No-The Subtle Art of Saying So!


This goes back to the time when I was teaching. I had moved into a new job just around the time of mid-term examinations and was trying to get a hang of things. There was a colleague who was teaching the same subject and classes. Since most of our work was in unison, we were assisting each other on almost all the aspects. But it wasn’t long enough when I found myself doing most of his work- from setting papers for every term to making outlines of submissions to mailing syllabus bifurcations.

I may have never deliberated on it, if I hadn’t found myself working over time for no reason. It took me weeks of contemplation and a fair amount of courage to confront the situation. How I resolved the issue at hand, will be another story, some day.

But reflect upon it. I have often found myself in a place where my mind is constantly telling me- No, No, No, No. And yet, I choose to finally utter a big YES, only to put myself into more trouble, more work, more frustration and a whole lot of mental harassment sometimes. So, what makes me want to be agreeable all the time?

Since childhood, we are given lessons in kindness. I was in a convent for ten good years. In school they focussed greatly on high moral values and being nice to people and not disappointing them was one such lesson taught to us. Although, I do place these teachings in high regard, I slowly learnt that it was essential to be kind to myself first.

I was mostly scared of saying no to people because of the fear of being abandoned or left-out. It was a kind of character certificate. If I said no, I would probably be in bad books. I maybe regarded rude or unhelpful. Who wants to be disliked, anyway?

As children we are taught to be agreeable. Most of our lessons deal with never saying no to elders. We begin to associate the word with ostracization. Even in school morning assemblies or soft-boards, being obedient is a primary lesson. Interestingly, a lot of grammar books in our time that taught letter writing, used the subscription- “Yours obediently”.

Hence, as we grow up, we start equating saying no with disobedience. Whereas, I believe it is only a way to exercise your choice to accept or unaccept something.

I certainly do not mean to advocate that saying yes is absolutely disastrous and that nobody should be helping nobody. I just feel that if saying yes makes you uncomfortable for a week or a month; if you take it as a burden and keep cribbing that you have to do it; if it gives you sleepless nights and a lot of mental mumblings- believe me, it is not worth it. Not even being in the best of books!

Finally, saying no is difficult but essential at times. What is tougher is accepting when a no comes your way and seeing it as a choice somebody decided to make and, not necessarily seeing it as a blow to your ego.


Image source: Internet

This article is my entry for Blogchatter’s AtoZ Challenge 2019- Alphabet N. My other entries may be read here.

15 thoughts on “No-The Subtle Art of Saying So!”

  1. An apt post on saying ‘No’ with perfect facts and examples. It’s the need of the time to pay some attention to ourselves too and avoid being simply generous at the cost of us.

  2. Yupp, I have always found it almost impossible to say no, for the same reasons that you mentioned. It’s the conditioning to give us during childhood, especially to females. Working on it now to change it!

  3. Bravo Sonia ! I wonder how much of your hesitation to say No to this colleague stems from the fact that it was a He ! We girls are inevitably stigmatized by gender inequality from a very young age, even though discrimination according to sex is ‘outlawed’ in many countries, it unfortunately very much continues to rule most of our lives ! I was always called a tomboy, in French ‘garçon manqué ‘ literally an unsuccessful attempt at a boy ! At work, my bosses were always men, except in my last job. It was a woman, who couldn’t have children, and made my life a living hell when I fell pregnant. In amateur theatrics, I was persuaded to take on the role of Director for a play and was unable to say No. As I am something of a perfectionist, I pushed myself too hard and even though the play was a success and my fellow actors thanked me, I had a nervous breakdown….So Yes to saying No. Look out for yourself before looking out for others, otherwise we are of no use….

    1. Could be Susan though I wouldnt like to believe so. Because gender discrimination becomes such a part of our lives that we hardly ever realize it. Nonetheless saying no did wonders for my mental health.

  4. I completely agree. Most of the time we are conditioned to think that saying no is not a thing, specially for women. We are supposed to be submissive. But I have learned the art of saying no, loud and clear after staying in multiple hostels. Life teaches you how to survive.

  5. What you say is true, Sonia. We are conditioned to say yes even when we feel no. It takes a lot of self work to achieve that stage. Sometimes it is self doubt, sometimes it is need to acceptance, and some times it is fear of rejection. Whatever it is, it needs to be remedied asap for peace of mind. There is a saying in Telugu: “anthya nisturam kanna adi nisturam manchidi”. Meaning, it is better to say no in the beginning itself and not at the end even if it seems rude to do so.

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