Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and we will usually have one friend who is always asking for favors. Give and take is a normal part of friendship, but what can you do when it becomes a recurring theme?

Take a look at my suggestions as to how to deal with that friend who is constantly asking for favors, and how to create boundaries.

Recognize the signs of being used

One immediate sign of a friendship that is not genuine is a friend who is always asking for favors and offers nothing in return. If you have ever felt that a friendship is completely one-sided, you may be being used.

It is useful to consider what you are gaining from this friendship.

  • Do you enjoy their company, or dread having to meet up?
  • Are they funny and/or share your interests, or do you feel obliged to maintain contact?
  • Have they acknowledged the favors you have done, or taken them for granted?

Dealing with toxic ‘friendships’

If you reflect on a friendship and know that it is proving toxic, then there is only one answer; to move on.

This is the worst-case scenario, but you are responsible for your wellbeing, and cannot sustain a friendship purely because you feel obliged to. Toxic people drain your energy and your resources, and will not stop using you for the favors they are constantly asking for unless you put a stop to it.

Creating boundaries

Most of the time, friends who are always asking for favors do so simply because you let them. They might not even realize they are doing it, or that it is causing you distress.

The most important thing for you to do to sustain a friendship that you value is to talk openly about your concerns.

If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to everything, even at great inconvenience, you are validating unreasonable behavior. Most friends will not take advantage of kindness intentionally, but people can be thoughtless and might be falling into the habit of relying on you without considering other options.

Preserve your space

Open discussion can be uncomfortable, but if you wish to keep your relationship, then honesty is essential. Tell your friend that you have concerns about them always asking for favours. They might have no idea that they are repeating this behavior, and if they place equal value on your friendship will be able to discuss it with you.

Alternatively, if you think this conversation may cause conflict, you can put in place your barriers subtly. If this does not change their behavior and they continue asking for favors constantly, then it is time for ‘the talk’.

Establishing control

Remember that you always have control over your actions, but not those of others. Consider why your friend is always turning to you and asking for favors.

  • Do you always say yes?
  • Have you ever tried saying no?
  • If you have said no, was that an end to the request?
  • Could you say yes, but within a timescale that is convenient for you?
  • Have you tried recommending another friend or resource that might be more suitable?

Sometimes we unwittingly reinforce bad behavior to avoid conflict. In doing so, we set ourselves up for a difficult time by confirming the validity of this behavior. In the case of a friend who is always asking for favors, if you haven’t ever said no, how do you know how they would react?

Managing contact

In this day and age, many of us are guilty of feeling like we have to be available 24/7. Doing this makes us open and available to anybody at any time, and neglects the importance of taking time for ourselves.

One of the key ways to establish and maintain your boundaries is to choose when and how you are available. This is very simple!

  1. Turn off your phone when you don’t wish to be disturbed
  2. Don’t feel obliged to check your messages when you are busy at work, or about to go to sleep
  3. Try not replying immediately to every message, and give yourself time to consider your response before replying

By establishing your own ‘rules’ about how you communicate, you take back control of your time and recognize the value of your space.

Building distance

If you are finding it hard to create boundaries, then a little distance may be what is needed.

It is hard to consider creating distance between yourself and a friend. But if the relationship is turning toxic and you are forgetting why you became friends in the first place, this is essential to preserve goodwill.

You could try creating a different ringtone for your friend who is always asking for favors. This gives you a choice about whether or not to pick up the phone, or whether to return a call when you are in a good position to talk and consider your answer if they are calling to ask for another favor.

Turning the tables

This is a tricky one, but if you are concerned that a friendship is turning sour and that your friend is always asking for favors to manipulate the friendship, you could try asking for one back.

I do not believe in creating scenarios intended to make somebody ‘fail a test’. However, if you think you might be being used but aren’t sure enough that you want to cause conflict within your friendship, next time you do need a favor, you could try asking this friend and seeing how they respond.

The chances are that if they are always relying on you for help that they trust and respect your opinion. Being able to ask for support from your friends is an essential part of making sure that trust runs both ways.

If your friendship means as much to them as it does to you, next time you need a lift somewhere, or for a friend to check in on your cat, make this friend your first call. Hopefully, they will jump at the chance to return your kindness.

And if they don’t? At least you know exactly where you stand.

Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.

