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Can I vent without it being taken as me not caring?


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I do care, but…

I have a neighbor with a very sweet personality. She bought her house when we bought ours, but only recently retired to live here full time. She is alone, but sporadically has people stay with her.

We both live on over an acre with lots of woods. Even with most space kept wild, there’s a lot of maintenance involved. 
Dh and I are always behind on yard projects because it’s a lot, we’re both busy, and we’re both lazy.

Neighbor uses a landscaping company.

She had a tree fall recently and asked us to take care of of it. I am an undercover empath (made that up myself, lol) and said we’d take a look this weekend.

So, here I am, taking a break from chopping up mounds and mounds of my own tree branches when I really should be doing 20 other things, afraid she’s going to peek over and ask me to come over instead of mopping up my sweat, chugging water, playing on my phone for a few minutes. 
 

Im really hoping to push her off until tonight or tomorrow, when I should be doing 30 other things. 
 

(This neighbor, years ago, also asked dh to shovel her 80-100’ driveway when he was shoveling out similar length drive to get to work.)

She’s such a nice lady. But we are not cut out to be her neighbors!

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You can say no to sweet people. If she recently retired then she’s probably not that old. She has money for a landscaping company. She can hire other help for her big jobs. 
 

“Thanks for asking but we are just swamped. Do you want some recommendations for who to call?”  

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“No is a complete sentence.” 
I get it. I have a hard time saying No and I am an empath, want to help everyone. But I have also learned that I need to say No because I need to take care of myself (physically and emotionally) first. 

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Some people don't ask for help unless they *really* need the help.

And some people are in the other camp, and are not shy about asking for favors all the time on the expectation that if the other person doesn't want to do it, they'll just say no, no big deal. I'm in the second group, though if I get too many yesses from the same person, especially if they don't give me much chance to reciprocate, then I try to remember to dial it back a little in case they feel pressured to say "yes" all the time.

If you don't want to cut up her fallen tree, for whatever reason - you don't need "a good reason" other than "no"! - it's okay to say "I'm sorry, that just won't be possible." And it's okay to go over to her house now and say "Listen, I know I said I'd do it, but it turns out I just can't." If she's really as nice as all that, she'll understand. And if she's not - who cares? Why are you doing favors for people who only pretend to be nice?

But if you're gonna bail, you should tell her as soon as you make up your mind. Don't wait a month or two and just kinda hope she'll get the hint by your inaction.

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Although I know housing prices can vary widely, around here anyone who can now afford to purchase an acreage can afford to hire the help needed for upkeep. If she can’t, it may be in her best interest for her to discover this sooner rather than later and sell while the market is hot.Having seen through friends the amount of time needed for upkeep and the amount of driving needed when living on land, we purposely chose never to pursue it. 
 

Now I would feel differently if this was someone who had been living in the house for a long time and only recently needed help with some tasks. We regularly help out such neighbors. And I was extremely grateful to all of the neighbors who did similarly for my mom until she finally decided that keeping up a home and yard was just too much and she moved to a very nice senior apartment.But she also paid for regular lawn care, snow shoveling, tree removal, pest control, etc. and we paid for a cleaning service. So all of the routine stuff was completely covered.

Edited by Frances
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Um... what??! 

Sorry, that request just boggles my mind. It would never occur to me to ask my neighbors to do my yard work (and when she also hires a landscaping company!!).  I would take that about the same as if she asked you to service her car for her, or scrub the grout in her shower. The correct response is a stare implying sh is completely nuts, followed by an unequivocal "NO".  You can add some polite words to the no, but nothing that would imply that you are ever going to entertain such a screwball request.

I'm not one to not be helpful to neighbors, but that is a huge, time consuming, and physically demanding job, not extra sugar or keep an eye/feed my cat when I'm out of town, and she has a landscaping company... yikes.

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So....she asked you to provide *free* hard labor?

