Reframing "No"


When we're children, no is necessary. It keeps us from touching the hot stove, stealing pistachios from the grocery store, and grabbing every toy we want in Target. 

No is attached to discipline when we're young. We understand when our guardian or parent says "no", we're required to comply or there are consequences that follow. 

As we get older, "no" changes. It takes on different form. 

We hear it less as our parents don't need to say it as often. We hear it in more adult terms. We start to realize "no" comes in many forms - it's not always the word, no, but sometimes it's a behavior - so we pick up on that. We start understanding sometimes "no" is more frequent than we'd like, and now we're adults who can question or inquire about it too - even challenge it. 

We consciously notice "no" can also mean:

  • I didn't get the job
  • I can't buy that until I get more money
  • They didn't accept my blog post
  • Something didn't work out the way I planned
  • They don't want to marry me
  • They don't want to date me
  • They don't want to promote me
  • My flight is laid over
  • I can't move yet
  • I have to do more to buy the house
  • etc....

THEN, we start to learn that "no" can sometimes just mean "not yet." 

So sometimes, "no" just means "wait", and this is hardest for most of us. 


The actual reframing I would like to see us adopt now that we know this word takes on so many forms is that 'no' actually means yes. 

It sounds counter-intuitive, yet it's profound enough to change how we see SO MANY things. 

The premise is simply that any time we are told no - whether one of the above ways or otherwise - it's just pointing us to something else and often something better than what's right in front of us.

Even though we're all grown up, we can still be childlike in thinking that what we see is all there is. We can still get all attached & reactive to the no's and throw fits in our own adult-like manner. 

  • If something continues to be a crappy situation for you, it could be a no screaming loudly that there's a yes waiting (queue the desire for God to grant you a much healthier situation). 
  • If someone doesn't want to be in relationship with you, that could be a no begging you to move on, so the even better person can emerge from around the corner.
  • If they won't promote you at work or you hate your work, that could be a no asking you to open your eyes and apply somewhere where you feel appreciated and are in your zone of genius. 

Every no is a yes, essentially. Even if we don't see it in the moment. THIS is what I want you to see. 

The way you start practicing it is by noticing the no's, then applying the reframing above. Something I do is try not to over-react, then say, "hmmm....I wonder why this continues to be stagnant for me and what I need to see out of it - what is the yes here?" I like to make a mental or paper list with all the possibilities of what a situation is trying to show me or lead me to. What are all the things this rejection could be pointing me to? Then, I just watch it unfold, which is the fun part. 

You will love how this one question opens up your world. It also prevents a LOT of fear and calls you to trust in something much much greater than you - after all, there's only SO much you can truly control (and that never includes another person). 

I hope you will try it. I'm here when you do.









Photo by Annie Spratt on