You hear it all the time: “Don’t forget”; Don’t Don’t get lost”; Don’t do that!”… Well-meant admonishments that are bound to fail because they prescribe the behaviour the instructor want’s avoided.

It’s odd that we do this so often, and only in certain types of situation or familiar relationships. We don’t follow the same pattern with directions to travellers (“Don’t turn left at the junction and make sure that you don’t go the wrong way…”), or cookery recipes (“Don’t use plain flour and don’t add the wrong quantity of salt…”), for example.

It’s much less risky and more likely to get the result you want if you frame instructions to describe want what people to do, rather than telling them about what you don’t want them to do.

Please remember that!