Um, nah. I grew up rural and understand the whole neighbors-helping-neighbors bit, but that borders on being taken advantage of. 

(LOL, posted at the same time as above.)

Edited by alisoncooks
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If you already said you'd do it, I don't see an easy way to back out.  Next time I'd ask something like, "would your lawn people be able to handle that for you?"  Or "gosh my ___ has been bothering me, I can barely lug my own laundry."  (Isn't there always something hurting at our age?)

After it's done, you'll feel glad you helped out this time.  I promise.  🙂

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She pays a landscaping company to maintain her property, right? So they would be the ones to take care of her down tree. 

I get you, it can be hard to say no, and while I agree that no is a complete sentence, it seems very rude to answer a request for assistance with just that one word. Terse can be mistaken for angry. But saying "ah, no, we won't be able to do that" is good enough. You don't have to  make excuses and you don't have to look busy whenever you are out in your yard.  

Seriously, that is a bold request!  I can't imagine making it or receiving it from someone else.

ETA: reread the OP. You said you'd take a look at it this weekend?  OK, go over and take a look. Then tell her you do not have the wherewithal to deal with it and remind her that her landscape maintenance folks should be able to handle that. 

Edited by marbel
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I am honestly curious as to how she asked you to take care of it. Hi, neighbor, my tree fell down. Can you guys take care of that for me? 

Was she that blatant? I would have laughed, thinking it was a joke, like when you tell your neighbor come do mine next! when you see them washing their car. 

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15 minutes ago, marbel said:

ETA: reread the OP. You said you'd take a look at it this weekend?  OK, go over and take a look. Then tell her you do not have the wherewithal to deal with it and remind her that her landscape maintenance folks should be able to handle that. 

That may wind up being what happens, especially given that I just suffered a big ant attack! 😳

I am relieved to hear I’m not the only one to think she’s bold. Dh has declined to do her driveway several times over the years.

*I* am a sucker for otherwise nice people. I think I know so many crappy ones that sweet people seem extra worthy. 

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I think this is a pretty nervy request.  It’s a lot of work, and fairly dangerous work at that.  Did she think you’d want it for the free firewood or something like that?  If not, I honestly don’t get it.

I’d go take a look at it and then tell her that I think she should have her landscaping firm give her an estimate.  You can say, It’s too big and too complex a job for amateur volunteers.

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Say we took a look at it, it's too big of a job for us. Tell her now. Then quit saying yes or maybe to jobs you don't want. 

It is my pet peeve for people to be wishy washy about helping me, because I have a hard time reading people. I will be sitting around wanting to just call my landscaper to deal with the tree, but wait for you to answer because I'm afraid you'd be offended if I just did it. 

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1 hour ago, Carrie12345 said:

That may wind up being what happens, especially given that I just suffered a big ant attack! 😳

I am relieved to hear I’m not the only one to think she’s bold. Dh has declined to do her driveway several times over the years.

*I* am a sucker for otherwise nice people. I think I know so many crappy ones that sweet people seem extra worthy. 

I’m glad to hear your husband has declined her requests to do her driveway. It seems that either she doesn’t have the means to own and manage a house plus acres or she doesn’t want to spend her money to do so. Either way, it’s not your problem. She could choose to sell and move to something more manageable. And I say this as someone who grew up shoveling and mowing for free for long time elderly neighbors and we still help out neighbors here. I see that as quite different than what is going on here.

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PS. Shoveling out an 80-100 foot driveway is another BIG ask.  BIG.  It’s not a favor.  It’s way bigger than that.  If she has a regular snow plow service and they can’t make it out for some reason (blizzard?) and she has a doctor’s appointment, MAYBE.  But beyond that, this is not a reasonable favor.

Unless she is always offering as well as asking?  I mean, is she bringing you fresh homemade bread all the time?  Or canning your apricots into jam for you and giving you a bunch of it?  Or offering to pick up stuff for you at the store when she goes shopping?  

