If you say “no” to everything I offer, I probably can’t help you.
During the school months, I have this morning routine with my two young girls. They want to help me pack my lunch for work and they want me to help them get dressed. I’ve paid the price in minutes of drama if I don’t wake them for this routine before, so I’ve worked out a routine that they like for the morning. They want to spend some time with me before I go to work. I get that, and I honor their desire.
My girls are very capable of dressing themselves. I’ve seen them pick their own clothes and change from pajamas to play clothes without my help. I’ve seen them get a little step ladder so that they can reach for what they want to wear and get it from the closet. Summer is easier, but when school season is upon us, they want me to change their clothes.
Sometimes, they have trouble picking something they want to wear. I will offer selections to them and I get “no”. Again, and again. I explain to them it’s harder to get what you when all you’re doing is saying “no” to what you don’t want. I’m teaching them to think and speak in the affirmative, to speak their desires and make them known. I do this myself to set an example.
I always say what I want. I do this because long ago, I learned that the brain doesn’t understand “no”, and “don’t.” For example, if I say, “Don’t think about giraffes,” you will find that an image of that animal pops into your head. The brain only heard the word, “giraffe.” It didn’t hear the word “don’t.”
Kids demonstrate this principle very well, too. I was sitting at the dining table with my kids one day and I said, “Whatever you do, don’t do what I do.” I stuck out my tongue. They stuck out their tongues. I touched my nose with my fingers. They touched their nose with their fingers. I patted my head, they patted theirs. Then I reminded them that I said not to do what I do, and they continued to imitate every gesture that I made after that. They didn’t hear the word don’t.
So when I express any desire, I use positive statements. I want a banana. I want to play with you. I want to go outside. I rarely talk about what I don’t want because the minute I start talking about what I don’t want, the image of what I don’t want appears in the minds of everyone in the room, and they won’t hear the word, “don’t”. The odds of getting something I don’t want to receive increase significantly if I used words like “don’t.”
I use positive expressions in writing and in speech. I express my desires in such a way as I think I am more likely to get what I want, knowing what I know now. I have tried the other way and found it wanting, and confusing, especially for the people around me.
It’s a simple principle, but it can be hard to follow if you’re not in the habit of doing it. The rule that I follow is simple. If I find myself using the word “don’t” or other negative words in my mind to express a desire, I stop and change the wording. I consider the words I am using to express my desire and engineer my expression until words like “don’t” and “do not” are not required to express my desire. I make sure that whatever I say, it’s a positive statement affirming what I want.
I’ve done this so many times for so long now, that it’s a habit. Whenever I need to express a desire, I reach for those positive words, put them in a sentence and speak my mind. I don’t have to backtrack. I don’t have to rephrase my desires often. And in doing so, I am ensuring that everyone is absolutely crystal clear about what I want.