No is a strong word. We mainly use it when we don’t want something or when a pet decides to do its own thing and we disagree with it. But as many of us know, the word ‘no’ can sometimes mean so much more, with something as simple as how we say it.

As a female, I know that many of us can interpret words into other things. The classic being ‘I’m fine’ when it really isn’t. Or people having to clarify what ‘nice’ means because we can easily think that it’s just a word to settle for. And with someone who also has aspergers, phrases like this, baffle me.

Or so they used to.

When I was younger, I was lucky enough to have help in understanding social communication. Knowing when it’s safe to enter a conversation, learning how to keep a conversation going and remembering to think before I speak.

Learning to think before I spoke was something that my family taught me, the same way they taught my sisters. It just required more time and patience for me to understand why I needed to do it. And when I understood, I became aware of how my actions made others feel. I became self-conscious and almost forced myself into being a perfect person that no one could say anything bad about. It worked in two ways. I was afraid to be rude and I was afraid to be rude to. And this is where saying ‘no’ became one of my biggest hurdles.

I felt like I had subconsciously told myself that saying ‘no’ was mean, rude and not acceptable. This left me feeling like I couldn’t say it. Not even to my family. I felt like I would offend them or make them upset and with my past having already made it hard for my family, I didn’t feel like it would be okay to do it again. And it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to realise that saying ‘no’, isn’t as bad as I had made myself believe. In fact, it was worse to put myself through something that I didn’t want to do, than to actually say ‘no’ to doing it.

The first thing that made me realise was, people say ‘no’ all the time and though it sometimes hit me when people said it to me, I had to remind myself that it is completely normal. I remember learning different ways of saying ‘no’ that would sound as kind as possible, and even almost avoid saying the word ‘no’ whilst meaning it. Things like “I’m alright thanks. I’m going to stay here” if someone asked me if I wanted to go out. Or just simply saying “No, thank you”. I still have trouble saying ‘no’ if someone asks me if they can borrow something of mine, but I am learning, and I am also learning to have less of an obsessive grip on my belongings.

Saying ‘no’ has always been one of my biggest challenges and will probably continue to be for some time. I know some people who also have trouble with saying ‘no’ but I have reminded them that it’s okay to say it. And someone told me, that even if you offend someone without meaning to, you cannot blame yourself. Your intentions were good and if they take offence to it, it can only be their problem to deal with.

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