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How to Rock Two Different Styles of Reasoning, and Why

Many NLP Practitioners are more sloppy with their thinking patterns, than they'd like to admit, or... would even notice.

This statement, right up front, is likely blasphemous.

And yet, it's probably true -- in spite of our best intentions. Because the model of NLP does not spend much time covering two fundamentally different styles of thinking, of cognitive processing. This distinction isn't quite built into the model of NLP all that well. Shadows of this distinction show up in a variety of places, but its not directly clarified with NLP.

Certainly, however, we would all agree that cleaning up our thinking patterns is valuable, as that can affect where we focus our attention, time management, relationships, emotional state management, communication skills, and the list goes on. Managing our own brains is highly important! And in doing NLP work with people, we and they are more likely to be effective, if we gain some increased measure of self awareness, first, and then, later, more self-control, about how we think about things.

We as human beings all use both inductive, and deductive, reasoning.

We're all capable of it, to some degree. And most people switch back and forth, without ever knowing about this oscillation.

Oscillating back and forth without awareness, between inductive and deductive logic, is just sloppy. Especially for NLP Practitioners.

So what are these two styles of thinking or of logic, and why are they important?

Inductive Reasoning aims to induce, or prove, assumptions.

Inductive reasoning assumes something is true or false, and works backwards from that assumption to see if that can be proven or disproven.

Inductive reasoning is not yet concerned with the now. Inductive thinking works backwards, and tries to work its way back, from the end goal, to the current state.

This is why inductive reasoning is also known as backwards thinking. Not backwards as in invalid or senseless, but backwards, literally, working back from an endpoint to the current point.

Sometimes you can't find a way to get back to now, and essentially, that disproves the assumption or goal state.

Sometimes you can find a way to get back from the endpoint to the now, and then, you've got yourself a plan or a process that should be reliable.

The downside of Inductive reasoning is that it involves a lot of baseless guesswork. Which can be valuable in some situations, but not all.

Deductive Reasoning is aimless, only using what we know, right now, as a guide.

Deductive Reasoning is a process made famous by fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes would investigate something, and seemingly magically arrive at solving a crime. But Holmes didn't make guesses, and as a result, he was never wrong. Holmes used deductive logic, exclusively, and began with the initial clues, following them wherever they led. He didn't operate from assumptions, and wouldn't chase down hunches. He followed currently known clues, wherever they led, and over time, a preponderance of clues and evidence would lead to the correct conclusion.

As a result of the absence of guesswork in deductive reasoning, its also known as forward thinking, or forward logic or reasoning. Not forwards as in progressive, productive, etc -- not really. More like forwards as in starting from the current state, and taking one step in a useful direction as chosen by facts we currently know.

The downside of Deductive reasoning is that it potentially involves a lot of wasted time and effort, chasing down many currently known clues that may not be relevant. There is no intuition involved in deductive reasoning. None. So any NLP Practitioner quoting "intuition" as the source of their intervention work... definitely isn't using enough deductive reasoning... which may mean they didn't spend enough time gathering information before relying on that magical intuition.

Become Hyper-Aware of When You Use Each.

The biggest concern with these styles of thinking... for NLP Practitioners... isn't whether you use both, or not. Every human being can and will. It's that you may not be precisely aware when you switch back and forth between these two modes. And if you aren't, then I guarantee you're doing sloppy work, because your NLP interventions are fighting moving targets. I'll explain further:

When you ask clean questions of another person, without judgement, tone, or leading language, you're learning about other people's thoughts, deductively. And you really should be in a deductive mode, most of the time, when building a map inside your mind of what is going on in the other person's mind.

NLP's presupposition "The Map is Not the Territory" refers to how our inner maps differ from actual reality. For NLP'ers, we work effectively with others by building and operating through the maps we build of how other people think and feel. That process of Map-Building ought to be done very cleanly, as we build a map of how another person thinks. If we ask clean questions, we get clean answers, and the map we build in our mind of the other person's mindset, gets increasingly accurate.

But if ever we disbelieve a client's thinking and tease them to stretch their beliefs, mid-stream, before we've built a more accurate map, then their map has the potential to change before we and they were ready for an optimal change. And that means, their maps start to change, while we're still building maps. We end up mapping a moving target, which makes it impossible to build a more acccurate map, because its continually becoming less accurate as we ask unclean inductive questions.

And if we ever act on a hunch, thinking we know best, then, we've gone inductive without thinking about it, and now we're selectively trying to prove our hunch was right. Well, we may be close, but close isn't the same as "dead accurate." So hunches and intuition are often bad labels for not necessarily knowing when to go from deductive to inductive, or back and forth.

So now that we know that haphazard use of both leads to sloppy work, how and where is using both valuable?

It turns out that judicious intentional use of both styles of thinking... is essential in doing any kind of diagnostic work. Here's why:

A doctor that diagnoses you only deductively, will order 1000's of tests. Because they cannot move forward with any treatment until they have all possible clues about what's going wrong. Your finger is hurt? A deductive Doctor would reply, "Gosh, that could be at least 2700 different things. Lets find out which!"

A doctor that diagnoses you only inductively, will make enormous leaps with insufficient information available, and will not stop to gather the right kind of additional information. Your finger is hurt? An inductive Doctors would reply, "We need to get you into chemo immediately, its probably cancer!"

What would a great diagnostician do?

If you go to a great diagnostician, they're going to start by building a map of how you're unwell, based on your report and your presenting condition. They'll look at those symptoms and deduce any additional information they can pull together from the facts that present.

But that's just the start. Then they organize, using the information available, the 3-5 most likely possibilities. Once they have that list, they go inductive in their minds, briefly, and treat those few possibilities as the most likely ones.

From that small list, they start ordering any tests that would help prove or disprove any of the possible causes or conditions. They run that small subset of tests, and look at the results, now back to doing so deductively. And the cycle continues until a hopefully proper diagnosis is made.

So as you can see, judicious use of going back and forth is essential to great diagnosticians, who want to get as quickly as possible to an accurate diagnosis, with minimal time, money, effort, and testing.

Haphazard or Sloppy use of both styles of thinking leads to sloppy communication and work.

So use deductive logic when modeling and map-building. Use inductive reasoning for goal setting and planning for generating desired outcomes. And most importantly, learn to detect, in your mind, when you pop back and forth. And as you do so, ask whether the current shift will be valuable in your present context. If not, switch back! Be precise, intentional, and reap the rewards!

Richard Bandler helps eliminate Snake Phobia on National TV, Sept 9 2015

Watch NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler use NLP to eliminate Michael Strahan's phobic response to snakes -- in minutes (with Kelly Ripa bringing over a BIG snake at the end to test Michael's response). Spoiler alert: It worked ridiculously well.

I use some NLP terms and phrases in this blog entry that you may not know.  If you'd like any such words explained, add a comment at the bottom of the page using "Disqus comments" and I'll reply there.  Thanks!

September 9, 2015: NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler used NLP to help eliminate National TV show host's phobia of snakes, on the air.

On "Live! With Kelly & Michael", Kelly Ripa co-hosts the "Live!" show, with football legend Michael Strahan, after Regis Philbin left the show in 2011. Strahan has struggled with a phobia of snakes his entire life. Three years ago, celebrity Hayden Panettiere threw a rubber snake at Michael, seemingly for entertainment purposes. And of course, Strahan freaked out, to the tune of audience laughter. It was a horrible thing to watch.

Finally, Kelly Ripa and the show's producers did the right thing, and hired NLP Co-Founder Richard Bandler to work with Michael Strahan on the air.

If you've got a phobia and hope watching this would help you fix yours, you'll need to do more than watch the video.

For those of you with phobias, don't expect them to go away just by watching the video. Richard doesn't use the standard "NLP Fast Phobia Cure" pattern in this clip; instead he customizes his process based on the answers (verbal, paraverbal, and nonverbal) he receives from his subject, Michael Strahan.

If you want to work on something like this, find a skilled Practitioner (or Master Practitioner, or Trainer). A Practitioner should be able to use the standard NLP Phobia pattern with skill and effective languaging. A Master Practitioner or Trainer should be able to customize the intervention to optimally suit the client. A Trainer may very well be able to help a client rid themselves of a phobia without them ever knowing its being done, depending on the specifics (some Master Pracs, too, depending on who trained them).

So how well did Richard do?

It's obvious, by the end of the segment -- based on Strahan's ability to hold a large snake by himself, comfortably, that he had experienced a profound shift in his responses. There's no arguing the result:  Richard got the result he was aiming for with Michael; the phobic response was eliminated! So let's look more closely at what Richard did, and explore what did and didn't work.

Go ahead and review the video in full, once, before reading any further. I'm going to refer to specific events and occurrences in what follows.  You can always come back and review specific spots.  But watch the whole video once on your own, first.

Richard is introduced to the audience at 0:30.

Richard starts to work with Michael at 1:18.  Initially he's aiming to get rapport through pacing statements that gain agreement and understanding, and to prepare Michael for receiving some instructions.  He also calms Michael by pointing out that he does, cognitively, what everyone who's afraid of snakes does.


The first visualization didn't quite work...

At 1:35, Richard asks Michael to "take the great big picture, shrink it down to the size of a quarter, and 'brbrbrbrbrbrbr'... blink it black and white."  

Strahan didn't give us a lot of positive indication that he had completed Richard's initial instructions quite fully, apart from verbal, so Richard repeated it succinctly: (big picture, shrink it down, blink it black and white).

I don't think the first visualization quite worked. I think Michael followed some of the instruction, but didn't have enough time, or was having trouble visualizing; but either way, the phobia wasn't thoroughly gone yet.  At this stage, Richard would have noticed that he needed to do more.

How about Richard's comment "Blink it black and white?"  What might that have accomplished?

I've never used that phrasing, but it certainly sounds intriguing (and its a very succinct suggestion).  Often by changing the visual aspects of our imagery, that changes the feelings we experience in response.  

I'm guessing Richard has found that phrasing to be both succinct and effective in getting clients to rapidly change pictures from color to black and white.  It may also be a confusion tactic and/or pattern interrupt meant to ensure any color in the imagery goes away, and any old unwanted feelings dissipate.

