Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

~ Oscar Wilde ~

Don’t Say Don’t

September 20th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 54 secs

Don’t ask!

Just don’t say, “don’t”, okay? There’s no point. Well, there is, but it doesn’t help. Confused? Let me explain…

According to people who study the way we retain and retrieve information, our brain typically uses mental pictures. There are other memory hooks too, of course. But our ability to pull up a picture associated with a word or idea works very well. Which is why I don’t recommend saying, “don’t”?

All right, you’re right. Saying,  “don’t say don’t” is illogical. But you know what I mean, don’t you? Despite the apparent clarity of giving a negative instruction, it’s terribly hard to picture.

Quite apart from you and I, that’s even more true for kids. “Don’t spill that drink!” is a classic. What will a child picture? Spilling the drink, of course. So, it’s far more effective to turn a direction into the affirmative form, like, “Please keep you’re glass steady!” 

How much hot air is wasted each week giving don’t instructions is anyone’s guess. But I’d hazard it would be enough to keep Illinois powered for a day (now that’s a lot of hot air).

So, instead of tongue flapping for the sake of it, put whatever you want to say into a visual form if you possibly can. Saying, “Keep the TV sound button down” could be effectively emphasized by putting your finger to your pursed lips to reinforce the “Shhh” factor. But for me, I’d go the whole hog by waving my arms, grimacing, and sticking my fingers in my ears while I’m saying it. Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I’d prefer keeping my arms straight by my sides (picture Riverdance). Of course, that makes holding my finger to my lips, or sticking fingers in my ears is tricky. But I have to admit, I do like a good challenge.

Besides, think of the hot air savings when you actively try saying what people can picture. When a politician declares, “I will make sure you have an extra $20 per week if you vote for me” it’s so easy to visualize it carries clout. Yet, when another says, “I don’t see why a sizeable bonus couldn’t be a viable option if people ensure my candidacy” you can bet your bootstraps their comments will be forgotten in a moment. 

Does it work? Definitely. Naturally, not always. But it definitely helps. Try it for yourself by leaving don’t out of the picture and putting your ideas into words people can keep. While it won’t stop hair growth or cellulite, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the benefits (and let me know how you go).

No You Can’t – Yes You Can!


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