Don’t say this!

One of my primary fields of interest is what works and what doesn’t work linguistically. Saying things the right way can have a huge impact on your life, not only as a trainer/coach, but also your professional life.

What happens in our brains when we hear a word, is that we anticipate the following word(s) and these are made more easily accessible. Words activate related words to speed up reading/understanding. This is what framing is basically about – knowing which words to use to create the associations you want, and equally important – knowing which words to avoid.

This post is about a group of words you should avoid completely as a coach.

When coaching someone you should always aim to tell them what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t. Simply because mentioning something activates that action/word. George Lakoff cleverly titled one of his books “Don’t think of an elephant” and the title alone explains this concept. Even if you’re using a negation in your sentence (ie “not”) you’re still activating the neuron circuits connected to “elephant”.

Our brain simply processes information in a hierarchical structure where negations are applied very late in the process. What that means is that you’ll first think of the elephant, then try to erase that thought. Same goes for a nutritional guru saying “don’t eat chocolate” or a weightlifting coach who doesn’t want you to round your back, shift the weight to your toes or something else.

Try to keep your coaching as negation-free as possible. Tell the people you work with what they should do and how they should act – not how they shouldn’t. Same goes for the workplace and in your private life – telling people what you want instead of what you don’t want is a simple but effective way of avoiding misunderstandings.

Have a great weekend people. 🙂

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