Using the word "TRY" seems to have been effective.

At 1:50, Richard assumed Michael had completed the first visualization, so he interrrupted Michael's attention, asked Michael to focus on himself, then he tested the initial results, by asking Michael to look at the picture and TRY and be afraid.

The use of the word TRY is not accidental. The use of "be afraid", without any pausing to mark out the phrase as a command, is not accidental. The command "be afraid" (while using very calm tonality) is a suggestion that can't be easily or properly followed, so the client has trouble eliciting a state of fear in his memory. Richard didn't ask if Michael could FEEL FEAR.  He said, calmly, 'try and be afraid.'

He also didn't say try TO be afraid.  That could be easier for many people to accomplish.  Instead, Richard uses the conjunction AND.  "And" links the two activities, (a) Try, and (b) Be Afraid.  Logically, if you fail at either A or B, you fail at (A AND B).  In other words, this causes Michael's brain to understand that failure with either side of that suggestion, means failure at both.  It's quite subtle, but very effective.

My opinion: it's very difficult to successfully follow that suggestion (try and be afraid).  Most people would fail, which is a very good thing.

Michael's failure to follow that suggestion allows Richard to get some of the result he wants from Michael, through "confirmation bias," which helps tilt things in the right direction. Michael would think, "I'm trying and I can't be afraid."  That would lead Michael to begin thinking that his fear is already gone (or is in the process of going away).

Michael finds he can't "try and be afraid", and responds with surprise, saying "I'm good."  And Richard confirms the result, ensuring Michael knows it was the big picture that scared him (not the snake itself).  Michael confirms.

One of the most important and subtle moments, thanks to (1) a reframe, (2) an auditory suggestion, and (3) changed visual submodalities:

At 2:12, having just deepened Michael's trust and sense of Richard's credibility, Richard casually says, "now that the picture's out of your mind, (and tosses it off to Michael's right, over Richard's right shoulder, past Richard's face).

In my opinion, this is an enormously relevant and influential part of how Richard helps Strahan change, but few people would notice it, because Richard immediately follows it with aspects of the traditional NLP Fast Phobia Cure, not allowing us or Michael a chance to dwell on what he's just done.  But these three seconds -- from 2:12 - 2:15 -- are in my opinion, critical.

If we review those moments, we see Michael blink and glance off in the direction of where Richard visually pretended to throw away Michael's inner imagery.  The inner imagery was part of the mechanism by which Michael would begin to feel fear.  So, move the image away, and the fear response can be interrupted or changed.

Michael was, in essence, following Richard's verbal and nonverbal instruction, and watching his inner image move away off to the right.  If the image automatically caused emotion in the past where his mind used to find it, and later the image isn't where it would normally be, often that can make accessing the old fear, more difficult or even impossible.

If someone initially has zero emotional choice in response to a given stimuli, and later on, we make their own inner stimuli difficult to achieve, the emotional response changes. In effect, we're giving them a new sense of choice and possibility that replaces panic with calm.  Obviously, that's empowering.

Richard then induces a potential swish pattern, between double-dissociation, and a calm future.

From 2:15 to ~2:30, this is quite impressive (but doesn't work as expected).  Richard has already done most of the changework at this point, in my opinion, and casually sets up a choice for Michael between a doubly-dissociated view of his old phobic response (notice, Michael looks at the picture of his phobic response, calmly!), and a calm image of walking over and touching a snake.  

He then asks Michael which picture he would prefer.  Richard knows most people would pick the calm picture, but unusually, Michael makes a conscious and calm choice to prefer the old fear response.

Why did Michael calmly choose a fear response, and how did Richard reverse that choice?

Some people love to hang on to their fears even when they're no longer necessary, for a variety of reasons, including familiarity.  And often, if someone doesn't believe change can be as fast as NLP'ers know it can be, they will find ways to hang on to their expected fear response, even if they end up discussing the fear response calmly or with humor.

So Richard asks Michael to explain why he would pick the fear response, Michael calmly says "Well I don't want to go over there and touch the snake."

Richard then asks Michael to look at the second picture of him going over and touching the snake, and asks if he looks afraid there, notice that Michael doesn't have any hint of phobic response there. He stares, and then says, "Umm, no."  His facial expression indicates there is some unexpectedness to his discovery.

Richard asks "So, when you look at yourself not being afraid, what makes you think you wouldn't want to do it?"   Michael replies, "good question."  This goes a long way towards unraveling some of Michael's conscious preference for the old fearful response -- that he was familiar with.

I believe that at this point, the initial changework was already done, the fear response was eliminated, and Richard still needed to do some follow-up work to ensure the change was integrated over Michael's long-term future.

As a point of study, notice that Michael seems to go into a light trance, from 2:50 to ~2:56.

How Richard 'locked in' Michael's future calm responses to snakes, permanently:

As of 2:50, I believe the necessary changework had already occurred at that point, but Michael wasn't consciously aware of that, yet.  

Richard would inevitably know that any client's potential belief that a fear is not yet gone, can help bring it back.  So the overall work isn't done yet, and I believe Richard's next steps are all aimed at convincing Michael that his fear is in fact gone, using time distortion (how long is that?  A long time!), confusion techniques (352 days in a year??), and future pacing ('Multiply it by 10 years.  20 years' ... 'an enormous amount of time to worry about just one thing, that you could be using to do anything you want.').

This work initially confuses Michael (intentionally) and leads him to empowering visualizations that are interrupted by the commercial break cut at 3:38.  Presumably, Richard then finishes the work in a way we don't get to watch.  When the break comes back, Richard has moved Michael on to a meditative breathing response, in preparation for testing his response to a real snake.

The final result:

After the commercial break, from 3:45 to 4:00, Richard leads Michael from his seated position, over to Kelly Ripa's location, where she is standing, carrying a large snake (possibly a boa constrictor or python, roughly six feet, or two yards/meters in length).  Michael seems completely calm, throughout the experience, 

And, by 5:19, Michael is calmly holding the snake, fully on his own.  Success!

What don't we know?  What can't we see, or what else may have happened?

Unknown #1:  To what degree he and Michael may have spoken before they were on set being recorded together

Unknown #2: Richard's precise intentions behind each pattern or behind his overall approach

Unknown #3: Whether or not there was any kinesthetic anchoring happening behind Michael's back (as Richard has often used, onstage, at his seminars).  Perhaps he anchored moments when Michael was calm or when he was laughing (i.e., when he was feeling resourceful) and then firing the anchor at the moment the new choice point arrived (between two photos).  In which case we could say that the anchor wasn't fully successful.  But all this is mind-reading or conjecture.  Stick closer to what we know, what we can see and hear (sensory verifiable info!).

Unknown #4: If Richard calibrated anything I didn't, which is likely, since he was there in person, and we weren't!  Also likely, because after all, he's Richard Bandler! 

Another perspective on this video

I'm pleased to refer you over to Steve Andreas' blog, where Steve published his valuable observations in his review of this same video.  Different perspectives, different insights.  Enjoy!  

Neither of us had read each other's reviews before publishing our own; I had posted most of the above on Facebook in Septemer 2015, but only finished organizing the content from those posts into a blog post in January 2016; Steve doesn't use Facebook, and he published his review in October 2015.

Want to be able to influence, inspire, and change minds this easily?

I hope you enjoyed this blog entry, and invite you to keep reading my other blog entries!  I'm a fan of nuanced communication; I believe nuanced in-depth NLP skills are where the real golden lessons are to be found.  Perhaps you agree that online NLP has gone too far towards the "quick to consume" and meaningless.

I invite you to consider my 10-day NLP Business Practitioner courses!  Learn more, here.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Trial by Fire? No need. There are more pleasant ways to get great at Public Speaking (& other skills)

No matter what skill you want to learn, no matter what fears or concerns or hesitation you may have, there are and will always be a wide range of approaches, to learning that skill.  It's important to keep that in mind when making learning choices.  Today's note is a personal note from me (Jonathan) to you, about trials-by-fire vs. better approaches! 

Today, I'm a trainer, consultant and coach, primarily.  I don't think of myself as primarily a speaker or presenter, though I certainly speak both in public and at corporate events.  I view myself as a behavioral change agent who uses communication and structured experiences, to enable learning, among groups sized from one to thousands.

Perhaps because of an outrageous trial by fire at the age of 14, nothing really scares me about public speaking.

Yes, with new events, new challenges or logistical questions arise, but I don't have a fear response either to approaching such events, or to stepping onto the platform, or to actually being on stage and speaking.  Or even to getting briefly stuck and having to find my way again.   It might surprise you that my comfort with all those things cannot be attributed to NLP, though I certainly would have wished for an NLP solution when I was younger, if I'd known it was available!

My first big public speaking experience, was with about 8,000 people.  I didn't have to be seen by the audience, I had about 20 seconds prior knowledge that I would be speaking, while massively amplified (& voice-delayed).  I didn't even have to choose what to say.  Before that, my experience had been limited to giving speeches in school classes, performing in plays, and reading my heavily practiced Torah portion at my Bar Mitzvah at 13.  These were useful experiences, but not grand or large-scale, until...

I was working a Summer job at a concert series.

I worked in New York City at an annual concert series, known at different times as either the "Miller Time Music Festival" or the "Dr. Pepper Music Festival."  Each Summer, I'd have to work at ~30 concerts.  Each event night, there would be one major band along with a popular opening act.  Most of these concerts were held at Pier 84, right next to the USS Intrepid museum.   At the age of 14, I managed a group of five other teenagers, and all of us sold concert programs (magazines) to the entire audience.  We were called hawkers, and would walk around the venue, and climb throughout the seating stands, each carrying stacks of programs wherever we went.

As the manager, one of the interesting benefits involved backstage access as desired or needed, because that's where the extra stock of concert magazines were stored.  Yes, as a teenager, I met lots of, and occasionally got to chat more in-depth with famous musicians and bands (ask me in person sometime).

One early evening, after the audience of concert-goers had arrived, about 45 minutes before the opening act was scheduled to take the stage, the stage manager ran past me while I was counting out a few replacement stacks of concert programs for my hawkers.  He almost knocked me over before stopping, then he looked at me strangely, and said:

"You.  You have a good voice.  Come with me."

