‘No’ is not a four-letter word


This week we’re looking deeper at the Two of Swords and I’ve chosen specifically to focus on healthy boundaries and how to say “no” and create structures to protect oneself while also remaining open and not blocked off to others.

If you didn’t read my newsletter on Monday, introducing this week’s topic, check it out by clicking here: The Sparrow Tarot Companion. You can also subscribe to my newsletter here. 

Positional meanings in a card reading can make all the difference in interpreting the card, because they give the context within which we read the card’s message. This week, the Two of Swords was advice. However, had the same card come up in a positional meaning that asked “What is keeping me from finding a long-term love relationship?” we would interpret the closed-off stance of this woman in an entirely different way.


So, that being said, as advice we can read this card’s “blocking” as something constructive that will aid the querent (in this case, me!) to accomplish their objective (in this case, grow my business). Based on a whole host of factors, especially the need for strengthened boundaries and saying no to people who tend to take advantage of me in my personal life, I see this card’s advice as particularly pertinent. I can’t grow my business if I’m constantly allowing people in my life who don’t have my best interests at heart, to take advantage of my giving nature and my tendency to say “yes” even when I really don’t want to, just to avoid conflict.

Therefore, I’d like to propose that the Two of Swords can be an empowering image to help those of us who do need a little push in the direction of being more firm in stating what we do and don’t want, how people can and cannot treat us, what we will or will not tolerate, and what is appropriate or not appropriate according to US, not according to the other person’s desires or needs or wants for how they view us or what they would like us to do.

Let’s remember that self-care starts with knowing what is right for us personally, and then living up to these standards in a gesture of profound self-respect, and above all, being consistent in letting others know.

The last part can be a challenge, because it requires you to clearly and confidently state your intentions and expectations in an emotionally detached way. This is very much a “swords” task. Emotionally detached doesn’t mean cold or heartless, but it does mean without allowing emotional considerations to cloud your judgement and sway your actions, allowing others to “bust” your boundaries. Remember, swords cut. They cut through bullshit just as well as they cut through tangible objects. So in this card I see those swords cutting through the pleas of the boundary busters in our lives and saying: NO, I will not accept that.

Are you afraid to say no?

This is common. Many times we fear rejection or anger or pushback from others when we say no to them. However, saying yes when we really don’t want to can create resentment and anger that gets turned within, which can even eventually lead to depression.

Perhaps a script would help. Here, professional writer Alexandra Franzen writes a simple script you can adapt, to politely but firmly turn someone down when they’re asking for help you simply can’t give or don’t want to give.

The late Steve Jobs once said: “Focus is about saying no.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Don’t over-clutter your calendar with commitments that derail your focus, pulling you away from the work that you truly want to do.

It’s not good for your career. It’s not good for your soul.

And if someone gets furious because of your sane, reasonable, elegantly articulated “no?” Well, he or she was probably never your true friend to begin with.

Perhaps you’re used to being a “people pleaser.” That isn’t emotionally healthy either, because you aren’t able to take care of your own needs when you’re constantly focused on taking care of everyone else.

It’s tempting to want to defend your decision to say no to someone so they understand your reasoning. But this actually backfires. According to Newman, “As soon as you start explaining, you give the other person lots of wiggle room to come back and say, ‘Oh, you can do that later,’ ‘You can adjust your schedule’ or ‘That’s not as important as what I’m asking.’”

Sometimes, the advice we receive in a tarot card reading about one topic encourages us to take action in another area we may not have expected to involve. In my case, my original question about how to grow my business successfully to make it self-sustaining actually directly involves how I interact with some people in my personal life. I absolutely didn’t expect that at all, and yet after reflecting on it, it makes perfect sense.

In fact, today I sent a text message to one of those boundary-busting people, and it was composed of just two letters:


And let me tell you folks, it felt like the first positive step in a new journey.

Have you struggled with setting healthy boundaries and telling boundary busters in your life “no”? What are your strategies?

Are you hesitant to say no or do you refuse to say no because you fear or don’t want the other person’s reaction? Can you find ways that is negatively impacting you? Can you find ways to modify that behavior to take charge of your own needs and desires and respect them?

Share your thoughts in the comments! 



  1. Hi Shelley. What a great post! This is something I struggle with a lot … saying no. Well, actually I say it giving reasons why I can’t, and just as you said, I find myself “talked” back into it. AND I often pull this card. Love your interpretation. It’s given me a whole new way of saying YES to ME! Thank you.

  2. Bryonna!

    Oh my gosh! That is crazy that you often get this card when asking about matters like this. I’ll tell you, this week’s exercise has been a real eye-opener for me around this card. I always felt very resistant personally to this card. I don’t like the way the woman looks, I don’t like how “cold” the card feels to me. So working deeply with this card over the week on a personal question has really allowed me to expand my perspective and see the healthy side of being firm with boundaries and saying no.
    I am so glad that this has been shared by you as well. Solidarity! It never ceases to amaze me how we all have this shared humanity and yet so very rarely do we have the opportunity to connect about things like this, that are vital and important.
    Thanks for reading! And thanks for commenting, too.

  3. What a great post. I always make the mistake of explaining a “No”. It does provide “wiggle room”. And yet just “No” would leave me baffled and as if the other person didn’t want to honour me with an explanation. I think it also invites a “why not?” I don’t know the answer to this dilemma! But yeah you have to say a “no” sometimes, somehow.
    I get annoyed with the Two of Swords when I ask any important question and get this. I always feel as if it’s the tarot blocking me, as if it’s “nope, not gonna tell ya! Up in the air!” That’s always my first reaction at least. Then I have to try to expand that mind-set but it’s such a card of frustration and on so many levels. I just want to reach into the card and knock her poised self off that bench. Bonk, splat. Maybe it’s a message about myself if I’m the one having to decide and I can’t. Decide! Bonk, splat.

  4. HA!!! Hi Donna!

    I’ve been thinking about you, dear colleague, and I desperately owe you an email, or four. :-p

    Yep, you and I are on the same page regarding this card. Meh. It’s hard for me to see the “constructive” sides right off the bat, because it’s so totally closed off and defensive on first glance. Nothing getting in, nothing going out.

    This week has been eye-opening for me for sure.

    Now that I’m back in the tarot saddle I will follow up with you SOON re: our joint post!


    • No hurries or worries, I’m just pleased you are back on your tarot steed and I can enjoy your intelligent and beautifully articulate posts again, YAY! Take that, you miserable Two of Swords. I must follow your lead and do some appreciation work on that stand-offish cold(sword)fish woman who won’t even look one in the face, mocked by a blindfold!

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