Learning to say ‘no’ to requests and favours: ‘The hero is never the star of the story’

‘I’m in trouble’. The Story Screenshot.

Strainy: “I really hate people. I’ll be the happiest man once robots replace all the lazy idiots at work!”

Ally: “Sounds a bit harsh. Tired today? What if robots start replacing our friends and those who we love too?”

Strainy: “I would be again the happiest if I had a robot girlfriend who doesn’t drive me nuts with her mood swings and stupid demands such as that we should spend more time together. When?? I am busy most of the time!’

Ally: “So is it work overload making you irritated today? Maybe sharing some of your responsibilities might help?”

Strainy: “Overload and human stupidity. Even if I try to delegate some of the tasks to others, the quality of their work sucks and then I have to correct their mistakes! This only takes completing a goal even longer! People have no motivation to work at all”

Ally: “Hm… Ok, what if you start saying ‘no’ to some of the requests? To free a bit of your time and energy so you would look after yourself a bit more? Seriously, you look very stressed. The only thing keeping you awake is coffee and if your not careful you will go through you’re entire life with regrets.

Strainy: “How am I supposed to say no to my boss? You know that he is going to reply with a gentle f…k off, right? Or for example, my mom keeps asking me to help her with lots of things. It’s my duty to help. My ex-wife, my girlfriend, my team members. Even you regularly ask me something that you think only I can help with, don’t you? The desperate reality is that people need me. And the only way to deal with that is to clone myself and create 10 more copies of me. Or to run away and live in the mountains. What else can I do?

‘Why we behave this way?’ Behavioural Science in Layman terms.

It is common for human beings to help others. Scientific studies show that helping others really make us happier as well. However, there are times when it is crucially important to learn saying ‘No’ to other people in order to maintain our own well-being level. But what might stop us to do so?

Professor and clinical psychologist; Mary C. Lamia from California contributed to curious research about the ‘The White Knight syndrome’ that describes the need to rescue. You can imagine rescuers being brave knights riding a white horse seeking for a chance to save the day of others. White knights can appear in a wide range of relationships including romantic, working and friendship. In the initial stages of the relationship, the rescuers seem nice and happily altruistic, but as time goes by, they become increasingly unhappy, disappointed, exhausted, and chronically irritated.

This happens due to ingrained behaviour visible within the rescuer that is often sub-conscious. It involves the psychological patterns from the past such as trying to repair an unhealed wound. White knights usually come from toxic or single parent families with a history of abandonment. They may, for instance, have had a life experience of rescuing their parents or siblings from an alcoholic father or mother. Feeling proud and connecting their self-worth with their ability to “fix” people or “saving” others is a core part of White Knight’s identity in any relationship.

‘Is there a magic pill to help?’ Practical peaks and tips.

An understanding of the White Knight syndrome might help to stop yourself from compulsive rescuing against your resourcefulness. In the upcoming posts, I will provide various practical tips from Behavioural Science and Happiness studies to work on the better balance between empathy and the rescuing behaviour that might help you to manage your own life. A good starting point is to use this checklist to recognise the signs of potential White Knighting.

People who identify with White Knight Syndrome often reveal the following behaviours and traits:

* In general, they are overly emotional, sensitive, and vulnerable.

* Very critical of themselves, tend to struggle from perfectionism.

* Have a history of unhealed abandonment wounds.

* Often in relationships with partners who are in trouble, problems (emotional and physical) or who have a history of trauma, abuse or addiction.

* Attempt to control and micromanage their partner’s/friend’s/peer’s life with an intention to “help” them.

* Have a strong fear of being abandoned by their partners

* Are overly keen on offering help even if they are overwhelmed with their own life

* Find ways of making people who are close to them rely on their feedback and support.

* Gravitate towards those who are overly needy and dramatic, often idealizing them.

‘Did this help?’ Sometimes later.

Well, the most difficult thing to do is; to admit that there is something wrong with you that you have to fix. Strainy still attempts to fix other people’s lives across the world even if they suffer less than himself. However, our series of regular debates and some scientific evidence blended with his favourite dark rum has convinced him to leave the well-paid job in the city that he absolutely hated. He also realised that the effect he had on peoples lives when trying to theoretically rescue them was not huge, meaning his efforts didn’t validate the outcome.

This helped him to create more time for his own work. Strainy is currently developing an organic farming community and he expects this project to make a real difference for citizens. To me this sounds much more promising.


Strainy as I found him at his office whilst working for the previous job. This was about 11 am but the amount of his work overload was far beyond what he could achieve in the working hours left. Find the following coffee chat at the beginning of this post and let me know if you find this useful😊

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