Otherwise, I think this sounds like someone who is a taker and that needs to be boundaried clearly and unfortunately continuously.

ETA:  Or *maybe* if you have a tractor or truck snowplow and could do this very quickly but she doesn’t have one.  Even then, I wouldn’t make a habit of it unless there is some kind of reciprocity.

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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1 minute ago, Carol in Cal. said:

Unless she is always offering as well as asking?  I mean, is she bringing you fresh homemade bread all the time?  Or canning your apricots into jam for you and giving you a bunch of it?  Or offering to pick up stuff for you at the store when she goes shopping?

No, definitely not!

She just regularly asks about the kids’ latest adventures, how we’re doing, if we’ve seen her garbage can, and if I know what kind of flowers have mysteriously popped up. She likes to chit chat, and it’s only followed by an ask once a year or so.

I do think she has a lack of awareness of the local lifestyle/culture. She’s a retired psychology professor from a prestigious school, so she’s not entirely clueless or without any self-awareness, but she does have an accent (Dominican? Jamaican? Other?) and continues to volunteer with families of incarcerated parents in the city. I suspect her overall life experiences are much different from how our neighborhood tends to operate. So I have a soft spot for her.

But I also overextend myself on a regular basis, and her tree really isn’t fitting in to my physical or emotional availability right now.

It should be shady and cool enough to head over and let her know soon. The guilt might take longer, lol.

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1 hour ago, Carol in Cal. said:

 Unless she is always offering as well as asking?  I mean, is she bringing you fresh homemade bread all the time?   

I love me some carbs, but I'm not shoveling driveways and hauling away fallen trees in exchange for bread, lol. 

Edited by katilac
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9 minutes ago, katilac said:

I love me some carbs, but I'm not shoveling driveways and hauling away fallen trees in exchange for bread, lol. 

To each her own! If we’re talking super good bread, I might invest in a whole plow set up to zip up and down a couple of times! 😄 

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3 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

I think that sometimes people who don’t do physical labor themselves don’t really understand how much time and effort is involved. (Still think that you should say no but this might explain how she can be sweet and yet be asking so much). 

I agree. I think this is amplified even more when city people move to the country.

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I have a co-worker like this. She will ask people to do things for her all the time. Sometimes she will offer to take them to lunch or dinner in repayment, but a $30 meal isn't really compensation for 5+hours of hard labor. She just says "if they didn't want to do it, they would say so". It absolutely astounds me how much free labor she gets out of people, by just asking. The same people who do the tasks for her, will say in confidence that they feel uncomfortable saying no to her, because we all work together. There definitely a bit of peer pressure at work. 

I would tell her that you have too much of your own work to do and that you can't help her. I would also work it in, that you do not enjoy yard work, you only do it because you have to.  Sometimes, people seem to think that they are almost being charitable, by giving extra outdoor work to people who like to be outside. As an alternative you could give her a bid. "Sure we can remove that tree.....we charge about $40/hr and I estimate it will be about 10 hours of work". Just make sure it is a rate you are willing to do the work for, just incase she says Ok!  

In the future if she asks, you can just respond "I'm not interested. Maybe try xyz landscape company, I hear they have good reviews."

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Out of curiosity, how did she say it when she asked? I'm having a hard time imagining how she could do that without sounding like a jerk. Did she just flat out say, "My tree fell. Will you clean it up for me?" 

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12 minutes ago, Selkie said:

Out of curiosity, how did she say it when she asked? I'm having a hard time imagining how she could do that without sounding like a jerk. Did she just flat out say, "My tree fell. Will you clean it up for me?" 

It was a long, rambling conversation that did include the fact that she wanted to ask the neighbor on the other side, who heats with wood, but lost his number. I did mention that I’d talk to him if I saw him, but he’s miraculously disappeared from dog walking these past few days, lol.

10 minutes ago, math teacher said:

To be truthful, I'm having a hard time picturing this lady as "sweet."

