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My neighbour is constantly asking me for little favours, which is super obnoxious. She regularly asks me to maintain her smartphone as she has no clue what to do with a smartphone and keeps downloading useless crap.

I'm 18, she's a middle-aged woman with a kid and a husband. When I do help her, she treats me like a little kid. For example, while I'm fixing her phone, she commands me. Literally commands me, not even a request. To do some other things like downloading her music etc. I find this terrible.

How do I set my boundaries?

  • 21
    Do you want to continue being friends with her or do you not care whether you are polite or not? – ElizB Jul 23 '18 at 16:55
  • 3
    To follow up on ElizB's question, are you actually friends? Or are you just helping out to be "neighborly"? Are you helping her just to avoid having a bad relationship with a neighbor? – DaveG Jul 23 '18 at 16:58
  • 4
    Does she make any effort to learn? Have you ever framed it as a teaching moment ? – user5267 Jul 24 '18 at 1:04
53

Speaking from personal experience as someone who works full time in the tech industry, people constantly asking me for help with technology as if I'm their personal IT guy is so annoying. I feel your pain.

If you don't wish to help her, just say no. You don't owe her any service whatsoever, especially if she's being rude about it.

If you do wish to help her, you can:

  • Only provide help when she isn't rude. Express that you don't appreciate how rude she acts towards you, even when you provide her with assistance. If she continues acting unkind, stop providing assistance.

  • Set time frames for her to ask for help. While this may just result in constant questions in that time period, it still allows you to set personal boundaries for yourself.

  • Help her help herself. Whenever someone asks me a tech/IT question, I always ask, "Did you Google it first?" This shows that I'm willing to help them only if they've made an effort to fix the issue themselves. Furthermore, this may boost her confidence with maintaining her smartphone, thus limiting the amount of questions she'll need to ask you.

This answer is based in quite a few assumptions, and I do not know the condition of your relationship with this neighbor, but I hope this helps!

11

I can relate to your question because I have been there too. Here is some advice from what I have learned from others and from past experience.

She's a help vampire taking advantage of you, and it sounds like this has gone too far to salvage the situation. Assuming she doesn't provide anything for you in return, it's time to start saying no.

How to Just Say No

I can't help you.

Or

I have decided not to do that anymore.

  • Don't add any fake reasons or excuses. People (especially help vampires) tend to look for ways around perceived obstacles if you give them the opportunity. For instance, if you say "I'm too busy right now", they will think that they can ask you tomorrow, or next week. That's why it's very important when you say no to not attach any fake excuse to it. You may feel like this is impolite, but remember that honesty is better for both parties than setting false expectations.

  • Don't give any reasons. She's an adult. Sure can figure out why if she wants, but you aren't obligated to spell it out for her. If she asks you why, just repeat that you simply have decided not to. I'll add more about what to do if (more likely when) she asks again.

  • Don't say "I'm sorry". An apology implies guilt. Help vampires love to use guilt to manipulate you. You are doing nothing wrong at all--your neighbor should be grateful you did anything at all for her!

When She Asks Again

Be prepared for her to ask you again, either in the future or immediately after. She will try to test the boundary you just set. It's important to stick to the points above, repeating yourself if necessary. I have found the following phrase to be quite potent for this situation:

I have already said no. Please don't ask me again.

Notes

Your goal is to be polite, but firm. Try to keep your temper under control. If you feel like you're going to yell, just excuse yourself and walk away. Take some deep breaths and try to think about something else. Phone a friend, go for a bike ride, or play a video game. She isn't worth stressing yourself out!

Either way, your neighbor won't be pleased with you. If she's a decent person at all and you handle yourself calmly and maturely, she may get over it and respect you. But don't expect this. She may hold a grudge or get mad at you. Don't take it personally if this happens. This is not your fault.

This won't be easy, and might be a little stressful, but you will be relieved once this is over! Best of luck to you!

10

If you don't mind helping her for something in return, try charging her a small fee.

