That Gargantuan Word, “No.”

16 Feb 2022

Bailey’s excellent blog of yesterday on Self Care leads neatly into my thoughts today on why it’s important to say no.

Any of us who have had anything to do with very young children will be familiar with the “Terrible Twos.”

It is around two years old a child first starts to express his or her autonomy and separateness from the world, especially from his parents or caregivers. This results in the word, “No!” usually expressed with some force and volume. “No, I don’t want to go to bed!” “No, I won’t wear my boots/coat/sweet little dress Granny made for me!” “No, I won’t eat my peas!”

It’s also at this point we start to learn that saying no is unpopular. We learn that saying no can bring about unpleasant consequences; we learn that saying no can make other people angry or sad. We learn that saying no is a Bad Thing.

Saying yes, however, brings its own problems.

How many of us say “yes,” far too often? We say yes when we should say no. We say yes because we don’t want to be unpopular; we don’t want to risk unpleasant consequences; we don’t want to make other people angry or sad.

It’s been said one of the main causes of stress is when our brain is saying, “No, No, NO!” yet we open our mouth and say, “Yes.”

I have recently been reading “The Art of Saying No,” by Damon Zahariades. It’s made me think and reconsider my point of view on that little word, no.

A very wise friend reminded me a while ago that our time, our money and our skills and talents are our own. They are ours and they are not the property of others. An employer may pay us for our time and for the use of our skills and talents, but they remain still our own. Other people may want or need our time, skills and talents, but they do not have an absolute right to them. Our first duty must be to fulfil our own needs. If we spend all our resources on other people, we will ourselves starve. Even if we do not starve in a literal sense, we will still emotionally and psychologically go hungry.

There will always be more demands on us than we have resources to fulfil. We need to learn to say no to some of those demands without fear or guilt.

There are many ways of deciding what to say no to. Does the request fit in with our values? Do we have the time, energy and skills to meet the request? Does the request fit in with our other priorities? When we lie on our deathbed, will we be happy we said yes? Only if we can answer yes to all those questions, should we say yes to others.

Otherwise, say no.

I have run out of words, so “How to say no,” must be another blog for another day.


A Moodscope member.

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