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Better Memory Skills with NLP Sorting Patterns

Have you ever felt like you were absorbing lots of information effectively, and then... when called upon to recall that information later... drew a blank?

Did you ever master something complicated over years of effort... only to get to a point where the simplest details of those skills were out of your conscious reach, yet... you could still USE the relevant skills behaviorally or masterfully?

Has an NLP Practitioner or Trainer ever asked you "Think of a time when you felt _____...", named for you a relevant emotion from your past, and then you found you couldn't recall such a specific time (even though you KNOW you had to have had such an experience?

These problem-ridden moments are not a useful or helpful cause for making judgements about the quality of your overall memory skills. In other words, failure to recall information or memories like the above situations, does not mean you have a bad memory.

To understand these experiences more accurately, you need to separate "memory storage" skills from "memory recall" skills.

The people with the most celebrated memory skills combine more effective information-storing techniques, with more effective (and relevant) questions.

And if you're not in the above small category of lucky people with both great information storage skills, as well as great recall skills, then you're among the majority of people, who must decide either to be satisfied with our memory skills... or work to improve them.

So let's look first at:

Memory Storage Methods.

Most of us have no idea how we remember and organize our memories. Nearly all of us do this unconsciously. Human beings are extraordinary learners (given effective learning experiences, motivation, fascination, good teachers, great feedback loops, etc). We acquire new knowledge and

skill with some ease, granted - with variations from person to person. We also have preferences for how we store our information. From an NLP perspective, most of how we store information can be gleaned from our "metaprograms." How we "sort" for information is usually related to how we store information.

So... without going into excessive detail in a blog entry about metaprograms, they're like filters. And here are some common filters (or sorting methods) as they pertain to memories:

  • Time (some people store and access memories along a timeline)

  • People (some people store and access memories associated with other people they know)

  • Things (some people store and access memories based on the things they buy or keep)

  • Emotions (some people store and access memories based on emotional triggers)

  • Places (some people store and access memories based on locale, or cities, or landmarks)

There are more "sorts" (e.g. sorting methods), but these are among the most common ones.

Also, some people have the ability to store their memories or information using more than one sort. It's quite common for this to happen.

The computer metaphor version of this... is like a database. After all, databases were created by programmers to simulate how human beings store and access memories. It's no surprise we can use one as a metaphor of the other. So... we can have a great database full of gold, but if we don't understand the "index" being used (i.e., how the information is organized & sorted), we'll never be able to mine that gold.

Let's say someone asks you a question like "Hey, do you remember that guy "Jim, from Cincinnati?" How easily or not do you think you'll remember Jim if you store your memories based on time? If you don't store your memories based on people, or based on places, you probably won't remember Jim unless or until someone adds to the question "you know Jim, we met him last August." Until you have that one key piece of information that matches your preferred memory storage and sorting methods... the memory is unavailable. Now, knowing you met Jim in August, the memory of Jim comes back, images stream forth, and you'll suddenly remember Jim well.

So. If you somehow picked up the idea that your “memory wasn't that great,” you can throw out that limiting and inaccurate belief in favor of something more empowering for yourself, because the truth is: Your memory is fine; as soon as you begin to understand how your own sorting patterns work, you can move past memory challenges for some rather surprising results, and finally discover that your own world-class memory has been there all along... just waiting for you to discover how to use it more effectively!

How to Test for Your Own Memory Storage Method(s) / Pattern(s)

Simply ask yourself some questions using each of the above filters as your organizing method (and there are others beyond the above starting list).

To test whether you sort memories by time, ask yourself questions like:

(NOTE: Do not treat these questions as a complete diagnostic tool. They are a subset of examples, an incomplete guide as to how we go about evaluating someone's memory sorting preferences. They're labeled Q1..7 only so that we can refer to specific questions accurately and briefly.)

  • Q1: "Last Thursday afternoon, where was I or what was I doing?"
  • Q2: "4 Years ago this month, what was my most important project?"
  • Q3: "12 years ago & 6 months ago, who was my best friend at the time?"

Rapid answers to questions like the above indicate a strong time sort.

To test whether you sort by people, don't ask about time first. Try this:

  • Q4: “Name all of your lifetime best friends in any sequence. “
  • Q5: “And after you have the list, name the date-ranges relevant for each friend." (If you can only do this sequentially through time, then either you sort by time, or by era).

To test whether you sort more by emotions than time, ask this:

  • Q6: "Where in your body would or do you feel fascination (or, name any other emotion)? And once you do feel it, when was the last time you felt this?" (Emotion-sort, primarily)

If you can answer Q6 faster than the next question, you may have a strong emotion-sort:

  • Q7: "When was the last time you felt fascinated?" (Time-sort).

If you can answer Q7 more easily than Q6, then you sort memories more by time, than by emotion.

