Often, it’s easy to get swept up into regularly responding to requests with a yes rather than a default no. You may not even recognize your willingness or selflessness as a hindrance. Some people are more difficult to refuse than others. Who gets you to say “yes” most often? Who makes your life the most difficult? Your parents? Friends? Children? A painter or contractor? A neighbor?
This quiz will help you figure out who in your life present the biggest challenges — the people who turn you into a pushover, who get you to agree to whatever they ask.
The quiz helps you clearly see with whom you might need to shore up your boundaries and learn to protect yourself. Keep track of how many a, b, c, d’s etc. answers you have. The results at the end will tell you with whom your relationships might be unbalanced.
12 questions to pinpoint who in your life is most difficult to refuse:
1. What are you most likely to say “Yes” to and then regret afterwards?
a. Helping your father set up his WiFi network on Saturday morning
b. Looking over a flurry of texts your friend plans to send her ex-boyfriend
c. Letting your son stay up late on a school night
d. Giving your cousin your Netflix password
e. Running your spouse’s errands — on top of your own
f. Signing up for a department store credit card after the nice cashier hyped the discount
2. The last thing you felt you were roped into was most likely…
a. When your in-laws insisted on visiting after the baby was born, to “help” around the house
b. Being a bridesmaid at a friend’s extravagant destination wedding
c. Helping your child with a big science fair project the night before it was due
d. Attending your second cousin’s daughter’s middle school graduation
e. Going to a movie your spouse was dying to see — even though you had zero interest in the storyline
f. When you ended up in a changing room full of outfits you wouldn’t wear if the salesperson hadn’t insisted that they would look “gorgeous” on you
3. “There’s a crisis! I need your help — I don’t know who else to call!” Who is most likely to be saying this to you?
a. Your mother
b. Your best friend
c. Your brother
d. Your Uncle Ned
e. Your spouse/partner
f. A new neighbor you met recently
4. When do you sometimes feel that you do too much for others and not enough for yourself?
a. When your mother decides what you should make for Thanksgiving dinner
b. When you go to great lengths to keep in touch with your college roommate, but don’t feel she makes any effort
c. When it’s the fifth night in a row your daughter leaves dirty dishes in the sink, expecting you to clean up after her
d. When you take the reins in planning your Great Aunt Hilda’s 80th birthday, and somehow can’t get any other relatives to pull their weight
e. When your spouse or partner routinely spends more time scrolling through a smartphone than paying attention to you
f. When you rearrange your schedule to accommodate your electrician’s (your plumber’s, your child’s tutor’s) but they don’t show up on time
5. You would feel most guilty when refusing …
a. Your parents when they ask for any favor, big or small
b. To go to your friend’s rescue when she needs a shoulder to cry on
c. Your son’s wishes to go to an elite soccer camp
d. When your sibling asks you to be your child’s godparent
e. When your fiancée asks you to block your exes on social media
f. To donate to a neighbor’s charity
6. Look around you. The things you reluctantly own are most likely to be …
a. A trove of complicated kitchen gadgets your mother purchased you (even though you said you didn’t need them
b. Furniture that doesn’t match, mainly belonging to a friend who moved and didn’t know where else to put an old chest of drawers (couch, bedside table)
c. Toys. Your living room looks more like a Toys R Us than a place to relax.
d. About a thousand handmade candles from the time your sister was trying to start up her own business (and needed your support to get off the ground).
e. A wall lined with comic books, action figures and other Wolverine paraphernalia that your spouse insists on displaying in common areas (even though you’re not a fan)
f. Girl Scout cookies. You couldn’t say no to that adorable girl down the street!
7. When you say yes, what’s the likely motivator?
a. Guilt. The asker has helped and supported you so often that you feel a need to aid in return, at whatever the cost
b. The need to be admired or loved. You enjoy being seen as “the helper”
c. You wanted to keep the peace, or please the asker
d. You’re always the person who gets things done — what’s one more task?
e. You believed saying “Yes” would keep the relationship with the asker strong
f. Your guard wasn’t up and you didn’t have time to think before responding.
