NLP Language Patterns: Understanding Language

Many of the best counselors, therapists and coaches I know are people who are able to use langauge effectively. However, not everyone knows the impact of language, so I’ll expound on this idea for a moment here.

Language has a surface structure and a deep structure. The surface structure is basically what we know as “syntax” or the rules of sentence formation. However, the deep structure of our experience is neither rule-based nor structured. If I said “Tall, tanned women purr seductively” we can make some sense out of it, and we can say that this is a properly well structured sentence. There’s a lot of meaning in there too!

But if I use Noam Chomsky’s famous “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”, it basically follows the same darned sentence structure, but there’s no real semantic meaning here anymore. However, from a figurative standpoint, you could make certain deductions about that statement.

Why is this so important to know?

Well, we typically take for granted our knowledge. If you said “The cat jumped off the table” you must mean that there was a cat on the table at first and there was a table. But nowhere in that statement is there any indication what type of cat or table (deletion), or what setting this is taking place in.

Similarly, the structure of the sentence “She made me depressed” has missing information. As a mental health practitioner in Singapore, I often teach mental health practitioners how to focus on the nature and structure of the statement rather than the content of the statement itself. After all, we are focusing on moving the client toward health rather than away from illness.

The main thing remains true – if I can uncover the deep structure of a person’s language, I have a much richer universe of knowledge about the client’s world. Technically, then, counseling or therapy is nothing more than just a very well-structured conversation.

If you want to coach someone effectively, you should learn a little more about the language we use. Did you know, for instance, that statements mentioned by someone reflect their inner beliefs? If you are doing nothing but listening to content, you might well forget that people are exposing their beliefs and values in their spoken statements. As a coach, I can then identify limitations in their thinking and unleash their greater potential.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to create changes in people, but with the right kinds of skills such as reframing, you’re doing nothing more than allowing your client to open up pathways of possibility in their minds, thereby allowing them to gain greater awareness and once they are mindful of the mental roadblocks in their head, they can navigate better toward their goals and outcomes.

NLP Definition: Reframing

I took a look at the Wikipedia definition and realized that it was pretty inaccurate and outdated. Reframing is a common practice in psychotherapy and counseling as a technique to provide a different perspective in the mind of the client. The process of reframing constitutes the following:

  • assessing if the current mental concept, belief or value is useful in the present context
  • provide a possible perspective

To reframe it so that it “hits the nail on the head”, you need to reframe it at the level that presented the problem.

“She hates me because I’m just an office boy” -> reframe this at the level of belief.

[So I should hate you too if you’re an office boy]

“He never does anything except complain” -> reframe this at the level of behavior.

[Gee… seems like you do exactly the same thing he does]

The reframe also needs some fuel. To reframe effectively use state-based reframing. However, reframing appears to be primarily linguistic in nature. In order to create the effect of reframing where language is limited or impossible, anchoring might have to be used instead.

Also, see “Sleight of Mouth” patterns by Robert Dilts.

NLP Definition: State Based Reframing

Based on my meddling, I’ve come up with the concept of State-Based Reframing. I’ve discovered that to come up with a reframe, one needs to enter the appropriate emotional state.

e.g. Nobody believes in me

  • (shock) what? really? I don’t believe that!
  • (sarcasm) with that attitude who’s going to ever believe you?
  • (humor) Lol – that’s unbelievable because I’m actually beginning to believe you!

Submodalities: Dealing With Failure

Creative Commons License photo credit: me and the sysop

It comes a point of time when you ask yourself – who am I? What am I made of? Am I really a ____ person? It’s so common for an individual to feel that failure is a bad thing because we have gotten used to the fact that failing is bad.

In reality, failure is socially unacceptable. In organizations, people are usually not allowed to fail. There’s a double standard from top executives when they say “I can tolerate failure — as long as it doesn’t cost me anything”.

The truth is we all have failed, and we know how it feels. But dealing with failure isn’t as simple as you may think. Sure, you can attend a program and work out your “traumatic past” and stuff. But to be honest, you will definitely want to reach into yourself using the process of submodality work and alter your experience or perception of failure.

Here’s a strategy:
Step 1: Assess the feeling behind the failure.