So, hopefully this has illustrated some ideal methods to use to determine someone else's memory sorting patterns. When communicating with coaching clients, it's worthwhile ensuring not a single moment is wasted. So if you're a coach, you'd better shape up your questions and realize that a client's lack of ability to come up with matching memories says as much or more about the way you phrase your questions, as it does about their history. And if you're a client of a coach, you'd want your coach to ensure the questions they ask are well designed for your ears, to get rapid and effective answers.

While the above questions are not a complete list, they are examples of some of the exact methods and protocols we use in personal coaching sessions to determine someone's memory sorting patterns.

So, presuming you have some great clues about how to figure out your own memory-sorting & storage methods, now we need to know more about how facts and memories are recalled and accessed.

Memory-Recall questions, for ourselves

Chances are, you're amongst the majority of people who use the same memory-recall sorting methods that we use to store our own facts and memories.

Most of us are fortunate, in that IF we use time to organize our memories, then to remember things both consciously and unconsciously, we tend to ask ourselves time-based questions. If we use places as our primary sorting method for storing memories, we think first about places, to access further information we memorized when we were living in or visiting those places. Another way of saying this is that our storage and recall methods are congruent. We use the same circuits, for input, and output! This is very important, and useful.

If you're not one of those people... then you may have difficulty remembering many, many, many things - even things you want to remember for your own purposes. Such a person will (not may, WILL) benefit massively from getting some private coaching from someone who understands all these issues and can help them to develop new long-term memory skills and techniques.

By contrast, if a stroll down memory lane is an easy frequent activity for you, and you can often remember addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, names, etc., then you can rest easy that you probably don't have anything to worry about in terms of your own memory management.

Memory-Recall Questions asked by Others of Us:

Have you ever heard an NLP Trainer ask "Think of a time when you felt Powerful!" ? If so, did it ever not work for you? No matter how hard you tried, was it impossible to access a matching memory?

We've seen and heard this result happen time & time again -- in online chatrooms, and during breaks at courses we deliver, when people sometimes complain about other trainers' courses.

If someone asks you a question that attempts to get you to recall a memory, and you aren't able to recall such a memory, all it potentially means is that (a) you don't have such a memory - which is ridiculous if the question is similar to "have you ever felt powerful before," or (b) the questioner asked a question using a sorting method that doesn't match your memory-storage preferences.

Once in a while, a person presumes erroneously that it's their own fault. Perhaps they even conclude that there's something wrong with them, or their brain... or possibly that NLP doesn't actually work. None of these conclusions are remotely close to the truth.

If you store your memories by time and someone asks you to think of a time when you felt powerful, then unless you've felt weak all of your entire life, you WILL be able to follow their instruction, relatively quickly. Count on it.

If you sort through and remember your memories using places (as a primary organizing index) and someone asks you to "think of a time when you felt powerful," you might not be able to answer quickly or at all. The memory... which will still be buried in your mind through 'pointers' like what city you were in where (not when) you last felt that emotion... is not easily accessible through a time-sort. They would have to ask you "Think of a place where you felt powerful" and the memory would be rapidly available.

In NLP we call these types of questions "elicitations." We often ask questions that are designed to bring students (or coaching clients) to revivify emotions from past experiences. We do this because we operate from a belief that says "everyone already has the resources they need, inside them." In other words, everyone's capable of solving their own challenges, but for whatever reason, they just don't yet see how to access their own resources, yet. As NLP Practitioners, we act as guides to help people access their own existing brilliance and ability. We help elicit older more resourceful memories and skills and emotions... and help people bring those past resources into current challenges. And sometimes we teach a few new techniques to enable further progress.

Flexible, smart Practitioners & Trainers understand that they MUST elevate above the typical "think of a time when" types of questions. These are “elicitation questions,” and when they don't work, it is NOT a comment either about the efficacy of NLP, or about the person answering. It's a comment that the Practitioner or Trainer needs to change the elicitation questions they're asking, immediately.

It amazes us that there are even some trainers and practitioners out there that, when students or clients don't come up with memories in response to the typical elicitation questions, will actually blame others for having poor memory storage methods. In such a case... their own inflexibility as a leader is the primary culprit. Avoid these pretenders at all costs in favor of a true professional.

Regarding the Challenges Described Initially

If you know you absorb lots of information effectively, but have challenges with recall... chances are your methods of storing information may not match your methods of recalling information. In which case, use some of the insights from this article to (a) determine where the differences are, or (b) change the way you organize new information, or (c) change the way you ask yourself questions to sort through your existing knowledge and memory!

If you've ever mastered something complicated over years of effort, then found details outside of conscious reach, yet masterful demonstration still exists... rest easy. This is what happens when you reach unconscious competence in your learning. This is actually normal, and is evidence of reaching high performance levels! To regain conscious access to the details, you'll have to review the material again from the beginning (don't worry, it's far faster the 2nd time). Only after learning something twice can you have both conscious competence and unconscious competence concurrently (which, in my opinion, == mastery).

If "Think of a time when you felt _____" didn't work for you... rephrase the question to include your own natural sorting preferences, instead of just a time-sort! i.e. say to yourself “think of a place where...” or “think of a person who caused me to feel...” or “think of things that make me feel...” etc!

