Can’t, Won’t, Shan’t

Can't, Shan't, Won't - It's Only Words

In a profession where the language I choose is designed to help people change the way they think it’s good to have some research to back up why it’s so important.

Although many of us may think that semantics are trivial, studies have shown that changing a single word can, not only have a huge effect not only on how we feel but also on what we do.

In a study published in Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students were split into two different groups.

One group was told that each time they were faced with temptation they were to use the words ‘I can’t do X’ for example if tempted by an ice cream they would tell themselves ‘I can’t eat ice cream.

The other group was told to say ‘I don’t do X’ for example if tempted by the same ice cream they would say ‘I don’t eat ice cream’.

After repeating these phrases, all the students were given a set of unrelated questions to complete. As each student left the room they were offered a choice of complimentary treat, either a granola bar or a chocolate bar.

The results showed that 61% of the students who had told themselves ‘I can’t eat X’ chose the chocolate bar. Whereas only 36% of the students who told themselves ‘I don’t eat X’ chose the chocolate.

This one change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each student would make a more healthy food choice.

But this isn’t a fluke the same researchers wanted to discover how the words ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’ affect our willingness to say no when faced with repeated temptations and distractions.

They designed a new study that asked 30 working women to sign up for a health and wellness seminar. All of the women were asked to think of a long term health goal that was important to them. They were then split into 3 groups.

Group 1 –  This group was the control group. Any time they were tempted to slip from their goal they were asked to ‘just say no’.

Group 2 – This group was told that any time they felt they were faltering to employ the ‘can’t’ strategy. For example,’I can’t miss the gym today.’

Group 3 – This group was told to use the ‘don’t’ strategy instead. For example, ‘I don’t miss my gym sessions.’

For the following 10 days, each woman received an email asking to report her progress. They were specifically asked, ‘During the 10–day window you will receive emails to remind you to use the strategy and to report instances in which it worked or did not work. If the strategy is not working for you, just drop us a line and say so and you can stop responding to the emails.’

The results supported the original research,

Group 1 – 3 out of 10 participants kept going with their goals for the 10 days

Group 2 – Only 1 out of 10 participants kept going with their goals for the 10 days

Group 3 – In the ‘don’t’ group a huge 8 out of 10 participants persisted with their goals for the enitre 10 days.

Don’t versus Can’t

Words can help create our sense of being empowered and in control. They create a feedback loop that affects our future behaviour.

‘Can’t’ reminds us of our limitations. With ‘can’t’ we are robbed of a choice, we are restricted and feel disempowered. ‘Don’t’ creates a feedback loop that enforces our belief in our own power and control over our behaviour. It gives us back a choice and affirms our determination and empowers us.

How does this help?

‘I can’t’ and ‘I don’t’ are often used interchangeably but psychologically they are very different. They provide different feedback loops and ultimately produce different behaviours.

Words are important and this is just a small example of the behaviour that even changing one word can produce. Next time you ‘can’t’ do something why not try ‘I don’t’ instead and see it make a change in your own life.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. Buddha



Do you love me like I love you?

Sunray-Language-of-love-21-02-2014So how was your Valentine’s day? Did your partner prove their love to you with a thoughtful gift that was just perfect or were you left disappointed and wondering if your partner knows you at all?

Love may be thought of as the universal language but we actually each have our own dialect. If you or your partner feel that you are not being appreciated it’s worth considering whether it’s just a case of needing to learn a new language.

Here are the top five love languages that we speak and understand. Most of us do have a preference so why not sit down with your partner and work out what they are you may be surprised at the difference it can make to your relationship when understand each other.

Words of Affirmation

Compliments, encouragement, affirmations and kindness.  This could include thanking your partner for doing something for you or telling them that their hair looks especially nice. If your partner’s language is words of affirmation be specific in your compliments, vagueness such as you look nice today can seem dismissive. We all have areas in our life where we feel insecure, words of encouragement or affirmation can be very powerful resulting in the increased belief that we are loved.

Quality Time

Undivided attention, shared activities, listening and sharing. Learning to actively listen is a key skill. Sometimes people just need to share feelings and solve their own problems. If your mind is problem solving for them you aren’t really listening, you are busy inside your own head. Talking is also important and involves sharing your inner feelings, not just your thoughts or opinions. Generally if you can use the word ‘think’ instead of feel then it is not a feeling. For example , ‘I feel you drink too much’,  isn’t expressing a feeling, it’s expressing a thought. However, ‘I feel worried when you drink too much because I’m concerned for your health’ is sharing a feeling.


Gifts can be simple, extravagant, home-made or shop bought. They can be gifts of time or affection. Receiving a gift, whatever it is can make us feel valued. Giving gifts can also make us feel good and both the giving and receiving is extremely important for some people.

 Acts of Service

Acts of service are about doing something that your partner would like you to do , not what you would like to do or think is important. Sometimes this may mean stepping outside of your normal routine and really thinking about what your partner would appreciate.  You may already cook dinner, clean the car, walk the dog but what don’t you do that your partner would appreciate a break from? Clean the bathroom, take the rubbish out or something else?

