A continuation from Should I help pay for a traffic ticket someone got while helping me?.

Despite what people answer in that thread "You are not obliged to pay the ticket", there's a chance he will be upset and demand payment. Because he's a brother-in-law, I wouldn't want to ruin my relation with him.

The problem is, the fine will take a good amount from our budget, and we can't really afford it.

If he gets angry and insist on me paying the ticket, what should I answer? I need him to understand it's his responsibility as politely as possible, and avoid having to pay him. What is the best phrase to answer him?

Note: I'm not the OP of that question. SQB is. I'm merely interested in dealing with people demanding what I have no obligation to give.

  • You didn't like my answer? interpersonal.stackexchange.com/a/2683/3057 I do not feel angry, but I feel sad now. :( (But the short answer is that you can not control other people's emotions, if you try to do that, those people are effectively controlling you) Aug 27, 2017 at 20:25
  • @StephanBranczyk huh? I even upvoted your answer! I like the last part!
    – Vylix
    Aug 27, 2017 at 20:27
  • Thanks! I was fishing for a compliment. It worked! I'm happy now. Aug 29, 2017 at 4:23
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's asking about a hypothetical future situation, not an actual interaction.
    – JohnP
    Oct 11, 2017 at 19:48

4 Answers 4


The short answer:

You can not control other people's emotions. If you try to do that, those people are effectively controlling you.

For a longer answer and one that contains actionable advice:

I strongly recommend When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith. That book will teach you how to become assertive and how to stand your ground. Just don't pay attention to its title, it's not very accurate, but do read its Amazon customer reviews. As cliché as this sounds, that book changed my life. It also needs to be read backward. The example transcripts are at the end. The beginning was too theoretical for me, without reading the transcripts and the advice first.

In addition to that book, assuming that the other OP followed my previous advice and his brother-in-law still gets angry with him. I would look for another underlying issue. Perhaps, the brother-in-law doesn't have the money to pay the fine but he's too proud to admit it, or perhaps he doesn't approve of the marriage to his sister, or perhaps that is his personality type, he does all kinds of favors for his family members and friends but is often taken for granted by all of them (which could be a simmering issue years in the making).

Out of those three issues, I would just make sure that he is not concealing money troubles. The rest of those issues are not my problem. Even the money trouble is not my problem, but if he really got a traffic ticket when he helped me move and he doesn't have the money to pay for it, and assuming I did have that money, I would pay for it myself (even though I wasn't obligated to).

  • "(...) I would look for another underlying issue." -- Really good answer -- and your answer to the related 'other' question was really good as well: both answers I upvote! Aug 28, 2017 at 0:59
  • @EnglishStudent, Thanks. If you liked that part, I assume you might also like "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg who tries get at people's underlying needs to mediate conflicts. See amazon.com/… That's a great book as well, although when I recommend books about conflict resolution, I always start by recommending that people first read "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel J. Smith (and also concepts from the area of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Aug 29, 2017 at 4:17
  • Thanks for the good suggestions, @Stephan Branczyk -- when it comes to taking a firm stand we are often overwhelmed/inhibited by culture and emotion -- and there is this other recent question here that is all about not knowing (needing to learn) "how to say NO": interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/2699/… This one really needs your answer if you didn't write it yet! Aug 29, 2017 at 8:21
  • @EnglishStudent, I appreciate the compliments, but I don't really have the inclination to focus on writing such an in-depth answer right now. Aug 29, 2017 at 9:37
  • You are welcome to write an answer at your own convenience, if and when you feel like, @Stephan Branczyk. Mainly for the benefit of future readers. There are too many answers to that question and too many different suggestions for OP. Moreover many of those answers are short and do not specifically address how OP is really struggling with 'how to say no.' In fact your 2 related answers here are very close to the right approach for the OP in that question. Aug 29, 2017 at 9:48

By taking the other OP's question into its logical extension you have (maybe unknowingly) used the specific real-world example of another question to illustrate your own more general question, @Vylix, which is

How to handle someone's getting angry over things I have no obligation to? (...) I'm merely interested in dealing with people demanding what I have no obligation to give.

This is conceptually problematic for members trying to formulate an answer, because you asked the question but the example quoted (which is not your 'actual interpersonal problem' for this question) belongs more or less specifically to SQB's case. However your good intentions are clear and much appreciated, so I shall ignore the example entirely and answer your general question with this more general answer:

Even when you are technically not obligated to do something in a particular interpersonal situation, the other person's response (getting angry, here) is influenced by his/her personal expectations which in turn have a strong social or cultural conditioning.

Since no man is an island and this person is presumably close to you, with substantial ties of blood, kinship or friendship, you need to be tactful while trying to convince them of your point of view which clashes with theirs', but also need to decide whether it might be better to purchase peace through compromise in order to maintain socially significant and potentially valuable relationships.

Frank and honest discussion with the person would usually clear up misunderstandings, but there are many issues where one brother-in-law and the other or one friend and the other will stick to diametrically opposite opinions of what constitutes obligation. In such situations you can win an argument and lose a friend, which is a useless deal IMHO.

So this is what I suggest: if the person remains angry and unconvinced despite your best efforts to make them understand that you were not obligated to do 'the thing they expected', then you should

(1) do what they want you to do, if it is not financially or otherwise damaging for you, in order to purchase peace and salvage the relationship;

(2)if it cannot be done, make it clear that you cannot do it right now, stating genuine and pressing reasons, but offer to 'make it up' in other ways later;

(3) Or else you can take the extreme step of antagonizing the person and dealing with all the social and personal problems arising from that decision.

Two pertinent examples from India:

(1) India has the 'co-brother' kinship term for the special relationship of mutual support and dependence between men who are sons-in-law of the same father-in-law: there is a strong social and cultural expectation that co-brothers will substantially help each other in need, even if they are not responsible for the situation, so much so that it becomes an ethically binding family obligation, not legally enforceable but sanctified by tradition.

In these circumstances, a person will help his co-brother in need even when it is very difficult or even financially ruinous for him to do so, purely to avoid the co-brother's 'justified anger' and also the widespread social stigma attached to 'not fulfilling his expected obligation.'

(2) Similarly an Indian man in many communities is also expected to unconditionally help his brother-in-law who is his sister's husband, 'in the interests of the sister's happiness,' but in an apparent paradox which is really a strong reflection of social patriarchy, the sister's husband does not have nearly the same burden of obligation to help his wife's brother.


Be honest with him. He may be angry at you for a while, but any reasonable person will at least respect you being up front and polite about it. If he continues to hold a grudge or direct anger toward you, it's likely he may have some emotional problems or be projecting anger about other problems in his life onto you. If you have done this, you should not let yourself feel guilty. You conveyed your feelings in an assertive manner and if he cannot accept them in an adult manner, the onus is on him.

  • I upvote this frank, honest and straightforward answer. Aug 28, 2017 at 8:34

I'm coming in late so I hope this has not been covered.

Unless you told him it was OK to park right where he did, you have no moral or financial obligation to help him out. He's not the victim of his in-law. Had a bad day and got a ticket.

Your feeling bad for him and all his woes says much about your kindness but not about your limits. As suggested here your tenderness is being over-extended and will continue to be until you set limits.

I can recommend the book above "When I say No" and the advice on how to read it.

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