Things successful leaders avoid saying (part 3)

Don’t say don’t.

Really.  Two reasons- one is pretty esoteric and provokes skepticism in me, but the second is nearly self-evident:

1) Some research shows that the use of words/phrases involving “not” or even “-n’t” (like don’t) are subconsciously turned into the positive by the listener, because negative talk is rejected.  So if a person is told “don’t be late!” they actually perceive “be late!”, increasing the likelihood of non-compliance.

Some experts think that’s reason enough to change what we say.  I’m skeptical of that.  However, this is good reason:

2) Consistent negative talk will create a negative culture.  A constant drumbeat of “don’t forget” “don’t be late” “don’t screw that up” “don’t talk to me right now” can be pretty discouraging.  If you can rephrase things using positive words, a better atmosphere is created.  Better atmosphere = more encouraging = more productive.

Lots of words can be used to address behavior you want to stop;

Stop, avoid, limit, resist the temptation to, watch out for,…

Throw in a courtesy word, and BANG!  You’ve gone from ogre to uncle, without lowering your standards:

Please stop using the copier during the meeting.

Resist the temptation to have your phone out, please.

Limit your talking to the topic, please.

Always arrive on time, please.

Please remember to fax the form by noon.

Stop chewing gum.

AND of course…

Please avoid use of the word “don’t.”

4 Responses

  1. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    I used the research re: #1 in my motivational training for years and still make use of it from time to time. Also liked the rest. Thanks.

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Thanks for chiming in — I believe number one, so that’s why I mention and use it; number two, though, allows a larger, more tangible point to be made.

      Maybe #1 works for the head, and #2 for the heart. Is that too corny? Ah, I’m kind of corny sometimes!

  2. Ted Reicher
    | Reply

    Totally agree Alan…I’ve found that to use the word “don’t” involving even thoughts tends to attract exactly what it is you want to avoid. “I am full of health” beats “I don’t want to catch a cold” every time.

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Absolutely – and that’s a great example. Thanks for engaging!

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