I’m pretty sure she is, if only because I only like around half a dozen people in this world besides my spouse and children, who can also be on my No list sometimes. My bar is pretty high.

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I’m even more suspicious that she us in fact manipulating you and not actually nice now that I know what field she retired from. 

She’s acting nice.  She’s not nice. 

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2 hours ago, Tap said:

She just says "if they didn't want to do it, they would say so". It absolutely astounds me how much free labor she gets out of people, by just asking. The same people who do the tasks for her, will say in confidence that they feel uncomfortable saying no to her, because we all work together. There definitely a bit of peer pressure at work. 

Wait so you all will feel "guilty" just saying a simple no to someone's face, but not guilty about acting all nice in front of someone then go and talk about that person behind their backs??

Maybe this is a urban, suburban, vs. rural thing. Here in my urban/suburban neighborhood we just ask, because we expect the person to say no if they don't want to do it. I think between my friends we would look at the helper as the rude one. 

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What about putting a written note in the other neighbor's mailbox saying "[house number] has free firewood in the form of a fallen tree.  Call _____ if interested in removing said tree."  If no call within __ days, then the owner's landscaper gets the job.  🙂

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41 minutes ago, Clarita said:

Wait so you all will feel "guilty" just saying a simple no to someone's face, but not guilty about acting all nice in front of someone then go and talk about that person behind their backs??

Maybe this is a urban, suburban, vs. rural thing. Here in my urban/suburban neighborhood we just ask, because we expect the person to say no if they don't want to do it. I think between my friends we would look at the helper as the rude one. 

I’m like you …. I have no problem saying no. Others tho….struggle. 

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1 hour ago, Clarita said:

Wait so you all will feel "guilty" just saying a simple no to someone's face, but not guilty about acting all nice in front of someone then go and talk about that person behind their backs??

Maybe this is a urban, suburban, vs. rural thing. Here in my urban/suburban neighborhood we just ask, because we expect the person to say no if they don't want to do it. I think between my friends we would look at the helper as the rude one. 

Wow. That’s a bit rude. Not everyone even in suburbia has the exact same personality. 

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Do you guys have a volunteer rural fire brigade?  Sometimes they are keen to do some chopping for practice and then sell the wood to fund equipment etc.  you could suggest she asks them if they’re interested.  But either way unless you offered first she’s just being rude.

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4 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

Do you guys have a volunteer rural fire brigade?  Sometimes they are keen to do some chopping for practice and then sell the wood to fund equipment etc.  you could suggest she asks them if they’re interested.  But either way unless you offered first she’s just being rude.

My husband is the president of the volunteer fire department, and he does not want to do it, lol.

I wound up leaving her a message last night.

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5 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

Do you guys have a volunteer rural fire brigade?  Sometimes they are keen to do some chopping for practice and then sell the wood to fund equipment etc.  you could suggest she asks them if they’re interested.  But either way unless you offered first she’s just being rude.

Or a sports team who will cut it up and sell it for fundraising.

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1 hour ago, Carrie12345 said:

My husband is the president of the volunteer fire department, and he does not want to do it, lol.

I wound up leaving her a message last night.

Lol fair enough!  Mine would be the same, but sometimes they’re keen especially if they are kind of the more urban fringe brigades.

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On 7/24/2021 at 8:55 AM, Carrie12345 said:

She had a tree fall recently and asked us to take care of of it. I am an undercover empath (made that up myself, lol) and said we’d take a look this weekend.

If this is accurate, I'd go over and take that look. Then say the project is more than you have time for and suggest resources for her to consider.

Regards,

Kareni

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Y’all. !!!
I think some of you may have been right. I’m usually pretty confident in my ability to spot a manipulator. Thanks, trauma! 😉. But I don’t know..

Neighbor finally returned my message. I let her know that I had taken a closer look to see if it was something I could manage (cuz I’m a guilty sucker) and that it was definitely not (unless it had been my tree and I had the will to do it, because I am a strong, capable woman, dang it!) And I told her dh doesn’t have the time, especially now that his office burned down and he has to do his job while also doing all the things that come with losing all of the tools one uses for their job and the place they usually use them.

