Do NOT think about a Pink Elephant!

One of the interesting things about the human brain is that it often does the opposite of what we actually wanted to do. This can lead to unexpected and unwanted surprises. One of the most common problems that I see on a daily basis – both in the work environment and within the family group – is outlined below.


I am sure, that once you read the text indicated above, you immediately thought about a Pink elephant even though you were told NOT to do it.

How many times have you told a child “Do not to jump on the sofa with your shoes on”. Then they often immediately do the opposite and jump on the sofa with their shoes on.

Another example would be when you say to someone: “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!” and they immediately begin speaking in “THAT ” tone of voice again.

Unfortunately, It is a sad fact that the human brain needs to literally do the positive action or element first in order to understand the negative.

The use of structures using “NO” as an order are known as “Negative Orders.

This information has many interesting applications. For example, in Ericksonian hypnosis we often use this technique in many different ways amongst which are:

Sending people into trance rapidly: “Don’t go into trance too fast.” which immediately leads them to doing the exact opposite!

Inducing enjoyment: “Don’t enjoy this new experience too much!”. Often they start smiling as they start enjoy the new experience.

Inducing comfort & relaxation: “Don’t get too comfortable or relaxed while in trance”. This often results in the client actually adjusting their position into one which is more comfortable & relaxing for them!

Think about how the concepts outlined above have been applied in your daily life at work or at home. Have you always been happy with the response?


  • Don’t ride your bike too fast!
  • Don’t hit your brother / sister!
  • Don’t forget to send that email to the client!
  • Don’t drink too much at the Xmas party!

What has been the usual result? Compliance or Non-compliance?

Reducing resistance:
Another use is when you want someone to do something that they might object to:
One example could be that you are in a room that is very hot. If you ask the other person directly to turn the heat down, they might object strongly (for any number of reasons).

By saying something like “Don’t you think that it is very hot in this room?” you are focussing their subconscious mind on the temperature and their own physical response to the heat which will frequently lead them to suggest opening the window. Desired result achieved!

There are many more examples of the use of Negative Orders in business, Sales & Negotiation and so forth.

You are the ONLY person responsible for ensuring that your communication is elegant, effective and influential so apply the information learned from this post whenever appropriate.

You should now be sensitized to this pattern so focus on how and when it is used.

The best alternative to use is:

Instead of telling people what you don’t want, tell them what you DO want.
Negative order:                                                     Positive order: Wanted
Don’t worry!                                                        Relax. Things will be fine
Don’t be late.                                                       Please be on time.
Don’t forget this information.                       Remember this information.
Don’t get tied up in the details.                     Focus on these three details.

In Summary, FORGET what you DON’T want and ALWAYS ask for what you DO want.

All constructive feedback would be gratefully received,

Ian Brownlee, M.Ed (T.E.O.), M.Ed (T&D), MNlP, MTNLP.
© Madrid, Spain, 16 December, 2019


  • Collected Papers on Hypnosis: Volume 1 – Nature of Hypnosis and Suggestion ISBN 0-8290-1206-0 (Ernest L. Rossi, Editor)
  • Collected Papers on Hypnosis: Volume 2 – Sensory, Perceptual and Psychophysiological Processes ISBN 0-8290-1207-9 (Ernest L. Rossi, Editor)
  • Collected Papers on Hypnosis: Volume 3 – Hypnotic Investigation of Psychodynamic Processes ISBN 0-8290-1208-7 (Ernest L. Rossi, Editor)
  • Collected Papers on Hypnosis: Volume 4 – Innovative Hypnotherapy ISBN 0-8290-1209-5 (Ernest L. Rossi, Editor)
  • Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H.Erickson: Volume 1 ISBN 1-55552-052-9, John Grinder & Richard Bandler
  • Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H.Erickson: Volume 2 ISBN 1-55552-053-7, John Grinder, Richard Bandler & Judith DeLozier

About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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