Times to Use These Lessons?

If you're ever given a high pressure test... and you need to do as well as you possibly can... recognize that sometimes tests ask questions that use less-useful sorting methods than we ourselves use. Learn to identify what sorting patterns you use.. . what sorting patterns the tests use... and how to translate in your mind from one to another! You'll be able to come up with better answers more quickly!

If you're in an interview... and you're either asked questions that you're not coming up with answers to... OR you realize that your interviewee/interviewer uses a different sorting process than you use... change how you ask your questions! Get different & better answers!

If you're speaking to groups... and you want everyone in the room to access memories that are resourceful... ask the same elicitation questions multiple times using different sorting methods! (Make sure to separate these questions with the word “or,” so that people know that all is well, as long as they can successfully answer only one of these questions!

And the list goes on... and on... and on!

These are critical skills for knowing how to gather better information from ourselves and others!


By Jonathan Altfeld


Want Additional Help Beyond the Above Self-Help?

Private coaching is available to help with these questions and issues. If you prefer self-help to coaching, get as far as you can with the above on your own, and see how you do! If either you'd like to go beyond what you accomplish on your own, ask Jonathan Altfeld for some private coaching via phone or skype (or in person, if you're within driving distance of Tampa, FL).  Initiate a conversation, here!


TEDTalk Study #1: Joe Smith's Paper Towel presentation

In today's entry, I'll start sharing examples of effective NLP techniques used in presentations.  TED is an organization that hosts extraordinary conferences wherein extraordinary people give short presentations about amazing ideas & results, in the worlds of art, science, music, performance, and more -- TED is "Ideas worth spreading."

Remember that NLP is primarily about the replication of excellence.  And some NLP classes teach more empowered ways of being, some, more empowered ways of communicating.  So my comments here will be amongst the easiest to share via text.  There is MUCH more than can be shown and then trained and tuned, in person.  This is, in my opinion, by far the most valuable coaching, but... we're limited to one way communication here.

The people whose talks I will share here and comment on, aren't necessarily aware of NLP at all.  Sometimes it's obvious when they are.  Sometimes not.  That's not the point, though.  The point is to observe examples of communication and behavior that contribute to the effectiveness of that communication and behavior -- and from my perspective, I'll be focusing on that which either IS an NLP technique, or that which mimics such, and is simply a good example of an NLP technique, whether or not it was intended as such.

So, on to the first of my video comments.  I don't know how long this video will be visible on the web and thus embeddable here, but for now... here we go:

This is fabulous.   Even aside from the great environmental value.   If you sort primarily by content, you'll be wowed by the simplicity and power of the specific message.  You're wowed by the what.  But that doesn't and won't EVER help you to elevate above the message and learn from the specific methods the speaker is using.

As an NLP Modeler and trainer, and as a coach of public speakers, I'm sorting for process.  And while I can be wowed by the WHAT, I'm primarily sorting for, and even MORE wowed, by the how.

Trainers, speakers, and NLP enthusiasts of all kinds, should study this 3 minute video to see & hear excellent examples of:

  • Anchoring
  • building an anchor chain
  • embedded commands
  • repetition for somatic learning
  • future pacing & post hypnotic suggestion
  • ...amongst other things.

Joe's presentation isn't perfect, but it's *extremely* effective.

Perfectionists should watch this and realize... you don't have to be perfect to be great.

The one thing this presentation is missing (at least in the recording; it might have been delivered to the audience before the starting edit point) is a values-based headline that gets us frothing at the mouth in curiosity for the right reasons, BEFORE the demonstration.  A values based headline also "opens the right box" in listeners' minds... ensuring maximal audience retention and adoption of the message, as well as ensuring action is taken later.

For those who are fascinated by my comments above, I teach all of these skills and more, for public speakers with every level of existing background from newbie up to keynote speakers... at my Speaking Ingeniously course.  (Which is coming up in Orlando very soon!)

More video reviews will come soon...


- Jonathan

Author: Jonathan Altfeld


Time Distortion Everywhere!

Recently during a Practitioner training, my students were learning about time distortion, both as an experience, and for the purposes of learning time distortion effects and language patterns. 

Primarily for them, this was for learning how to do coaching using time-based visualization processes.  Secondarily, for them, this was for learning how to improve one's own relationship to time. 

As for me, I had a secondary gain.  I'm investigating, creating and testing new and more effective approaches to using time-distortion patterns.  I've been way behind on the project for administrative reasons (not thanks to time distortion!), and am getting back into it heavily now.  I thought I'd share with you some of what I'm finding; I hope you enjoy the ideas presented here.  We'll begin by exploring your current sense of time, and then begin discussing the effects of time distortion.

How accurate is YOUR sense of time?

Let's look at some raw numbers.  I ran 9 people through 8 specific timed experiences, testing their sense of time, ending the timed experiments at seemingly random moments, but tracking the data nonetheless.  I wanted to find out how accurate or not each person could be, tracking time.  How accurate or not is each person's internal time clock?  And what might cause distortions in either direction, i.e., creating a slower vs. faster sense of time?  More importantly, this is leading into WHY it may or may not be useful to create a distorted sense of time in ourselves, or others.  How and where can we create benefits?

