a no-guilt-no-pressure friend


I owe lots of people email replies. I simply cannot handle being in front of the computer screen for too long each day and not for too many days a week. The sitting position, squinting at the screen, and wrist typing position, tense up my body, neck and shoulders, and eventually will set off a migraine if I’m not careful.

Anxiety sets in when when I owe people replies, especially those I would like to sit down and type a proper reply to. I also get nervous that if I don’t reply to my readers soon I might lose them. So to one particular friend, who’s helped me immensely even though we’ve only met each other a year or so ago, I dropped her a quick note and apologized for not having written back for almost a month, and will do so soon.

She wrote back and said, “Noch, it’s ok, I’m a no-guilt-no-pressure friend…”

That relief and sense of tranquility that came through my body as I read that line. I felt so loved all of a sudden! Anne of Green Gables would call someone like her a kindred spirit!

Unfortunately, some friends do stress me out. I get apologetic that I can’t respond as promptly or see them or chat on skype (and yet when I email / whatsapp them they never reply). It felt like an obligation that I owed them a proportional response for some reason.

The days as I was leaving Paris a few years back, I thought I had committed a heinous crime for not seeing one particular friend for a while as I was engrossed in my moving, packing bags, and saying goodbye to friends and flings alike. The feeling lasted for a long time. I was so guilty. But I had seen her a few times already and I can’t spend every day with her surely! And then when I was in the worst days of depression, she reprimanded me for not picking up the phone and not talking to her. Back then I didn’t know how to respond since I had no idea what was going on with me, but now I think back – seriously?!

However, maybe before attributing blame on others I should look internally.

It was perhaps never their intentions to guilt trip me into replying despite their “why don’t you write back?”s and “I called you many times why don’t you pick up the phone?”s. They were genuinely concerned for me and wanted to know I was doing ok. I just somehow had this idea in my head that it’s something I should do and since I hadn’t done it, I felt dreadful.

As I try to reduce my judging of others using my own experience and mentality, I am trying to be more like my no-guilt-no-pressure friend – happy when I hear from them, and just continue saying a little prayer for them when I do not.

However, in the unfortunate event that others do pressure me into doing something I do not want to do at that point in time, such as booking an easy domestic flight for a trip 3 months away, or calling me 10 times in a row even though I didn’t want to pick up the phone, then I need to be firm and not be afraid to say “No” in one form or another.

We don’t need to feel guilty for what’s beyond our capacity and what makes us feel uncomfortable. We all have different thresholds.

Take it easy – allow friends their time and space, but also require the same respect from them in return.

And for those who scold me for not replying and responding, I’m sorry but I might draw a distance from you. I cannot allow negative energy in my life right now. Indeed, I don’t think we should be abused emotionally by anyone at anytime. So perhaps, we do have to choose carefully those who influence us.

The most beautiful friendships are those that allow you to feel completely natural with no sense of obligations. Those are friends who give you free rein to be truly yourself. You will feel the serenity that comes with these friends.

If there is a small tug inside you, then re-examine your relationship with those people to determine whether they need to be in your life at this point in time. Let not external factors disturb the balance we seek for.

Be me.

What kind of friend are you? And is there anyone you need to take a break from?

These are just my thoughts and I’d love to hear about your experience and what you think in the comments below. Also, if you liked this blurb please share with your friends and help my blog grow. Thanks!

25 Responses

  1. The Vizier says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    Hmm when I am trying to do work in front of the computer screen for prolonged periods of time, if I get stuck or meet an obstruction, my mind will start to drift. Then I end up playing games online until a solution to my problem presents itself.

    I used to be pretty stressed about replying to emails, but today, unless the email is really pressing or easy to reply to, I take my time.

    I know how it is when people expect you to reply to emails or msn or pick up the phone immediately. I used to be this way myself and it was largely due to my insecurity that made me demand instant replies. So I can understand why people behave this way and I try as far as possible to pre-empt such situations. Today, I am more secure and laid back. I just do my part and when the time is right, the other party will do their part. There is no pressure from me unless the matter is urgent.

    I agree with you. We must know how to say no and when to say no to people whom we need to say no to. Unless we set clear boundaries for ourselves, we open ourselves to harm, intentional or otherwise from others. We have to be responsible for our lives and what we can or cannot take at any given time.

    Our choices define the lives we lead. This applies to the people we allow into our lives. Unless we choose wisely, we could end up causing needless problems for ourselves. At this point in time, there are few people in my life whom I need to take a break from. Those that fall into this category, I have distanced myself from.

    In the end, true friendship is sincere and natural. Only through experience (and maybe the use of the I-Ching) will we know who our true friends are. These are the gems to hold on to, but not too tightly.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    PS: Take your time with your email reply. 😉

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Irving

      I appreciate your understanding, and yes I must admit (perhaps I should have included this in the post) that I used to demand instant replies. But now I learn to be considerate to my friends too. If they want to write, they can. If I want to, I will. In our own respective times. It takes two to be comfortable in a relationship, and even if someone really wants to be our friends, but we don’t feel the same, there is no obligation to pick up the phone or reciprocate.

      And yes, I will reply to your email in my own good time hahahah

      Thanks for always looking out for me!
      Noch Noch

  2. Theglobalus says:

    Enoch, thanks for this post
    This is especially true when you are travelling a lot or living abroad as you have to make an extra effort to maintain friendships.
    I ended up just terminating some after realizing that
    – we had no chance to meet face to face
    – our lives changed so much that they could not even understand why I could not or would not reply ( lets be honest, true friends know these things and do not reprimand you)
    – we were already in the “I do not want to call you because you always reproach me not to” vicious circle – keeping in touch felt more like a duty !

