So what happened when you read the title of this article? If you've got this far, then you ARE reading this article.
It's funny the way our brain plays tricks on us. Our ears and eyes might notice the word "don't", but our brains skip right past it.
When I was at school, our local swimming pool had an illustrated poster of rules which were all "don't" instructions. Don't run. Don't dive-bomb. Don't splash. When you read a list of "don't" statements, your brain takes in a list of "do". No wonder so many kids at the swimming pool were running, dive-bombing and splashing.
Don't think about a purple elephant
Not sure what I'm talking about? Well, don't think about a purple elephant. Whatever you do, don't think about a purple elephant. No purple elephants here! Move along, definitely no purple elephants.
Did you see what we did there? I bet you're thinking about a purple elephant (or perhaps, if you're trying really hard to be the exception that proves the rule, you might start thinking about a green hippo, but only because you were looking for something to drive away the purple elephant that first popped into your head).
The opposite effect of "Don't" and "Not"
So all the time when you are given DON'T and NOT instructions, your brain IS thinking about them, and probably urging you to do them.
Notice how often you use negative qualifiers - words like "don't" and "not". In effect, you are actually saying the exact opposite of what you thought you were saying. If you say "I'm not going to have more wine" your brain will just take in "have more wine". If you tell your children not to drop their clothes on the floor, their brains will just hear "drop your clothes on the floor". If you tell your staff "don't be late with that report", their brains will just hear "be late with that report".
Choosing to be contrary-wise
How about this list of instructions:
Say it the way you want it
In the list above, we deliberately used this phenomenon to get you to focus on what we DO want you to do.
And what about you?
You can make a conscious effort to say things how you want them - if you mean "put your clothes away in the cupboard", then say so. If you mean "get the report done by Friday", then say so.
If you're interested in learning more about how language shapes our experience, then you might like to join us on an NLP Diploma or NLP Practitioner course. Learn more at www.brightlightnlp.com
About Madeleine Allen: The author is a specialist in Leadership, Communication and Personal Development for business professionals. An NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner she conducts in-house corporate training (learn more at www.allentraining.co.uk) and public courses in NLP (learn more at www.brightlightnlp.com)
Bright Light NLP
Hello, we are Madeleine and Phil, and we want to help illuminate your future, so you can be the best you can be.