Saying Yes Less

This week, two theories flew into my mind like large birds who are now sitting on opposing fences with my grey matter garden in-between.  On the left, we have The No Bird and on the right, it’s The Yes Bird.  They’re squawking at each other, determined that whoever is loudest is right.  I’m not going to lie, it’s noisy in here right now.

Amidst the squawking, one bird has the edge.  One bird is chanting a word that we are less encouraged to use and it’s hypnotising my subconscious.  It’s The No Bird. I’ve come to like saying no, since I learned that I actually could.  A word that I used to be so scared of and so programmed against saying has become a word that helps me to feel safe, more fairly valued and in far calmer control.  There’s also a comedy to be found in saying no more frequently; laughter happens, I find, wherever honesty is involved. It’s a great leveller and anxiety killer.

I keep seeing stuff that tells me to say yes.  I keep hearing that I should not only say yes, but also YES!  And hell yeah!  And yes, yes, yessss!  I’m being inboxed and tweeted with motivational memes reminding me to say yes to everything that comes my way today.  Leaflets drop through the letterbox urging me to say yes to diet clubs, takeaway pizzas, a weed free garden and two for one offers at Asda.  I turn on the telly and adverts scream at me to say yes to everything from solar panels to alpaca wool onesies.  We’ve unlearned No by opening the floodgates on Yes.  When did No become such a dirty word?   And why?

Back in the brain garden The No Bird looks less frenzied.  Its squawks are more assertive, less hyperactive.  It has a radiant space around it which, if I’m not mistaken, looks a hell of a lot like time.  There’s a rainbow aura in-between the time and the bird too.  Maybe the different colours are representative of a whole load of choices.  With all this in mind, I’m more inclined to want to hear what The No Bird  has to say.

The No Bird

The No Bird appears not to be pecking at itself with self sabotage busyness.

The No Bird appears to have a plan: time and choices.

As I ponder those last three words for a minute I’m struck with the thought that as well as big houses, fancy cars, yachts and a pony or ten for the charity petting zoo, time and choices are the things that lottery wins buy.

Time and choices are luxury items.  Time and choices are what we get when we’re in a good place and what we crave from a bad place.  Time and choices are coveted commodities, so why are we passing up the chance to have them and trading it in for all these Yesses?

Time and choices are the things I see The Yes Bird does not have, because The Yes Bird is busy giving itself away to anyone who asks things of it.  The Yes Bird has mistaken martyrdom for positivity.  The Yes Bird looks frazzled and is now being asked by another bird to move along the fence.  The Yes Bird should hold its space in the world and say no to this most recent request.  It won’t though.  It’ll move, because HELL YEAH!

My friend’s mother in-law has a fantastic saying.  It goes, ‘If you never say no, what are your yesses worth?’  These are the kinds of words that should become great friends to the overwhelmed parts of us that would be gone with the wind of demands if we didn’t shut the door on it and protect our personal priorities on a regular basis.


How do you say no? How does the word sound when it comes out of your mouth? Do you put a thank you behind it or in front of it?  Do you avoid saying it til the last minute and then squeeze it in, decorating it with a giggle, shushing it inside a mutter?  Do you sing it, so it’s harmonic on its way to someone ear? I had to stand in the kitchen one day saying and then shouting no, No, and NO.  It’s necessary, when your tongue has no muscle memory of the movements a word needs because it’s been AWOL from your vocabulary.

Of course we should all say yes sometimes.  But not when saying yes becomes such a habit that it’s our default setting.  Not when saying no begins to feel like having a sharp stone in our mouth that we have to soften with apologies and excuses and exclamation marks that trivialise our meanings before we swallow it again, unheard.  Not when we’re in a culture where a women saying no means so much less than a man saying no. Not when it’s at the expense of ourselves and our right to live our own life, on our own wee bit of fence where things rarely feel crazy-making.

No, to all of that.  Yes, to time and choices.


Author: wordathlon

I'm Heather, I'm a writer and I live in Edinburgh. I like laughing, reflecting, getting lost in music, discovering great people, information and places. You can find me on Twitter @betamother or email me at

4 thoughts on “Saying Yes Less”

  1. Yay! ! How refreshing! Reading your latest post has just made me feel a whole lot better about saying NO!..It totally makes sense… Thanks for sharing!xx

    Liked by 1 person

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