Learning to say NO


By David Joel Miller

No should be the easiest word in the English language for all of us to say. Look at any three-year-old and you will see them saying NO repeatedly all day long. Their parents are good at saying this and other negative things also.

So with all this practice from our earliest years in saying the word NO you would think that adults would have no problem saying NO to each other – but they do.

There are good reasons we need to work on and practice the ability to say NO.

1. Some people expect to be told no.

In functional families people are able to say no some of the time. Realistic people expect to be told no. So if you get in the habit of always saying yes, people in your life may be surprised to find that you have been doing things you never wanted to do.

You have the right to say No to a great many things in life. Outside the legal and moral things we expect people to do, most things are open to people choosing for themselves what to include and what to exclude from their life.

The opportunity to say NO is one of those fundamental freedoms we all should be able to practice.

2. We have to teach others how to treat us

For some people it is all about them and they will keep going until you say no. Some of them will not take NO for an answer even when you say NO. They have to be taught that you mean NO when you say NO.  

You will encounter some people in life who are not familiar with the word NO. They do not seem to have heard it much growing up and it comes as a surprise to them that others might not be on this earth to serve them.

Many people will ask you for things or to do things in the course of your life. Giving into everything they all ask of you results in your living other people’s life and never having one of your own. 

3. Standing up for our boundaries

People without boundaries end up with a whole lot of other people’s garbage dumped on them. In all of our relationship it is important to establish boundaries between us and others. There is you and there is me. I do not have to agree with you on everything for us to get along.

People who insist you do thing and say what they want are into controlling others and without good boundaries you will find you are living their life not yours. 

People who do not understand when you say NO are not real friends. Lovers who try to remake you to fit their needs and wants have only themselves in their heart.

Family members may find it difficult to accept your NO’s. They get used to you doing for them or going along with what they want. 

4. Setting an example for our children

The only way children learn appropriate behavior is to be taught it. Parents get the first crack at teaching those lessons. If you don’t teach your kids the meaning of the word No they can grow up to be selfish adults who have conflict filled lives.

You do not spoil children by giving them too much praise or love. They get spoiled by not learning right and wrong and the values of self-control.

That should not be an argument to treat children as slaves, bent to you will. You job as a parent, like it or not, is to help them grow up into healthy adults who can have a happy life without you. Do that and they just might want you in their lives after they are grown. 

We don’t always get what we want in life and there is value to learning that others can say no to us. But your kids also need to know that they have that right too, some of the time anyway. If they never saw you draw a line and protect your boundaries then they may grow up to be like you.

Many children who grew up in dysfunctional homes create another unhealthy home. If they see you unable to say no they may become a person who can’t say NO or they may become a person who forces others to agree with them. Either of those lifestyles will cause them a lot of unhappiness.

The word NO, like every other word in the language has times it needs to be used and times we should not use it. Have you practiced the proper use of the word NO?

Use you NO word in healthy ways.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC 

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com

One thought on “Learning to say NO

  1. Pingback: Men don’t only want one thing! Ladies you’ve been misled. | counselorssoapbox

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