Communication Barrier: Our Ingrained Propensity to Say NO

9.25.14 NOMaybe this title doesn’t describe you – maybe you’re the kindhearted type that simply can’t stand to say “no” to anyone, for anything – and wish that you could! – the type that gets swamped with feelings of wanting so much to be likable and not to offend, to the point of agreeing to everything.  If this sounds like you, you may need professional help around self-esteem, especially if this doormat behavior is causing you great stress and ruining your happiness.

But what about the rest of us?

“No!” is drilled into us in early childhood.  It’s usually one of the first words learned, and learned with a vengeance.  To my 2-year old granddaughter “no” means “what else (better) are you offering for me to choose from?”  Hey, she’s no dummy.  “Want bubbles?” “No.” “Want crayons?” “No.” “Want a book?” “No.” I can almost hear the wheels churning, “What else ya got over there? Spill the arsenal of goods!”

We learned early on that “I said NO!” has great power, the power of high authority.  And to defy such power is really pushing the boundaries.  When we are trying to define where you end and where I begin, asserting your ability to say no is the starting point in self-discovery.

No is a reflection of the selfish trait that insured our very survival: No, I can’t share with you until I take care of me. We know on the crashing plane to take care of our own oxygen needs first, that charity begins at home, that only the strong survive/win.  Competition is not such a bad thing and can at times be the only thing.  The first episode of the new Amazing Race season showed the nice firefighters pushing the Barbies aside to reach their goal.  Yes, two brawny firefighters literally pushed out two small females who were standing in their way.  Hmmm, interesting turn against type, due to competitive urging.

When we are communicating with others online (and offline) we are faced with this strong general propensity to say no: No to your intrusive email, No to the scrolling banner ad, No to the popup box, No to the lengthy memo – it’s simply a matter of survival in the war for time and productivity.

We are trained to say No, way before saying Yes.  And online it’s even easier because it’s an anonymous No – no one sees you slink away from reading or clicking, or delightfully deleting.  No becomes fun in a perverse 21st century way, as you forcefully hit the delete button while gleefully chortling “Take that, you annoying piece of spam!

The saying No pattern is such a strong online trait, we often don’t even see or process what exactly we’re saying No to.  No has become automatic behavior that we blindly follow in the pressing need to save time and get through the barrage of online information swamping our digital devices.

How to break through the huge No barrier?  That’s a matter of training.  Or re-training.  Internally we need to re-train our brains to say Yes to ourselves – Yes to life! Yes to opportunities! Yes to self-fulfillment!  Stop sacrificing, start enjoying.

With others, we need to train our audience to say Yes to our messages.  All written roads should lead to Yes, then small yeses become big yeses.  Don’t you agree?  Nod your head Yes, then apply this approach to your own writing.

Next time the topic is: the power of “?” – what seeing a question in writing does to the brain.

Comments?  What Yes/No online examples do you have?

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