Tag: Bob Nicoll

Better Word Choice – Better Outcome

Understanding truth changes lives

Many years ago, I read Remember the Ice and Other Paradigm Shifts by Bob Nicoll. It was life-changing, or I could say it was communication-changing. : ) All these years later, when I engage in a conversation, I can hear Bob say, “Remember the ice!”

I attended an event that Bob spoke at and then I bought the book. I learned later that he was a friend of one of my clients. What a lovely coincidence or it would be if I believed in coincidences. We had a number of opportunities to visit together. Later, I was also privileged to be on stage with Bob, teaching parents together.

Bob had a passion for linguistics and empowering language choices. He focused his energies on studying the power of word choice: the Psychophysiology of Words, as he said. Now, that is a big word. : )

Bob had been a counseling psychologist, a business owner/consultant, a motivational speaker, a sales trainer, a restaurant owner, a financial planner, and a top sales manager. He knew the importance of all kinds of relationships and the power that words had in those relationships. He had a passion for helping people shift their paradigms with respect to empowering word choices. And that is how the book Remember the Ice came to be. So, what was in his book that was life-changing for me?

Let me share one story from the book and you will see.

In Bob’s words – Imagine being able to create a simple message. You know in your mind what you would like to convey. You get ready to share it with one of your precious children. You open your mouth, speak your mind, and then realize you have attracted the opposite of what you want.
Huh??? What’s that you say?

All you said to your precious 6-year-old was, “Don’t touch that vase.” Seconds later, you hear the sound of broken glass and your favorite, imported, crystal vase is on the floor in a myriad of pieces.

So why would he touch it after you specifically said, “DON’T touch that vase?” Before I share the answer, let me share a quick story.

It all began on July 23, 1991 — at 10:07 AM PDT

In a convenience store on Northern Avenue in Phoenix, AZ, the manager had placed a couple of signs above his cash registers. His intention was to encourage his patrons to buy more ice during the hot desert summer.

I lived across the street from this store and came to know him. Rick was working one day as I made a purchase. This time I paused and asked him how his ice sales were going because I am intrigued by word choice and the resulting behavioral outcomes. You see, the signs above the cash registers read: DON’T FORGET THE ICE

I asked Rick how sales were going. His reply was less than favorable. I paused and asked if I could make a suggestion. I mean, after all, this was Phoenix—in the desert—in the middle of the summer. (110+ degrees in the shade)

“Rick, do you have a couple of pieces of paper and a magic marker?” I inquired. He gave me the items and I quickly made two new signs for him. REMEMBER THE ICE

I left with a knowing smile and purposely stayed away for about a month. When I went back to the store, I spoke with Rick about his recent ice sales. “What did you do? My sales are up over 500% in the last 30 days!!”

I smiled and asked him a simple question: “If I say to you: Don’t think of the color blue. What color are you thinking of?” “Why blue of course” he replied. “Of course.” Now if I say, “don’t forget the ice”, what will you forget? “Hmmm… the ice.” “Right.”

Wasn’t that story awesome and haven’t you experienced something like this? I have with my own children, my husband, and friends. Words matter. What we say and how we say it impacts not only us but those we are talking to. Don’t is a word I rarely use because I hear Bob in my head.

Do you see how the innocent and commonly used message of “DON’T results in the opposite of what we want? Our mind has no conception of the word NOT (Bob explains more about that in his book), and we proceed to DO what follows the word Not (Do not or Don’t). So, the end result is, 6-year-old Tommy is compelled to touch the vase BECAUSE you told him to.

Words mean things. Word choice has behavioral consequences.

If mom had said, “leave the vase alone”, or “no touching the vase,” the end result is, you would have a beautiful piece of crystal to showcase your flowers. And this is the crux of the book.

How can you think differently about the words you use? How can you have better outcomes? How can words assist you in getting your kids, spouse, and others to respond positively more often?

I recommend Remember the Ice and Other Paradigm Shifts.

It is available on Amazon. You will be a better parent for having read it. Bob taught people that, “There is Power in the Clarity of your Articulation.” Another way of saying that is: “Word Choice has behavioral consequences.”

Here is how I say it –
Words mean things. Learn how to use them well.

Want more direction on having meaningful conversations with your kids:

Words Are Powerful!


Words are powerful. They can make us feel worthy or worthless, beautiful or ugly, they can empower or destroy. Words can move people to action or cause resistance.

Yesterday morning when I woke up I said to myself, “Ugh, I am so tired. I just want to sleep. All I have waiting for me is work.” It was difficult to get myself out of bed.

This morning I woke up at the same early hour but my first words were,” Man, I need to get hopping. I have a ton of projects I want to do today.” Before I knew it I was up and in the bathroom brushing my teeth. Can I say that the projects I had waiting for me were the very same ones that hadn’t gotten finished from the day before, the same work.

What we say and how we say it impacts ourselves and others.

Last week I talked about getting kids to buy in to what we want them to do by making the mundane and everyday special. Another way to get kids to buy in is to use words well.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner Alicia Eaton says that by understanding the power of language parents can get their children do almost anything without yelling, bribing, or threatening. In her book How To Get Kids To Do Almost Anything, she reminds readers that the words we use matter and so does the structure of what we say. “We use negative talk and then we’re surprised when our children don’t do what we want them to,” Eaton says.

Here are a few tips for using words and phrases that will get your kids to buy in more often.


1. Say what you want and not what you don’t want

A friend of mine, Bob Nicoll, wrote about the power of words in getting people to take certain actions in his book Remember The Ice. His passion was reminding people to say what you want and not what you don’t want.

• Don’t leave a mess. vs Clean up when you’re done, please.
• You have to stop being late for school vs Let’s get our bikes and see if we can be early for school today.

2. Allow choice

• Put your shirt on, were late for church. vs Which shirt will you wear today, the blue or the red.
• What do you want to do first, put away the blocks or pick up the books?

3. Make words and phrases positive

• Let’s leave the room tidy and put all the Lego away. vs You guys clean up this mess and put those Lego’s away.
• Keep the paint on your paper, OK. Vs Don’t make a mess.

Recently a mom said to me, “When I want my children to clean up after themselves I say, “Put away your project rather than put away your mess.” Isn’t that brilliant! I mean, who wants to clean up a mess. But putting away an important project, well now, that’s a horse of a different color.

4. Speak as if they have already bought in.

• When you get your room done we will have a snack.
• When we get done picking up the living room we’ll go for a walk.

5. Try saying thanks at the beginning rather than at the end.

• Please put your shoes in the closet. Thanks for helping.
• Can you help me sweep the walk? I appreciate your help.

Using words well generates positive energy and feelings. The more positive the words the better chance for the outcome we want. Using words positively and well is a skill. Skills can be learned. We do it by practicing and remembering that simple things, done consistently over time, bring BIG results.

Have an experience using the power of words? Please share. We would all love to know!

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