On Saying No…

Is no a good word?

This week Ed and I were talking about the word ‘No’. At the outset I was looking at it from the point of view of the workplace and the amount of people that I see who need to push back at the system or their boss and effectively say that enough is enough. The tactic here is to never say no but something like “I’d love to do that for you but which one of these other jobs would you like me not to so that I can do this one?”

The ability to say ‘no’ without using the word is a practised skill, one we benefit from being able to do. ‘No’ seems so final and from ‘no’ there is often no coming back, it is done and dusted. I can see the word ‘no’ being the precursor of wars, disputes and many conflicts. In the word ‘no’ there is no leeway, no room for negotiation; it is a fixed and final point of view.

Then I recall working with married couples where one said “no”, mainly to sex, and the other person thought that in this case ‘no’ meant just try harder and not “sod off”.

There is so much to know about ‘No’!

We decided to do this podcast as two things coincided. Rie put up a post showing lots of ways of saying no to people. If you didn’t get to see it there is a link in the podcast notes. The response to her post was big as it was seen by over 20’000 people. Then Rachel sent us an email in which she was talking about how the natural drive, that some of us have, to help and support others can get in the way of us providing for our own needs. The question that this raised for me is at what point you say ‘no’. Is it possible to say “no” when others have needs to be met?

A classic for me is to ask a woman “and what have you done for you in the last week?” Most times the response is “nothing”. This usually means that the woman has a list of things to do and people’s needs to be met thus making her and her own needs, the bottom of the list.

The real deal is that if you do not look after yourself then you will not have the emotional resources to look after others. This need for self-survival makes the word ‘no’ a lot more attractive and positive.

The second thought that I have is that if we are unable to say ‘no’ to people we can easily end up supporting the problem and not the person. Sometime ‘yes’ supports and allows others to maintain bad behaviour or habits that do not serve them, society or you well.

Why does the bully, bully? Because no-one ever said ‘no’.

The more Ed and I talked about it the more I recognised that there are many time when no becomes a good word. I was reminded of Nancy Regan, the US presidents wife, “Just say no to drugs” campaign.

If we expand an attitude of not simply agreeing or putting up with things because it is easier we need to learn to say ‘no’ to injustice to abuse, war, hunger, homelessness and so on.

I am beginning to like this word ‘no’.

Perhaps the biggest perpetrator that we need to say “no” to is the negative monkey in our mind that ruminates on negative pasts and fearful futures. The part of us that limits our potential, our development and stops us finding our fulfilment.

The one caveat is that the use of the word ‘no’ needs, wherever possible, to be done in positive tones which, kind of takes me back to where I began. Saying ‘no’ without using the word leaves the door open to negotiation and resolution. Once the door is closed it is a done deal. So unless your ‘no’ is about eliminating negative or damaging behaviours in yourself or others then try and keep the door open if only by a crack, sometimes a little light is better than total darkness.

It is nice to say yes, though often necessary and satisfying to say no.

Either way be happy

Take care

Sean X

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