For example, $20-60 per incident of providing help? Fee can be adjusted based on her annoyance. You can explain to her that you were glad to offer her help for the first few times but now you have other things you have to be doing but you wouldn't mind providing help for $x amount.

If she puts up a fuss, tell her you are generally too busy of a person and suggest a local Geek Squad at Best Buy (or similar) that can help her with all her needs.

You might see it as rude but in the end, she is obviously making your life less pleasant by her incessant requests and commands. It is not rude to protect your boundaries. If she wants your help "just this time", keep suggesting the fee or Best Buy again. If she keeps pestering you, become a broken record and stand your ground. It is not rude to push back when she is being rude pushing you.

If all else fails pretend you are working at Geek Squad and you'd be fired for helping her for free. A one-time favor here or there might be fine but in general you need to keep your job. That mindset should make it easier for you to protect your boundary.

In the end you will either be making money or be left alone.

  • hm... well assuming one does not wish to draw up a contract there are two ways: charge higher than what tech shops around charge. As in set the fee to be the "go away" fee, making it so high that the would-be-customer will seek elsewhere. Or just say sorry I rather busy [give an excuse if pressed], and advise a tech shop to take a look at their phone – Dennis Jul 25 '18 at 15:37
5

Say something to the effect of, "Please don't yell at me. I'm willing to help you once in a while, but if you're going to order me around or infringe on my time, I will have to refuse. It negatively affects me and hurts me feelings."

Whatever you say should attempt to accomplish a few things:

1. Tell her how it makes you feel. Politely make it clear to her that what she is doing hurts your feelings, affects your schedule, etc.

  • She has feelings (be polite). You have feelings (make them known).

2. Set a clear boundary on what is/is not acceptable.

  • Make it clear to her that it's not her that you have a problem with, it's her behavior. You don't have to subject yourself to rudeness, and you don't have to give her your time. You are responsible for those things, and she is not.

3. Set a consequence (refusing to help her) if she does not treat you respectfully.

  • This shows you intend to take action if she continues her behavior. A boundary without consequences means little. In your situation, the best consequence is probably removing yourself from the situation, since staying in it will continue to hurt you.

4. Be prepared to enforce the boundary/consequence without fail.

  • Don't set a boundary/consequence you aren't prepared to put into action, otherwise they'll learn that you don't really mean it when you fail to enforce it.

--

Note that when she is behaving wrongly, you need to make it clear and say something at that moment. Not a few days later.

Further reading: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

-7

My understanding of the situation is that she feels that it's hard for you to say no, probably due to some sympathy and she uses that to exploit you. I'd say she does that just to make herself feel proud about how this woman swings guys to the left or to the right. Nothing criminal on the other hand, we all play this game without even noticing.

Some people just like to feel the advantage, i.e. friendship, business, work, family it's all the same - there's always a side with advantage and side with disadvantage. It's rare that two persons value each other equally, there's always side which overvalues and undervalues a mutual relation. It's all in our heads, the more you really value a person, the less value you emotionally produce for that person. It's like comparing a toy you already have with a toy that you want to get. So never expose your good or bad feelings it's always a loss for you.

In your case you obviously overvalue your friendship. Imagine yourself asking for the same favor a person who you really respect? Feels unreal right? That's because you value that person and your friend doesn't value you the same way like you value her.

So my advice would be:

First of all be positive about the situation itself, your final aim is gaining positive emotions for you and your friend.

Make your weak side your strong side, take advantage of communication, it's hard to come out with universal formula but if I were you I'd add some chilly to communication. It can always become subject for any kinds of discussions. It shouldn't be something that you care about it can be totally random joke. But be tolerant, elegant and respectful of what you say. For example I would extend the topic into uncomfortable zone and try to return it back to a person who was asking an uncomfortable question, making this person answer the harder question.

