Don’t say don’t.
Really. Two reasons- one is pretty esoteric and provokes skepticism in me, but the second is nearly self-evident:
1) Some research shows that the use of words/phrases involving “not” or even “-n’t” (like don’t) are subconsciously turned into the positive by the listener, because negative talk is rejected. So if a person is told “don’t be late!” they actually perceive “be late!”, increasing the likelihood of non-compliance.
Some experts think that’s reason enough to change what we say. I’m skeptical of that. However, this is good reason:
2) Consistent negative talk will create a negative culture. A constant drumbeat of “don’t forget” “don’t be late” “don’t screw that up” “don’t talk to me right now” can be pretty discouraging. If you can rephrase things using positive words, a better atmosphere is created. Better atmosphere = more encouraging = more productive.
Lots of words can be used to address behavior you want to stop;
Stop, avoid, limit, resist the temptation to, watch out for,…
Throw in a courtesy word, and BANG! You’ve gone from ogre to uncle, without lowering your standards:
Please stop using the copier during the meeting.
Resist the temptation to have your phone out, please.
Limit your talking to the topic, please.
Always arrive on time, please.
Please remember to fax the form by noon.
Stop chewing gum.
AND of course…
Please avoid use of the word “don’t.”