Intentional Incongruence is a great Pattern Interrupt! NLP Article.

NLP focuses on Congruence

      Most of the books on your NLP shelf... most of the CDs & DVDs in your NLP media library, and most of the NLP training you can take... all put a great deal of emphasis on learning to become more congruent, and become less in-congruent. They emphasize the value of achieving more congruence - for really good reasons!

      So much of our ability to achieve great things, develop rewarding relationships, and become happier depends directly on how congruent we are in our various pursuits throughout life. Lack of congruence detracts from our performance, our joy, our productivity, our connections with other people, our success, our wealth, and of course, our health, too!

      None of us are perfect, and NLP isn't about perfection (people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!) but it is all about getting more of what we each want. And simply put, incongruence in any manner does make it less likely that we'll get, create, have, experience, or enjoy more of what we want. So NLP 'pushes' congruence. And provides tools and techniques for achieving that. Some of these tools are easily self-learned. Many are very difficult to learn on one's own, optimally, which is one of the reasons why great trainers are so useful in your development with NLP.

What is Congruence?

      Virginia Satir (one of the sources of NLP) said congruence is the balance between self, other, and context.

      Others have described congruence as having "rapport within oneself, or internal and external consistency, perceived by others as sincerity or certainty." (Wikipedia)

      Still others including me prefer a description like having all of your conscious and unconscious resources aligned in one direction, fully. If you enjoy the "engine" metaphor, then it's like "Having all your cylinders firing at the same time, for the same outcome." In a congruent state, you choose an outcome and focus your entire being on that outcome; that could be a productive outcome, or it could be to feel good, or to focus all your energy on learning something well, or to support a loved one, or just to be with someone fully - I'm not limiting my comments to work mode here.

      So if you came to me for coaching, or to hire me for in-house training, or to attend a public workshop, a great deal of my work would be to encourage and condition you for greater congruence. You can congruently count on it!

      ...Except when you could congruently count on the opposite!

What is Incongruence, and when is it useful?

      Once in a while... if you choose to be incongruent in very specific ways, for very particular reasons... you'll find that incongruence is incredibly useful. Note I'm not talking about an extended indefinite general state of incongruence. That's NOT useful, for many of the reasons I described above. But an intentional state of incongruence can have great purpose, and can be used to great effect.

      And when you read more about this, you're going to realize, that you've done this in your own past, on occasion, with great results. This article is aimed at helping you to do this more consistently, and more effectively.

      It turns out that intentionally incongruent communication can have extraordinary benefits.

      In business.

      In therapy.

      In seduction & flirting.

      In comedy (for pro's) and in becoming more funny (for us regular people who don't do stand-up!).

      And in FAR, FAR more circumstances.

      But why? Why would intentional incongruence actually have a useful effect?

Intentional Incongruence acts as a "Pattern Interrupt."

      You're already gifted at categorizing other people, their behaviors, and their language according to your ability to create expectations, and do pattern-matching. Mind you, the conclusions you draw aren't always accurate. Because sometimes you learn pattern matching skills from observing some people in one context, and then naturally want to apply those same pattern-matching skills to other people and/or in other contexts. That sometimes produces very inaccurate judgments. But, they often provide good results, which is why we so habitually rely on those pattern-matching skills.

      Hint: NLP training from a trainer who runs extensive exercise drills (and watches you perform them, rather than spends most of their time presenting) is phenomenal for improving these skills fast. (I have yet to meet any self-trained NLP enthusiasts who've significantly improved their pattern-matching skills in less than a decade).

      When you're intentionally incongruent in really unique ways, it bypasses people's pattern-matching filters. It's unexpected. So when you do something that doesn't fit our patterns... we have to pay closer attention. We have to devote more of our attention to you, and figure out how to respond, with NEW behavioral choices.

      Let me say that differently: If you're intentionally incongruent, you've prevented me from potentially mistakenly extending old pre-programmed habitual responses to you. You're requiring me to decide anew, based on my current values and beliefs, how to respond.

      This is an exceptionally good thing.

      I mentioned above that intentional incongruence is useful in business, therapy, seduction, flirting, and comedy.

Here are some specific examples.

      In business, sometimes it's useful to intentionally confuse people on the "other side" of a discussion. Those of you who own my "Automatic Yes" CD-set on emotional state-chaining for influencing people emotionally know... that the emotional state of mild confusion is one of my favorite emotions to elicit.. on the way to eliciting other emotions. Note - deep confusion is not useful here - but brief mild confusion is a fabulous tool!