(Legend: "N/A" means the participants were simply counting time in their minds without doing any other activity)

Task Activity:N/AN/AN/AWritingDoodlingTranceFast TalkSlow Talk
Time (Seconds):2767461091096097106
AB 56508092608795
JL18 51132955495106

I find these numbers fascinating.  And to share with you a visual representation of the above... here's a scatter plot of the 9 people's guesses in relation to the actual time elapsed during tasks (elapsed time is circled in red). The columns of greatest interest are where the red circles are near the top or the bottom of the full range of answers given by participants. This shows when the majority of the group guessed consistently under, or over, the actual time elapsed.


We can draw a number of conclusions from this, which are best illustrated by looking at the positive and negative differences between each person's guesses, and the actual numbers.  These differences are shown in the chart, below.

This chart shows the time differences between the actual time elapsed, and each person's guesses.  These cells do not show the original guesses -- just the differentials.  I.e., if the actual time was 60 seconds, and I'd guessed only 50 seconds had elapsed, we'd see -10 in the table below, showing I'd underestimated elapsed time.

Task Activity:N/AN/AN/AWritingDoodlingTranceFast TalkSlow Talk
Time (Seconds):2767461091096097106
OR - over/under058-19-70-124
AL - over/under-7-14-2-62-26218-1
BG - over/under-8-15571-19-15-37-36
O - over/under01119735-15
AB - over/under -114-29-170-10-11
MR - over/under-65-51111023-1
JL - over/under-9 523-14-6-20
UC - over/under93-21-821-19-31-7-26
VG - over/under-163-116615-7-16
% Guessed High11.11%44.44%55.56%66.67%33.33%33.33%33.33%22.22%
% Guessed Low66.67%55.56%44.44%33.33%66.67%33.33%66.67%77.78%
% RIght ON!22.22%0%0%0%0%33.33%0%11.11%

What conclusions can we draw? How about these:

  • During the first round, the first experiment, people surprised themselves with their level of inaccuracy. This is common every time I run this exercise. The vast majority of people think they're more accurate than they actually are. It's just one of the many ways our brains trick us. Further, repetitious drills of this nature can and do improve anyone's accuracy at guessing elapsed time.
  • Most things that direct attention kinesthetically, are more likely to create slower time awareness. Exceptions may include trance, and/or flight-or-flight (extreme fast time awareness (seconds taking hours, split seconds taking minutes).
  • Most things that direct attention visually, are more likely to create faster time awareness.
  • Writing seems to take one's awareness outside of time. This is usually a mix of visual and auditory emphasis (though someone may write about feelings, etc).
  • Speed of speech is extraordinarily influential -- fast speech creates fast time, slow speech creates slow time.
  • An externally silent trance causes different time sensations for different people, but by and large increased people's accuracy with being aware of elapsed time.

The much bigger question remains... how do these distorted senses of time affect our decision making? Does it affect our decision making in useful ways? How about not-so-useful ways? And then, how can we best construct language patterns and other methods of eliciting optimal temporal experiences (like slow time or fast time or compressed time or stretched time, etc)... so that we can change lives for the better?

How does Time Distortion Impact YOUR life?

We all make decisions about how we move through our life... what to do, when... what buying decisions to make or put off... how long we have to think about something before taking action... based on our relationship to time.  How often are our choices the "perfect" ones for us?  Don't presume the answer is "all."  Chances are, many of us would have made different decisions in the past had we known then, what we know now.  Or had our sense of time been different then, than it is now.  So since we KNOW we've made choices in the past we might have made differently... we can therefore presume the same may happen to us in the future.  None of us are infallible.  Some of our decision strategies are less than effective.  Don't resist this, accept it.  When you accept your imperfection, you can then happily take action to improve yourself.

Since we know WE sometimes make choices that aren't in our best interests or were made at the right time, we can then also assume OTHERS do the same.  It's a universal experience.

The conclusion to draw here is:

If we change how we or others experience time... we can affect the decisions we or others make.

If that fascinates you, as it does me... then anything we can do to become better at this...  over time... will benefit us and others immensely.  Maybe we can change a few lives for the better! 

To get you started, begin by exploring your own sense of time.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your relationship to time?  Are you a great planner?  Always late?  Well balanced?  Living in the moment?  Always early?  Plan all your spare time to the minute?  Always trying to plan but can't seem to get organized?
  • When do you make your best decisions? Use hindsight as your evidence, please -- don't "assume!"  Have you been best under pressure?  Or when relaxed?
  • When are you most influential to others?  When you're passionate in the moment?  Or when you can describe the big picture over time?
  • And... if you find contrasts between your resourceful moments, and your unresourceful moments... what can you do to begin approaching your unresourceful situations with a more resourceful sense of time?