What exactly are you feeling? Is it anger? Fear? Anxiety? Disappointment? Disgruntled? Once you know what you are feeling, it becomes easier for you to know what happened.

Step 2: Assess your values.
If you are angry at the failure, you will have to ask, what is the difference between being angry at failing compared with angry that someone was late for an appointment? Something got violated – your values. Ask yourself: what is the reason why you got angry? Be honest and let it come out. This is where you start finding out through a constant assessment of the “purpose” of your anger.

If you are angry, it could be because you knew you could do it but something happened that interrupted you, causing you to miss your target. Maybe the purpose of your anger was to show you that you were capable of achieving the target but you just lost your concentration for that moment. Now, there’s a message here, and you will need to heed your own advice. There’s always something to learn about yourself.

Step 3: Learn what you need to learn and then focus on what you need to do instead.

In order to activate your resources, remember that you can make your images of your failure more distant, smaller, darker and less focused. Send that into the distance. In place of that, bring into your mental screen a bigger, clearer image of what you want instead, and imagine that in full, vivid intensity.

Repeat this several times in quick succession.

Of course, we would like a strategy so that we won’t even need to fail. Is that possible? Well, I’ll take a look at that at a later post. In the meanwhile, your comments are appreciated.

NLP Practitioner Training: Achieving Your Goals

For most, achieving their goals is something like “wishful thinking”. I’ve seen parodies of “The Secret” and they are unflattering, possibly insulting to our actual nature.

The real reason why you will want to set goals is to ensure that you constantly get enough motivation to keep moving. Goals are actually represented by your submodalities (we’ll have an article to talk about that later), which are affected by beliefs, values and identity.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ┬╗Philo

Each of these concepts requires a separate discussion, but the interesting thing you might want to do is to consider how compelling a goal really is. To make a goal compelling, you need to probably follow a sequence similar to this:

#1 – Get into the appropriate state (usually a state of relaxed awareness)
#2 – Picture your goals in the future. Observe it from a distance.
#3 – Bring it closer and intensify the colors, sounds and vibrance of the future image.
#4 – Step into it and experience it in full as if you are already there.
#5 – Imagine how good it feels to be able to achieve this
#6 – Figure out how to achieve it (activate your resources)

Most people know how to get here, but it doesn’t really work, other than to make you feel good most of the time. You need to get triggered in case you don’t get this done. For example, you may find that you slack off from your goals and targets.

In this case, you need another sequence to get you back on track:

#7 – what happens when you do something that is counter productive to your goals? what images do you see?
#8 – play this out into the future and grab that image from the future. Play the movie of the consequences you may have there and intensify this reality.

Now, this may seem “bad”, but I think in order for your desired reality to become real, it’s important for you to learn how to stay on track. In other words, don’t just have the pull (toward) factors working in your favor: use the push (away from) factors that will help you avoid the potholes!

NLP Definition: Deletion

Deletion is a process by which individuals filter out information and turn to ‘selective attention’ mode. A common example can be illustrated in the diagram below.

nlp deletion example

It’s common when people are asked to read out the phrase, that they miss out the extra “the” within the triangle. This is used as an example to further discuss ideas about “blind spots” in our perception, where we look for things which may be right under our noses but can’t find them at all. Our mind filters out information.

NLP Meta Programs: What Are They?

The theory behind NLP is that our communication is affected by our mental “filters”. These filters are the reason why we delete, distort and generalize things.

NLP Meta Programs are one example of mental filters. We tend to have certain personality preferences. NLP Meta Programs are closely associated with several personality traits like the introvert and extrovert dimension in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

However, from the NLP perspective, meta programs go beyond personality. Thought it is the fabric of our behavior, it is likely that meta program preferences can change, unlike regular “personality” traits. In other words, if we want to be a leader, we can model after the leadership meta programs — the traits that make a person a leader.

