Don’t Say Don’t!

Mother and daughter hugging

Last week I was leaving a friend’s house and she said, “Don’t forget to pick up the decorations for the party.” I was already planning on getting the decorations, but also appreciated the reminder. What struck me was that instead of telling me what she wanted me to do, which was, “Remember to pick up the decorations….”, she phrased it in the negative.

I started paying attention to how people talk, and realized that this way of phrasing requests is common.   Parents often warn their children, “Don’t go in the street,” or “Don’t forget to do your homework.” What they are really saying is, “Stay on the sidewalk,” or, “Do your homework before dinner.”

Sometimes the subconscious mind doesn’t hear all the words, and can easily miss the “don’t” in the above sentences. So what I might hear is you suggesting that I, “Forget to pick up the decorations,” or you telling your child to, “Play in the street.” Even the title of this article should be, ‘Avoid Saying Don’t.’

So this month I’m reflecting on the importance of looking at things from a positive perspective. How I phrase requests is just another way to do that. Now I’m more aware, so when I have a suggestion for someone, I will think about what I WANT rather than what I don’t want, and say it that way.

How about you?

Please comment so others will benefit from your wisdom and experience 

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2 comments on “Don’t Say Don’t!
  1. Peter Wright says:

    Excellent advice Sandy.

    One that I frequently get called out on is replying “Not Bad” when asked: “How Are You” or saying “No Problem” when being thanked for something I have done for someone. Both are negative.

    It’s partly a culture thing, in Southern Africa where I spent most of my life and other Southern Hemisphere countries with a British heritage, those two responses are very common.

    • Sandy Abell says:

      Excellent Peter! Yes, it’s important to pay attention to all those things, and focus on the positive whenever possible. Makes life so much happier. Thanks for sharing.

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