by David Coleman
For many of us, "no" is the first word that we learn. It is a word that has athousand meanings --meanings which we regularly misinterpret and manipulate toour advantage.
This short statement often exposes us to our first doses of low self-esteemwhich follows us into our adult relationships in the form of excess baggage. "No, you can't do that." "No, you're not old enough." "No, you're not bigenough, pretty enough, or smart enough." "I said no!" "No, you can't go outand play." "You're no good." "What is it about 'no' that you didn'tunderstand?" The list could go on forever.
As an adolescent and in our later teens we learn to use this word in arebellious context, as well as a way to establish our independence from ourparents and our control over others. "No way will I wear that." "No, I'm notgoing to church." "No, you can't tell me who I can or cannot date," "No, Idon't want to dance just now," "No way you were that stupid."
Finally, as an adult, the word takes on an entirely new meaning. For olderadults, no can sometimes mean, "I can't change, I won't change, I don't need tochange --accommodate me!" Sometimes younger adults use no as a twisted way ofsaying yes such as when their response of "no" is accompanied by a coy smilewhen reacting to a romantic advance. This is a stage of game playing andcourtship. They can't just jump in with a resounding "yes" as their characterwould be quickly called into question, but signals can get dangerously crossed.
There is often heartache and disappointment associated with word no. "No, youdidn't get that raise." "Sorry, no promotion this year." "No, you're notpregnant." "No, you have not been approved for that loan." "No, I'm sorry,you're just not my type."
Occasionally there is a positive no. "No, you are not the father." "No,you're not pregnant." "No fault insurance will cover it." "No harm done." "No, I'll pick up the check."
As the years go by, no for many people has never been learned or understood. As a result, these individuals often violate the basic rights of otherswithout respect or regard to their consequences. Our society specifically hasnamed and in many cases will readily punish violators of the word no. To beprecise, date rape. When involving sexual activity, no does not always, oreven sometimes mean yes.
It is never too late to teach someone to respect the word no or learn toacknowledge it yourself. You have a right to say no to others, as do they inresponse to your words or actions. It is important to examine that your use ofthe word is not at somebody else's expense or harm. And remember, in this dayyou can always choose to say no to the problems in your life by seeking helpand making positive changes.
Then, the final context you will hear will be, "No problems here."