Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Art of No

I have never been fond of the word “No”. In fact, I have spent a large part of my life diligently avoiding it.

Before I had all the stubborn beaten out of me, I wouldn’t hear the word “no”. If I wanted something, I cried and grizzled and argued reasoned my logic into manifestation.
Once my inner self learned how to submit to outer expectations, I found I couldn’t say the word “no”. My life was all about pleasing others, making life easier for others. I was taught that being happy and agreeable was the road to success – all I needed to do to be on that road was sacrifice my ability to say “no”. It sounded easy. I paid the toll and, at the fork in the road, I took the path of least resistance.

Loosing my ability to say “no” did not make hearing “no” any easier. Now, though, it wasn’t that I wouldn’t hear “no”, it was that I couldn’t hear “no”. Every “no” I received became a personal rejection; a reflection of the worthlessness of my thoughts, my feelings, my ideas, my hopes.

I banished “no” from my life.

When I became a mother, I began experimenting with “no”. My oldest daughter would say that I became quite adept at using the word.
I did try to set very clear boundaries, limits that felt like “no” to OD, but, in reality, “no” was still a word that caused me great discomfort.
In fact, I consciously avoided it.
Where most parents would yell “NO!” when their child was about to do something dangerous (run into the street, pull something off the counter, eat a marble), I would yell “STOP!” When faced with a direct question like “Can I eat my chocolate Easter bunny?”, I would respond with “You may eat part of your bunny. Would you like to eat the tail and the feet, or the ears and the head?”
While I set boundaries for my children, I rarely said “no” to them.
I would like to say that my parenting strategies were a result of an understanding of child psychology, but, I’m afraid that they were merely a byproduct of “no” avoidance.

It is ironic to me that both of the jobs I have chosen after my divorce have been all about the “no”.
My first job as an independent sales rep was all about hearing “no”. Nine out of ten calls I made resulted in “no”. “No, we purchase books through another publisher.” Or “No, there is no money in the budget for books.” Or “No, I don’t have the time to speak with you.”
I had to learn to let those “no’s” flutter past me rather than allowing them to stick to me like burrs, weighing me down and making me uncomfortable. It never got to a point where “no” felt good, but it finally got to where it didn’t feel personal.

My current job is all about saying “no”. Learning how to be comfortable with being unable to help everyone that calls in looking for assistance. Having to turn away people in need because they are not part of the population that our organization has been set up to serve.

I am so glad that the Universe provided me with this opportunity to re-member myself. I see, now that “no” is not a bad word. “No” is a gift – a gift that I accepted with reluctance and now understand as a blessing.

Jane Fonda once said that late in life she finally discovered that “No.” is a complete sentence. While I have never been a huge Jane Fonda fan, I have come to admire her greatly for sharing that one piece of wisdom.

Not no but…Not no because….Just no.

Not a sentence fragment that Word tells me I should consider revising.


No is complete, in and of itself.
No is succinct and to the point.
No doesn’t make excuses nor require explanations.


“No” and I are still becoming reacquainted with one another, but I know that some day soon, we will be the best of friends.
I can’t wait!