That was all he'd said.  No further explanation at the time. Then he grabbed my t-shirt sleeve, and started pulling me.  We went around a corner, up a few stairs, around another corner, then another.  Then, finally, just as we approached the corner of the stage, I caught a glimpse of 8,000 people through the scaffolding.  Before I could feel my spleen rising up towards my throat, he pulled me into a white wooden booth with a huge audio board, and a microphone, and positioned me in front of the mic.  

I could no longer see the audience, and they couldn't see me.  But they were about to hear me.

He simply handed me a pre-printed white index card, and said, "Read this."

Then he reached in front of me, and switched the mic from Off to On, so that 8,000 people could hear me.

I had no time to panic.  No real time to evaluate my emotional response, or wind it up further.  The circumstance unraveled too quickly for me to become aware of feeling anything.  And it's not as though I wasn't actually feeling my nerves, adrenaline, fear, excitement, curiosity, and more -- all at the same time.  I was.  I definitely felt all that, in retrospect.  But he didn't give me enough time to evaluate it, or allow it to control me.

So, I went ahead, took a deep breath, and read the first sentence out loud with enthusiasm:  "Welcome to the Dr. Pepper Music Festival!" And initially, I heard nothing, real time.  As I was finishing the sentence, I thought, "something must have gone wrong."  And then, long after I expected it to, and thanks to ~5-meter-tall stacks of speakers, and many kilowatts of power behind them, I was almost knocked backwards, as I heard my booming deep voice roll out through the audience.  Then the subsequent applause and audience noise completely overwhelmed me.  And it didn't matter that none of it was meant for me personally -- it was all a form of positive feedback for a set of massively powerful lessons all learned within seconds:

  1. I had a voice (that at least some) people would enjoy listening to.  Your voice has value.
  2. I was not going to be able to speak at my normal rate, or words would blend together too closely and sound like mud.  So I was going to have to enunciate, and speak more slowly than I would normally, and stretch vowels out.
  3. After hearing the duration of the electronic delay, I was not going to be able to wait between clauses or sentences, to hear the end of what I'd just finished saying, before continuing on.  That would be waiting too long.  To speak well with electronic delays, I was going to have to temporarily block out the external feedback of the timing of whats being said, and choose pacing and pauses based on what's said, real-time, not what my ears were hearing externally more than a full second later.

Those valuable lessons were almost instantly integrated, thanks to the intensity of the experience.  

I then read off the rest of the printed announcements on the index card, smoothly through to the finish.

The stage manager then shushed me, reached over to turn the mic off, and said to me...

"That wasn't bad.  You'll be doing this from now on..."

" make yourself available about an hour before showtime from here on."

So how did I accidentally get picked for that opportunity?  A backstage equipment handler who normally did the announcements had quit that day, and word hadn't gotten around sufficiently.  The stage manager found out about the handler's having quit, five minutes before the announcements needed to be read.  So in a panic, he grabbed the first guy he found, who had a reasonably nice voice.  And it worked, so I was expected to continue doing it.

So all in all, including all the years I managed the program hawkers, I probably read the announcements there at a total of ~120 concerts.  Maybe more.

Great "Trial-By-Fire", right?  Powerful Learning, right?  Well, it got better (or worse!):

A year passed.  I had gotten used to doing the pre-show announcements in the booth.  It was still very cool to look out at the audience while approaching the booth, but no longer a nervous experience to speak on a live mic, inside the control booth.  Then, one night near the end of that season, I was visible backstage when I needed to be called up, and I headed up to the booth as usual.  But the booth door was closed, and that wasn't expected.  The stage manager handed me the card for the night, pointed through the back corner of the stage at the mic at the front of the stage, and sounding 100% like an impatient manager, said:  "Do it from up there tonight.  Smile, wave after the welcome bit, then finish the rest.  And remember to turn the mic both ON first and OFF afterwards.  Go."

I thought I'd gotten used to the applause after the greeting.  But I clearly wasn't prepared for hearing the applause when I was speaking from center stage on a live mic, while watching the audience and being watched real-time.  Doing the announcements from the front of the stage, while looking at 8,000 people making more noise than my own voice was making through two enormous stacks of speakers, was truly life-changing.  No, it didn't cause me to feel any need to become a concert musician (though I am a guitarist & more, and do enjoy music).  But I knew that if I could get comfortable with this, as I'd already become fully comfortable with making the announcements through the booth microphone, then there was no point in being afraid of doing other things with a  crowd that large, and especially with an even smaller group.  Other challenges just seem smaller.

Over the four Summers when I gave those pre-show announcements, I had to do them from the stage microphone a total of just three times, because for whatever reason, the booth microphone had failed and they didn't have another handy.  During that first experience at center stage, I was feeling overwhelmed by the experience, but comfortable with the vocal delivery (because that was a skill I'd honed already).  I was still nervous during the second such opportunity, and overwhelmed by it afterwards.  And then the third time was almost easy and I felt just great afterwards.

Fortunately, you don't need Trials By Fire!

If you have a fear of speaking in front of an audience, that fear can take many forms.  Once you unpack and explore the specific mechanism behind how you 'do' your fear, then NLP can help you rewire around that, and through certain interventions or training or experiences, you can actually have fun while building in resources that help you free yourself of those old concerns, without ever having to face your old fear or panic anymore.  I know because I've helped so many before you, and I've always been successful doing so.

Sometimes fear can be interrupted through "pattern interrrupts," leaving you feeling neutral or inspired, instead of fearful.  Sometimes you can replace negative emotional responses with positive emotional responses (anchoring).  Sometimes you can change your inner voice, or your inner visualizations, that are leading to old fear responses, and get completely different results.  Sometimes you can choose completely different desired outcomes for speaking, which changes your own expectations, and completely frees you up to become extraordinary.  Everyone is different.  I encourage you to consult with someone who understands alternative approaches to learning, who is good at behavioral and emotional modeling so that the coaching they do with you will be accurate and targeted, and who knows (truly knows) how easy it is to achieve comfort with the larger-than-life.

I certainly wish I'd known NLP at the age of 14!  I would still have gotten the same result, but faster.  I believe it would have helped me to have less of a shocked response during and after the first experience, and significantly sped up the rate at which I became comfortable with each new experience, either in the booth or on the stage.

I invite you to apply this story to any circumstance in your life, where you have been thinking about stepping things up to another level beyond where you currently find yourself.  Why fear it?  And then put yourself in my shoes.  Pretend you'd been given the opportunity at some early age, to become good at, and comfortable with, something even further beyond the level you want to reach currently.  Then imagine looking ahead to the situation you're currently facing, and knowing it's going to be difficult or impossible for such situations to seem insurmountable, by comparison.

And then when you find yourself making your future leap seem, sound, or feel incredibly easy... send me an email to let me know this blog post helped you do it!

How can I help you further?

If you want to develop your spoken voice so that you'll likely start actually getting compliments, not to mention people will make a stronger effort to hear more of what you have to say, I encourage you to consider my "Finding Your Irresistible Voice CDs or MP3s.  Check them out and explore how they can add measurable value to your life.

If you'd like to become a more compelling speaker, and you either want to get over your fear of public speaking, or dramatically improve how you package and communicate your message, for greater impact, join me at one of my next 5-day "Speaking Ingeniously" courses, which I limit to 15 people maximum per occasion, to guarantee a lot of personal attention and coaching, daily.  You'll be thanking yourself years into the future for having done so -- and I make it my business to ensure it!


Did Ericksonian Hypnosis and/or NLP make these famous people into Wizards? (or help them become famous?)

Many more famous people have been trained in Ericksonian (indirect) Hypnosis and NLP than you might guess.  There are certainly far more who have strong interests here than have publically admitted so.  

Yet thanks to a recent seemingly inexplicable political shift, we can add at least one name to the list who've gone public with these interests.  (I'm going to add a second at the bottom of this page, as well).  And no, I'm not referring to American business magnate Donald Trump.

But Trump was our catalyst... for a recent public Ericksonian admission by another.

Trump ran for President several times in the past (and then dropped out), and decided to run again for the 2016 race.  This time, longer than has been the case in the past, he's been enjoying measured increases in his political popularity.  His poll numbers have climbed higher and remained higher much longer than most people would have expected.  Few people expected his popularity to remain high past the 2015 Summer.

Trump's unexpected success thus far in his 2016 Presidential campaign seems to have been the initial catalyst for a self-admission from Scott Adams, the author of the hugely successful comic strip, named “Dilbert.”  Adams fashioned Dilbert as a generic office worker, with no last name, with no obvious specific job, working for a company with no name, who keeps finding himself in a wide array amusing and ironic contexts.  Anyone who has had a corporate job will inevitably often empathize with Dilbert's circumstances.

On August 17, 2015, Adams started blogging openly about how and why he believes Trump is enjoying this mystifying success, at least, for the moment.

To do this, he needed to share why he believes this to be true.  So he wrote a blog post that, for me, made August 2015, a Very Interesting Month, NLP-wise.  

Dilbert creator Scott Adams announced he'd been trained in Ericksonian techniques (and referenced NLP as well).

In my opinion, he framed his background education on Erickson and NLP so that he wouldn't be too heavily questioned about NLP.  Adams is well aware that NLP continues to spark a lot of debate in academic and scientific circles, so he acknowledged the controversy and used a 90%/10% reference to avoid jumping into that discussion.

I also believe that controversy is losing ground, thanks to the increasing numbers of recently published studies and articles in Psychology Today, that are essentially proving aspects of what NLP has been saying for years.  See some of our previous blog entries about this.

Adams mentioned NLP and Erickson and his perspective on hypnosis (verbal influence), and then described all of the above as simply a form of Wizardry, in the linguistic sense.  He wanted to set up an understanding of people who have used training in these fields to, essentially, become wizards.

My long-time subscribers will know that my longest running, most popular course over the years, was called “Linguistic Wizardry.”  So you'll understand better, now, why I was particularly attracted to Adams' recent blog posts and the admissions they contained.

