At a family dinner, my snippy uncle "reminded" me:

Have you donated to my church's charity yet? I mentioned last time that it's only $200 [USD] a month. This is like 3 restaurant meals.

All my polite deflections failed. I can't answer 'no', as this will upset him. So how can I refuse without offending him? He'll chase me if I don't answer.

[I:] I already donate to some charities. [But I didn't name them.]

[Uncle:] You don't want to help our church help homeless and poor locals? Your charities are great, but they don't directly help our community.

[I:] Can we discuss this after our meal?

[Uncle:] Sure. I'll email you our church's link. You can link your credit card or bank account.

  • 3
    It sounds like you've already tried the tactful route, it may be time to be more direct. Would answers along those lines be helpful to you?
    – apaul
    May 24 '18 at 19:07
  • 1
    'No' feeling to gruff doesn't mean it's offensive or will ruin your relationship. I'm not seeing any indication in your question that 'No' won't suffice. Are you sure this is an Interpersonal Skills problem, and not an intrapersonal one? What makes you think you can't say 'No' to your uncle?
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 24 '18 at 19:30
  • 2
    @Tinkeringbell "Are you sure this is an Interpersonal Skills problem, and not an intrapersonal one?" May be a question better left out... I can see that sort of thing being abused in other cases, and we probably don't want to set that precedent.
    – apaul
    May 24 '18 at 19:44
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    @Greek - Area 51 Proposal If you can edit your question, to narrow it down, be specific about what you're trying to accomplish, and add the requested info from the comments; it may be better received.
    – apaul
    May 24 '18 at 19:53
  • 5
    Honestly... If you were new, or this was the first question that you had these problems with, I wouldn't mind pitching in and editing... But there comes a time when you really should be helping yourself.
    – apaul
    May 25 '18 at 2:08

Your uncle is using the ABC approach to selling (ABC = always be closing) that relies on your open statements. A very simple straightforward tactic (pretty badly executed on top of that, he probably watched Alec Baldwin's snippy character in a David Mamet movie).

You need to convey a more definitive negative/refusal without saying "no". In a polite rather than tactful manner, not giving him a reason to get upset about.
Close the negotiation politely under your own terms.

  • I don't have more money to spare on donations, sorry.
  • All my donation budget has ran out.

This will do your uncle a favor and help him close the deal, and the deal is nope. Something along those lines will help you. Avoid saying something coming from nervousness like:

Maybe next time

Unless you want him to keep nagging you. Basically, you are both selling, only it is easier for you to close the deal on your favor, you are in control of the resources he is negotiating for, so you are simply removing the existence of those resources from the imaginarium on which his premise to negotiate was built upon.

You said you didn't want to ruin the relationship, so after you close the deal, change the topic to something he enjoys more than church, or better yet something you both enjoy.

Best of luck.

  • 1
    This is the only answer that even casually mentions an interpersonal skill/technique.
    – Clay07g
    May 24 '18 at 19:19
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    Can you please support your answer with experience or references? interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2994/59
    – apaul
    May 24 '18 at 19:33
  • 1
    Adding a reference for the sales tactic is good, but adding a more direct experience or reference about how your method of repelling the tactic works would be better.
    – apaul
    May 24 '18 at 20:32
  • It's not repelling the tactic, is accepting and better playing it at you favor, similar to Aikido. So the same selling reference applies for both parties. I use it all the time, you use it all the time possibly without giving it a second thought.
    – J A
    May 24 '18 at 22:39

I would say "No, and it is none of your business".

He is shaming you in public on purpose, and to top it off, on front of family to manipulate you into donating a not so trivial amount of money to his business.

I would not donate a cent, until he would stop harassing me.

Actually, the bigger elephant in the room here is you not recognising you are being bullied in public.

Coming from a Latin family, I had unfortunately some similar experiences, with some elements of the family often trying to shame me in public/family parties on personal things, and it is sad to say they only stopped for good when I told them to stop, in front of all family, in not so kinder terms, in a couple of occasions. Told them they were being rude and they should mind their own business. Fortunately they stopped those behaviors for good after that.

Bullies either emotional or physical, do not like to be confronted, and will leave you in peace after you stand up your ground.