I'll have more to come on this at some point in the future.  I'm jumping fully back into a project that has not been getting the attention it needed, in the past.  And, in the meantime... feel free to discuss the topic here, below!


Author: Jonathan Altfeld

NLP Helpful for Stuttering?

I received an inquiry via my site, asking for help with Stuttering:

"I want to know if the "Irresistible Voice" cd-set will help me to cure my mild stuttering.  When I am calm I can barely stutter, but when I start to get nervous, my voice starts to tremble and my stutter gets worse. If you have any other type of method for people who stutter, please let me know. Thank you!"

I should also mention this particular challenge was illustrated vividly in the wonderful recent movie "The King's Speech."  The mindset behind the main speech therapist character's approach, could easily be said to reflect an NLP approach to changework.

Can NLP Cure Stuttering?

First of all, in many states in the USA, NLP Practitioners can't say they'll be able to "cure" anything, especially when it comes to conditions that are governed over or regulated by the medical industry or mental health field, where doctors or psychologists etc are licensed by their states to practice those arts and treat those "conditions."  That said, NLP can help people to learn unique ways to solve their own problems, and NLP Practitioners can help people learn and practice those skills.

So now that you understand the word "Cure" is a hot-button word, I can safely say I neither treat stuttering, nor cure it, nor does NLP cure stuttering. But I most definitely can "help stutterers to reduce or eliminate their own stuttering challenges" through a variety of means:

How can NLP Help Stutterers Speak Smoothly?

  • Learn more emotional state control/management.  NLP is a great approach to this.  Stuttering often causes nervousness which in many stutterers, worsens the effect.  Learning to manage and control your emotions will diminish and potentially eliminate this complication.
  • Google "Milton Erickson stuttering rhythm".  Granted, what you find from one month to the next may vary.  But essentially, if you do sufficient research, you'll find that Milton Erickson used the training of rhythm to teach certain stutterers how not to stutter.  One of the reference patterns here is that the vast majority of stutterers do not stutter when they sing, but may when they speak.  So if you teach a stutterer to rhythmically sing what they say to people, they interrupt the stutter pattern, and no longer stutter.  Erickson would recommend that someone tap a pencil or pen on their thigh when they speak, so that they learn to keep rhythm as they speak, and speak rhythmically.  Get yourself a metronome, or use an online metronome website.  There are several.
  • Google "stuttering biofeedback".  More recent research has found that for at least some stutterers, the neurology behind stuttering involves a defect in the auditory feedback loop, possibly involving how sounds transmit and echo through the skull.  There are a growing set of biofeedback systems involving changing delays on speech fed back to a speaker's ears, and more, designed to find what helps a stutterer, speak more evenly and clearly.  Some of these can produce seemingly miraculous or instant results in some people.  And I do have a variety of speech feedback systems, though there are also many on the market I do not own.

The important thing to remember is that no one solution is guaranteed to work for anyone.  We recommend you keep experimenting, think outside the box, and look for unique ways to wire around the problem, and build new neural pathways!

What about my "Irresistible Voice" Audio Program?

Regarding my "Irresistible Voice" Audio Program, that's not designed intentionally to help with stuttering, and I would expect no direct improvement with stuttering from this audio program. However, it may still be a useful program for you (read on).

That audio program is designed to improve the overall sound quality of your vocal speaking instrument, to teach the use of a number of persuasive speech patterns, and to improve your rhythm of speaking (which can have a very positive indirect effect on stuttering).

So there could be indirect or secondary improvement in stuttering as a result of improved rhythm while speaking, and as a result of greater confidence in how you sound after using my exercises (that seems a reasonable possibility). A better voice would help you stay calmer, longer. Obviously from your comments, your stuttering is related to your emotional state, so staying calmer longer would be good!

However I would not make a firm guarantee or promise of specific gains with stuttering from just this audio program. I do like people to know what they can definitely expect from my materials. If it helps, I have had fewer than 5 "returns" out of over 4000 copies of this set sold as of April 2011. So I do know that my customers have been very happy with this program.

I hope that helps you!


- Jonathan

Author: Jonathan Altfeld

Better Beliefs for Eye Contact!

This blog entry was one that was moved from my old NLP Forum. Mike DeBusk had asked:

When I look into someone's eyes, I feel the same way as I would if I were looking into the window of their house. I feel as if I might be intruding. This is obviously (no pun intended) not an accurate or useful belief. I'd like to replace it and I don't have a better one to put there. If you're comfortable with holding eye contact with people you don't necessarily know intimately, what do you believe that makes you feel OK, or even good, about it?

Cool question. I have very different beliefs about eye contact.

I think people are secretly (sometimes not so secretly) crying out for more "real" and genuine intimacy in their lives, and eye contact is one of the great ways people can get it.

I do think it can be perceived as intruding if people feel like they're getting the wrong kind of eye contact.

And I think it can be one of the greatest "unconscious communication" gifts you can give someone... to award them the perfect kind and amount of eye contact.

So when I look into someone's eyes, I engage in a balance-finding exercise... to calibrate the right combination of...