    Don’t bother-there are many people out there ready to appreciate what you have to offer instead of reproaching what you don’t

    Keep going with the great posts !

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Sara 🙂
      Indeed – this is one of the qualms about moving around – maybe I should write about it in my next post for you hahah
      A lot of people indeed, do not understand our changes. But I find that I also come to not understand some of the older friends from before, for to me, their lives seem static and I lose also my touch with them. So I suppose I take part of responsibility
      But yes, there are those out there who know us and a few of those good friends are enough
      Hope you are enjoying a good break after quitting your job!
      Noch Noch

  3. Hi Noch,

    Haha! Just this morning, I woke up to my in-box with gazillion comments to your posts, and your answers to each one of them. I thought to myself, that I don’t think I could ever answer this many comments! (not even considering the time commitment).

    So I am letting you know, that from now on, I’ll be Ok if you only mentally reply to my comments! 🙂

    Take care! Vlad

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Vlad

      haha you are funny – I like the idea of mentally replying to comments haahhah 🙂
      i will do so and ping in an actual word every now and then :p

      Noch Noch

  4. Hanan says:

    I agree with you Noch that we can’t please everybody and that we need to be selective on who to let into our lives… you don’t want to be drained of your energy when you are still recuperating.

    I would like to share with you what Khalil Gibran has to say on Friendship:

    “And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
    And he answered, saying:
    Your friend is your needs answered.
    He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
    And he is your board and your fireside.
    For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

    When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay”.
    And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
    For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed.
    When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
    For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
    And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
    For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

    And let your best be for your friend.
    If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know the flood also.
    For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
    Seek him always with hours to live.
    For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
    And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
    For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”


    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Hanan

      That’s a beautiful poem – you always have these great quotes to share with me!!! I really like them 🙂
      I think he described the true essence of friendship. The ease and understanding, spoken or not. Gibran is wise. and so are you for choosing to read such great literature.

      Take care my friend
      Noch Noch

  5. What a lovely post, Noch. I’m honored to be a “no-pressure-no-guilt” influence in your life. You have proven the same for me! Sending you much love.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Ann

      I LOVE YOU!!! Hahaha I don’t know how many times I’d say that. I miss you so much, and your smile here in Beijing, but I am happy you are well in the US. Thanks for showing me so much love and patience in our friendship, and I just realized, you must have influenced quite a few of my posts here… this one, the monkey mind, disappointment sweater and a few more 🙂

      Take care my dear
      Noch Noch

  6. veehcirra says:

    I love this post Noch Noch. This is the story of my life you have no idea. I also did a public apology like this on a post sometime back.

    I really hate that sinking feeling in my tummy when I know that there are friends and people I have yet to respond to. Worst thing is the more I wait, the harder it becomes. What would I say? Then I start thinking of excuses and since I don’t want to lie, I just keep my peace…

    I think sometimes life happens and we do need to give each other that alone time. However, sadly when the “vacation” is over. Not everyone will understand.

    I love how your friend said that she is (no guilt no pressure). That’s how it should be. Pure understanding with love.

    Thanks for this post. girl Next time, I find myself in such a situation (which will be very soon 🙂 ) I will send them this post as an apology lol I like to think that am a thoughtful friend.


    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Veeh

      Yeh my friend is one of the kindest person I’ve met. So much understanding and acceptance. I hope we can all be friends for others like she is for me

      I do agree, sometimes we beat ourselves up because we think others will reprimand us, but perhaps when they do, we just have to tell them that we have other things to deal with and need some time for ourselves before answering their demands. Those who dont’ understand don’t really need to be in our lives that much anyways…

      Noch Noch

  7. Annie Andre says:

    Oh yeah. I know this feeling all too well. I used to have friends that would get so upset if i didn’t call them back within the hour. Email them back within 20 minutes ( claiming that i have an iphone so they know i recieed their message). GRRRR. I guess i still do have some of those friends because lately when i jump on skype, i immediately hide myself because i’m afraid of calls coming in that i will have to decline or messages that i’ll have to respond to and if i don’t they will be upset. SIGH….

    I have no idea what to do with those friends except maybe just shrug my shoulders and move on.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Annie

      hahaha – I do that too. Go “away” or “invisible” mode on skype. hahah. I just don’t go on anymore unless I have a phone appointment with someone. I suppose yeh, we shrug and move on, and not let what they say make us feel guilty
      Not to be selfish, but sometimes we need to put ourselves first

      Noch Noch

  8. Evelyn Lim says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    What a great article! An excellent reminder that we cannot expect ourselves to be on top of everything all the time. Also, let’s release any sense of guilt. We do the best we can and we are all good.

    Have an awesome weekend,

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Evelyn

      Thanks for coming by – yup well said “we do the best we can and we are all good” 🙂
      I will remember that for myself!

      Noch Noch

  9. I so vibed with your friend’s reply, Noch Noch! I have ongoing email conversations with many of my friends back “home” in Canada that involve emails spaced months and sometimes years apart precisely because of the understanding that we’re “no-guilt-no-pressure” friends. =) Love that phrase!

    I also really identified with you when you spoke of “an obligation that I owed them a proportional response.” I’m exactly the same way and I’ve keenly noticed this on social media where I try to match each Like for a Like, comment for a comment, tweet for a tweet, etc. =P

    • nochnoch says:

      Hey Samantha

      Good to hear from you again here – totally get what you mean about the “comment for comment” thing – haha. I was in a flurry like that at the beginning, now I only like or retweet things I really find interesting! Gotta stand up for myself haha

      Noch Noch

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.