The importance of positive phrasing

One excellent tip he provided was to think of keeping the gun pointed AT something in a safe direction rather than trying to keep it pointed AWAY from things I didn’t want to kill or destroy. Having a more proactive mindset in this respect has helped me since.

From David Yamane, during his range trip with John Johnston.

Words matter. Phrasing matters. The right words, the right phrasing can do wonders for understanding and mindset.

Long ago I observed adults seeing children running when they shouldn’t be (e.g. on the wet floor around a swimming pool). A parent would yell “DON’T RUN!” at children, then the kids would start skipping or hopping. The parent would get mad because, in their mind, the child was disobeying as the parent intended for the child to walk. However, the child was following the given directions: they were told not to run and they did stop running. Since the child was given no direction as to what TO do, they made their own (unguided) choice that to them was acceptable but to the parent it was not. Because of the parent’s choice of phrasing, relative to the message they intended to send, well… everything broke down and communication was not successful.

It’s the same with gun rule-sets. Often rule sets tell you what not to do, like “never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.” Certainly there’s truth in that statement, but what it doesn’t do is then tell you what you SHOULD do? Should you start pointing it at things you ARE willing to destroy? That could be open to some terrible interpretation, because maybe you’re willing to destroy your ex-spouse or your boss. That’s not good.

This is why I (and the rest of the instructors at KR Training) prefer rule sets like the NRA’s. Their phrasing is clear and positively stated so you can know what TO do: “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” That not only covers the desire to not point the gun at things you don’t want destroyed, but it also tells you where to actually point the gun muzzle.

It’s important to tell people what you want them to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean the phrasing has to be “positive”. For example, if a child is about to touch a hot stove, to say “Don’t touch the stove!” can be acceptable phrasing, because not touching the stove is precisely what you want them to do. Granted, phrasing in a more “positive” manner may be better (e.g. “Stop!” or “Put your hands behind your back!”) – the key is to clearly convey to people what you want them to do.

Proper phrasing goes a long way towards helping people learn, and establishing a stronger mindset for success.

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