Transform the negative for positive results

It’s fascinating to explore how our subconscious mind processes language, particularly negative imperatives. When we hear phrases like “Don’t think about a pink elephant,” our conscious mind registers the instruction not to think about it, but our subconscious mind tends to focus on the imagery of the pink elephant. This phenomenon illustrates how our subconscious prefers to operate in a positive frame.

Knowing this, imagine what our children hear when they are on the way out of the house and we yell out, “Don’t slam the door,” and then the door slams. In a few thousandths of a second and without us realizing it, our subconscious mind takes over the interpretation of the negative imperative and turns it positive.

Reflect on the numerous negative imperatives we encounter daily, from mundane tasks to parental guidance. Don’t let the dog out. Don’t forget to pick up some milk. Don’t slip on the sidewalk. How about the don’ts we tell our kids? Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex. Don’t drive too fast. Instead of framing commands in the negative, we can achieve better results by stating what we want people to do. This simple shift in language can lead to improved results and a happier environment.

The trick is to catch yourself before you say “don’t,” and transform it to the positive directive. Requesting a Do Over when you realize a negative form was used allows for correction without friction. For instance, “Don’t forget to pick up milk” becomes “Remember to pick up milk,” fostering clarity and positivity in communication. Don’t let the dog out becomes keep the dog inside. Don’t slip on the sidewalk becomes be careful on the sidewalk it may be slippery. Don’t drink alcohol becomes drink non-alcohol beverages to stay safe. Don’t have sex becomes save sex for marriage.

When I remember to do that in work environments, I get much better and happier compliance to my request. Instead of ending emails, letters, and correspondence with “Don’t hesitate to call me,” I use “Feel free to reach out to me or call me if I can be of assistance or service to you.” It’s proactive communication with an affirming statement and has a much more positive ending.

Feel free to reach out to me!

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