Say it the way you want it
Master communicators tailor their communication to suit the person they are communicating with in a number of different and subtle ways.
One way in which they do this is by being aware of the other person's model of the world and of the internal representations their communication is likely to elicit in that person.
One key aspect of this process is the recognition that the unconscious mind cannot process a negative or, in other words, we can't think about what we don't want to think about without thinking about it. Just take a moment to think about that.
Confused? That's OK as confusion always precedes understanding.
If someone said to you Don't think of a blue tree what's the first thing you think about? A blue tree - right?
When you're told Don't think of a blue tree you have to think about the blue tree just to be able to make sense of the sentence and thus you cannot avoid thinking about what you are told not to think about. (You're thinking about it again, aren't you.)
When you give another person an instruction or even a suggestion that involves negation such as:-
- Don't think about (X)
- Don't do (X)
- Try not to mention (X)
they have to think about the negative part of what you've said just to make sense of it. When we start to think about the negation we begin to imagine doing it and thus become more likely to do the very thing we are trying not to do!
For example, when you tell a child Don't spill your drink, in order to process the sentence the child has to think about spilling the drink.
Whilst they are internally imagining spilling the drink they focus on their internal map of reality instead of paying attention to what's going on in current external experience. Having experienced spilling the drink internally and the associated consequences, they are likely to experience the negative kinesthetics that go along with that, resulting in increased muscle tension.
They've now switched from calmly carrying the drink in a relaxed manner, concentrating on where they are going to clumsily carrying the drink in a nervous manner whilst paying attention to internal experience. Ironically, telling them not to spill the drink is more likely to produce that undesired result than if we'd said nothing at all - they probably hadn't even thought of it until we mentioned it!
A better instruction would have been That's right, carry the drink just like that, nice and carefully or, with a simpler form commonly used with small children or when time is of the essence - the drink stays in the cup.
When we say it the way we want it - state our outcome in the positive, tell the person what we want rather than what we don't want, we actually create internal representations in the person we are communicating with that significantly increase the chances of getting our desired outcome.
Remember the rule and say it the way you want it!