 Physical Touch

Touch is a powerful way of communicating emotional love and is some peoples primary love language.  It can include things like hugs, holding hands, kissing, physical proximity, and sex.

Being able to communicate love to your partner in their own dialect and vice versa can transform your relationship.  So take the time and find out what your partner really likes and remember that learning a new language can be challenging but ultimately worthwhile.

Personality types – How understanding them can improve your relationships

How to improve your relationships - know your personality typeLast week I started a short series of blogs regarding relationships. As promised this week I will be introducing you to personality types and how understanding the differences between them can help improve your relationships.

As with any model that attempts to categorise people into defined groups it is not going to ring true for everyone but it can be a useful tool to give you an overview of some of the common differences between people.

The majority of personality tests, including our own (click here), are based on the original developed by mother and daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. The Myers-Briggs personality inventory was intended to turn the theory of psychological types into a practical use and is one of the most widely used psychological tests in the world.

The model defines sixteen different combinations of personality type identified by a four letter code and based on the following pairs.

Introvert/Extrovert (I/E)

Extroverts tend to be action-oriented. They are at their most energised when they have others around them. A cosy night in for them would probably involve about half a dozen friends or family as well as yourself. They love people. Introverts tend to be thought-oriented. Introverts love some people. Some introverts will love only a very few people, and then only in measured doses which they need to control – so the in-laws dropping in unannounced will be stressful, even if they aren’t interrupting anything. Introverts gain energy from being alone.

Thinker/Feeler (T/F)

Thinkers are people who pride them-selves on being objective. They respond according to ‘the principle of the thing’ and apply standards to measure the appropriateness of behaviour. They are often seen as critical (less accepting), who will always question others decisions before accepting them. They tend to step out of their situation and apply their logic to it, working through it in a sequential way until reaching a conclusion.

Feelers are more subjective. They make decisions based on their feelings, gut reactions, what is important to them, and how things affect other people. They value harmony highly, and will try to avoid argument, often to the point of doing something they don’t want just ‘for a quiet life’. They thus appear more accepting, and trusting of their ‘gut instincts’.

Sensing/Intuition (S/N)

Some of us are attracted most towards matter-of-fact, concrete information. They will tend to be anchored more in ‘the here and now’ than the future, and be pragmatic. People like this are described as Sensors.

Sensors would probably describe themselves as practical. Sensors like detail and are attracted to facts. They operate very much in the now and are more interested in facts than in possibility. They like order, and tend to have rules about how things should be done. In that sense they are quite conservative and the fact that ‘it has always been done this way’ can be a compelling argument for them.

Intuitors are more attracted to possibility. They love ideas more than hard facts and will be more imaginative than practical. Intuitors don’t much like detail, they find it boring. They look for possibilities in situations and are more concerned with patterns and the relationships between things. They will tend not to have rules about things, and will often appear to make things up as they go along.

Perceiver/Judger (P/J)

Judgers like order. They like to work to deadlines and will keep to them. They will tend to be punctual and are usually work oriented. They are almost driven to make decisions, just to bring something to a close. These are the people with lists, with packed diaries and organisers. At their best they make things happen. They organise, they prioritise, they produce results. At their worst they can become so determined to get closure that they remain attached to a decided outcome long after it should have changed, they make the decision before they have all the facts, and can be inflexible.

Perceivers dislike closure. They like to keep their options open and will often delay making a decision until the last moment. They seem to value play over work and like to go with the flow. They may have a filofax, but it will have little in it, or they forget to look in it. At their best they can be innovative, able to be fluid and adjust to changes at short notice. At their worst they can take so long to make a decision that they miss the boat, miss deadlines, miss everything.

The Myers-Briggs model is designed to help us understand more about ourselves through recognising our strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. There are no right or wrong answers and no one personality type is better than the other.

So how does this help us improve our relationships? Understanding personality preferences can enable you to appreciate the differences between you and the people closest to you. Instead of seeing your partner’s behaviour as something designed to irritate or offend, you can learn to see it as something that just reflects their personality type and they can do the same for you.

So want to know more? Why not take the Quiz and find out your preferences, alternatively why not have a look at Lovebirds, a book designed especially for couples.


Top 5 Tips for Better Communication

If you haven’t heard of the “Tao of Pooh”, then it may come as a surprise that the old bear said some very wise things. As Pooh searched for honey in the Hundred Acre wood, he often made remarks about the world that may be used as reminders of some of the ways that we can improve the way we relate and communicate with our family and friends.

Really Listen.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

It is worth reminding ourselves to listen carefully to those we live and work with. We’ve all gone through the motions, particularly if we’re busy and pre-occupied. Things like pretending to listen while secretly writing shopping lists in our heads.. or planning our answer before the other person has finished speaking.

