N+O

How can two simple letters like N and O come together and be so intimidating?

pile of Q cardboard cutout in organizer selective focus photo

N starts off so many easy, and approachable words like nice, nachos, nap, and novel.
O ends words like cappuccino, gelato, oreo…all the yummy words. If I were on Wheel of Fortune I’d gladly guess N and buy all the O’s I could because our language is scattered with all the N’s and O’s you could imagine.

No text overlay on red background

But then there’s N+O. No. Those letters come together quick and without pause. It’s so hard to hear, and to accept no. Especially when it seems out of the blue, especially when it disappointments…especially when it hurts. No, in it’s definitive, succinct and downright abrupt nature, doesn’t often invite smiles, warm fuzzies and all the easy words that often flow after a yes. No is a line in the sand. It is a verbal indication of what you are not willing to do or accept. It’s like some cosmic joke that they sit next to each other in the alphabet, it should be easy!

Maybe saying no is supposed to be hard.

Maybe saying no is supposed to be hard. Maybe it because you may be a little too close to the edge or being over scheduled, overloaded, *insert all the weighty O words here*. When you really think about it, when is being at the edge of a boundary ever that comfortable?

I know I’m VERY uncomfortable when I get close to an overlook. I’m one of those people whose legs start shaking as soon as I get close and trust me, I don’t need to see straight down! The view is fine from back here! I certainly don’t want to lean over for those jaw dropping selfies. For others, standing on the edge isn’t enough, they like to lean right on over the edge to get an even better view, to feel that excitement and adrenaline build…and they love it! Boundaries with people are similar, there are some that have no problem staying on their side of the barrier, and then there are those that seemingly love to lean right on over. Your time and your space isn’t a once in a lifetime view though. Your time and your space will needs those N’s and O’s to keep you healthy, happy, and even safe.
There may not be a clear point in time where saying no to people gets easier, but when you more clearly and more often define your boundaries, you may not be asked as often to cross or overlook them. Eventually those uncomfortable N+O responses will start to speak for themselves. If you have trouble with saying no, therapy is a great place to explore the why and even practice in a safe space. There are also some great books I frequently recommend, like Boundaries and The Best Yes.


Jessica Lombardo is a licensed mental health counselor practicing on the gulf side of Pinellas County Florida. To schedule a FREE 15 minutes phone consultation, go here and we can discuss more about if she would be a good fit for you. Jessica treats individuals, couples, teens (13-17), college students, and families.

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