The Tao of No


I hear a lot of complaining lately.  (Not from me, mind you.  I just tell it like it is).  From children and adults to complete strangers on the news, there always seems to be someone who isn’t happy. 

One of my armchair psychologist theories is that half of the unhappiness in the world is caused by people being told NO.  No, as in, “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that” or just plain, “No”.   If people believe that they have been wronged by the “no” factor, they can become ugly.

I myself am getting really good at saying, “No.”  I have moved beyond guilt and unhappiness by just telling my kids why I’ve come to believe that no is the answer to their request and then leaving it at that.   This is where the complaining comes in. 

I should add that I’m good at saying no EXCEPT when it comes to work.  Librarians are supposed to try to exhaust all possibilities to a patron’s request before saying “No, there is no more I can do”.  This is more challenging than it sounds.

Take, for example, the elderly gentleman who came to the reference desk in search of information regarding buying refrigerators and televisions.  I provided him with everything we had, except the password for a website to which the library does not subscribe.  “You can’t just sneak me in?” he asked.  No, I explained, it doesn’t  work that way.  Could I find him some other information?  His answer was, “No, that’s okay, thanks for your help.”

Apparently, it wasn’t okay.   I heard him mumble something to his wife who was waiting for him at a nearby table.  After a few minutes of conversation the wife pointed her cane at him and said, “They don’t have it – get OVER it.  She helped you as much as she could, now just leave it alone.  I can’t believe how much you go on about things.” 

Wow.  This was getting good.  This woman was apparently schooled in the  tao of “No” and she obviously didn’t buy into the idea of nurturing her unhappy husband.  After a bit more confrontation they left, with her still berating him as they walked out the door.

The truth is, sometimes “no” is the correct answer and people just have to accept it and move on.  I realize that this can be hard, so I’m trying to teach this to my kids so that they can deal with it and someday become responsible, understanding adults.  It’s not a simple task. 

And that’s no lie.


One thought on “The Tao of No

  1. Go, you! One of the things that I’ve noticed change over the last 10 years working with youth in libraries is that kids and parents are much less willing to take no for an answer than they used to be. Of course, like you said, no is always a last resort in the library, but sometimes it just is. My perception is that a lot of folks these days don’t believe that no is ever the answer. ‘If you want it hard enough, you will eventually get it’ seems to be a pretty prevalent feeling. How can we help people get ready to move on?

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