.

It so happened that my friend came to me once with the exact same problem you have while I was at university. My friend, and also my housemate, being on another course to me, was asking how she can tell a girl in her course 'no' aswell. My housemate was very smart, always studied, stayed in to study while others went out, and thus always got her work completed with plenty of time before the deadline. In the other girls case, she was late to class, didn't spend much time studying, had a part time job, and found herself with not much time before the deadline, and very little work completed. She had asked my housemate for help. But my housemate found that her definition of 'help' was to pretty much do the whole thing, or atleast be the brains behind the work.

My friend wasn't the kind of person to tell people 'no', as she was always shy and scared of confrontation. In the end she made up a lie and told the girl that she was stuggling to understand the material herself, and she didn't feel her input would be useful. She suggested to her friend that she contact the teacher/lecturer for advice as she 'did the same thing'. She may have given a small bit of advice such as "I think the lecturer wants us to explore [this] area of literature to find the answer" but not much else.

This did work for her, and the girl never asked for help again.

While some people may say that this answer is not useful because it may not be a true reflection of the original girls personality (not understanding criteria is not something that happened). However, it is a resolution that worked in this case. Perhaps her friend could see this probably isn't the case and figured out for herself that she was deliberately not telling her everything. But she never said anything.

And at the end of the day, it is still an easy possibility. Perhaps you could try something like that.

0

Try to get involve in some sports or other activities in your school/college. This will occupy some of your time in your school/college. So when someone tries to get their work done by you, You can refer them some authors or sites which will help them complete their work. If they insist you to do their work, tell them that you are involved in some other activity and you have more commitments. If they want you to mail your work to them, just say I'll do it after going home but don't do it. If they asks, simply say that you have poor internet connection at home.

  • Making up excuses instead of helping them understand it’s the wrong thing to do is not being a friend. – WGroleau Mar 20 '18 at 9:17
  • A good friend helps you to do your work on your own, and a bad friend will do your work without explaining it to you. – Aruna Mar 20 '18 at 10:01
0

I used to simply repeat (over and over), "I don't know," which worked each time until finally one of them laughed sarcastically and said, "Right, you don't know..." (shaking his head and giving me a look of desperation, as he backed away clutching his worksheet in sweaty palms).

But he knew it was a lost cause and they all stopped bothering from then on, for some reason. It didn't damage our friendship, because he continued to treated me with respect outside of that particularly challenging class (organic chemistry Lab, which was a 3-4 hour ordeal once or twice a week for 2-3 months).

And thereafter I never heard another peep out of the others, which was fine with me. It's possible that either he or the professor may have warned them, but I don't know for sure. Something happened, though, which relieved me of the burden of their demands.

And I wasn't lying when I said, "I don't know," because truthfully I had them on ignore, completely refusing to listen to their questions. I felt that was only fair, since they were interrupting my work and it was rude for them to make it more difficult for me, for their own selfish reasons. I often had to give them the shoulder and turn my back toward them, positioning my body between me and my paperwork -- so that they would see that I was busy and not interested, and that no, they could not look at it.

Because they were breaking the rules, and could have caused me serious trouble if I'd been more of a people-pleaser. Then again, they were doing that in class in the presence of the professor. This was years ago, long before I ever had eMail.

But the same principle applies, even today:

You should just politely tell your friends why you don't want to engage in that sort of activity -- I'm sure they'll respect your courage and your strength of character. And it will be a great opportunity to see who your real friends are.

Or you could simply ignore their demanding eMails. There is no law that you have to answer them. And ignoring them is about like saying, "I don't know." They don't need to know what you know. They need to develop some character instead, by obtaining the necessary knowledge on their own, with considerable effort on their part. Think of it this way: helping them cheat would do them more harm than good.

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