Btw, I am still on good terms with my parents, my aunt and my uncle after rebuffing those appropriate approaches.


The best response I've ever heard of was from someone who was being badgered into volunteering for some thing (I forget which). The response was this:

That is certainly a valid concern and worthy of all your time and energy. Unfortunately, it is not my concern."

But I suspect that uncle won't accept that. Some people say to say "no" with a reason behind it, such as "I already have charities I donate to." All that does, in my experience, is give the pursuer an argument to pursue. "That may be, but this is more important. Donate to my charity instead." Or "That's good, but all you have to do is skip this spurious activity and you can fund my charity."

I've been the "victim" of this in the past, and it relies on your guilt to make their goal. And the pursuer knows that it's worked on others in the past, and they're going to apply pressure to you now. My response to that is, "No, I'm not in a position to help this one out, sorry! Good luck with the fundraising!" And offer NO other information. You don't owe an explanation or excuse, despite how they pursue one.

When the inevitable guilt comes, and some people like to lay it on thick, refuse to accept it. "You don't want our church to help..." "That's not what I said, and you know it. I'm not accepting this guilt so please stop now." Be firm and stay on message. And after a sentence or two, just walk away. The best interpersonal skill is to NOT engage in foolish arguments - especially with family. All that accomplishes is to get you a bunch of calls from well-meaning but annoying relatives.

Keeping in line with this, I've seen too many arguments start because someone didn't stop there. "I'll send you the link." "Fine, do that" and quit talking about it. You can be the bigger person, let them have the last word, and delete an e-mail. Otherwise, too many arguments start with "I'll send you the link" "don't bother; I won't read it anyway" and I've seen that devolve into another argument.


If you actually do regular giving, then you can shift the discussion to be about the charity, or about your process for giving. And you can slyly elevate the discussion above his skill level, at which point it really isn't your job to catch him up. For instance:

  • I don't give to general funds. (and you stop right there; you don't explain there's a difference between a charity's general fund, which can be used for any purpose it sees fit, and giving to a "restricted fund" for a specific project which it can only use for that purpose. Generally a charity has to plan a project and start a fundraising campaign for it before they will accept restricted donations. No plan; tough beans. By the way, pardon these bulky bits in parentheses, I just don't want to snow you.)
  • I'll take a look at their 990s later. (you need not explain the annual IRS Form 990 is the charity's annual report to the government which justifies their charity status. They are public documents and sites like guidestar.org host them. A skilled donor looks carefully at recent years' Form 990s, as they indicate how the charity raises and spends money, who the principals are, and roughly how well the place is run.)
  • I do all my giving online. (perhaps you use a site like JustGive.org, which allows you to charge a credit card, their staff checks to positively confirm the charity is legit, they send to the official address, not your uncle's yacht fund, and they allow you to send the gift anonymously. Anonymous means when Uncle says "I didn't see your name on the donor rolls", you reply "You wouldn't. I give anonymously.")
  • I do all my giving through a DAF. (this means "Donor Advised Fund"; the DAF is a special charity that lets you give to the charity today, take the tax deduction this year, invest the money and give the money to the charity of your choice later. It's common for people with DAFs to do all their giving through their DAF. Like online giving, they confirm and allow anonymous giving.)
  • I do all my giving in December (also common; donors are using charitable giving to ease their tax burden, so they need to wait until they have a clear picture of their income before they can decide how to give).
  • if you have done the research and uncovered issues, you can raise those too. E.G. They lost their charity status when they endorsed a political candidate. But be careful here; if uncle is knowledgeable about that (or thinks he is), this might lead to an argument.

The goal here is to leave him speechless, unable to answer your objection, either because he doesn't know technically or because you have a well-thought-out donation policy he can't really argue with.


Don't use "polite deflections". They never work. A firm "No" is what works. It may have to be repeated a few times, but stay firmly with "No". Not "No, because". Definitely not "maybe". One "maybe" destroys what you achieved with ten "No"s.

Let's try it tactfully. "Sorry Uncle, I know how much you like collecting more for the church's charity. But I have no intention at all to donate any money, much less $2,400 a year. So please don't try, it just makes everyone uncomfortable. Stop trying at a point where we can still be friends."


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