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The problem outlined in the title is really getting to me. Some of my relatives and friends are overburdened by their everyday duties and barely manage to plan ahead. They often suddenly face an imminent deadline and need my help to meet it. They ask for help with school or university homework, computer tips, translating a short text, writing an important email, etc. Helping them usually takes just half an hour or so, sometimes extending to an hour or a bit more. However, the urgency of these requests disrupts my plans, as I'm usually on a tight schedule.

Even though they are clearly at fault, saying no is not an option for me because of the consequences of missing the deadline for them. It's just an inconvenience and disruption for me but a significant loss for them if I refuse. Yet, their requests usually could have been made earlier, allowing me to find a convenient time to help.

I've tried talking and explaining the issue, but to no avail. They seem so overburdened that they can barely plan ahead, let alone consider my comfort.

I must do something, but what? They are my friends and relatives, not just coworkers.

Is there any effective strategy to resolve this issue?


UPDATE: Saying no could undermine the friendship. I also ask them for important favors, though never at the last minute. If I say no, they might do the same. If I make excuses, they will, too. This has happened before. I am happy to help them; I just want to ensure they don't wait until the last minute to ask. Is there a way to achieve that without saying no or threatening to?

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  • You may want to consider a few points: 1. it's because you're their friend that they last-minute ask. You can only ask friends for such a favor (you wouldn't bother/dare asking someone you barely know) 2. you can always say 'no', that's what excuses are for :)
    – OldPadawan
    Commented May 18 at 9:20
  • @OldPadawan Saying no could undermine the friendship. I also ask them for important favors, though never at the last minute. If I say no, they might do the same. If I make excuses, they will, too. This has happened before. I am happy to help them; I just want to ensure they don't wait until the last minute to ask. Is there a way to achieve that without saying no or threatening to?
    – Mitsuko
    Commented May 18 at 10:49
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    "Is there a way to achieve that without saying no or threatening to?": AFAIK and experienced it, no, because people won't change this kind of (bad) habits. I've lost 'friends' like that because I started to ghost their requests... If another smooth way exists, I don't know it.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented May 18 at 10:57
  • @Mitsuko It really comes down to accepting that some people (from your description) are either abusing your friendship or just treating it as transactional. Only you can decide if it is worth it, not some random internet people. Best of luck.
    – DogBoy37
    Commented May 22 at 11:43
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    Don’t just say no. Say “I could have helped you if you had asked earlier, but now i have things to do that I can’t delay without getting someone else into serous trouble”. That’s if you are willing to help obviously and just can’t handle last minute requests easily.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 2 at 19:37

1 Answer 1

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Having lived this same problem, this is what I had to do.

The next time a person asks for help that you determine they could have not waited to last minute, help them and then politely call them out. Let them know that you might not always be immediately be available.

Be clear that you are always glad to help, assuming that you are, but you have obligations that might cause you to not be available.

The next time that person asks for help tell them, that you'll be happy to help them later. Even if you are available, don't help them immediately.

If it costs you a friendship - It wasn't a friendship.

If it costs them - It is called being a responsible adult.

You deserve to have a life. It is one thing to help friends and family. Sometimes to drop what you are doing to help them in an emergency. It is VERY rude for them to think that your time means nothing and to not schedule when possible.

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