Having grouped indirect influence a la Erickson & NLP under the term Wizardry, Adams then began a series of posts on his blog that explore these concepts, analyzing and exploring and identifying wizards and their methods.  So – here are just some of his blog posts in recent days.  There are quite a few more there than just what's listed here.  This is a subset (with missing posts in between these dated links).  He's been very busy! 

Aug 17:  Wizard Wars
Sept 1:  Identifying the Smart Voters
Sept 4:  The Time of Kings 
Sept 6:  How to Spot a Wizard
Sept 9:  A Demonstration of Persuasion Part of my Trump

If you have the time, I do encourage you to read his blog from August 17 forward, in full, to get the back story including all of Adams' predictions and analyses.  Make your own judgments!

If you're limited on time, what follows will be some of my preferred highlights from just the first post – his Ericksonian / NLP unveiling, as it were.  I'm going to share some short quotes and respond point by point.

You see, I don't agree with everything he's written.  And that's OK.  What I appreciate here is that he's opened a dialogue where these topics are now being explored by a well known voice, famous in mainstream entertainment.  I absolutely celebrate that, even where he and I might disagree.

I welcome the debate; my customers, students, and coaching clients know that what I do and what I train works profoundly well – and anyone who doesn't, yet, can find out a lot more about my NLP-based work in business, without having to buy anything or commit to any workshops up front  (go ahead and request a welcome-packet, here).

What does Adams actually think
of NLP and Hypnosis Wizards?

Adams refers to people with these skills, colloquially, as Wizards (whether they were formally trained, or not, or surround themselves with people who have formal training).  He also suggests they're using their skills to try to control, or at least shape, the messages and the dialogue in the election.

He shared a diluted characterization of NLP.  Dilbert's creator says: “In my experience, NLP is about 10% real and 90% marketing. But the real part is exceptionally powerful. Even that heavily-qualified endorsement is still really interesting, and valuable.  Naturally I'd like to think my courses and programs offer far more than just 10% real/powerful content;  Of course, there's no question I'm biased.

Admittedly, there is a lot more marketing hype than there used to be in NLP 15-20 years ago when business applications of NLP really started taking off.  There was less marketing still, 25-35 years ago, back when NLP was almost exclusively focused on faster and more effective methods of therapy and change-work.  With many poorer-quality training providers showing up more recently, many less experienced trainers needed to set prices low and shorten training course durations, to attract students away from more experienced trainers.  I have to work harder, today, to prove significantly higher value than would be available from some other choices.  I've been doing this since 1997 (18+ years, as of this post), and this is even more true for trainers who have been doing this longer than I have.  So I readily admit there is some marketing hype, but I don't think it's anywhere close to the level of Adams' assertion.  I think he used 90%/10% to avoid getting pulled into the debate of whether or not NLP works.

What did Scott Adams say
in his August 17 blog entry?

“If you have seen the Star Wars movies, you know all about the Jedi Mind Trick. Erickson’s power was like that, but slower, and with more words.”

Milton Erickson's power was very much like that.  And since part of NLP was modeled from Erickson's language and communication strategies, a lot of NLP does focus on gentle, indirect (conversationally hypnotic) influence (we call this 'the Milton Model.').  As a trainer of these skills, with a particular focus on using them in real-world business contexts, I agree with these comments 100%.

Regarding Adams' assertions that Donald Trump is friends with Anthony Robbins, “the most powerful wizard alive,” let's clarify a few things.  Robbins is most definitely NLP trained and used to run NLP courses before he published his first book, Unlimited Power.  Now he refers to 'his techniques' as Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC).  He gives his explanation behind the renaming in his second book.  We invite you to make your own judgment about that re-naming.

The rumor mill in NLP circles suggests that Robbins may have hired five top NLP Trainers to ghost-write multiple chapters each, for Unlimited Power.  And according to other NLP Trainer friends who have worked with Robbins, he himself is very skilled at NLP and does excellent work influencing individuals and groups.  No one can run a huge seminar room the way Tony does.  But he himself is not known for training deep levels of NLP skills.

His business model aims to give people transformational experiences, and tools.  His format is not designed to convey high skills with high levels of trainer feedback loops; trainers cannot accomplish that in vast audiences; that can only work in small groups with high levels of trainer personal attention.  So, by all means, if you want the transformational experiences he sells, then go to his seminars.  By contrast, if you want to become as skilled as Robbins is perceived to be at NLP, then go to more in-depth NLP courses (and learn some of the other things he learned, from the types of people he learned them from).  And for a point of comparison, one might compare a solid NLP Practitioner training ($2K - 3K) to Robbins' Mastery University for $10K+.  I'd rather pay the $3K and put the remaining $7K into my business or into other educational experiences.

As for Donald Trump, I still do not know of any evidence that Trump has any Ericksonian background, himself.  It wouldn't surprise me that he'd read NLP or Ericksonian books, or if he'd hired trainers for 1-on-1 training with an iron-clad nondisclosure agreement, but Donald Trump can't just show up at a public course as yet another student.  What I think is far more likely is that Trump is paying Ericksonian or NLP-trained advisors to strategize his political kill-shots.

Adams wrote:

“Erickson’s discovery is that words are like a UI for the mind. If you pick the right words, the mind goes into admin mode and you can rewire things at will. It might take lots of repetition, but you can get a lot done with that wiring over time.”

I agree with that in part;  Its nowhere near as simple as just picking the right words and repeating them.  The emotional state felt by the listener plays a very important role, as does the emotional state of the person aiming to influence.  The values of the person listening play a critical role, as do the types of values that would be satisfied by the words and influence being extended.  All these things have to line up well, for influence to take place.  

I have an entire audio program devoted to skill of influencing people emotionally, using a skill set called emotional-state-chaining.  This teaches listeners how to move people out of unresourceful or unresponsive emotional states, into more resourceful and responsive states, where they're more likely to agree with us, consider our perspective, and take the actions we'd like them to take.  Learn more about my "Creating the Automatic Yes" audio program.

Adams also pointed out that there is a great deal of misinformation out there about hypnosis, and then described stage hypnosis.  I agree fully with his assessment of stage hypnosis as (my paraphrasing:)  an entertaining experience that seeks to find the most obedient and least self-conscious people, and give them permission to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do.  

Then he goes on to say this:  

“Real hypnosis, in my view, is closer to the science of persuasion.”

I also agree fully with Adams' view above.  He goes on to say:  

“The best book on that topic is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Dr. Robert Cialdini.”

Cialdini's Influence is an excellent book, and in it, he explores six major principles behind influence.  As a social psychologist, Cialdini only includes lessons that have been extensively studied through actual scientific experimentation.  Though by no means is it the only such book on persuasion.  Also, “Influence” truly does not delve into any of the Ericksonian or NLP -styled wizardry that Adams is discussing in recent blog entries.  There are many better books, audio programs, and courses available when one becomes ready to learn more of the actual skills being referenced in Adams' blog series.

The Dilbert Comic Strip was intended
to hypnotize you starting from Day 1:

Adams says:

“Have you ever wondered why Dilbert has an uncommon first name, no last name, a nameless boss, and he works for a nameless company, making nameless products, while living in a nameless city? That’s hypnosis. By omitting those details I allow the reader to better feel some version of “That’s me!”

This is precisely the intent behind Ericksonian-style process language, so I want to validate this paragraph fully.  The nature of NLP's Milton Model is to understand that by being artfully vague in our language, the listener fills in the vagueness with their own details.  As Adams says, that's hypnosis (or, at least, part of it).

Here's an example.  If I say “it's cool in here” or “it's warm in here,”  I'm giving you my content, my judgment.  Some listeners will agree, some will disagree.  If by contrast I say “We can all feel the temperature in here.”  Everyone has to agree.  I'm giving you no content; I'm using process language to say the same thing, and everyone fills in the specifics with their own while agreeing.  More agreement, less resistance.  More process, less content.  This is classically Ericksonian communication.

Not everyone will end up empathizing with every situation Dilbert gets into, but Adams does maximize his comic-strip readership by leaving out as many details as he can.

Adams suggests that Steve Jobs, Bill
Clinton, and Donald Trump are all wizards.

Adams and I begin to differ more thoroughly on this point.  It comes down to how he and I view the term Wizard, differently.  I suppose in the highest sense of the word “wizard”, Adams' assertions about Jobs, Clinton and Trump apply, because these people all rose to international power and fame in one form or another.  So in that broadest sense, yes, these people are all wizards.  I use the term wizard to refer to someone who has been thoroughly trained in NLP and/or Ericksonian techniques -- not just exposed to them, not just having heard about them, but having these skills integrated into their abilities through years of training and feedback.

I do believe Bill Clinton is in a class by himself.  He has often been described as being extremely effective at many of the skills NLP-trained people seek to learn, including how to create profound rapport instantly, how to put people at ease and make them like him more, how to influence people's minds closer to his position during negotiations, how to tell stories (metaphors) to make an effective point and loosen up someone else's position, how to speak slowly and rhythmically in a slightly hypnotic fashion, and more.  Whether he got skilled at those abilities by reading books, by learning from audio programs or spending time with Robbins, or by just being an absolute natural and paying incredible levels of attention to other people, is anyone's guess.  It's probably some combination of all of the above and more.

I would however be shocked if Steve Jobs or Donald Trump actually knew much about either Erickson or NLP, first hand -- other than from an intellectual awareness -- and other than from having hired and possibly spent time with actually well-trained NLP and/or Ericksonian Practitioners, Master Practitioners, or Trainers.   I think they're far more likely to have succeeded thanks to other factors.  


Not every successful person is trained in NLP/Ericksonian techniques.  

Not everyone trained in these techniques will necessarily become deeply skilled at them.

But there are some true "Jedi's" out there.  Quite a few of them work in political consulting.  These people's careers rise and fall based on the results they get.  So the NLP and Ericksonian wizards working for people like Trump (and everyone else at the Presidential race level) will be among the better ones out there (but not necessarily 'good wizards!').

My opinion about Donald Trump, regarding
NLP or Ericksonian techniques:

I strongly doubt Trump is personally trained in Ericksonian techniques from anyone reputable or skilled.  I think Trump has surrounded himself with deal makers, and movers and shakers for decades.  