Copyright © 2012-2020 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

the power of misfits

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Earth Child

    I’ve had many so-called friends like this. I was so immature to leave my childhood friend because I wanted to experience something more than sticking to my friend. None of them lasted more than a year, and I learned the lesson in a hard way. Anyway, I and my childhood friend rekindled our friendship stronger than before simply from our love of reading books. 😃

  2. Avatar
    Jenn

    I’m going through this right now with a longtime friend whom I’ve known since middle school. She’s been sick with a very severe disease for many years and has taken a turn for the better since having surgery over a year ago. The problem is that over the last few years, we fell into an unfortunate pattern of her always asking for favors. I usually would say yes even though sometimes I just didn’t want to do it, because I’m her only friend and she only has her mom, brother and sister-in-law. Her mother doesn’t drive and her brother is kinda lazy; her sister-in-law is far too busy with working two jobs and raising two girls to be able to help her much.

    A lot of times doing her favors is just so inconvenient and costs me money every time. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s money, rides to the doctor, picking up things from the grocery store or meds from the pharmacy, I’d do it because she asked. I felt bad for her having to spend so much time sick in the hospital and homebound and I still feel sorry for her, but not enough not to realize that pretty much everything she’s asked of me, she could more easily have someone else do for her, if only she’d bother downloading the right apps to her phone and pay for things herself. She says she can’t afford a new phone, although a good smartphone costs only a few hundred bucks these days, and she had no problem burning through $350 for her nieces for Christmas. Seriously, she needs a new phone, there are too many advantages.

    Now I’m realizing just how much she’s come to take me for granted, because all these things are so accessible if she’d just look around her. She expects me to cough up because I’ve almost always come through for her whenever she’s asked for things. She says thank you but never offers me gas money or to reimburse me for groceries or money I’ve lent her.

    I haven’t expected it and likely would turn her down but it would be polite to offer. I also realized just how little consideration she has for my time when she had no problem keeping me at the doctor with her for 3 hours, on my day off the week before Christmas. She said she didn’t know it would take that long but you’d think she’d offer to let me go do something else when it was clear the visit would take longer than they originally told her.

    To complicate things, I’ve also reached a very low point in my own life and now need to be left alone to sort out my problems, which means I can’t just drop everything and run around for her. I just don’t have the energy or the inclination anymore.

    I’ve tried subtlety but that hasn’t worked – I’ll ignore texts or voicemails, only to have her try again every couple of days when she can’t reach me immediately. I finally had to flat-out tell her to please stop smothering me and asking me for favors. The thing is, I do want to see her but every time she contacts me, it’s only because she wants something. It’s never to ask how I’m doing or make plans to get together for lunch, it’s always just, “Hey, I need this, can you do it for me?”

    I’d ask her for favors in return but I really don’t need anything from her. I’m very self-sufficient and she is normally too physically weak and poor to be of any use to me anyway. To make matters worse, she can’t drive very well because of a bad stigmatism she’s always had that’s gotten worse as she’s gotten older. I’d hate to lose a friend but the way this is going, she’s not really been a friend to me at all lately anyway.

    1. Avatar
      Diana

      Jen, Your story is eerily similar to mine! I always help this person – and it’s mundane things too. “What is the phone number for…..” or “I’m trying to find a movie on Netflix.” And then of course, the harder ones come up – “if you are going to the store, can you get me some creamer?” It DOES get old. What really is bothersome is I have had plans before and will say, “My friend is coming over so we can catch up after a long visit.” and yet this friend I am referring to in here will STILL send a message of wanting something -and again, something that is really NOT that important, like asking for a recipe.

      I finally said something yesterday – via Messenger, not “live” but was trying to gently say that I am pulled in a lot of directions, and that from now on, I need to put myself first and help on my schedule – for everybody. She pretty much took it personally and got defensive, even though I was trying to assure her it was a BIG group of people.

      Ended things on a regular note, but then today, she is being very cold and distant on the messenger. That is actually fine. I know right now she is in the “fine, I will never ask her for ANYTHING mode.” But, I realize I cannot be responsible for how she perceives things or takes them.

      I do still, though, need guidance and answers on how NOT to say no gracefully in the future. I have enabled her way too much, but I am done. I own that I was wrong (weak?) to let it go this far, but I’m not perfect, and now I am in too deep!

      Please reply back – I look forward to everybody’s comments!

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