This photo comes from my visit to Palmerston North, New Zealand. These people have the right idea: encouraging desired behavior is much more likely to increase it. Yet how many of us ask for what we don’t want instead of what we do want?
I took a small survey the other day while I was in a hospital waiting room, and counted at least four signs that started with the “N word”: “No eating,” “No drinking,” “No smoking,” and “No cell phone.” While these types of signs may get some people to comply (I noticed at least one person using a cell phone), they will never improve cooperation. Ironically, the goal on the biggest sign in the waiting room was to “Exceed customer expectations.”
What might happen if we reversed “No” signs and asked for the behavior we really want? Try it, and let me know what happens.