1. A negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal, as in response to a question or request
2. Used to emphasize or introduce a negative statement
3. Not in any degree or manner; not at all
“No is a complete sentence.” This is a phrase we use from time to time here in our office. The internet attributes it to Anne Lamott, but I first heard it in the 12 step rooms of Al Anon. It was a surprising wake up call to realize that I could just stop at that one word without having to explain further. Sometimes it seems like the word No has to be followed with a litany of backup reasons for it. As if to prove its validity. As if it has to be justified. The conversation goes something like this…
Judge: Ma’am, you have just been asked to bake 6 dozen cookies for the school bake sale tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. How do you answer?
Me: Your honor, my answer is no.
Judge: On what basis to you refuse to exert yourself in order to fulfil this last minute demand?
Me: Exhibit 1: 3 children, each having a different after school activity, for which I must magically clone myself in order to attend each one and resulting in dinner at 9 pm.
Exhibit 2: term paper, due at midnight tonight.
Exhibit 3: I’m out of flour, sugar, eggs, and basically all cookie ingredients.
Exhibit 4: dare I say I’m just plain exhausted?
Judge: Sorry (not sorry) I deem your exhibits insufficient – especially the last one. Your No is dismissed. Better get to gettin’.
Obviously this is an exaggeration but how often has this type of scenario played out either mentally or in real life? Whether it’s something that would be fun, or something truly awful, is your No followed by any qualifiers? Do you say No, but…No, because…No, sorry…?
No is a clear boundary. A full stop. A line in the sand, or, if necessary a brick wall fortified with razor wire. It can feel awkward, uncomfortable, or scary to set a boundary without softening it with more words of explanation. Sometimes it feels selfish. Sometimes it feels unsafe. Sometimes it’s confusing, because No isn’t even part of the vocabulary. It’s ok to start where you are, even if it’s at the very beginning.
And here’s something that’s pretty revolutionary: when you say No to something, you are also saying Yes to something else.
When I say No to being mistreated in a relationship, I say Yes to honoring and loving and cherishing myself.
When I say No to a responsibility that doesn’t appeal to me, I say Yes to spending my time in a way that makes my heart sing.
When I say No to inequality, I say Yes to respecting and valuing all living beings.
When you say No, what is your Yes?
How do you flip the script?
I’d love to know.
“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”
“My goal now is to remember every place I’ve been, only do things I love, and not say yes when I don’t mean it.”
“Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out.”
“It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
A few YouTube videos on this topic that you might enjoy: