Learning to say no


For a two-letter word, “no” holds a great deal of impact. It has the potential to hurt feelings, cause disputes and damage relationships. Because of the seemingly curt nature of the word itself, people often find it difficult to refuse others’ favors, even if it means adding a burden to their own agendas.

As a result, we tend to succumb to these requests, no matter how undesirable, by assisting and answering others to the best of our abilities. However, it becomes a problem when someone’s inability to reject an offer has the potential to overburden or cause harm upon themselves.

The opportunity to say “no” comes up quite often when someone requests for you to do something for them, when you’re asked to join others in an activity or when others ask you for your honest opinion — the list goes on. It becomes easy to see why; with so many different requests from different people, refusing others or bluntly saying “no” to friends may reflect badly upon your own attitude. For example, if one of your close friends asks to copy your homework, saying “yes” could further establish a sense of companionship and trust between the two of you, while saying “no” would likely cause him or her to see you as uptight or selfish, despite the fact that it is the moral thing to do. In cases like these, the importance of one’s status and relationships seems to overshadow the importance of remaining moral and honest.

At a young age, we were taught to say “no” to things like bullying, cheating, drugs and peer pressure. For years, the word “no” has been integrated into important lessons about having ethical behavior by teachers, parents and adults — so why has refusal become such a difficult response? Like many of the other social problems we see in society today, the difficulty in saying “no” partially stems from the fear and pressure of getting rejected or humiliated.

Despite the need to stand up for yourself, rejecting work or help should not be an excuse for laziness and ungraciousness. While there is a problem with people not being able to say “no” to requests that are immoral or can’t be handled, there are others who have an issue with refusing assignments or requests for assistance simply because they don’t want to exert the effort to help. Just as taking upon multiple tasks when you’re overburdened is harmful to yourself, taking advantage of saying “no” simply out of laziness is also detrimental to your reputation and appearance as a individual in the classroom or workforce. Helping each other is always a good way to practice camaraderie, unless it means that one side is taking advantage of the assistance provided by another person.

Accepting additional tasks and requests require a certain amount of altruism and compassion, which is why we, more often than not, are encouraged to help others. However, when it comes to prioritizing your own assignments over others, it is important to have the willpower to say “no.”

By Jessica Huang, Production lead
Editorial cartoon by Natalie Jiang