The Ten Meanings of “No!”

Mr. Barkley’s Chalk Talk, #101 

No 10 illus

Mr. Barkley appears in front of a blackboard, holding a piece of chalk.

 

Barkley: My subject today is the word “No!” What does “No!” really mean? Well, it depends. “No!” could mean any one of ten things, and you have to understand which “No!” you just heard, or you won’t be able to overcome it. Let’s go through the list:

He writes: “#1 No!” on the board.

This “No!” really means “Not now!” You’ve asked me at the wrong time or place. Go away, come back later, and try again. Don’t irritate me by pushing it now.

He writes: #2 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means “Not from you.” I want your boss or someone with the detail in here with you on this one. This is too big for me to act on your word alone.

He writes: #3 No!” on the board.

This “No!” is really a test. I want to see how badly you want it. I wonder if you’ll come back and try again? We’ll see.

He writes: #4 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means, “You’re not quite there yet.” I wonder if you’ve left something on the table. Sweeten the deal and we’ll talk again later.

He writes: “#5 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means you’re pushing it; you’ve asked for too much lately. Let it cool off for a while and try again later.

He writes: #6 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means I don’t like what you said or how you said it. Remember your place. Come back later, say you’re sorry, and maybe we can try again.

He writes: #7 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means I want to think about it some more. It’s a safe answer. Nothing starts when I say “No!” “No!” buys me time. If it’s important, I know you’ll come back.

He writes: #8 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means we have different agendas. You know that I’m waiting for you to do something else, and you better do it before you ask anything of me.

He writes: “#9 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means I’m not sure I’m seeing the entire picture. Make me feel comfortable.

He writes: “#10 No!” on the board.

This “No!” means “No!”: “Not now, not ever!” Pause. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of these.

You must learn how to tell one “No!” from the other. Use your experience and your deductive skills: Think about where we are, and who is with us. Listen to my voice, both what I say and how I say it. Watch my body English. Think about what has recently transpired in our relationship. Consider what environment and circumstances I’m operating in today. Ask if there’s an issue and, if so, what it is so you can address it.  Put all that together. You’ll figure it out.

Remember: It’s my game, and you can’t play my game unless you understand my rules.

No?

He walks off.

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