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With emphatic finality, the word “no” echoed in all directions. The statement that followed it, however, melted my heart because it was soaked in pure love! “NO…. I want to stay with Mommy,” said my four-year-old, refusing to stay in the adjoining room while I wanted to do a few chores in the next. Well, a “no” can be sweet too at times. That was 19 years ago, and as random thoughts kept encircling the mind, I happened to think about this two-lettered word and its wide connotations.
Among others, “no” figures in the list of baby talk milestones. It’s one of those words that a little one picks up pretty fast. And it’s indeed so easy to visualize how that happens. For instance, when the child is about to put something inedible into the mouth or is about to touch something dangerous, a parent is heard giving that instant reaction of a “No”!
Though “no” usually brings to our minds a negative meaning, that’s not always the case. It’s the usage of the word that gives it either a dark or a positive shade. It requires a lot of courage and integrity to say “no” to something bad like, for instance, drugs. In this instance, “no” is a vehicle of propriety.
There can be a diametrically opposite scenario. For someone in the habit of lying, a “no” comes in very handy when the person wants to avoid being reprimanded or taking responsibility for something done wrong. That’s the spontaneous reaction that props up. For example, if someone who is caught cheating another individual is asked whether he or she has committed the crime, an answer of “no” is clearly seen as an instrument of deception.
Coming to human interactions, is it easy or hard to say a “no”? It depends on the personality of an individual. Some people are too soft, and no matter what, they just can’t say a “no”. Others are frank and have no inhibitions to respond in the negative if they feel they are not in a position to answer in the affirmative.
At times, just because they can’t muster enough strength to refuse, people end up doing things against their wishes and overcommit their time and energy. Also it’s the fear of getting rejected that comes in the way of saying a “no” even if one wants to say so. Well, it needs to be understood that we cannot possibly lead a free life if we are continuously bothered about what other people will think about us.
Yes, we need to help our fellow beings, and unless we spread love, good feelings will cease to exist amongst mankind. But it is not wise to end up saying a “yes” instead of a “no” to someone when we know that the task is beyond our reach. Saying “no” does not make us bad people. Rather, by saying a pleasing “yes” even to an impossible task, we are being dishonest to ourselves and to others.
We need to be at peace with the decisions we make. With decency and politeness, we can say a “no” without feeling that we are being mean or selfish. It is important to realize that anyone who expects us to say “yes” to them at all times can never be having our best interests at heart.
One of the easiest things in life is to preach rather than practice, and I wouldn’t want to be charged guilty of doing that. So if I were asked whether I would like to wind up this discussion of “yes” versus “no”, my answer would be a big “YES”!
As I call it a day, here’s a quote from Stephen Covey, an American educator, author, and keynote speaker which has really struck a chord with me: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically – to say no to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”