The positive power of NO


No is a complete sentence.


In this post, I knock around a few ideas about how something expressed in the negative makes space to move forward in the positive.


A toddler takes off across a park, snatches a toy off a fellow playgroup attendee or refuses her favourite dinner. We all know the response we'll get when we attempt to curb her impulse.

From a young age, we’re taught that this, the tiniest of expressions of non-conformity is a negative thing. Something that shuts things down, creates havoc, ruins plans.

No is just not welcome.

But I turned 40 a few years ago and in a wonderful revelation, discovered a new side to these naughty little digits.

Ten ways no opens up new possibilities:

  1. Rejecting an idea creates space for new perspectives and new ways of thinking.

  2. Rejecting a way of doing something can stimulate the acquisition of new skills, exploring the way other people do things and can bring about better procedures.

  3. Unpicking the things that people hold on to as common sense, gives an opportunity to hold core values up to scrutiny. Are they really sensible? Are they common?

  4. It stimulates conversation – rather than shutting it down: a collaboration to find new ideas and new common ground.

  5. It brings about what ifexploring scenarios and creating new combinations of ideas.

  6. Things can’t always go to plan – but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Alternative solutions are often better ones in hindsight.

  7. No one is perfect – rejecting a behaviour or pattern of behaviours creates an opportunity for growth, for everyone.

  8. Healthy relationships rely on well-communicated boundaries. It’s a constant negotiation, of course but it needs to be balanced on both sides. Telling someone when they’ve strayed off-side is an important part of this.

  9. Deciding to change direction is often upsetting: we’re creatures of habit. When one path is blocked by an obstruction, working around it is an invaluable learning opportunity and it inevitably opens up new paths, new experiences and new ways of thinking.

  10. The experience of parting company with someone you’ve worked with/lived with/spent time with sits somewhere on a sliding scale from elation to utter devastation. But it also opens up the chance to meet new people. The person who’ll be a major player in your life in ten years, you may not have even met yet.

It’s not easy – I struggle with boundaries on a daily basis but what I have learned is that I own this word. It’s mine. I can use it when I see fit – it’s just a matter of having the belief that I can deal with the consequences.

And there are times when, no matter how empowered I feel, I’m just not brave enough. But I know that if I stay true to my core principles, in whatever way I can, things will work out for the best in the end.

Please let me know how you get on with your own no projects. I’d be delighted to hear all about them.

Because sometimes saying no is answering in the positive.

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