We often want to assist people by telling them what to avoid. Upon analysis, you will discover that so often when you tell a person what to avoid, the opposite results. The reason is that the brain does not envision "don't" or any other negative-type word. The brain envisions pictures, illusions, visions, and images.
Here is an example: Don't think of the color blue. What color did your brain envision?
Here is another example:
Think of any house pet—except a little white kitten with a bright red bow around its neck.
The park sign, "Don't walk on the grass" is less effective than "Please use walkways."
The teacher who tells the student not to look at his neighbor's paper is having the student's brain envision looking at the neighbor's paper.
I saw an incident reinforcing this point. A mother sitting next to her three-year old son told him to keep his feet off of the seat in front of him. I watched as the child stretched out his feet against the seat.
The evening of this incident, I spoke to 100 parents. I gave the example of the mother whose youngster wets his bed and her admonishing the child not to wet his bed the next time he goes to sleep. The image that the mother inadvertently prompted was a wet bed. I suggested that greater success in reaching the desired goal would be achieved if the mother would have said, "Let's see if we can keep our bed dry tonight."
The next day during the school staff in-service, Larry Ouimette, the superintendent of the Lac de Flambeau School District, related to me a story. His 4-year-old son had often wet his bed. After hearing me talk, he told his son, "See if you can keep your bed dry tonight." The next morning, the youngster ran to his father who was in the kitchen and proudly pulled him to the bedroom to point out that he had kept his bed dry all night.
The brain is a marvelous instrument that is easily swayed by external factors, such as images presented to it.
The points here are two:
(1) The brain conjures up pictures, not text. The words,"Don't" and "Avoid," simply do not register so much as what comes after these words.
(2) When the EXPECTATION OF WHAT IS DESIRED is articulated, chances are greater that people will do what is suggested. Simply stated, always conjure up what you do want, not what you do not want.