Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Embracing the Power of 'No'

It occurred to me as I was driving home today that in the personal development, we focus on the positive. During my training, it was drummed home to me that the unconscious does not hear the negative, to use positive language only during hypnosis. Even my recent book review 'Begin with Yes' was all about the positive.

Today, I am thinking about my experience and the Power of No.


In itself, it's a very simple word. Two letters only. But the stories it brings with it are immensely complicated...and painful.

I started hearing NO from my mother. No, don't touch. No, you can't have sweeties now. No, you can't go play with...you get the picture. But somewhere along the line it becomes No with additional subtext.

People say No and then a whole backstory is added, as if by magic. No, I don't want to go out with you, turns into No, you're boring, unloveable, undesirable and I don't like you. No, suddenly becomes a scary word. No, suddenly means I don't love you or I don't like you or I think you're a horrible person. And then it subtly changes, only other people are allowed to say No. After all, your parents said No to you, but you aren't allowed to say No to them. If you say No, you are a bad person and if you're a bad person, no one will love you, no one will want to be your friend.

Suddenly, No becomes all about rejection and powerlessness and helplessness. Hearing No and saying No are obviously two very different experiences. I would strongly argue that both are equally difficult, but for very different reasons.

Saying No is actually saying Yes, but to something else. For example No, I don't want to go to the pub with you; Yes I want to stay in my comfy clothes and watch crap on tv. 

Hearing No means that you have to adjust your plans, desires and behaviours. No, I don't want to go to the pub with you, becomes 'Damn. I have to either decide to stay in and watch tv with you, or go to the pub myself.' A frivolous example, but you see where I'm coming from?

Let's look at it using more serious examples:

No, I don't want to be with you as a lover, or friend because...[insert reasons here]

Ladies and Gentlemen, hold up your hands if you've never, ever had that experience. I don't care who you are, how enlightened you are...that experience of No, sucks. In fact, I'd go so far as to say: it totally sucks arse.

I will hold my hand up and say I have had my fair share of hearing No. I have heard No from people who should have loved and cherished me...and they didn't. I've had No from people who said they loved me and still said No. I have spent hours, days, weeks and months trying to get them to say Yes. And guess what, they never did. Even when they said Yes, it wasn't really a Yes. It was still No in the end.

The deaths of my parents taught me many valuable lessons. One of which was 'what's the worst thing that can happen?'

So someone says No, I don't want to be with you. I have learnt to think 'okay, I'll go spend time with the people who do want to be with me.' I stopped filling in the back-story for the other person, hearing No, reminds me there are other options. I feel hurt. What I do with it, well that's up to me. I can invite the Self-Pity Gnome in and we can have a great party together. I can choose to do something else. And there is always something else to do, other people to go and hang out with, other choices to be made, if I'm feeling up for it.

I have found in my experience, that the biggest, most unpleasant and hurtful Nos, have been blessings. It might have taken awhile to pick myself up off the floor, grab my self-esteem and head for the other options, but looking back on those people...if they'd have said Yes, it would have been a complete nightmare. A disaster. And I wouldn't be sitting here contemplating the Power of No.


  1. I kind of remember reading about a word - mu, was it, Japanese? - which meant neither yes nor no but something like 'unask the question'. Does that make any sense?
    Of course, the worst one is the laden silence.

    1. I can honestly say there have been more than a few times when I would have loved to have unasked the question.

      Ah yes, silence. Where the worst arguments happen.

  2. Unfortunately, I can't attribute this saying as I heard too long ago.

    "God answers all prayers. Sometimes, the answer is 'No.'"

    1. I remember hearing this before...and no, I can't remember who said it either.

      But it's a good one.

      And sums up nicely what I've been trying to say.

      Thanks hon.

  3. I'm thinking, what's harder? Hearing it or saying it?
    I can't do either!

    1. Maybe this is the time to embrace your "NO".

      It's not scary. Honestly, it's not.

  4. You know what you're absolutely right. But isn't it hard to remember that when all you hear is rejection? And because of that feeling, isn't that why some of us (holds up hand) say yes when we want to say no, because we don't want anyone else to feel that rejection? And shouldn't we be concerned about another's feelings? I've muddled my self up now, but like Macy I can't say it or hear it!

    1. Aww...Zig.

      Have a hug honey.

      I'm not saying it's easy. Nothing about Life ever really is. And if you've felt rejected time after time, it can be tempting to turn it into your story.

      I completely understand what you say about not wanting to cause someone else hurt, but think of it like this: by saying YES, when you mean NO, you are denying both of yourselves.

      You are denying yourself the path that you truly want to travel, you also deny the other person the other path...the path where they will be truly welcomed.

      Perhaps I made an assumption that you referred to a relationship, but I think it applies to most other circumstances. If someone applies pressure verbally and emotionally, then my thinking is you should definitely be saying NO. But, that's my personality. I hate doing what I SHOULD. I'm not very good at it.

      To my thinking doing something you don't want to do, because someone else might feel hurt and rejected, is more about fear, rather than kindness. I'm not saying it's okay to be cruel when you say No, far from it. Nor am I saying you should delight in their hurt.

      The fear that you might hurt them, the fear that you are making the wrong decision, the fear that it might not work out....all valid...but restrictive and it's thinking that prevents growth.

      I'm having a bloody good ramble now...I'll go make some tea and leave you in peace.

      Be well honey.

  5. YES! I fully agree.

    *takes sip of tea* ;)

    It was very difficult for me to say no, so much that I kinda withdraw myself from an active social life just so I would not be confronted with any situation where I would have to say no.

    The thing is, that almost everytime I said yes against my own will, I found myself in deep trouble. So I went the other and would refuse any propositions whatsoever. It took me quite a long time to learn that there are ways to say no and still establish a meaningful contact with people.

    I always try to buy time before giving an answer. When I'm taken by surprise with a situation, I simply express my disconfort with what is going on and explain that I cannot make a clear decision at the moment.

    In my attempt to make a potential refusal from me easier to take, I'll ask the person(s) to help me about what is disturbing me. Talking about the situation can help a great deal at preparing yourself to say no. People feel that you take them seriously and that they are important to you. Sometimes it's your interlocutor who will give you a way out.

    And I must add that when I ask someone for someting, I always let them know that I will have no problem getting a no from them, and even more, they don't have to give me a plausible reason: "I don't feel like it" is a good reason enough for me! I give them time to think about it; I'll even give them an easy way out.

    I realized that it facilitates so much all my relationships. And so many times, I get a yes but we add some kind of a "clause" in the "contract" that they can bow out of it if they don't feel comfortable anymore with the process.

    Okay, now I'll have to make some more tea! :)

    Hope you're enjoying the summer in spite of the aweful weather. Here, it's been sunny and warm and not too humid... sun, sun, and more sun... idyllic!!! Sorry... I didn't mean to be rude! :P


    1. Jon, thank you for your comment.

      It sounds like you've adopted a strategy that respects yourself and the people you deal with, in an honest and empowering that honours everyone.

      That's what I love about this blog. I learn so much from the people who take the time to comment here.

      Apparently, the Gulf Stream is supposed to be shifting North next week, bringing some sunshine and warmer weather...it hasn't happened yet and I've still got my heating on.


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