I'm betting he's self-trained.  Developing the art of the deal, and dealing with millionaires and billionaires for years, trains a person to be confident in their assessments.  

Also, Anthony Robbins sounds like the type of guy Trump would connect with. Trump has been a keynote speaker or marquee speaker for so long, he might very well have met and shared stogies, drinks, and meals with all who run in the top speaker circuits.  But chatting over dinner will never equate to a transfer of Ericksonian or NLP language skills.

Trump may very well have acquired an iPod full of good conversational hypnosis training MP3s, but Trump himself could never call and order them personally without risking reputation issues.  And he could never just show up at a live course as a fellow attendee, for live practice. Which is to say, he really can only do his own self-training, while wheeling and dealing.  And yet, that is, of course, still some formidable experience.

He might have invited in a trainer for private training and required an iron-clad nondisclosure.  I've done similarly on occasion with some very famous people. You wouldn't believe it if I told you, but I only disclose such names where there's no nondisclosure and I get clear permission.

My belief is: Trump doesn't *need* Ericksonian skills -- his cult of personality, name, money, stature, wardrobe, image, and the company he keeps -- all speak a lot louder and at least as effectively as Ericksonian techniques.

I can't really see Trump saying, "I'm certainly not saying you're fired, but if you were to begin to feel a need to step out on your own... after all a rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor, and maybe this is truly the moment for your star to rise, for you to shine, this could be the dawn of your time. And no one would be happier than me to see it happen. Remember, the more you dream and take action, the more you get what you've always been destined to have created, now... so with all that in mind... what was it you weren't thinking about anymore, and what decision can you share with me that you just made?"  That would be an Ericksonian approach.

Nope. It's far better television to just say "You're fired."

Wouldn't it be fun to hear someone say that back to him on national television?

So what kind of Wizards are
supporting Political Candidates?

Many of the major candidates are having their dancing strings manipulated or, are at least informed, by wizards.  GOP and Democrats alike.  In my opinions, the best ones help their candidates use subtle influence instead of blunt force.  They aim to Influence with elegance instead of a steamroller.

But some play by their own rules.  For example, GOP political consultant Frank Luntz has authored multiple memoranda aimed at attempting to control the discourse between Republicans and Democrats (in the Republicans' favor).  Luntz got Newt Gingrich in some very hot water back in the 1980's, when he published a memo with two separate word groups, such that Republicans would use one group of words referring to themselves, and another group of words when referring to Democrats.  I personally know 2 people who've met Luntz, and mentioned his name in the comments section of Scott Adams' blog.  Mentioning Luntz there got this response from Adams himself -- which mirrors the opinions I've received from others.

“I shared a limo with Luntz after a speaking event years ago. Strange vibe from that guy. Not in a good way.”

Luntz has given some other people really bad vibes, too.  He was described to me (by one NLP'er who has had multiple experiences with him) as very, very smart, and seemingly utterly devoid of any ethical sense of right vs wrong.  Note -- I have no personal experience of him, apart from reading his troublesome memos for the GOP.

Not all wizards behave and influence with such impunity or indifference, but some do.  All the more reason for -everyone- to learn how to defend against unwanted influences.

Presume this:  Every Presidential candidate in modern races will have at least one if not several consultants, and at least one if not several speech-writers, who are all trained up in NLP or Ericksonian pattern language.  In today's political climate, you should assume there's unlikely to be more than a rare exception to the rule.

As for me, I've personally trained one current politician to the level of NLP Practitioner; he's a State Representative in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (State level, not the US Congress, yet!).  And he is very, very good at Ericksonian patterning.  He was already a natural but needed refinement and feedback; taking live training just made him even more skilled.

One NLP Coach in England was a speech-writer for Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as for other Ministers of Parliament (MP's), and has been quoted as saying “NLP Books were visible scattered on tables throughout #10 Downing Street.”

NLP and Ericksonian techniques are essential back-room political tactics now.  If you want better control over your mind, you'd better get good solid training, yourself.

The Best & Worst of
NLP in Political Speeches

The type of NLP examples I love to hear in political speeches are examples of communication that enable me to visualize very vividly.  They'll paint active, vivid pictures, and help me imagine the vision they bring to their leadership.  I remember their speeches more easily, I follow their communication naturally, and I have a better sense of where they'd like to take the country.  More to the point, their words match their deeds, and I am left with a sense of their congruence.

By contrast:  The type of NLP examples I hate to hear from politicians, are exclusively process communication with no content at all.  One of many big warning signs, for me, is when I hear politicians layering too many nominalizations in their language.  E.g., "The wisdom of finding grace under pressure, and having more choice for the future.  Layering nominalizations is one great way to slow down listeners' minds, and while audiences struggle to process the complex meaning of these specific word forms, the politicians drop in their suggestions.  When I hear layered nominalizations, I know they're being intentionally slippery; they're trying to sound meaningful, while speaking in largely meaningless terms.  In self-improvement courses, it can be a powerfully valuable technique for all, audiences included.  In politics, it's manipulative.  So when I hear this from politicians, I am left with a sense of their incongruence or lack of trustworthiness.

Is it odd to find a Comic Strip Author as a Wizard?  Not that odd!  The writer of another major Comic Strip attended one of my NLP courses in 2002!

Highly trained NLP and Ericksonian enthusiasts are all around us!  And, Scott Adams is not the only Comic Strip author who has sought out such training.

I'm so grateful to have just received permission to share this tidbit with you!

Back in March 2002... I had the pleasure of meeting a man who had arrived to attend my “Linguistic Wizardry” three-day course in Cincinnati Ohio.  The LW course was designed to share some NLP skills for higher awareness, persuasive language, and influential communication frames.  Some of the attendees were new to NLP so it was also a great course for dipping one's toes in the NLP pool of ideas; after all, three days isn't a particularly long course duration.

I think it was lunch on the second day when I and some of the other attendees learned that the quiet, friendly gentleman we'd met, was Craig Boldman, writer of the internationally famous “ARCHIE” Comic Strip.  Yes, the same Archie comic strip with characters like Archie, Jughead, Veronica, & Betty! You can learn more about Craig at his website,

Thanks, Craig!  I hope we get to reconnect sometime soon.  Maybe my readers can catch you at a comic-con!

Might there not be others to add to our list?

Are there any other comic strip authors or famous names who were trained in NLP and/or Ericksonian techniques?  Please comment below!  Or send us a web message!

I've attempted to reach a few others, and if I get positive responses, I'll add their names here.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this blogpost!

Share widely, and I welcome your engagement below!

author: Jonathan Altfeld
 photo credit: Donald Trump via photopin (license)

"Creating Business Growth" becomes Amazon International Best Seller, 1/1/2015

On January 1, 2015, Jonathan Altfeld and 20 other co-authors released a digital book entitled "Creating Business Growth."

On its first day of release, the book reached the #1 book in its class on in the UK (6.5 hours) and the U.S. (7 hours). Then the book reached best seller status on Amazon in 6 more countries over the next few days.  A print-on-demand version was made available shortly afterwards.

Jonathan's chapter is titled "Using NLP to Draw in Rabidly-Hungry, Highly-Qualified Leads," and the other chapters each focus on specific marketing techniques, succeeding with various digital platforms, and business development.

There's a big price difference between the paperback print-on-demand version and the Kindle version, due to the size/weight of the printed book. This is because the kindle version is 452 pp! Not a small book, to be sure!

We hope you enjoy and get great value from the book! Download, enjoy -- and please do remember to leave a review on Amazon!


Don't see the book image and link?  Please turn off your browser's Ad-Blocker software for 

Affliate Notice: The book image and text to the upper right is an affiliate link, so the owner of this site (and also co-author of the book) does receive a very small credit if you click through to the book and ultimately choose to purchase.

We moved back to Tampa, Florida: December 25, 2015

After six and a half great years based in central Pennsylvania, and running many courses in Washington DC & NYC, we moved back to Tampa, Florida as of 12/25/2014.

We'd like to share our deep gratitude to our students and customers throughout the Northeast USA for taking advantage of our course offerings during our time based near you.  We'll certainly return soon, and keep returning periodically for short applied Business NLP courses.  

We'd also like to express excitement at the upcoming possibilities for providing Business NLP learning opportunities throughout Florida.  We'll see you soon!  

Please do let us know what courses you'd like us to schedule now that we're back in the Sunshine State!  You can do so through our contact form here, or by calling us at 813-991-8888.


Mastery is the Fifth Stage, of the Four Stages of Learning

What are the Four Stages of Learning?  Why is it that Mastery is not among them?

Some would have you believe that being unconsciously great at something is equivalent to mastery of that thing. Becoming unconsciously great at a skill is a wonderful goal, and is certainly an accomplishment that attracts attention. It may even be what earns you a fabulous living. But... that's not mastery.

When you master a thing, you're taking a step beyond just being great. You're going beyond unconscious competence, and re-learning all the details you probably forgot, when you were getting unconsciously great at a skill.

What are the Four Stages of Learning?

You've likely heard of these before. If you want more information on the source of this model for learning, this link to Wikipedia will help. Essentially, here's a summary:

  • Unconscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Unconscious Competence

Essentially, when you first approach learning a new skill, you're unconsciously incompetent.  You don't even know how bad you are at it.  And if you try it and fail, you often can't even tell why you fail at it.

As you practice a skill, you gain conscious incompetence, and you begin to know why you're not yet good at the skill.  You build awareness and filters and you don't have skill yet, you make a lot of mistakes, but you start learning from them.

As you continue to practice, you eventually find yourself getting better results.  But its not easy to keep getting those results, becaue you have to keep working hard at it.  You become consciously competent.   And eventually, if you keep practicing, your brain starts to chunk all those hard-to-remember details into a higher level process.  And you start getting better and better results, without even thinking about what you're doing.  Pretty soon, you're on autopilot, because you're unconsciously competent.  But there is one enormous problem looming ahead:

Unconscious Competence breeds
Complacency and False Sense of Expertise.

