Managing yourself creatively

Practice Bad Habits – to break them!

Finger drumming, chain smoking, knuckle cracking are just a few of the many habits that can annoy others, harm your “public relations”. Most of us would confess to at least one bad habit that we would like to get rid of – usually “tomorrow”. But why wait?

There is a little – known way to break a habit that appears to work for the vast majority of people. It may work for you. Discovered by psychologist Knight Dunlop and dubbed the “theory of negative practice”, it is simply this: perform the bad habit consciously. Dr. Dunlop challenged the old idea that repetition can only entrench a habit more deeply. By consciously performing the habit, he reasoned, it might be possible to bring under voluntary control behavior, which has been involuntary.

He experienced on himself first. He had long had the annoying habit of typing hte for the when striking his typewriter keys rapidly. In order to rid himself of the habit, he purposely typed the several hundred time, all the while telling himself that he would not do it that way in the future. And it worked! He never made that mistake again. Further experiments, on people who stammered, for example, confirmed his theory.

Suppose you become aware that you have a habit of tapping your foot when socially uneasy. When you are alone, according to the theory, tap your foot while telling yourself, “I’m tapping my foot. I do it because I’m nervous and it shows everyone that I’m nervous. It’s pointless thing to do and I’m going to stop”.


Tests show that fifteen minutes of practice twice a day for several weeks produce best results.