Say Yes to the Power of No

Say Yes to the Power of No

It makes sense to say yes to no. Not just for Scotland, which, in 2014, decided—2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989—against ending its 307-year-old union with England and Wales. But for all of us, every now and then. Because that little word, which sometimes takes so much courage to utter and is so hard to hear, can set us free.

I’m not talking about the primordial ‘No’ bellowed out by the toddler, just discovering his voice. That is the ‘No’ of rebellion. Nor am I advocating the ‘No’ of negativity that tries to drown self-doubt with disparagement.

I’m championing the ‘No’ of self-knowledge and affirmative action. The ‘No’ that sets limits and instills self-discipline; that reinforces priorities and boosts one’s moral compass. That keeps us from being controlled, vis-à-vis appreciated. 

Saying ‘Yes’ is easy, both on the ear and the speaker. It makes us look friendly, graceful, a good team player. If you’re a people pleaser, it’s the word you know best; the one that slithers off your tongue, smoother than satin.

‘No’ hurts and slams the door between you and your listener. It’s tough to deliver, sparks fights and sulks, and makes you look selfish. It’s a lonely word.

But it’s a brave word. You say ‘No’ to someone else’s story because you have one of your own. You say ‘No’ to your colleague’s games because you’re tired of playing by his rules. You say ‘No’ to shirking responsibility when you’re ready to acknowledge that the buck stops with you. 

‘No’ takes two paths. The first leads to others—our children, our lovers, our colleagues, our family. These are people we love, so it needs to walk a fine line between tact and self-assertion. This is the ‘No’ the father has to tell the teenage son demanding his third pair of Nikes in three months. The ‘No’ that the girl needs to say to the boyfriend looking to get cosier than she’s comfortable with. This is the ‘No’ that you mutter to the boss when she asks you to cancel your vacation for the nth time.  

The other travels inward. We need it to quell our struggle against self-doubt and destruction, to contain our urges and greed, to manage our priorities and bring peace of mind. There are lessons to be learnt from this ‘No’.

Saying ‘No’ to the last drink at the bar, or another cigarette or piece of chocolate, teaches us discipline. Saying ‘No’ to the latest It-bag says no to peer pressure, and our own greed. Saying ‘No, I don’t want to see you anymore’ sets us free from people who are no longer good to—or for—us. Saying ‘No, I can’t lie to your teacher’ tells my child that I am not here to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Saying ‘No, I can’t skip my conference’ tells your spouse that your job is as important as his. Saying ‘No, I don’t want your gifts’ makes you, and your audience, appreciate that love can’t be bought.

Admittedly, none of it is easy. ‘No’ can become a barrier between you and other people. But it can also act as a protective circle for you. ‘No’ can test your relationship. But, it can also earn you the respect of your partner and make her acknowledge that you are entitled to your own time, space and life.

And finally, when all the nay-saying is done, it’s the ‘No’ that makes your ‘Yes’ more meaningful

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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