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The Polite Person’s Guide to Saying No

April 18, 2016
People will always ask you for money, even if you don't have much.(image via Wikimedia)

People will always ask you for money, even if you don’t have much.(image via Wikimedia)

My daughters stared at me horrified when I refused to make a small donation to a children’s fund.  I don’t even remember which children’s fund it was.  I was just paying for groceries, and after I’d swiped my card, the screen requested two extra dollars .  I stared blankly, and the clerk asked if I wanted to donate to the charity.  I said no thanks without thinking about it until I saw my daughters’ facial expressions.

“You were so rude,” my oldest daughter said, as we left the store.

“I said ‘No, thank you’!” I proclaimed.  In my opinion, you can’t get any more polite than “No, thank you.”

“It was the way you said it.  You were sarcastic.”

“My ‘No, thank you’ is always sincere,” I said.

“You said, ‘No, THAAAAANK you.’”

“How can I sound sarcastic?  I have a monotone voice.”

“You just were.”

“Run the video,” I said.  I wanted to watch the exchange on one of my daughters’ cell phones and hear if I had truly sounded sarcastic.  Sometimes the person speaking is the worst judge of how he/she sounds.  But neither of my daughters had been videoing.  I was disappointed.  That moment with the cashier has been lost forever, and I’ll never really know how I sounded.

“If there’s no video, there’s no foul,” I said.

It’s tough to explain how to say no without making it sound mean.  My wife and I work hard, and it seems like more and more people are asking for money.  If I said yes to everybody who asked, there wouldn’t be much left.  And it’s important for my daughters to know it’s okay to say no.

“Just say no,” gets made fun of a lot.  Back in the 1980s, it was seen as an oversimplified solution to a complicated drug use problem.  To be fair, it was a lot better than “This is your brain on drugs.  Any questions?”  And it was better than “I learned it from you!”  Anybody can say no.  Not everybody can scramble eggs and blame their parents.  But “Just say no” gets a lot of grief.  It doesn’t get as much flak as “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”  But it’s right up there.

“Just say no” is great when it’s not politicized.  If somebody asks you for something and you don’t want to give it him/her, just say no.  There’s nothing wrong with saying no.  And if a person tries to guilt trip you into saying yes, then they probably don’t deserve your help anyway.

Later that day in a shopping plaza, we passed by a table where a bunch of religious trinkets were being sold.  The contributions supposedly were being used to help the needy.  The people behind the table seemed sincere, but there was no way to verify that.

“Can I have one?” my youngest daughter asked, almost reaching for a cross on a necklace.

“Not today,” I said, trying to keep my voice from sounding sarcastic.

“You mean, not ever,” she said and glanced at the ladies working the table.

“Have a blessed day,” the woman said, with no sarcasm in her voice, but she probably thought I was a cheap, heartless bastard.

“You too,” I said.

“You too?” my daughter said, mocking me.  “You never say yes.”

My daughter was trying to shame me.  I don’t like guilt trips because the person asking for help shouldn’t make demands.  In my mind, the person giving the help sets the rules.  I decide when to help somebody and how I’m going to do it. It’s important that my daughters understand that.  We might want to help, but that’s our decision.  And we don’t have to help if we don’t want to.

I’m glad my daughters are compassionate, and I’m glad they’re polite (except to my wife and me), but I told my daughters that it’s okay to say no.  They don’t even have to be polite about it.  Polite people have no responsibility to be polite when saying no.  I try to be polite, but that’s just how I was taught.  You can pretty much say no any way you want to.  And if they guilt-trip you, then you can say “Get lost, you leech!” as a final resort.

I don’t insult people very often, but it’s in my arsenal when I need it.

As my daughters and I exited the plaza, we saw a collection stand for children with very serious afflictions.  It had the coin slots and the funnel so you could watch the coins roll like a cyclone to the bottom of the canister.  It was mesmerizing.  And it was (supposedly) to help children with very serious afflictions.  If there’s any group that I’ll donate money to, it’s an organization that helps children who have very serious afflictions.

