Do not think of a pink elephant!

Was it a big or small pink elephant? Maybe you have read or know that computers and human brains can not do negations. I believe computer programmers definitely are unable to do programming  by using “don’t, do nots”. Programming language is about telling  “what to do” rather than what “not” to do.

I worked for the FAA as an air traffic controller for 37 years. When communicating with pilots we always told the pilots what we wanted them to do versus not what we didn’t want them to do. Examples: “ Hold short of the runway” versus “Do Not go on the runway” or “Cleared to Land” versus “Land Do Not Crash” There are no NOT Tos in air traffic control phraseology!

Unfortunately on our roads “Do Not Pass” road signs have killed thousands on the roads in the USA. This sign is similar to the “Do Not Think of a Pink Elephant” image your brain makes even if you’re not conscious of the image. I hope one day the USA “Do Not Pass” sign will change to a positive image as does the International sign.


So, why do we use negations on ourselves and others? We were taught by our caregivers, “ Do not spill your milk, Do not go into the street, Don’t fall”.  And they wonder why you spilled your milk, got into trouble by playing in the street, and you fell. Don’t and Do Not language rather than positive directions like; “Be Careful with your milk or Stay in the yard, and Be Careful” will get better outcomes. Do not think of the number of negations that are in “The 10 Commandments” (Answer at the end).

You can break this pattern by telling yourself and others what you want rather than what you don’t want. Remember to be careful for what you wish or pray for especially if you use negations. Examples: “ I don’t want to die vs I want to live”. Notice how you see these two different statements in your mind’s eye? If on a “Pain Scale” you are experiencing a 7 (1 is good & 10 is about to pass out) , ask yourself for a 1. Focus on what you WANT.

How to improve your communications with yourself and others:

Imagine on a TV screen seeing what you want or what you want the other person to do, rather than what you don’t want them to do. I know this is takes practice for many people. Then you can then put the images into positive directive/direction language.

Do not have fun,


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