Positive Vs. Negative Phrasing – Does It Matter?


By Barbara Sloan


Whether you're a business person, an advertiser, an athlete, a teacher, a doctor or anyone seeking to improve a situation with yourself or others, remember that the way we phrase the words we use, even in talking to ourselves, can make all the difference.


Examine these two commands: Remember the pie. Don't forget the pie.


In the mind reprogramming arena, it is said that the brain does not hear/register the "negative" in such sentences. So if you use the negative sentence "Don't forget the pie," your brain is ignoring the "don't" and hearing the command "Forget the pie." If you use the positive sentence, "Remember the pie," you'll have a much better chance of actually remembering.


Similarly, avoid operating from a perspective of "lack." If you want something you don't have, such as willpower, your brain will focus on the fact that you lack willpower. To trick the brain into helping you achieve willpower, use a positive phrase, such as "My willpower is getting stronger every day." It's the same with commands you give your mind inadvertently when you make remarks about yourself.


Here are some of the typical complaints people say without thinking: "It's hard for me to remember names; I have no memory; I'm getting old; I'm sick and tired…." The truth is you can remember names, even at a party, if you focus on doing so. Your memory grows more and more full of stuff all the time, so chances are it's just a little overloaded, not defective. And the memory will shove to the back of your mental filing system anything it feels has less importance, so it's important to attach significance to thoughts that need to be remembered (including writing them down).


Sure, we're all aging, but young thoughts will keep you a lot younger a lot longer. And, yes, even common "old saws" like "I'm sick and tired" need to be eliminated from your vocabulary unless you really want to be "sick and tired." In this case, phrase your statement to reflect what it is you would rather have in the situation.


All these play a subtle song in your head that can be to your benefit if you pay attention and watch that phrasing.