10 minutes of listening to her ramble about random things in between shooting me questions about where his office was, what the building was called, when the fire was... and asking me how I’d handle the tree if I WERE to do it... she wraps up with, “Okay, love. Thank you for looking out for me.  If (dh) has time, just let me know.”

😵

Seriously?

While writing this post, a friend messaged to ask me a favor, with the disclaimer of completely understanding if I couldn’t do it. I declined with sincere regret that I wasn’t able, because I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to manage another obligation that day, so my friend volunteered to help ME.  Why is this not how all humans operate???

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I am extremely perceptive of people’s unspoken needs and wants (it’s almost like a weird, slightly unhelpful sixth sense, like the extreme spectrum opposite of autism). I once read that highly perceptive people can often conflate sensing a need with being responsible to meet a need. In this case you might evaluate if you aren’t blurring lines between your perception of a need and who is responsible to meet it.

Edited by GracieJane
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3 minutes ago, GracieJane said:

I am extremely perceptive of people’s unspoken needs and wants (it’s almost like a weird, slightly unhelpful sixth sense, like the extreme spectrum opposite of autism).I once read that highly perceptive people can often conflate sensing a need with being responsible to meet a need. In this case you might evaluate if you aren’t blurring lines between your perception of a need and who is responsible to meet it.

🤯

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1 hour ago, Carrie12345 said:

she wraps up with, “Okay, love. Thank you for looking out for me.  If (dh) has time, just let me know.”

I take back all the nice things I said about your neighbor. She's taking advantage.

 

Edited by Clarita
typo
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Oh, woooooow. Like, I know upthread I said that I have no qualms asking for favors at the drop of the hat (or telling people "yes" if they ask if I need help), but, like, even I can take a hint that's not even a hint. You flat out said you couldn't do it!

Don't call her back about this.

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6 hours ago, GracieJane said:

I am extremely perceptive of people’s unspoken needs and wants (it’s almost like a weird, slightly unhelpful sixth sense, like the extreme spectrum opposite of autism). I once read that highly perceptive people can often conflate sensing a need with being responsible to meet a need. In this case you might evaluate if you aren’t blurring lines between your perception of a need and who is responsible to meet it.

I can agree with the first half of the bolded sentence. Not so much the second, since I'm autistic and I also have this level of perception.
It's dreadfully annoying of us when we give people what they need, instead of what they want, don't you find?

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8 hours ago, Rosie_0801 said:

I can agree with the first half of the bolded sentence. Not so much the second, since I'm autistic and I also have this level of perception.
It's dreadfully annoying of us when we give people what they need, instead of what they want, don't you find?

We are probably talking about different things. If there is a spectrum of abilities strictly relating to efficacy in reading social cues, autism would be on one end and the thing I’m speaking of would be on the other. There are some people who are very perceptive of unspoken social rules and the desires of the people around them. They are generally charming and rule-following, but can also be manipulative and overly people-pleasing, among other things. 

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49 minutes ago, GracieJane said:

We are probably talking about different things. If there is a spectrum of abilities strictly relating to efficacy in reading social cues, autism would be on one end and the thing I’m speaking of would be on the other. There are some people who are very perceptive of unspoken social rules and the desires of the people around them. They are generally charming and rule-following, but can also be manipulative and overly people-pleasing, among other things. 

I’m actually not sure they’re so different. People with really great social skills also have the ability to detect manipulation even when the manipulative person is unaware they’re doing it.  They often make the manipulative person do what they want without them being aware of it, or even thinking it’s their own idea. The clue into need while being oblivious to manipulation isn’t a skill, it’s a boundary problem. 
 

ETA: If manipulation for your own good is selfish, manipulation for someone else’s good is leadership. 

Edited by Katy
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