  • duration of eye contact to deepen intimacy/rapport... before looking away (most guys max out at 3 seconds, most women require at least 7 seconds...)
  • frequency of glance-aways: not enough, and it's creepy; too much, and you're not connected or intimate.
  • duration of glance-aways: not enough, and you seem too easily distracted; too much, and you're disinterested.

Also, when you combine eye contact with certain other things, it can deepen any effect -- including the ones you don't want to cause, as well as many of the effects you DO want to cause. Consider these, for example. As you're maintaining eye contact, try one or more of these together:

  • change your state to one of greater nurturing, or greater contentment.
  • start smiling wider -- a genuine smile -- fast or slow.
  • tilt your head *slightly* forward, along with a *slight* head tilt to the side, and add a smile or not.

Here's another thing you can use to aid your eye contact games: There's a really neat effect that can be achieved by flaring your eyelids for a half second. It feels a little like a gentler version of bugging your eyes out a bit -- but only for half a second. The effect is that your eyelids open just a hair wider, making your eyes look bigger, showing more of the whites of your eyes, and since you're showing more of your eye's surface, this usually allows your eye-contact partner to enjoy momentary twinkles in your eye(s).

I suspect you'll be pleased with the results!

Author: Jonathan Altfeld

When Speakers Are too Verbose

How many presenters, trainers, speakers (or wanna-be's...) talk too much? Are they too verbose? Do they speak beyond the optimal closing moment and maybe even lose the sale? This is evidence a speaker isn't keeping BOTH output AND input channels open while training or speaking.

In other words, while talking, a speaker shuts off their awareness of how their audience is responding. It's a form of temporary deafness or blindness.

If a speaker needs to "pause" their presentation, in order to reconnect with where their audience is at, that's a huge piece of evidence, that means they're not yet able to pay external attention while expressing their message. That's a major obstacle to their path to greatness as a speaker. Not being able to listen and watch while one talks and behaves is an enormous hindrance for most speakers, between just being "good," and reaching for deeper excellence as a platform communicator or coach or trainer. If this describes you, then you NEED to read this!!

You may be getting in your own way, ignoring your audiences, and blindly pushing your message instead of tuning it real-time.

If this describes you, then you may only be opening one communication channel at a time -- output VS input -- instead of both concurrently.

It IS trainable, and I know multiple ways to get you to open both channels at once. A couple of exercise drills, some repetition, and the closed channel opens up... you begin to flex the new muscles of concurrent awareness -- of external and internal awareness. The end result is far less verbosity, and much greater influence over every moment of your presentations.

Here's a place to start: When you communicate a lesson or story to a group of people, while you're communicating to your audience, plan to lead into a yes/no question about your content already delivered that could get mixed responses from the group. And I want you to do that without any extended pauses. If you can correctly predict the individual audience members' answers to the question you're about to ask, BEFORE finishing speaking, then chances are you've got both channels open. If you needed to stop and think about who would answer what, and could only do that after you stopped speaking, then... this hindrance is truly worth solving, as quickly and as thoroughly as you can.

If this is your obstacle, I invite you to grab this opportunity to finally solve this challenge, with me, at my next Speaking Ingeniously course. I have a 100% success rate at getting people to use BOTH channels concurrently!

Emotional State Sequencing for Speakers

Speakers, take note: Sequence is everything.

Is it possible that in the past, you've shifted between speaking to your audiences about resourcefulness, and then back and forth to problems or obstacles or other issues, without designing and following an absolutely clear, intentional sequence?

If you're not aware of exactly how you're doing this... if you don't design those transitions intentionally, then you may very well have been inspiring listeners to DISTANCE themselves from your message, instead of connecting themselves with your message.  In other words, you want to spend most of your time sequencing your audiences from problems and obstacles to solutions and resourcefulness... and next to no time moving in the reverse direction (without clear interrupts and state-breaks designed in, between the positive-back-to-negative transitions).

When you learn to become ridiculously good at emotional state-chaining while speaking... you'll finally plug the gaping holes in your customer/student retention system. 


Just a thought... a thought you might want to absorb and act on!

Story of Bungled Hypnotic Advertising

If you're near me, you probably listen to Mix95 radio on occasion.  There's a popular morning show with DJ's Rick & Lisa.  Good show, for a small town, by the way. :)

On today's morning show, about 30 minutes ago, I heard a commercial for local car dealership "Hamilton Nissan" that (whether intended OR NOT...) demonstrated an incredibly bad/poor example of advertising techniques that can be described by any NLP Practitioner or Hypnotherapist as "hypnotic" advertising. Note this does NOT mean they necessarily used hypnosis or hypnotic writing, but it means their radio ad was a great example of BAD hypnotic advertising.

So let's explore the ad in more detail, in NLP & Ericksonian Hypnosis terms:

(And, keep in mind this is not a verbatim script -- this is my memory of what I heard, knowing what I know, and knowing how to listen for this. The actual recording may have been slightly differently worded -- but not significantly so).

