Don’t Say Don’t
Tena koutou katoa. Nga mihi atawhai nui.
‘Don’t touch that!!’; ‘You don’t listen to me!!’; ‘Don’t you talk to me in that tone of voice’; ‘Don’t you ignore me when I am talking to you’.
Don’t, don’t, don’t!! How many times a day/week do we say ‘don’t’ to others?
Behavioural scientists will tell us that ‘When you tell someone not to do something, are they going to listen; or are they more motivated than ever to do it? Science would say that the latter is more likely, because people like to be in control of their own lives’. And, I would like to add another personal scientific ‘fact’ from many years of working with young women, and being the mother of a daughter – girls are just contrary!!
The behavioural science advice is to say what it is you do want someone to do, rather than telling them don’t. Let’s start with an easy example: don’t look down. What is our immediate response? We just hear the ‘look down’ bit so we want to look down to see what is there, that we’ve been told not to look at.
How can we apply this to our daily lives? As a parent, we can replace ‘don’t speak to me like that’ with ‘we use a respectful tone when we talk to each other’.
As Carolyn Stuart’s weekly blog suggested: Throughout our day we have many opportunities to choose how we respond. If we need space we can either say “don’t talk to me” or we can say “I need some space”. One response pushes people away; the other builds the relationship.
We’d all rather be around positive and life-giving people, who are committed to verbalising what they want rather than what they don’t want. The good news is that the more we become that person, the more those around us do as well. “Don’t say don’t” can be quite contagious.
So, let’s focus on what we do, rather than on what we don’t.