Plus, the collection stand had a coin spiral.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  I don’t care who I’m donating to if there’s a coin spiral.  My money could be going to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or any other politician, and I wouldn’t care.  I could stare at the coins spiraling all day long.  When we had given up all our change, my daughters and I ran back to the car, cleaned coins out of all the compartments, and ran back to the store to feed the coin spiral.  And it was all for the children (I hope).

Maybe I’ll buy my own coin funnel and start asking other people for money.  I can never say no to the coin funnel.


What do you think?  What is your policy for saying yes or no to people who ask for money (or help)?  Is there a better way to ask for money than a coin funnel?  If so, what is it?


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From → Dysfunctileaks

  1. Totally agree on the coin funnel.
    I usually smile and keep walking. I’m ruder than you I suppose.
    The reality for me is that I have charities I carefully research and I give to them.

    • “I usually smile and keep walking. I’m ruder than you I suppose.”-

      At least you smile! I’m sure that’s more than what a lot of people do.

  2. It’s good to donate money when can, but only to organizations that are going to use it wisely and honestly. You have no way of knowing that without having researched the organization first. Everyone is asking for money, and just because they ask doesn’t mean you should give it to them. Or have to.

    • “It’s good to donate money when can, but only to organizations that are going to use it wisely and honestly.”-

      If I could have super powers, one of them would be to know if somebody would use my help wisely and honestly. That and flying.

  3. I give to charities when I can. But I want to make the decision which charities. Like you, I have limited funds. Like you, I try to be nice. But I do get tired of the guilt trips. And don’t get me started on the new expectation of tips for everything.

  4. I like giving to food pantries and local schools. There is a small community market in my town, where a set percentage of my purchases goes to the elementary my grandsons go to. I give at the Kroger grocery market $2 to $3 each week. I give an annual amt to my church bit feel the extras go to specific needs I believe in. 🙂

  5. If you don’t want to be guilt-tripped by your daughters, tell them they can give out as much of their allowance as they want if they don’t feel like you’re giving enough.

  6. A very engaging story here. Isn’t it grand to be a parent? (I really mean YES by that!) As far as charities go, I rarely give to those like your examples. For one, I like to research the charities I give money to because a great many are not very ethical. Also, I like to keep records for tax purposes.

  7. Aurian permalink

    I think there are MANY causes that deserve money. Unfortunately most of the money we give never makes it there … and I’m not even a pessimist. I donated hundreds of dollars in the last years and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I did my research on all the organizations I donated to but oftentimes it turned out afterwards they waste a lot of money on big salaries for their CEO’s and such.

    So I then decided to get involved and volunteered at different places because donating money is one thing but you could just donate time and see where your efforts are actually going … well, same thing … big disappointment. Volunteers doing the work while paid personnel is watching them from their desks drinking a good cup of coffee (and sometimes complaining about all the work they are doing. yeah, right?!)

    So now I have decided to skip the whole ‘guild trip society’ and give my money to people, friends, family I think deserve it. For example there is this lady in my knitting group who is having a hard time with her husband having Alzheimer’s and she’s short on money … so I gave her a gift card for some yarn. Donating a bunch of money to a good cause is great but a random act of kindness is quite sufficient I think. … and that even appeals to my kids.

    Many greetings from VA, ivonne

    PS. Not sure if I have ever written such a long comment. 🙂

  8. I especially hate the charity thing tacked on at grocery stores and the like. It feels like a manipulation, plain and simple.

  9. I’ll only help if I think I can genuinely make a difference and if they genuinely need help. Like you, it’s usually if it’s a cause for children and when it comes to friends, I’ll usually help if their problem is genuinely a problem.

  10. Also, ordinary, every day acts of kindness can usually be much better than donating sometimes. A person can donate to a charity but still be a complete dick.

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  1. The Polite Person’s Guide to Saying No — Dysfunctional Literacy | loopyludo

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