It started out OK with the first couple of phrases, using "Pacing & Leading" for Rapport-building & influence. It started out sounding like facts, but all too quickly became an ad. "Well it seems there are signs the economy is picking back up; the big 3 car manufacturers all seem to be doing well." Then it immediately became an ad for Hamilton Nissan. This was inelegant and likely created an instant emotional experience for most listeners (whether mild or strong), of "Bait & Switch." Your loss, Hamilton Nissan.

Then, the crowning example of bungled hypnotic advertising was...

wait for it...

The horribly badly delivered 'embedded command', for "BUY NOW!" I couldn't stop laughing for about 5 minutes when I heard it.

It was combined with an incomplete sentence. Sentence fragments are an Ericksonian Hypnotherapy technique for putting people partly on hold; it creates less resistance in listeners. What they didn't tell you, Hamilton Nissan, is that that only works when everything else you're doing at the same time is increasing acceptance of your suggestions.

So here's how they did it: "Well I know you're thinking... BUY NOW... all the vehicles over at Hamilton Nissan..." then they left that sentence incomplete... and moved on to other topics. Using incomplete sentences and "embedded commands" such as "BUY NOW" are well-known NLP/Ericksonian hypnosis technique.

Their PRESUMED intent was for you to consciously hear ALL of the above, but unconsciously hear and respond to just a portion of the incomplete sentence: "BUY NOW... all the vehicles over at Hamilton Nissan..."

In fact, the use of "Buy Now" as a casual phrase in advertising is SO ubiquitous these days, it's seen/heard as cheesy in hypnosis/NLP circles now. My opinion: No *effective* marketer in their right mind would use it anymore.

If you think I'm making this up, google "embedded commands buy now" and explore. By the way, though, about half of those articles that show up in google use what I would describe as less-than-elegant phrasing. I'm an authority on this specific language pattern, both in terms of phrasing, and tonal delivery, and I think a lot of people don't quite get it fully. So I'm not saying everyone writing articles about this subject are worth reading; I'm pointing out that there's a LOT of material on this stuff out there.

Never mind that the advertiser's delivery of "BUY NOW" in terms of tonality and pausing was incredibly ineffective. I mean, if they were actually going to use that embedded command, they probably should have learned more competent tonal techniques. If you knew what I know, you'd have been cringing while listening.

If it was intended (99.9% likely in my opinion), then it was very badly delivered. I'd use that radio commercial as an ideal example of what never to do, and how not to do it.

If it wasn't intended (I acknowledge the limited possibility of pure ignorance here), then the "interviewee" (read: Advertising guy at Hamilton Nissan) happened to stumble accidentally on what I believe is one of the worst possible ways to turn off their potential customers. Because whether the radio listeners have the self-awareness and/or vocabulary for it or not... many are likely feeling a mild, weird sense that something's *not quite right* about what they just heard, and who they heard it from/about.

They MAY have just succeeded in doing exactly the opposite of what they'd intended. They MAY have just created distrust for/of their dealership.

Dealing with Ultimatums / Hostage Patterns

You've all heard them before.

  • "My way or the highway."
  • "Well if you don't want me doing that, I won't do anything."
  • "If you do X, that's the end of it, I'll Y."

What are "ultimatums" or "hostage patterns"?

The word "hostage" here refers to someone holding someone hostage to their own needs/expectations. In each case of the above... someone who uses these patterns above is doing so either from a position of a need for control, a fear of losing control, anger over perceived lack of appreciation, or an emotional "threshold" whereby if their own demands aren't met, some consequence will be delivered to (or something will be taken away from) the listeners.


On occasion, this is seen as masterful management, when there's a very strong leader at the helm. If a company is extremely successful... then nobody wants to mess with success. All well and good in such a situation, if you're Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. But most ultimatum situations aren't central to a success strategy; in fact, most of the time they are a recipe for disaster, or at least a painfully slow demise. If you throw a frog into boiling water, it jumps out. If you throw a frog into tepid water, and very slowly heat that water, the frog will stay put & be cooked.

Most of the time, ultimatums and hostage patterns are a form of behavioral dysfunction. It's worse when it becomes an organizational dysfunction, because decisions have to be made by committees and can't be made fast, "at will." Such an organization can potentially be the proverbial Frog, slowly boiling to its own death, unaware anything is actually happening.

What's the Problem? And how to Solve it?

If you cater to these demands, if you agree to their hostage pattern, you are as much or more a part of the dysfunction than was the person who delivered their ultimatum. And if you REMAIN supportive of that organizational dysfunction, your very behavior is teaching others that it's OK to deliver ultimatums, and it's OK to cater to or support them.

Many people are completely unaware they're part of the problem. Some are aware, but prefer to remain complacent. They think breaking out of the dysfunction would take too much effort. Yet what lesson does that teach others? Others are almost always watching, and learning.

Here's another problem. There is no easy way to slowly and gently exit dysfunctional patterns like these. The only practical way to break dysfunctional patterns like these, in any sort of timely way, is to:

(a) introduce entirely new patterns that are more desirable for the larger system (group, household, marriage, whatever)... and practice those new patterns/behaviors/choices until they become a new habit that replaces the old one.