Here are some of the Meta Programs that are commonly known

  1. Toward — Away From
  2. Introvert — Extrovert
  3. Low Chunk — High Chunk
  4. Logic — Feeling
  5. Visual — Auditory — Kinesthetic — Digital
  6. Internal — External
  7. Convincer Filter: Once, Three Times, All the Time
  8. Match — Mismatch
  9. Optimist — Pessimist
  10. Foreground — Background

So, while these meta programs are not exhaustive (yet), they also contain a high level of structure that can be used for a variety of things such as changing preferred actions. For instance, someone who always gets into trouble because he is a “mismatcher” can be shifted into a “matcher” mode to appear to be less of a trouble maker. Each of these outlines a process. If I have a strategy to “match” I can learn the strategy to “mismatch”.

We can discuss the idea of meta programs and their implications in relation to strategies and submodalities.

Any questions? Just drop them in the comments box below!

Mental Health Expert – Singapore Develops More

I was recently privileged to deliver a presentation at the Institute Of Mental Health, Singapore, on the topic of NLP and mental health. It was a pretty wild presentation, and I actually had it recorded. My pre-symposium training was met with a lot of enthusiasm, and I’m hoping to continue to teach more people there. Most of the psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses have learnt some basic NLP skills, but NLP and mental health training is very lacking in this part of the world, largely because most people have thought of NLP only as a commercial skill rather than a modeling tool.

I’m fortunate to have met Dr. Alex Su and Dr. Joseph Leong from the IMH who are supportive in exploring other potential wellness related concepts with NLP rather than just the “illness and disease” focus that psychiatry has always been associated with. One core element was about “resilience”. I think that’s a very important thing that NLP can contribute, knowing that using NLP can help to toughen minds.

Stuart Tan

I personally feel that there is a lot more room to investigate NLP. One area is through the use of neurological research tools that are currently available (I’m actually wondering out aloud if the Institute of Mental Health might actually have research facilities that I might be able to use!), as well as investigation in the area of NLP specific to Asian patients (after all NLP is pretty skewed to English).

Overall, mental health in general is something that I think we all should be concerned about. It’s as important (if not more important in this day and age) than physical health. Among some of the top statistics for mental “disorders” include depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Well, I’ll explore more of these over time.

nlp mental health

Is there anything you’d like to know about NLP and mental health? Fill in comments below!

Neuro-linguistic Programming Modeling Process Help With Personal Development

Creative Commons License photo credit: George Vnoucek
It’s commonly misunderstood that NLP is hypnosis. A large number of people are “involved” in NLP only to realize that the things they are learning the applications of NLP. The problems in learning NLP in this case is that you’ve been thrown the jigsaw pieces without being given the box to pay attention to the big picture.

As a speaker, I know that there are a number of you who wish to learn about NLP and become effective practitioners. Well, the first thing to do is really to develop your capabilities in modeling. What’s modeling? It’s the process of reaching into a person’s mind and learning the processes that they use and absorb the way they do it. It starts from knowing how they think, because as human beings we are very sequential, and often our behavior is triggered by external stimuli.

If I can develop the capabilities of understanding these processes, it will definitely assist me in developing the skills and even shortcut the process of learning myself. I was involved in modeling the Singapore Armed Forces shooting contingent, and that actually opened my eyes in terms of what expert shooters actually did in the SAF. I even applied the strategies of modeling to public speaking which won me the District 51 Toastmasters Evaluation Speech championship in 2002.

Personally, human beings are on the edge of evolution with NLP. I find myself growing and it’s possible for you to do it as well, as long as the modeling skills are developed effectively. I’d like to invite you to my site where I continue to explore the development of our human potential, and gain access to my teleseminars on NLP.

Stuart Tan, MBA (Western Michigan) has been training for over 14 years and developed multiple programs all across Asia focused on developing motivation, focus and identity shifts. His ability to create profound change in individuals is also reflected in his business coaching work where he targets scaling the business from the inside out. He believes that every individual who wants to grow a business must have three components – a clear purpose, maximized capacity, and pillars of prominence.

He is an NLP expert where he aims to teach the powerful processes of modeling.

Stuart is the national best selling author of four books, “Master Your Mind Design Your Destiny”, “Secrets Of Internet Millionaires”, “Secrets of eBay Millionaires” and “Secrets of Millionaire Students”. He hails from the small city-state of Singapore, and has spoken to over 120,000 people across Asia. Find him on Facebook or Twitter at ‘stuarttan’

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