However, being productive and happy often depends upon giving your full attention in each moment, this is especially true in close relationships when listening can really make the difference between feeling loved or not. Listening is also important when we’re facing a challenge and need to solve a problem: We need to really listen to the other person’s point of view so that we are more able to understand it.

Be Patient.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

People often don’t appear to listen ( anyone with a teenager?). Often, it’s about the time it takes them to process information. Wait and give them time.

Try different approaches; often it just a matter of framing the question in the right way, to get them to see things from the other person’s perspective. As Pooh said, it may just be that they have a piece of fluff in their ear.

Be succinct.

 “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Keeping it simple often works best. Life is too busy and complicated, and for the most part, people want simplicity. We live in a world of deadlines and data. As always, there is a time and place for deep and meaningful conversations. It’s often a matter of choosing the right moment, and the right words. Keeping in touch these days only needs a quick text message or phone call. Be proactive in staying in touch, even it’s just to say hello.

Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to communicate, and to strengthen our relationships with family and friends.

Meet them in the middle.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This one speaks for itself. True friendships are founded in mutual respect. It is important to keep communicating. Whether it’s someone going through a divorce, wanting to stop an old habit like smoking or someone starting out and leaving home.

With this in mind, it is worth bearing in mind that our only constant is change. Children become adults. Friends learn new skills, we travel and work; and change our view of the world. So long as we understand that, and we know what’s important to us, then the way we communicate will be as rich and rewarding as ever:

[quote]”A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. ― William Shakespeare[/quote]

Be Kind.

“You never can tell with bees.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

In Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, he related the story of a man on a train who stood by whilst his two boys shouted and misbehaved. Affronted with this, Stephen felt compelled to challenge the man. After speaking with him, Stephen soon discovered that the man was in shock, bereft that his wife had just died; and that the boys were as distressed as he was. Upon realising the circumstances, Stephen changed his perspective on the situation and offered to help. That’s the thing with people. You just can never tell. Sometimes it’s worth reserving judgement until you understand all the facts.

We would like to thank A.A.Milne, and Winnie-the-Pooh for sharing their wisdom. We certainly hope that you enjoyed these tips and found some useful pointers for the next time you speak with a loved one. Time for something sweet!?

Pay it forward

Sunray – Pay it forward

A couple of weeks ago my car broke down as I was travelling along a busy road, I heard a ‘ping’ and my clutch was no more. I was trying to push my car round an uphill corner to get it off the main road into a safer position when 3 people took the time to help me. It was a Monday morning, they were all dressed for work and as soon as my car was safe they were gone. I did thank them at the time but we don’t always have the opportunity to pay a favour or a kindness back to the people that help us.

What we can do though is pay that favour forward. It was a huge coincidence that two days after my car broke down I was leaving my house when I saw my neighbour pushing his car down the road. Although he declined my offer of help it reminded me that there are always opportunities to pay a kindness forward.

One of the things that I’m doing in 2012 – 2013 is assisting on the latest Quest course. The Quest Institute is where I trained to become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and is one of the most innovative courses I have ever been on. During my training I was introduced to a number of ‘assistants’ who gave up their time to help facilitate and support the new students.

They were an enormous help and a motivation to me as they had already passed the course and most were working as therapists. Although I can’t pay that kindness back to each individual I can pay it forward to the next intake of students and I am happy to do it.

So have you ever been helped by someone that you haven’t been able to thank personally?
Why not think about paying it forward instead and the side effect is that you’ll feel great doing it!

Read more about paying it forward at wikipedia.

Step into my world… See, hear and feel the other person’s perspective

Have you ever thought you were speaking a different language, unable to make yourself understood? It’s possible that you are.

We all have a preferred way of experiencing the world. Some people are more visual, others auditory, some people are touchy feely (Kinaesthetic) and others have an internal dialogue that never stops (Audio-Digital).

Although these 4 preferences are generalisations because in reality we tend to use all four depending on the context, they can have a huge impact on our ability to successfully communicate with one another.

Someone with a visual preference may ‘see where you are coming from’ but be unable to ‘hear what you say’. A kinaesthetic  may ‘get a feel’ for a conversation that doesn’t ‘make sense’ to an audio digital.

So next time you are in conversation with someone try to spot the language patterns they use. Is it dotted and coloured with visual words or maybe stuffed full of kinaesthetic clues? Perhaps it is silently screaming with auditory indicators or distinctly making sense from a audio digital perspective.

“You’re not listening to a word I say!”

“…and you don’t feel the way I do….”

Personality profiles show us that people don’t experience the world in the same way. This simple observation may deepen our understanding of why our friends, family and acquaintances act the way they do. When dealing with misunderstandings it helps to see, feel and hear the issue from the other person’s perspective… to step into their ‘world’.  If you are having trouble making your point, try changing the language you use to match the preference of your conversational partner and see how you get on!

Why not take our Character Quiz to learn more about your personality profile?

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”

-Judith Henderson