Two Words Turn a Negative Request Positive

An earlier post discussed the perils of the use of the word “don’t”.

“Don’t” is negative, and can also be dismissive.  It is direct (that’s good) and easy (that’s why it’s frequently used). There’s a nice alternative, though, that can quickly lay out both the non-desirable behavior, and the preferred:

“Instead of…”

Use this phrase instead of saying “don’t”, then follow it up with the preferred behavior (you can also add a reason why if you want to):

“Don’t park on the street.” becomes:

“Instead of parking on the street, use employee parking please. (That way our non-emergency patients can park closer to the entrance if the parking lot is full.)”

“Don’t bury the nice-looking produce.” becomes:

“Instead of burying the smooth apples, put them on top please. (Why? Because shoppers will buy more.)”

“Don’t blow off the team meeting when you’re not on the agenda.” becomes:

“Instead of skipping the meeting when you’ve got nothing to add, please come. (Why? Because it shows the associates that you’re a team player.)”

So much research shows employees are disengaged, and further research points to the lack of frequent, specific, direct feedback.

Anytime someone does something “wrong”, you have an opportunity to remedy that with specific feedback and direction.

In just a few seconds.

And, you’ve taken something negative, that you might deliver in an annoyed tone, into something directive and constructive.


Instead of using “don’t”, try using the “instead of…” technique. (Why? Because it will likely improve results and engagement.) 🙂

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