February 19, 2024

The Power of “No”—when Friendships are Tested & Redefined by a Single Word.


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Recently, I experienced a weird relationship issue with a fairly close friend.

In the interest of protecting her privacy, I won’t go into the details of what happened. But suffice to say she asked something of me that she thought I could easily fulfill. From my perspective, though, it simply wasn’t possible at this stage in my life.

If I had tried hard and moved a few pieces of the puzzle we call life, could I have then fulfilled her need? Probably.

But was moving those pieces of the puzzle the right thing to do given the nebulous state of my own life right now? Absolutely not.

I am, at once, both ashamed and proud that I put myself first in this situation and did what I thought was right for me. I said no to my friend. No.

The story does have a happy ending for my friend as she was able to get what she needed from someone else.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Not so much.

For the past month, my friend has been playing cold and colder with me. I understood at first and gave her some time to get past her feelings of hurt and how intensely personal she took my refusal, and decided to back off and give her some space. I figured time would not just heal her wounds but also make her see the issue from my perspective.

Well, unfortunately, time seems to have only widened our rift.

I’ve been trying so hard to make sense of this slowly spreading distance between us. We have been good friends for years and have seen each other through some of the toughest times in our lives. How could a seemingly not-that-big-of-a-deal (from my perspective) issue be almost a deal breaker (for my friend)? Try as I might, I could not understand.

Well, given that the digital gods these days seem to literally hear our conversations through hidden microphones on our phones to figuratively understand where our heads are at by creepily monitoring our social media and online browsing patterns, I was not surprised that I found my answer there.

On yet another insomnia-filled night of doom-scrolling Instagram, I came across the following video. In it, American TV personality Jeannie Mai says something so simple and, yet, completely profound about relationships:

“My ex says that you don’t truly know a person until they don’t get what they want. That’s when they show you who they are. And I see that all the time. If a friend asks you to borrow money and you’re like, ‘Nah fam, I’m sorry! I can’t!’ they might turn around and be a little punky to you…”

(Click here for the full video.)

This line stuck with me:

“You don’t truly know a person until they don’t get what they want. That’s when they show you who they are.”

These words distilled my friend’s behavior toward me. She asked me for something, I said no, and unfortunately, I’m seeing her for who she is now. This is not to say that she is not entitled to feel bad or even hurt. My hope was and is that we are so close that, deep down, she knows why I said no to her. I can bet anything that had one of our other friends behaved the way she did with me, this same friend would take up for me and fight for me.

While I am deeply disturbed and disappointed with my friend’s behavior, my head and heart still hope that we will get past this.

I keep telling myself that her reaction to my no can’t be the sum total of our friendship. One no can’t trump a decade of yes from me, right?


Let me know if you have experienced having to say no to a friend or having no said to you. How did you respond?


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