8. Think about the last time you said “Yes” to something you probably shouldn’t have. How did the asker make his or her request?
a. On the phone
b. Via text — you and your friends are always glued to your phones
c. In-person begging (sad puppy dog eyes included)
d. Via social media or email
e. In person, in the home you share
f. Out of the blue
Who Makes Your Life the Most Difficult? Results
Mostly A: Your Parents
If you answered with mostly A’s, you are not alone: A recent survey published in the American Sociological Review asked 1,1000 diverse adults in the greater San Francisco area who in their networks they found the most “difficult.” Parents and female relatives were among the most likely.
Parents present the supreme challenge in the quest to mark boundaries and be less of a people-pleaser. Perhaps both parents, or one more so than the other, spent their parenting careers getting you to be polite and obedient, to do what they said when they said it. Over the years you have developed set patterns of reacting to your parents’ requests.
Yet many adult children fearing tension or conflict have trouble realizing the fact that they can turn down a parent’s request or command. You may believe that, because a parent asks, saying yes is mandatory, that shaking your head no is unthinkable. Even if they’re towns or states away, it can feel as if your parents live next door — that your yeses are expected.
Mostly B: Your Friends
You find it most difficult to turn down a friend. The very definition of friend makes saying no to one extremely difficult. Friendships have different levels of duration, depth and responsibility. They continually evolve — or erode — because people change. Sometimes the friend who could be counted on expects too much or becomes overly dependent. A friend can become too nosy, overly bossy, generally difficult, judgmental or display all manner of annoying behavior that is tiresome and at times hard to take.
You want to be helpful, but when the friendship seems to be moving in a lopsided direction, you have to take a stand. Sometimes, taking a break from a friend is called for. Remember: Friendships should benefit both of you.
Mostly C: Your Children
You face more challenges in refusing your children.
For many parents, the prospect of saying no feels wrong. As a result, parents end up feeling exhausted, stressed, walked over, with their own needs pushed to the back burner. Some would argue that pleasing their children makes them happy, and that’s fine to a certain extent. However, saying no opens a door to freedom for parents to feel less depleted and enjoy their children more. No is about fewer hassles and arguments … and ultimately, about raising caring, responsible, respectful children. Your children may even thank you one day for what they learned from your no’s.
Sometimes we think we are depriving our children of something desperately desired — a toy, time with friends, a monetary loan. We feel guilty, but we shouldn’t. There could be a host of reasons why you’ve fallen into a yes-pattern. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to break free. For additional resources and more information, visit The Book of No.
Mostly D: Those Other Relatives
You face most challenges in saying no to family members — especially if you’re a tight-knit bunch — siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins … Within the family, your reputation for diligence precedes you. You’ve been branded the faithful family fixer and go-to person. You buy the gifts, send the flowers, visit the hospital, bake the birthday cakes, have the holiday parties at your house, solve technology problems, grocery shop with your great aunt, handle emergencies, and manage crises at every wedding.
Your relatives assume you will be in charge or take care of what needs to be done. Quite possibly, you’ve convinced yourself that things don’t get done unless you do them. Don’t you often think you’re the only dependable grownup in the family? Trouble is, your whole family thinks that way, too. To make it harder, relatives are much more likely to know your weaknesses, and when they hone in on one, your resistance evaporates.
Mostly E: Your Spouse or Partner
In the range of difficulty, refusing the person you love ranks as high on the scale as refusing a parent.
Saying no to a spouse or partner is a bit of a struggle because when you’re in love you tend to give in easily. Or, you may say yes because you want to avoid an argument, compensate for devoting more time to work or the children than to your partner, or you believe “yes” keeps the relationship strong. On the flip side, when you fall into a pattern of agreeing, the relationship becomes imbalanced and you open yourself up to frustration.
Mostly F: People You Don’t Really Know
There’s a sense of obligation to be more polite with strangers or acquaintances — people you’re not as closely linked to as you are with your close friends or family members. You may feel less comfortable turning down a request from your hair dresser, or a sales assistant at a department store. You may find it awkward or uncomfortable to say no to someone canvassing for signatures on the street, or your plumber, contractor, dog sitter, or electrician when he or she tries to rearrange a schedule or goad you into spending more money than you planned.
You may have more will power when refusing your mother or your best friend, but when it comes to standing up to strangers, you crumble. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to break free of this and the other cycles.
For additional resources and more information, see The Book of No.