If you find that you say the word “No” a lot, would you qualify to be labelled as mean? I reckon my ability to say no unflinchingly is the reason why one of my students asked me why I am so mean. If you went through the 844 system you must be wondering in what universe are, students allowed to tell their teachers what they really think about them. My answer would be in the same universe that a child decides they don’t want to go to school in the morning and the parent actually let’s them stay at home. As a special needs teacher in a non conventional education system, I have lots of stories to tell but I will spare you and focus on a beautiful word we all know as “no”.
One of the reasons I love the word “no” is that it is ironically so simple. It is monosyllabic, so brief that it costs merely a breathe to say it and yet requires so much strength to be spoken. As far as words go it might be an underdog. I mean they did not make a movie titled “The No Man”. It would be confusing right? It would be difficult to get one’s head around it. A movie about saying “yes” to everything, that’s more like it. It sounds interesting; it even has the potential to be hilarious. After all is that not what “freedom” is about? Who is more free, liberated if you will: the person who says no to a lot of things or the person who says “yes” “yes”, “yes”! I leave that to you to decide.
Freedom and liberty are wonderful things no doubt but when I think of the word no, revolutionary comes to mind. I confess my grasp of all the major world revolutions is scanty at best but I imagine it all starts with a simple word: no. When Marie Antoinette said the infamous words “if they cannot have bread let them have cake”, I imagine (which saves me from reading volumes of history) someone heard this and his mind was screaming NO!!! How dare she be so inconsiderate? Things cannot go on like this. Like I said I am operating from almost ignorance but I do hope anyone out there who is more history savvy will fill in the blanks. The point is for the most part revolutions seldom start with agreement with the status quo. It starts with a No! Then, it continues with I will not stand for this then, revolt!
I don’t know about you but I love (looove) me a revolutionary. If you think about it, you do too. Remember when Ché Guevara merchandise was in vogue? If you didn’t buy the t-shirt you probably envied someone who did. I think one of the reasons we love revolutionaries is there is a little revolutionary in every one of us. Deep down, somewhere in there, you disagree with so many things but often courage does not come so easily. Deep down, there are things you wish you could change in your own life, in your community, in your country… but change is not so easy. So when we find that person who is courageous enough to stand up and say no! We applaud. I bet even those who are opposed to some of these changes admire the guy’s guts even though they will publicly portray a different picture. We love a revolutionary because we can live vicariously through them and to be honest it is a lot safer. I mean tying myself in chains to a gate knowing well the police will get me out, keeping in mind that police brutality is very real, is risky business. I would rather wait to see it in the news and say “wow, I wish I had his guts”.
While it is all fine and dandy to live vicariously through other revolutionaries, it is a new year and my challenge to you, to me is to go out and be a revolutionary. I don’t expect us to start another uprising, because the Middle East already took that bus. What I am hoping is we can all learn to say no every once in a while and maybe more often. I would begin with saying no to myself. I read a quote (which I paraphrased): people often want to change the world but no one wants to change himself. Yes it is the prince of clichés but change begins with you. What are some of the things we can say no to in our own lives? We can say no to excesses and things that are just plain harmful. That extra (caffeinated, alcoholic or carbonated) drink, the extra plate of deep fried something or bowl of sugary goodness which will lead you to a doctor sooner rather than later, that extra work you carried home from the office depriving you of rest and engaging with other human beings, that extra hour of pointless internet surfing and TV watching which makes you wonder what happened to the time, that extra illicit relationship that is killing your soul ever so slowly…. I could go on and on but I will not. Truth is you know what you need to say no to and the reasons for saying no are innumerable.
We also need to say no to people especially friends and family. This is a hard one because most of us are wired to please people. For some of us the thought of disappointing someone is harrowing. Here’s a thought: you can’t please everyone ergo you have to disappoint some people. Now with this mind just say no. An outright no may seem harsh (but it’s more fun to say) but there are subtle ways of doing it like “I am not sure I can do that” or “I can’t do it”. I welcome more ideas on how to say no nicely. It is especially important to learn to say no to children especially if they are trying to get their way using tantrums. Think of it this way, giving a child what they want after throwing a tantrum is like negotiating with a terrorist. In my line of work I have seen tantrums that are monumental at best and I can assure you even when the child cries bullets and you stand your ground the child will respect you and they will not love you any less. It is equally important to give reasons for your answers. Some people will argue with you but that’s an opportunity to practice standing your ground. If children argue with you (politely of course), look at it as negotiation. Let the child develop negotiation skills, we all know negotiation skills go a long way in the real world.
I am sure there’s a whole long list of things we can say no to but I would rather read from you. What have you successfully said no to? What would you add to the no list. Let me know. I look forward to reading from you. Now go on be a little revolutionary, just say no.