It’s a two-letter word, yet it is much more than that. The simplest words in life can sometimes be the most meaningful and evocative. I feel that the word “no” is for several reasons, which I will list next.
Why is “no” a powerful word? There are several reasons… the first of which is certainly personal.
- For me, it creates the cocktail party effect.
- It can be used in an indicative voice, as an adjective, or in an imperative voice.
- It is often a choice in a forced-choice situation. This reason was my prime for this post, when I read Alienora’s post about the impact of “yes” and “no” on her.
- A certain adage tries to minimize it.
Let me focus on the first and fourth bullet points, with the second and third to offer some support.
A person’s own name is one of the most salient cues that they can hear or see in order to shift their attention. This idea is known as the cocktail party effect. Therefore, whenever I am in a social situation, I am very likely to commit a Type I error in hearing my name mentioned by someone else. Since the emphasis in pronouncing my name is on the “No” rather than the “ah,” I am likely to hear any negation as a calling of my name, particularly if that is on the periphery.
But let me mention the adage which I feel attempts to minimize the power of the word “no.”
“The worst that they can say is no.”
This can apply to any situation where “no” is a possible answer. It may be a sale, it may be a grant application, it may be a request to advertise in a place, or a host of other situations that involve a request.
In some cases, though, this goes along with Mom’s adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Regardless of what happens, “no” often will kill a request. But, it is not necessarily a sign of failure, and could just be that you requested at the wrong time and/or in the wrong place.
However, if I have invested myself a lot in it, it can HURT to hear “no.” For example, when applying to colleges, though I realize that I was unlikely to be accepted into every college to which I applied, I still took it pretty personally to get the letter-sized envelope with the rejection letter instead of the large envelope with the congratulating materials. In regards to the grammatical observations of bullet number two, although the rejection is given in an indicative voice (and maybe worded in a way to minimize hurt feelings), my mind seems to warp it into an imperative voice (the command form, e.g. “NO! You will NOT attend our school.”)
I feel that I play the game of life too conservatively. This goes along with my admitted lack of assertiveness and myopia about the future. The activation energy barrier for me to enter a situation (e.g. job search, soul-searching as to whether I would like to try and pursue a relationship) for which the answer may be no is very high. The case of relationships may work well for me now, as (a) I would prefer to have stable friendships and acquaintanceships, maybe with one of them developing into something deeper organically, (b) I don’t want a two-front war as I prepare to engage in battle against the dissertation and defense!
Despite my current “job stability” as a graduate student, I definitely was on unstable ground earlier this year when I found out that renewal of my TA position going into this academic year was not a certainty. I was not assertive in ensuring that I would have an opportunity to remain funded this year, but somehow managed to stay supported as a TA in spite of my inaction. Since I “must” graduate in June, I cannot stick my head in the sand again, for I have too many times gotten bailed out from passivity.
Though it may hurt, you must proceed with confidence through situations where “no” can be an answer. Life is not always going to present you with assertions and pats on the back. Rejection and failure is a real part of life, and it is important to realize that the status quo is not always a stable equilibrium state. Nor is it always the most rewarding.
One question that I have: do people on the spectrum or other neuro-diverse people take a response of “no” harder or more personally than supposed neuro-typicals? I have a feeling this may be the case…
Today is the three-hundred and twenty-third day of M.M.X.I.V. That makes forty-six weeks and one day.