Just because you're really good at something does not mean you know how to teach it.  It doesn't mean you can explain it.  In fact, because moving from CC to UC requires the brain to chunk up and combine details into a higher level representation, any attempt to teach or train what you're good at, to others, is bound to fail.  Because the very process of becoming unconsciously competent required you to forget conscious access to the detailed how-to knowledge.

Now, today, too many fields are chock full of consciously or unconsciously competent "experts" who couldn't possibly impart deep skill to you.  Why?  Because...

Mastery of anything requires a minimum of
two passes through the Four Learning Stages.

Due to how learning/chunking works, you can only occupy ONE learning stage at a time for any given skill (or area of skill). Once you push through a threshold from one stage to the other, your brain generalizes what it learned and then can not access it the same way it did, previously. This is why  people who reach unconscious competence often can't easily explain what they know  (and this is another reason why it takes an NLP Modeler to really figure out what experts actually know).

Many, many people aren't aware of this  -- or are, and probably wish you weren't aware of this phenomenon, because they'll be losing money once you are.  Here's why:

To train anything, congruently, a teacher has to be able to both demonstrate it elegantly and masterfully -- and explain it well, to varied ears. Demonstrating it both consciously and unconsciously well.  That can never happen when a teacher is still going through their first pass through the learning stages. It's not neurologically possible.

For someone to be able to explain or train something well, they need to reach UC, and then go back to the foundation and re-learn it from the ground up. This time, they're re-learning the foundation after having already acquired unconscious competence, so as to remind themselves of the conscious details they'd long since forgotten (that chunked up, en route to unconscious competence).

This is why it's unreasonable whenever someone suggests they want to send someone to an event, and have them come back and explain what they've learned or teach it to others. They'll be able to NAME what they've learned, but they won't be able to both explain it and demonstrate it, well.

Wanting to master something is a wonderful pursuit. If you want to master it AND teach it, you'll need to go to school, so to speak, at least twice, through the same material.

Mastery is Stage Five.

We all know that once we become unconsciously competent, the very act of doing so requires that we chunk details up, and that causes us to forget specifics. If we try to explain specifics after that happens, our explanations would have come out sloppy, and incomplete.

The only way to have both unconscious competence AND conscious competence at the same time -- is to go back to school and re-learn everything a second time. It can't happen otherwise.

What people find, when and if they do this, is that (a) we spend almost no time in "unconscious incompetence" the second time through, and also, the time it takes to go through conscious incompetence back into conscious competence is much shorter the second time. But just because its faster the second time, does not make this process any less necessary.

We re-approach the details of the skills we became great at doing, and we re-learn those details. Yes, they make more sense this time. But everyone who does this has some rude awakenings, because doing this inevitably brings our attention to details we didn't realize we'd forgotten (during our pursuit of unconscious competence). So it's incredibly valuable for everyone when we do this process. New students will need those details, and if we hadn't gone through this second run-through of the learning stages, we might have forgotten to train these to new students!

That re-discovery is exactly what happens when we move through the learning stages again, all the way up to conscious competence (and we never lose our unconscious competence as long as we keep practicing it).

Choose teachers or trainers who have
gone through the learning stages, twice.

How can you tell if your trainer or teacher has done this?

  1. Can they demonstrate what they're training at high or real-time speed, without either delay or note-checking? Can they do it conversationally while they do other things without seeming to think about it?
  2. When asked for a breakdown, can they explain what took place in detail, and, are you finding their comments 100% accurate according to your memory? Or are they referring only to clues that they know you're not yet trained to notice?
  3. Do well-known more experienced trainers or master trainers say good things about them as trainers/teachers? What about other students who have also trained with those more experienced trainers? What do people with better-trained filters than your own, say about the teacher you plan to learn from?  New students do not yet have the awareness or metnal filters to be able to pick up the relevant nuances.

These aren't the only criteria I can think of, but they're among the best. The most important thing to know is that any expert can be unconsciously competent but be confused by details, OR, be gifted at explaining but not be able to demonstrate real-time elegance with the skill in question. Either of these qualities are clear evidence showing that expert has not gone on to real mastery -- which is the combination of unconscious competence AND conscious competence.

Here's my perspective: unless I'm intentionally doing NLP modeling of an expert's expertise, I won't personally invest in attending a class unless I can somehow first verify the teacher has already reached mastery of their expertise. Why invest in anything less?

How to Fail at NLP Modeling (and How to Plan to Succeed!)

In today's post, I share how and why an NLP Modeling project could be set up to fail, and what to do instead!

A few simple distinctions separate Failing from Succeeding at NLP Modeling.

Years ago I was asked to do some minimalist NLP-based Sales training for an organization that held monthly sales meetings. I was asked to provide one four-hour training session, once a month, for a group of sales professionals (times two, for two different groups at their company).

If you know anything about soft skills training to medium to large groups, you know that four hours is next to nothing. Its enough to get people thinking, and its enough to inspire them, and its enough to get them listening a little differently.  One-on-one coaching can be profoundly life-changing even just in minutes,  let alone four hours, but in group training contexts (where most of the attendees do not have a background in NLP), its not really enough for immersion training, so just four hours per month are unlikely to be sufficient to change anyone's habits in any quick and heavily measurable way. You might get a little mileage out of that, but probably not a lot.

I told the client all of the above, and the response was "Unfortunately, that's what we've got. Lets do the best we can."

While having a private discussion with the managers, I happened to mention the idea of NLP Modeling, which they didn't really know about.  NLP Modeling, in business contexts,  can be used to model their highest performers, so as to then train the rest of their team in whatever their highest performers were doing both consciously AND unconsciously.  The results usually include reduced training time, as well as significantly improved sales or performance, customer service quality, etc.  If you apply this to enough employees, this could result in many millions of dollars of saved losses, and/or additional earnings.

For the most part, they had come to NLP from the intention of using NLP to be more persuasive salespeople.  When I discussed NLP Modeling with them, they got very excited. But they still weren't willing to step sufficiently outside of their map of "do what's possible in a couple of hours."

So when they started thinking about how they could have me spend just an hour or two modeling their top sales person (in front of all the other sales people, no less), the modeling project they had in mind was doomed from the start.

So what are some of the Top Factors for Success with NLP Modeling?  (In any domain, not just Sales/Business).

  1. Full Access to the Exemplar for NLP-styled interviewing. And not just for an hour or two. You need access until the model is built. The duration will depend on many things.
  2. Optimistic, Interested involvement from the Exemplar (VERY helpful; not always necessary, but VERY helpful). Without this, the cost/duration of a modeling project can massively expand if you want to achieve accurate and effective results.
  3. Continued Access to the Exemplar after a model has been encoded, for feedback and refinement purposes while testing, validating, verifying the model.
  4. Time to encode and design a training process
  5. Time to train the model to other people
  6. Time to measure and discuss the results (which sometimes leads to another round of refinement).

What happens to an NLP Modelling project when you don't have all of the above Six Factors covered?

  1. When you're asked to "do the best you can in a couple of hours:" The results you get are an utterly incomplete cognitive model, which isn't likely to help anyone -- and in fact, it could be detrimental to others. Best case, you get the same checklist of 'gee this is what I *think* the high performer is doing' that one of the managers at the company would produce after months of the manager knowing them. Worst case, what you acquire will slow all of the other employees down further, and annoy the high performer to the point of hurting their results. You need to allot sufficient time for the NLP Trainer to *acquire as sufficiently complete a model as possible of the desired behavior.*
  2. If you don't have cooperative optimistic involvement from the Exemplar, then your model isn't likely to be accurate. You can 'trick' an exemplar into leaking other than conscious information but this is far too time-consuming and arduous a process to apply in the process of actual extensive behavioral modeling. Also, a modeling exemplar could intentionally throw you off the trail with red herrings. Which are not impossible to see through, but certainly an unwanted challenge. Best case, it doubles your modeling time. Worst case, an accurate model is never acquired, and/or an incorrect model is taught to others and that degrades performance even further.
  3. You might have a resistant exemplar.  They may not be used to 'being under the microscope', and that could be a more important factor if the modeling is done in front of the rest of their team.  They may have concerns about their image or how they're perceived, as the top performer.  If they answer a lot of questions with "I don't know," that may make them feel self-conscious.
  4. If getting access to a modeling exemplar is difficult after the initial modeling has been completed, it makes it hard to test and refine the model. The quality of the model is often judged when it's not yet at its most refined level. Modeling is almost never completed just after a first pass at the exemplar. Measuring of results ought to be delayed until after a refinement process has been completed, during which, the exemplar needs to be available to confirm/deny accuracy of (the first version of) the model in action. Best case -- the 1st cut of the model gets minor incremental improvement in results or training time for some of those who'll learn the new model (instead of massive improvement for the vast majority of trainees). Worst case, myopic managers incorrectly judge the project prematurely based on results that aren't expected to ramp way up until after a model has been refined, and will NEVER realize the massive benefits of high-performance NLP/behavioral modeling.
  5. If the Modeler doesn't have sufficient time to encode the model properly and design the right training process, then the trainees will never learn the high performer's model well. And don't leave this to people not trained in NLP-based training unless the Modeler has trained the trainers. They don't have the experience to know how to 'install' a high-performer's model that includes more than behavioral checklists -- such as emotional state transitions, and cognitive representations such as visualizations or auditory experiences.
  6. If a myopic manager tries to fit the NLP Trainer's training time into some arbitrary window (i.e., "You'll have 30 minutes with each group...") then you may as well just go home and wish them 'good luck.' The training time takes what it takes. Give the NLP Modeler ample time to train trainees the first time through, until high performance results are achieved, and see how long it takes. Then, look for opportunities to streamline. Pre-determining a very short maximum training time for something you don't fully understand is like killing the project before it even gets off the ground. Any experienced NLP Modeler would tell you that in advance.
  7. There needs to be analysis and refinement time, and usually will be. Oddly, this is the part that most managers will agree to, because by the time a first training round has occurred, chances are, you'll have already seen some impressive results. Approving further consulting time, once those results have been quantified, is usually seen as the smart investment they originally hoped it would be, instead of an initial worrysome cost.

Why would an Expert/Exemplar / High Performer not cooperate?

Pretend you're the top salesperson in your team.  You earn the most.  You get the highest bonuses and rewards.  And significantly, your team's income and incentivization structure includes competition. A limited pie divided up among competititors. So you have a position to protect.

