No, this is not a “your brain will turn into a fried egg in a skillet” anti-drug campaign. I primary write about firearms, and I love to write about the basics for newbies: but this article digs deeper than the tangible tools we use to protect ourselves. It’s one of the most basic forms of power, and can be one of our first lines of defense.


Your History with “No”

“No” was very likely one of the first words you learned as a child.  You may have chosen not speak this negative word right off the bat, but I can bet you knew what it meant as soon as you started crawling. You knew that if Mom said a good stern “no” a few times, and you continued to put that fork in the outlet, or your hand on the furnace: bad things would eventually happen. What your infant brain was not able to comprehend was that a swat from Mom or Dad probably ended up saving you a lot of pain in long run.



As you got older, you came to dread the “no” even more,  as it usually meant you could not do or have what you asked for. You probably started to subconsciously associate the word with places like the super market “No, you can not have that toy. Put it back”. Or  long car rides where you nagged with the famous “Are we there yet?”.  By this point, you were expected to have the up-most respect for the word “no”, especially as said by a parent or other adult. But alas, this tiny word, still sinking into our young and developing brains, was still not one hundred percent respectable or comprehensible.  After all, why couldn’t you have that shiny new toy?



In High School, “no” evolved yet again.  We were practically adults; and for some, the regular “no” we  were used to was filtered through  their brains in such a way that it simply translated to “Yes, do it”.  But along with this old-version of the word “no” , we were  introduced to a new kind of “no”. While it technically meant he same as the old “no”, this one held a much higher form of power.

For us girls, we learned to say it to the over-eager boys to keep them from using our bodies. For the boys, it was a feared word that was obviously devised by women to retain a position of power and dominance in the relationship.  But this “no”: this one was for real, and had to be respected at a whole new level.


As we grew up and graduated school, got jobs and went off into the real world, “no” became a word that could not be argued. “No, you can’t have vacation for a month.”  “No, you can’t wear sweatpants to work.” “No, the dog isn’t going to take himself for a walk.” “No, you can’t have free rent.” and the list goes on and on. Either way, “no” has become a fairly concrete answer. Some have begged, pleaded, argued, etc.  But as adults, when we hear or say “no”, we try to respect and mean it.




Society and “No”

In this day and age, we teach using positive reinforcement. Even the NRA updated their rules to say “ALWAYS” instead of “never”. There is something to be said for positive reinforcement, I know I learn better that way. But why is society shying away from its negative  counterpart? Sometimes someone just needs a good beating instead of a carrot.

When I googled the word “no”, Google Chrome automatically changed the word to “Nordstrom”.  I didn’t even have to click the suggested word, I just put “no” in, hit enter, and BAM! Nordstrom pops up. I don’t know if Nordstrom paid for this kind of exposure, but it was a smart move if they did. What’s infuriating is that Google has decided that there is no use for the word the “no”. Obviously only a psycho would google “No” and not mean “I want to go shopping for high-end clothing”. I understand that many women would appreciate this association between the words, as I am the queen of retail therapy…but really?

Has society turned the word “no” into a taboo of sorts?

Why is it that with such a rich history of the word “no” in our lives,  we forget to say it? Many people (women in particular, but men too) feel bad about hurting feelings or what others will think, and in return get walked all over.

Do you realize how many women will not say “no” because she thinks it’s impolite to say after a man buys her an expensive dinner? Sadly, this  thinking  is what causes many people to be used and even be victimized.


Say “No”

Freedigitalphotos.netOne of the most important things I teach my students that is that there is not shame in saying “No”.  Sometimes it’s okay to be a bitch or a jerk. There are some things that are just more important than hurting feelings.

Most decent people are wired to be polite. It was instilled in us as children, and has become our nature. Sadly, this politeness is all too often our Achilles heel.

I’ve seen it time and again: a woman gets drugged and date raped because she didn’t want to be rude and refuse the drink that a stranger in the bar brought her.  Everybody has been educated on the dangers of accepting drinks from strangers. Not only is it basically common knowledge these days, but they cover that stuff in High School. And yet, we still revert back to our polite selves.

When a stranger approaches and asks for some change or a smoke, a simple “no” can mean the difference between him mugging you or walking away. Often times these guys are just looking for you to distract yourself and take your eyes off of them. This is their chance to spring. By saying “no”, you don’t give him the opportunity he is waiting for.

Speaking of opportunity, there are several opportunities that can be diminished by having the balls to  tell someone “no”. The key is, to say what needs to be said before the crime is committed.  By speaking out early on in the game, you can usually establish control of the situation, and keep it from getting out of hand.

Here is a list of a few things that people may have avoided had they simply said “NO!” .

  • Date rape and rape in general
  • Abduction (not the alien kind)
  • Muggings
  • Fraud

Some attackers (the smart ones) will do what they can to appear extremely non-threatening, and even play on your emotions. It’s much harder to say “no” to a guy in a wheelchair, than someone who looks like a creeper or a low life.

Does anyone else remember the rash of crimes that supposedly broke out a few years ago where the criminals played a recording of a crying baby outside of people’s houses? (I say “supposedly” because I never confirmed this, this is simply me remembering. Either way, the moral of the story can be applied to many situations). The point was to lure women to open the front door. This not only played on women’s emotions, it played on their sense of moral. It would be cruel, and wrong to leave a poor baby on the step.

Had these women stopped for a moment and thought, they probably would have realized that if they continued down the road they were going, something bad was going to happen. Had they been able to say “No, this is not right. I’m calling the police”, they could have  saved themselves some real trouble.

Women have been held captive based on the premise  that their captor has simply told them not to leave.   Being able to say “no” to yourself is the first step in being able to say “no” to others.

“No, I will not be a victim.”

“No, this is not okay.”

“No, I will not do what this person says.”

“No, my life is more important than being polite.”


Say it like you mean it

When you say “no”, mean it. Say it firm, and with authority. And  just like anything else in life, you must follow through. People can hear the uncertainty in someone’s voice, they can see it in their posture, feel it like a cloud.  Even if it takes some acting skills on your part, make a point to at the very least appear strong and confident when you say it.

There’s nothing wrong with starting off by saying it politely, but it’s important to recognize when it’s time to get downright nasty.

Like I said, people need to know that sometimes its okay to be a jerk. Sometimes, you should be a jerk.  And that doesn’t just mean using the word “no”. Saying what you need to say, despite hurting feelings, can save your life. Terms like “You’re too close to me, please step back”, “Sorry, I can’t help you load that couch into your van”, or even ignoring people can keep you from falling victim.


And for the extra credit


© Packing Pretty, Grace McKee 2012
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