A good example in your case is a dating topic (or pick the one you like). So that the next time you see her, don't wait till she asks you for fixing her phone, ask her when she will be available for a fixing it. Demonstrate the fact that you're joking, put a smile on your face. Such strategy would allow you to start laughing at any point time and thus reducing the chance of being misunderstood to nearly zero. Also it will seamlessly change your image in your relations and show her that you're gaining your advantage back. There are plenty continuations for such communication, there should be couple rounds of jokes. If she picks time, make it explicitly understood that you joking about having a date with her at this time. If she asks to fix her phone right now you can say something like "Moment, babe, lemme take a shower first, I'll be back in 5 mins...". If she asks to download music suggest some romantic music. The list is infinite... All these tricks keep you on top of the communication thus demonstrate advantage, acting this way would make it simpler for you to say no to her.

The strategy is to make it hard for her to bounce your jokes back, after she fails to do so couple of times, she will feel her advantage diminished and you will be presented with choice to finish communication with something like "Ok, nice chat, see you around" and even if she asks you in such situation to fix her phone, it will be much easier for you to say "Sorry can't do, have a lot of stuff to do at home, let's do it next time".

I was originally expecting to drop just couple of lines, but ended with an opus, at least hope it was helpful, cheers!

EDIT

The issue you guys raise in your comments it's all about choice, it's about who you decide to be. By saying "it'll be hard to pull off" I say It'll be even harder if you never try.

I remember one story related to this question. I once met my neighbours in an elevator and they had a daughter with them, she was 4-5 years old at that time and I said:

"Hey princess! You are so beautiful! Do you have a boyfriend already?"

and she said that she had two but she broke up with them because they didn't want to play with her in the sandbox. A funny thing to hear from a 5 y.o. which made me and their parents laughing. I responded that

"Then you need a new one, what if I would invite you to a date? Would you go to a date with me? Would you be my girlfriend?"

And she said that she will think about it which totally made a day for both me and her parents as all of us were laughing out of funny situation. Than later that day I had to visit those same neighbours to get back my tools they've previously took and as it turned out that my neighbour's mother (or grandmother) was visiting them and as I entered their home their daughter ran towards me and started talking loudly said that if I want her to be my girlfriend I need to make presents first and that it's better to start with ice-cream which made all laughing again. The grandmother (suppose the name is Alice) didn't had the context of the situation and I started explaining what happened in the elevator, and while explaining tried to switch the focus to my neighbours' mother to see how the reaction of daughter would change (suppose kid's name is Jenny). So I told:

"You see Mrs. Alice this is the way you loose a girlfriend, you decide to hang out with your friend to play your boy games and bang! You don't have a girlfriend. By the way since I've asked Jenny for a date and she didn't figured out yet whether she want's me as her boyfriend I think I can also ask you about the same thing would you happen to be free this evening? How would you feel for a date tonight?"

which made Mrs. Alice also laughing and she started saying something about that she wasn't on a date for more than 30 years already and she couldn't finish her phrase because small Jenny started loudly crying saying that grandmother is beating her boyfriends away. While all of the parents were trying to calm down small Jenny said that she don't need no gifts no ice-cream and want's to go to a date. Which was both totally awkward and funny but nevertheless instructive.

The moral of this story is that you can address the same joke to any age and even gender (but yeah, it should be appropriate though or at least wrapped accordingly). It works up until the point when you don't feel for what you say. If so it can be easily perceived as joke with no external effort.

And the second part of the moral (it doesn't come directly from story, but...) the grownups are also children with little more developed games and toys. If you try imagining a person you in front of you as a kid, you will address and treat this person accordingly. So It's all about how you perceive surrounding people. The state of dominance or suppression is based on your internal evaluation of a person. If you see your score lower than the person you are talking to, you would downgrade into submission, dominance otherwise.

Just know that having your score always high turns you into people-hating sociopath and low score makes you a submissive masochist beaten by everyone for no reason. Train to look at people under different angles. Improve your internal evaluation balance, seek for cooperation, respond with conflict for hostility.

Cheers!

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