Don’t, by Bob Selden, Reviewed.


This book has a couple of informative subtitles: ‘Unlock the do in don’t…’ and ‘How using the right words will change your life’ I could add, ‘How using the right words will change the lives of those around you’, too.

So, what’s it about? Essentially, it’s a manual for using the right language to make life smoother, easier, less confrontational and more enjoyable for all. That may sound like an ambitious project, but Bob Selden has carried it off.

I first came across the idea of not using ‘don’t’ on a civil service course many years ago. The image I was given then has stuck with me ever since as an illustration of the way we can easily make mistakes when using language. Try this: ‘Don’t think of pink elephants.’ You are now visualising pink elephants. Your response to language is largely visual and there’s no visual image for don’t, so your brain’s response to that command is the same as if you’d heard ‘Think of pink elephants.’ The ‘don’t’ is invisible.

Bob Selden enlarges on this simple basic fact that corrupts so much of our communication. He does so with examples that brilliantly illustrate the problems of both conversation and written communication. For parents, he gives a wonderful example of an alternative to the much used, ‘Don’t touch anything.’, which, of course, the child hears as ‘Touch anything.’ I won’t give his alternative: read the book.

He develops the theme of positive versus negative language, discusses how effective these two approaches to communication are and uses exercises and examples to demonstrate how positive words and phrases are often key to successful transactions.

There are chapters on: the ‘don’t’ rule, accentuating the positive, applying the futureless concept, using metaphors, changing mood by applying more positive descriptions to your feelings, conflict issues in conversations, tone of voice, and how to handle those difficult conversations we all experience with colleagues, bosses, employees, family and friends.

In short, there’s something for everyone here. No matter what your employment status, your relationship role, your family position, you’ll find words of practical wisdom here. I shall keep this book handy for reference. And I’ll re-read it from time to time to reinforce the very positive message it contains. An excellent piece of work that should be on all book shelves.

Available at via this link

And at, using this link.

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