"N" and "o." These two letters, put together, can upset both children and adults. "No" can wage war in one's personal and professional worlds. "No" can hurt relationships if things don't go the way someone else wants things to go. As a spouse, father, uncle and school principal, my experiences of having to say "no" are probably no different than anyone else's.
What amuses me most are the responses from others when they hear me say "no." My children sometimes throw temper tantrums. The adults in my life might tell everyone how much of a jerk I am just because I say "no" to something. Sometimes, people feel that when "no" is uttered, there is still room for negotiating.
I always think about these guidelines when having to dole out the word "no":
Use "no" to preserve safety: If my son wants to shave with an electric shaver in the shower, I find electrocution to be a very simple thing to explain. "No" usually goes down pretty easy when the laws of science dominate. I won't be letting my young children watch a horror movie because the likelihood of one of them being gobbled up by horrible nightmares is pretty high. These are usually the easiest "nos" to dish out, even if tantrums follow.
Use "no" when you foresee potential problems: There is a brilliant truth about those who have many years of experience and wisdom and can apply that wisdom to foresee problems with someone's proposal. My wife said "no" to a new flat-screen TV purchase because my children are still very young and the likelihood of it becoming scratched and broken is pretty high. This is something I never thought of.
Use "no" for the general good of the order: If "yes" helps only one person out of the larger group, "no" can be extremely important and instructional. A candy wrapper that hits the ground solves my daughter's immediate need to dispose of her trash, but her littering affects our neighbor and the Earth. Not only will my daughter quickly pick up her wrapper and carry it all the way home, but maybe she needs to hear a "no" on her next request for a treat to remind her of her previous littering infraction.
Use "no" for re-establishing roles or rules: A "no" from a mother, father or boss is sometimes tough to swallow, because these people are in charge. But when children think they are in charge or workers think they can ignore their boss, "no" helps to remind us that we all need to remember our roles and functions within the workplace or family unit. We all need to remember that we have bosses.
We also need to remember that the words "I'm your father and I will always be your father" point to a relationship that is lifelong, not just when we get our own way. For any parent, saying "no" without providing a lengthy explanation to a child isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I like the word "no." It is just as important as the word "yes." What we all need to work on as a society is to understand that hearing "no" should be as easy as hearing "yes." What if we witnessed a temper tantrum when we hear "yes" in our lives, such as receiving a cookie, a new shirt, a promotion, or permission to stay up late to watch the Sabres play hockey on an older model television?