So you're actually incented to keep outperforming your co-workers at lower sales targets.  It helps you to stay at the top.  It doesn't help the company, or your managers, but it helps you.  So here we have a classic conflict of interest.

Then your manager comes to you and says, "something you're doing, or not doing, outperforms everyone else.  We're bringing in an NLP Modeler who's going to capture what you do, or don't do, and is going to teach it to everyone else, so we can get everyone performing at your level."

To do this, they're going to require you to participate in NLP modeling sessions, using time you'd probably actually have spent... selling.  Doing your job.  And earning money.  So not only are they not paying attention to the conflict of interest, they actually want to hinder you from reaching your potential this month (and maybe next), in order to cooperate.  And if you don't, of course, they'll say "you're not a team player."

Now, they can try and demand your cooperation, they can try and strong-arm you, but if they're not smart enough to recognize the outrageous conflict of interest they're creating for you, then they truly deserve the pathetic results they'll get when you tell them "of course I'm a team player..." then give the NLP modeler disinformation, and act surprised when the modeling project doesn't work as intended.

When I meet managers and business owners who attempt to structure things like this, I always aim to educate them about the pitfalls of ignoring major conflicts of interest, and incentivizing your exemplars.  You really should properly reward them for their full and active cooperation.  Don't skimp.  It's the difference between failure and success.

Can you model from books, audio or video?

Remember what modeling is.  It's the process of capturing as much information as possible from an exemplar about their cognitive strategies, their somatic (physical skills), their emotional state(s), their conscious and unconscious knowledge, and how all that ties together.  If at all possible, you're going to want and need direct access to a living, breathing, cooperative expert!

So, yes you can still model some things from books, audio, or video... but the results will never be as in depth, or as accurate, as they would if you had lots of one-on-one time with an exemplar.  Video is better than audio, audio is better than books, and modeling from books and other written records alone is, simply put, unlikely to be taken too seriously in the NLP Community.

The most successful modeling projects that I know about were done in contexts where:

  1. The modeling exemplar did not have any dis-incentive to cooperate; on the contrary, the modeling exemplar was proud of their expertise, and was flattered that so many people wanted to share it more readily with others.  They were committed to contributing to the project.
  2. The people paying for the project were different than the managers, and those who commissioned the modeling process had a long-range large-scale financial perspective. If the person asking you to do the modeling is the person that signs your checks, and they're trying to "nickle-and-dime" the project, the best you can do is say "no" and go home.  You may as well  avoid associating yourself with a project doomed to fail from the start.
  3. There is direct access to the primary exemplar(s) until a model can be acquired, codified, and then tested and refined several times.

Here's how NLP was used to improve the US Army Pistol Marksman Training

Some of you may be aware that NLP Modeling was used to improve the US Army Pistol Marksman training.  According to NLP Master Trainer Eric Robbie: the primary NLP Modelers for that project were LTC Robert Klaus, Wyatt Woodsmall, Richard Graves, Paul Tyler, John Alexander, and Dave Wilson.  A then-young Anthony Robbins was brought along by Wyatt Woodsmall to help train the successful marksman learning patterns to other army personnel, after the primary modelers had elicited it (Robbins was not a key player as some have heard or assumed through the rumor mill, but he was there to assist).

Results?  The qualifications back then were Marksman, Sharpshooter and then Expert (from basic to advanced, in that order).  A Marksman has to get 30 hits on target from 45 rounds fired. One group of soldiers received the nlp-based training, a second group of soldiers (the ‘control group') received standard army pistol training.  The control group took 27 hours to get 73% of their soldiers to Marksman (only 10% made Expert).  The NLP-based group took 12 hours to get 100% of the soldiers to Marksman level (and 25% made Expert).  (Thank you Eric, for keeping the facts about this project alive!)

Success Factors?  The modelers modeled successful exemplars, and were able to distill down the key elements leading to more rapid success, and train it sufficiently well to a group of new trainees, and a proper opportunity to measure the results was allowed.  The exemplars were not dis-incented to cooperate; their income was not based upon doing an activity in some other location; their time was not being co-opted at their own loss.  And they were getting attention for their high performance in a way that did not threaten their performance levels.  Simply put, this modeling project involved win-win, not win-lose.

What sorts of modeling have I done?  Many of my courses over the years were the result of my own modeling projects.

As a Knowledge Engineer, prior to even learning NLP, I modeled (and then built software to replicate the decision making for):

  1. Check Guarantee experts -- for the purposes of building an expert system for approving/declining bank checks at retail points of sale.
  2. Credit Report Incoming Data Correction experts -- for the purposes of an internal project at a major credit bureau (with massive implications on the consumer credit system, that I cannot discuss the details about).  One outcome was that it took a year for the credit bureau to realize how utterly inconsistent the knowledge base was across their experts (they couldn't agree on anything), and how little the upper managers knew about these inconsistencies.  Our project cleaned all that up, and gave the company one consistent set of rules for moving forward.
  3. Chase Bank Silver & Gold Customer Service Reps -- for the purpose of building intelligent software to maximize client satisfaction and further financial product buy-in.


After learning NLP and opening my training business, I continued to model exemplars met during my global travels, whenever I met with "high performers."

  1. Charisma -- for the purposes of teaching others (became a 3-CD-set called "Charisma Fuel")
  2. Humor -- for the purposes of teaching others  (became my "Becoming Outrageously Funny" workshop)
  3. My own work with Beliefs -- for the purposes of teaching others (became my "Knowledge Engineering" home-study and live courses, and half of "Belief Craft").
  4. Great Interviewing (both roles) -- for the purposes of teaching others (became my "Own the Interview" course)
  5. Great Public Speakers -- for the purposes of teaching others (became my "Speaking Ingeniously" course)
  6. Great Salespeople -- for the purposes of teaching others (became my "NLP Sales Wizardry" course).
  7. (and more that I just don't write about!).


If you have a need to acquire or re-acquire some amazing expertise from one of your employees, or experts, or associates -- especially before they retire or jump ship to go somewhere else -- consider hiring a skilled NLP Modeler today, and cut your losses before they could happen.  It's the fastest way to replicate someone's expertise, and share it with others, successfully.


author: Jonathan Altfeld


Selling, with NLP Patterns and Skills

In today's post, I share a sales-closing I think you'll love, and follow that with NLP skills applied to selling, including: Sensory Acuity, Sensory Awareness, Calibration, Using Suggestions to 'plant' thoughts ethically, and other NLP language patterns!

How I used NLP to Close a Client's Real Estate Deal

Some years ago, I was called in to a Real Estate office where I'd been doing some custom training work. One of the managers, Tom, also brings me into deals occasionally. I'm like his secret weapon. They know my methods can be unpredictable and counter-intuitive, and I haven't failed them yet, so, they give me license to do unexpected things.

Tom was trying to close a deal with a guy named Marvin. Tom was holding out for a higher price.  Marvin was also just holding out for a better deal. Every day Marvin waited, was costing him.  Every day Tom was waiting was also costing him in multiple ways.  He knew it, too, and he was blindly hoping he could do better than those losses by waiting. Marvin also didn't know Tom had another lower offer on the table. Tom's efforts to date hadn't been able to close the deal.

I went into one of their meetings... sat on Tom's side of the table, and I paid attention to what was going on. And I listened to Marvin's language... and I heard what he was saying... and watched what he was doing. And I mirrored Marvin. Only I took what Marvin was doing, further. He had his arms crossed, so I crossed my arms. Meanwhile, I was sitting next to Tom, on Tom's side of the table, and I started sliding further off away to the side. I almost disengaged from the meeting. I mirrored Marvin's arms and started looking over at my client, radiating mild annoyance. I knew that Tom thought it was doing him good to hold on to his little secret about the other deal on the table. And I knew he wanted it closed with Marvin. But Tom didn't want to pay him extra money if he didn't have to, partly because he knew Marvin would make money starting from the day he closed the deal! It was purely emotional, because Tom would also make money and avoid wasting money by closing on that day.  So I metaphorically went over to the opposition's side, and asked Tom, "why aren't you telling Marvin the whole story?!"

Tom looked at me like I was nuts... even though of course I'd prepared him, letting him know I might do some very weird things. So he went along with it for the time being. Reluctantly! Meanwhile the dynamic was changing.... Marvin suddenly felt like his holding out had "won over" a guy from the other team... who was now doing his closing for him. I said out loud to Tom, "You have this other offer on the table, from someone you could call today. Why haven't you explained that to Marvin? Because ALL of us could just go home right now and enjoy a long martini and a swim knowing how much money we'll all be making tomorrow? But no, both you guys have to have the upper hand in this.

Pay close attention to that phrasing.  By saying they both had to have the upper hand in this, what their conscious mind was hearing was that they were still butting heads.  What their unconscious minds were hearing was that they were in rapport, in agreement on something.  Both were included together by the word "Both."  And neither knew it at the time.  Additionally, had Tom shared his other offer himself, he would have created animosity in Marvin, because there would be no way for Marvin to prove that other offer existed, either way.  But by me sharing it, and Tom being shocked, it had instant credibility.

So, naturally, Tom's jaw was wide open in shock. Which is to say that his state was anchored, not so much by me, but by Marvin's reaction (and vice versa). Meanwhile, Marvin was starting to make pictures of closing the deal successfully right there, and realizing that if he didn't close the deal right then and there, Tom was eventually going to offer the deal to someone else. And that state of needing to close to prevent loss was achieved not in response to something Tom was saying to him, but by Marvin's own thought process!  Marvin's goal then became not one of holding out, but of preventing loss.

This strategy created an instant propulsion system for Marvin and Tom to close the deal that night (at a reasonable price good for both of them). WIN-WIN for everyone. A final agreement was brokered five minutes after my antics. Everyone ended up happy. And I didn't have to make anything up or lie or do anything inappropriate.

Both parties had a potential win-win they couldn't see.