(b) break the old pattern, cold-turkey. Exit the dysfunction. Refuse to cater to the ultimatum.

The most challenging aspect of all this is -- usually relationships are involved. Centrally involved.

Often in disagreements, it's useful to ask the question:

"What's more important, your point? Or the relationship?"

Most of the time, in most disagreements, the answer is... the relationship.

However, when ultimatums or hostage patterns are involved, if you value independence, proactivity and balance, and want to be a good example for others... most of the time, the answer isn't "the relationship."

Yet, one can't be quite so cold in discarding connections, especially when other relationships are affected as well! This is why it's so challenging to resolve organizational dysfunction! To do so requires a deeply skilled navigator of cause-effect patterns, and cooperation from at least some of the organization.

Adaptability vs. Stuckness: Optimizing Thinking Patterns

It's always easier afterwards, looking back in hindsight, to track the arc of our development, and to see the evidence of our ability to adapt (or lack thereof).

The evidence is visible in the trail of our behaviors. But the "cause" of either stuckness or flexibility... is in how we react to things, and in what we're paying the most attention to. Sometimes we can be pleased with our flexibility. Sometimes we're not happy with how we behaved or spoke. Fortunately, these patterns of reactivity and attention... can be changed!

How can we change how we think, to become more flexible?

One of my coaching clients, somewhat like myself, has experienced a career arc that's taken them rather far away from the kind of thinking patterns they were trained in all through college. And as I've reflected on that, it seems apparent that the degree to which they've been successful in their newest professional role is based on shifting values and beliefs. But the flip side of that is, the degree to which they're not yet as successful in that role as they'd like to be... is based on habitual mental patterns/filters. In NLP we often look at these habitual mental patterns and filters, and work with these. We call them "Metaprograms."

So the challenge for anyone who wants to get rid of less useful thinking patterns, and develop more useful ones... is all about changing what observations or patterns we sort for, and how we process information/ideas. One example might be that some people usually look for possibilities, while others may look for exceptions. The engineer had better be or become able to find exceptions. The visionary had better be or become able to ignore them and shoot for the moon. Another example might be, do you tend to look first for all the ways in which things are different? Or do you look first for the ways things are the same as other things, or that you already recognized/valid? NLP may offer _some_ instant/rapid shifts... but changing metaprograms (core personality traits) usually takes time, willingness to work and think differently, and there can be some effort involved. Mistakes/setbacks do occur. But it's SO worth it...!

Here's an example of the sameness vs difference in more 'layman' language:

When someone is speaking with you.... as they're talking... and you're listening... which do you do inside your head first, or more of?

  • Do you think about what aspects of what they're saying are correct (or agreeable)?
  • Or do you think about what aspects of what they're saying are incorrect (or that you know exceptions to)?

HOW we process information often dictates the quality of our relationships, our communication, our listening skills, our ability to fulfill the roles we've chosen (or that other people have chosen us for), etc. And how we communicate our responses, creates completely different perceptions about us, in other people's minds.

To what degree do you think you're processing your experiences optimally?

And are those processes/habits serving to help you be perceived the way you want to be?

Let's stay nonjudgemental when we explore these! There is no bad or good here; I like to think of these sorting patterns as more or less useful for current/desirable results. Not good or bad, just more or less useful. The smaller-chunking and sort-by-difference patterns that are essential to high-quality critical thinking from an engineer's perspective, has a far less useful place in a top executive's role. Just as the pie-in-the-sky visionary thinking that an executive or high level entrepreneur needs, for convincing others of his vision for the future... is likely to cause some major trouble in an engineer's role (in terms of unanticipated technical hurdles: "It was your job to anticipate and prevent that!").

Also, would you want to be married to the engineer's thinking patterns? Not if they couldn't leave that mindset at work when they came home each night. All of these patterns has at least some useful contexts -- more or less for each person's unique circumstances and roles.

The real challenge for most people is that "catching" yourself using these sorting patterns is extremely difficult, because these patterns are unconsciously habitual for us. And the more habitual/practiced they are, the harder they are for us to track. So it really helps to have a coach trained to track these patterns.

Here's another simple example. Have you ever known someone who was a "polarity responder?" Someone who always argues literally every point you make? You could tell them "you're a polarity responder" and they'd respond "No I'm not," at which point, they'd have proven your point, displaying the same trait in answering you the way they did.

Another example is asking a procrastinator when they're going to start learning to do things promptly, and they tell you "they'll get around to it eventually."

So perhaps the BIGGEST question is, what aren't you even remotely aware of, that's holding you back?

Maybe everyone should have a coach, who can hold up a friendly and supportive mirror to our less-useful patterns, outside of the context of our daily family/friend/co-worker relationships.

I've written about these subjects elsewhere in articles, etc... but thought you all might want to discuss these "sorting patterns" a bit. Find out how they're helping or hurting you!