What is the first word a child learns?

If your thought process tends toward the emotional, then you will likely answer Mamma or Da Da. But contrary to your sentimental assumptions, the answer is No.

All too often we forget that a child is born with Emmanuel Kant’s vision of a clean slate, and everything they see and hear is a lesson inscribed on the slate. Consequently, and once they become bipedal and frighteningly mobile, all babies and toddlers hear is a constant loop of No. No. No.

In some cases followed by an explanation, they do not comprehend. All of that adult background noise becomes etched on the clean slate. Somehow the child seems to know that the incessant and annoying word is designed to stop the explorations of the brave new world they now inhabit. 

No is such a small word, but when used correctly it possesses power. And yet, if we choose not to say it at times when our world seems to hold its breath waiting to hear it, we become defenseless victims by omission and choice.

For example, during the 1980s and early 1990s, “Just Say No” was First Lady Nancy Reagan’s slogan for the government’s war on drugs.

Somewhere in the murky mists of time, women began to impart life lessons to their daughters, sotto voce (privately). One such warning, mothers gave their female offspring was to say No.

Whether parental cautioning or governmental slogans had any effect on our behavior is still up for debate. Why? Well, grasshopper, because personal choice is the deciding factor. Sometimes people make decisions without fully engaging the brain and end up wallowing in the fruits of their stupidity.

If you enjoy people watching, you more than likely discovered it gives insight into understanding how different personalities affect behavior. Plus, it is entertaining.

For example, people pleasers tend to shy away from conflict. They rarely say no to the demands and requests others make, no matter how unreasonable they may be. It is easier to say Yes, then fade into the background hoping to avoid conflict.

The problem for those inclined to be meek is they are on the radar of the demanding people. So, whether one is a people pleaser or lives in fear of losing their job, they make it easy for the bulldozer personalities.

On the other hand, the No we learned at the parental knee is the way some avoid everything. No matter what the request may be, the negative word flies trippingly off their tongues. It is the lazy thing to do.

Avoidance is the wormhole for indecisiveness. No allows one to perpetuate the petulant toddler lifestyle. The consequences vary, but it is usually the person dealing with the monosyllabic mantra-spouter who ends up bald.

If you answer in the negative to every question or demand, you do not have to make a decision and have some semblance of control. At least, that is what the No-No folks seem to believe.

When used sparingly, No can be a sign of good manners or that is what the speaker assumes. It demonstrates a desire to please and a willingness to bow to the wishes of the other person.

Since this writer entered the cosmos with a tendency toward the stubborn and outspoken, she does not need that two-letter word. Verbally pugnacious, she uses her pointy tipped tongue to state her case. According to her father, she sharpened her tongue on a pencil sharpener.

Forget the slogans and the childhood No No No traumas. Use that powerful word like a rapier, but sparingly. Quick and spot on, when the situation demands it.

Otherwise, giving in to someone’s request or demand just because you do not care one way or another is not an option, unless you are a robot.


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