Granted, I could have made a little more money for my client, rather than both parties, and that would likely have delayed the sale longer. I knew both parties would benefit by closing sooner rather than later, and that both parties would lose out by waiting. It occurs to me that all it took to get the close, was to sell Marvin on feeling really good by closing now, and feeling bad about everything he'd be missing by not moving forward. Also, both parties involved had already dealt with the pros and cons of having the deal go through. They'd already thought through that. So there was no chance of either of them being irritated about finally closing.

Sensory Acuity, Sensory Awareness, Calibration – and Simply Being Fully Present

When you... open up your eyes... open up your ears... and pay attention differently with more clarity... to the signals people are giving you all the time, you become a more effective salesperson.

When you choose to be there, fully present with your sales prospects, completely – you both connect with each other more easily. You create a stronger sense of credibility and trust. You create an easy rapport together.

It's OK to learn a script cold – but then forget the script. Pay attention to your prospects, and be as aware as you can about what's going on with them. That's essential whether you're on the phone or with them in person.

There are many NLP exercises taught that increase your sensory acuity – that teach you to see more, hear more, and feel more of what's happening between you and another person.

If you see, hear and feel more of what's happening for others (and it helps to have reduced or cut out that internal dialogue, too), then you're more likely to notice when your prospect:

  • Shifts from doubtful to certain.
  • Shifts from certain, to doubtful
  • Starts asking themselves questions internally
  • Is imagining things inside their mind (visually)
  • Has brief subtle unconscious negative (or positive) responses to things you say

Most NLP-trained salespeople know that these are all significant moments in any sales experience for a prospect. The question is, have you been trained to notice them? And if you did notice them, would you know what to do in response to them, for best results?

I invite you to consider that if you miss these moments, or worse, if you do the wrong thing after them -- you'll lose the sale, and never know why -- relegating them to the pile of 'it just wasn't a good fit", even if that was never the case. Food for thought!

VALUES-based selling with NLP: People don't resist their own thoughts.

NLP is extraordinary for enabling you to speak to people's inner wants and needs, and provide thoughts to people 'as if they were their own thoughts.'

There was a movie that came out recently called “Inception.” Inception was based on the idea that you could plant an idea in someone's mind, through a dream state, and that they would then act on it as if it was their own idea.

If you think about doing this for your own gain whether they need that result or not, that's a sneaky and manipulative intention -- and has no place in ethical selling skills.

But, if you're doing this to help people get past their own hesitations and resistance in order for them to get their own needs met – suddenly that's not manipulative or improper.

NLP gives us tools and skills for doing this – partly.

You CAN use NLP like Inception to provide a person with specific suggestions or ideas... if those suggestions or ideas will satisfy some of that person's values, without violating any of their other values.

You cannot use NLP like Inception to provide a person with specific suggestions or ideas that would violate any of their values.

The critical distinction is that you simply can't use “Inception” to quickly implant a new value in someone's mind. People value what they value; values are formed throughout life based on life experiences. Values will change only very slowly through normal life, and sometimes more quickly through dramatic or tragic circumstances.

With NLP, however, you can more quickly learn and identify what people value – and then you can present ideas to them that will satisfy those values. And NLP helps us do this in a way that people don't resist, because when its done well, they think it's their own thought – and it matches their deep values. And they'll often thank you for your assistance.

Many people go weeks, months, years – without getting their values and needs met. If a salesperson learns how to help a person get their wants and needs met – thereby satisfying some of their values (without violating others), then they're creating win-win results.

NLP Language Patterns

Language patterns can and do help – but for salespeople, far too much emphasis in NLP is on the choice of words and language patterns. In using NLP with selling, I would focus more on understanding the process of communication, sequences of emotional responses, and how all of this changes from moment to moment over time.

Let's laugh, please, about the typical language patterns in NLP that were originally suggested as a way to manipulate people unconsciously: “By Now, you may have discovered, how nice this will be for you.” The idea behind that crap is to suggest “Buy Now.” Here's why I don't recommend this: It's pretty much 'out there' now, and while a rare person won't catch you doing this, those who do – will never trust you again. So please join me in purging this from the NLP vocabulary. Those of us who believe in selling ethically with NLP do not believe in the use of language patterns like this.

There are however multiple Ericksonian language patterns that are useful to learn and use regularly. These include:

  • sensory-rich-language (so you can flesh out desirable results and create more vivid pictures in prospects' minds – for the right reasons)
  • embedded commands (so that you're not unclear with your suggestions)
  • time distortion (so you can walk customers through thorough descriptions of desirable futures and have them feel as if they've already lived through the results of their choices)
  • modal operators (so you can move people from negative necessity or possibility, to positive possibility and necessity – and only when it makes sense for them)
  • and lots more

How Well do NLP Techniques and Skills apply to selling, sales, wealth-building, closing deals, and making money?

Sales is one of the absolute best applications of NLP. Yet many salespeople well-trained in traditional models haven't taken advantage of this, usually because they're skeptical of whether or not NLP would get in the way of what they're already doing. Many of them have been trained in one or multiple sales models and found that studying certain other sales models could or will get in the way of the ones they already know how to use well. It's an understandable skepticism, but it truly doesn't apply to NLP, so they're all leaving money on the table unnecessarily.

"Why Every Sales Professional Ought to Learn and Use NLP"

Some sales models that are self-contained; i.e., use this model, or that model. Salespeople often avoid learning new models, in case they might interfere with, or pollute, the results they're already getting with the model they know. These concerns are well-founded with some sales systems. E.g., Relationship selling conflicts with Urgency-based or Scarcity-based selling.

NLP-based selling isn't like that. In fact, it couldn't be further from that. Because NLP is a “process” model that enhances or optimizes everything else.

What if you could learn techniques and systems and skills... that would improve and accelerate everything you already know about selling?

NLP helps you become better at selling, often just by enhancing the way you're already selling. It's like taking what you already do and kicking it up a notch. And for those who aren't already good at selling, it will help you become a more natural salesperson, by teaching you skills for connecting more easily with people, and learning how to identify and deliver to their wants and needs – both the obvious ones, and the unconscious ones – the ones they didn't know they had.

If, however, you thought NLP is being taught or used to be more pushy with people, or to inappropriately manipulate them, then... we think you've been reading or talking to the wrong people. If all you're reading about is manipulative techniques, we believe that type of content is based on scarcity-based thinking, and on a foundation of deprivation and desperation. Neither we nor you want anything to do with that.

We believe the act of selling ought to be about helping match {A: people with wants and needs} with {B: providers} and structuring win-win transactions (regardless of whether you play the role of A, B, or even as C - a broker or referrer).

At its best, selling is about helping people get what they want and/or need, and making it easy and rewarding for everyone.

That is our altruistic focus in this article, as well as in our live NLP Sales Wizardry course.

We believe NLP can help every salesperson do this more effectively, regardless of which sales models a salesperson has learned over their career.

Some examples of sales models include: 5-P, Mental Conditioning, Relationship Sales, Personality Styles, Closing, Problem-Solving, Value-Added, Consultative, Partnering, Team Selling, Complex, Value. And there are many, many more.

Often salespeople need to combine models, depending on their unique selling circumstances.

Your performance in any and every one of these and other models can and will usually rapidly improve, with the use of NLP. You shouldn't look at NLP as replacing what you currently do in selling – think of it as an accelerator or performance-enhancer.  So, you might find it useful to think of NLP (when applied to selling) as much like:

  • the supplements a weightlifter takes to optimize his workouts
  • the spice you add to a dish to make it more tasty and fragrant
  • the grease you add to bicycle parts to make them run more smoothly
  • the dessert you offer after a dinner party to end on a sweet note
  • the charismatic social butterfly who breaks the ice and introduces everyone naturally
  • the mirror that quietly shows you your flaws – in time to do something about them!
  • the negotiator who comes in and saves dying deals

The entirety of NLP is NOT helpful to selling. You'll want to be selective in your NLP studies. Is it possible that learning NLP will hurt closing ratios?

It is possible, yes – and that would only occur if you made poor choices for what NLP material you study and what NLP training(s) you choose to attend. Because if you're not NLP-trained, and you attend a typical NLP Practitioner training, you'll be immersing yourself in largely therapeutic techniques that may or may not help you in sales. And by yourself, how would you know what would be most useful and what would be unhelpful? You won't, at least for the first few months or possibly years, if you try to figure it all out on your own.  We think that would be too costly an approach, when better, faster, more affordable and more selective alternatives are available for a fast-track to results.

You might think you can figure it all out by yourself, but many people have tried that along the way and ended up learning far too much of the material that doesn't apply well to selling. And trying things out when it counts the most, without a little wisdom about what to use and what to exclude, can lead to a reduction in your bottom line.

By significant contrast, if you attended a course that was intentionally designed to present only the specific NLP skills that would help you sell more effectively, and leave out the material that would only distract or confuse you (or be irrelevant to selling), then that will improve your bottom line.

Can't almost any NLP technique apply to selling?

Yes, and no.  Some of NLP's techniques are so grounded in therapy, you'd never want to use them in the vast majority of cases.   here are some examples of why selectivity in NLP studies and training are so important for sales and business professionals:

You'd never want to use the fast phobia cure in Selling.  After all, if any of your sales prospects are feeling intense fear around you or your products, you have much bigger problems to worry about than using any NLP technique with a prospect.

No salesperson in their right mind would use an NLP swish pattern with a sales prospect directly, but there are ways to use aspects of Swish with a prospect in a very helpful way.

No salesperson in their right mind would use "6-Step Reframing" with the vast majority of sales prospects -- but we could easily see a way to customize and simplify that technique to help resolve conflicting desires among a buying family that can't agree on what they want.

Most salespeople will never actually figure out how to use Anchoring effectively in business situations.  They just won't.  Most NLP certification trainings are now too short for people to get really good at anchoring, and even then, they rarely learn "real-world" real-time business uses, because most such trainers teach how to kinesthetically anchor emotional responses in changework.  In business and sales, you have scant seconds to anchor, and you'd better learn to get creative with anchoring, mostly auditory and visually.  I teach this; most do not.


Thanks for reading!  This entry was Part One of a series of blog entries on sales.  The next entry will list some specific examples of the skills we train in our NLP Sales Wizardry course, and how/where/why they should be learned and used.

author: Jonathan Altfeld