Don’t Say Don’t
Just don’t say, “don’t”, okay? There’s no point. Well, there is, but it doesn’t help. Confused? I better 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 linked with a word or idea works really well. Which is why I don’t recommend saying, “don’t”?
All right, you’re right. Saying, “don’t say don’t” makes no sense. But you know what I mean, don’t you? Despite the apparent clarity of giving a negative instruction, it’s really 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 better to turn a direction into the constructive term, 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 reckon it would be enough to keep Illinois warm a week in Winter (there, that's your random non-fact for the week covered).
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 made clearer by putting your finger to your pursed lips and saying “Shhh!” Usually works for 5 minutes.
Me, I’d go the whole hog by waving my arms, grimacing, and sticking my fingers in my ears while I’m doing the shooshing. Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I’d prefer keeping my arms straight by my sides (picture Riverdance in action).
Of course, that makes holding my finger to my lips, or sticking fingers in my ears very tricky. But I have to admit, I do like a challenge.
Besides, think of the hot air savings (Remember Illinois?). When you actively try saying what people can picture everything is easier.
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 picture, you remember what they said. 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 before the sentence ended.
Does it work? Definitely. Not always of course. But it definitely helps.
Try it for yourself by leaving don’t out of the picture and put your ideas into words people can keep. While it won’t stop hair loss, bingo wings, or cellulite, I reckon you'll more than enjoy the benefits.