The Language You Use

In 2012, consumer behavior research was undertaken to investigate how the language we choose to express our choices affects our ability to follow through. The participants in the study were divided into three groups. The first group was told to say “no” when declining specific options simply; the second group was told to add “I can’t,” and the last group was told to say “I don’t.”

This is how the experiment went. When offered ice cream, the first group responded, “no,” the second group stated, “I can’t eat ice cream,” and the third group said, “I don’t eat ice cream.” Now for the surprising part. There was a distinction in the manner in which they carried out their choices. Only a few respondents from the first and second groups who stated “no” and “I can’t” remained with their decision. However, the third group had the most significant number of persons who followed through and did not eat what they had declined.

Power of Words

What is the story’s moral? What we say is important. Our words can influence our propensity to stick to long-term goals and decisions. The comments “I don’t” make a significant difference since they give you a sense of empowerment and control. Saying “I can’t” emphasizes the importance of limitation. As we discussed in an earlier chapter, constraint and restriction can lead to overindulgence. We seek to control, mastery, and clarity of mind. The sentence “I don’t” accomplishes this.

When confronted with a temptation, it is not enough to say “no.” Instead, we must begin responding, “I don’t.” For example, if you want more sleep and thus miss a workout, tell yourself, “I don’t miss workouts.” If you find yourself craving sweets despite having already committed to a vegetable-based diet, tell yourself, “I don’t eat sweets.” See how different it is from saying “no” or “I can’t.”


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