When you say, “Don’t worry,” you’re telling me I should worry.

I’m not talking about trying to comfort someone who is already worried (although when does simply saying “don’t worry” ever stop someone from worrying?), I’m talking about prefacing a statement with, “Don’t worry” and then saying something that might be worrisome.

When you do that, you’re planting a negative idea and causing your listener to do exactly what you didn’t want them to do—worry.

Here’s the communication tip:

Never suggest something you don’t want someone to do by telling them they shouldn’t do it—especially when they might not have ever thought of it if you hadn’t mentioned it.

The classic example of don’t think of a pink elephant is a perfect illustration. As soon as you read that, you visualized a pink elephant, didn’t you?

That’s because our brains don’t process the “don’t” part of a message.

So the employee who requests a meeting with a supervisor and says, “Don’t worry, I’m not quitting but I need to talk with you,” has likely caused the supervisor some angst.

The preacher who begins with, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to give a three-hour sermon,” has just caused everyone in the congregation to squirm with dread.

When you say, “Don’t worry,” the brain of your listener hears, “Worry!!!”

If you really don’t want people to worry because of something you’re not going to do, just don’t do it. Don’t say something that will make them think they should be worried.


Just Say What You Mean

Jacquelyn Lynn
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