      When other people have opinions that aren't resourceful for them or me (in my opinion, of course), and they're dead certain about those opinions, I find it immensely useful to say and do things that get them confused about those opinions. Once they're confused about those opinions (errr, limiting beliefs!), I can then educate them a bit more about additional options that might be more useful for them, and get them to consider alternatives.

      So anytime I can confuse people mildly with unexpected combinations of behavior, emotion, language, and tonality, they become much more responsive (again).

      One of the easiest ways of creating confusion is to shake your head no when saying Yes or asking questions about a choice they've made, or doing the reverse.

      Remember that Richard Bandler often says he likes to create doubt by asking "are you sure?" But, asking "are you sure?" in business settings can either creates doubt, OR additional certainty! It can actually work against you. Maybe you've tried that one out and then lost the sale, eh? Did you blame NLP for not working? If it didn't work, it wasn't NLP that didn't work - it was an example of you applying too general a cookie-cutter technique to a situation that didn't call for it - i.e., poor judgment. Sorry, I don't pull any punches - I want you to GET this stuff, deeply, and most training seems to suck at providing that level of insight.

      My suggestion: Instead of asking "are you sure?" with a questioning tonality, SAY "are you sure" with a statement or sentence tonality, and shake my head no gently and slowly no (left/right). Follow that up with something else, using a questioning tonality, and nodding your head YES: "Or could there be other useful possibilities you haven't considered yet?

      And next time you use that approach to close a sale, or seal a deal, or recover a lost possibility, I want you to remember where you read/heard it. I didn't provide it to you for kicks and giggles. I provided it to you to give you additional valuable evidence of the kinds of ideas you get access to, when you attend live (or online) training with me.

      In therapy, most people expect to have to talk about their feelings. Often therapy goes on for years, dancing around the real issues. Therapy CAN be useful, of course. However NLP has oriented itself towards faster therapeutic change techniques. And one of the people modeled by Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP, was Frank Farrelly. Frank single-handedly created a field called "Provocative Therapy." The guy is nothing short of amazing. He provokes people. And if all you knew about Frank was from written form (as in a transcript of what he says to people), you would be shocked. You might be tempted to call the police and have him put away. But underneath what he says... is an emotional state of deep caring - the likes of which you could never appreciate unless you were watching a video, and even better, watching Frank work in person (I've done so for a total of 2 weekends - amazing.)

      What Frank does is extraordinarily effective, because he creates an experience that I have been espousing for years using a different description. If you've attended any of my courses since 1997 onward, you would have heard me suggesting that you create a mixed emotional state for coaching clients whereby you "deeply respect the person's identity, but disrespect their BS." This is what I believe Frank does with his clients. In fact, he goes further to ridicule their BS... but amazingly, he does so in a way that gets them laughing at their own issues.

      In flirting and seduction, I've found that intentional incongruence can work as well as full congruence, depending on the circumstances. If you're communicating with a romantic prospect who is equally strongly attracted to you initially, you can probably get away easily with congruence, show how strongly and congruently interested you are... and they'll respond. If there's greater competition for someone's attentions, or their initial response isn't as strong as yours is... sometimes intentional incongruence can be highly useful.

      Why? Because all of us (men and women both) will happily and willingly follow their curiosity and intrigue. If the behaviors and communication that you use... don't "match up" according to someone's expectations, and that incongruent communication is intriguing, people will want to investigate. You'll have created an emotional state of greater curiosity.

      Again, incongruent communication can work against you, such as if you encounter someone you're interested in, and instead of showing interest, you pretend not to be interested, or worse, show signs of serious disinterest.

      But it can be extremely intriguing to intentionally mix communication and behavior in unexpected ways. Here are some examples:

  • Using seductive & flirtatious tonality, volume and rhythmic pacing, to speak or ask about completely mundane, non-personal topics. Like asking for the time, with a flirtatious demeanor!
  • Using a completely calm and confident state, and totally neutral tonality and sound, to describe how nervous you are and how they make you feel funny around them!
  • Intersperse moments of flirtatious behavior, tonality, and content into completely normal conversations. This requires a fast, total state-shift from neutral, over to seductive and interested, and then a total state-shift back to neutral. You might interrupt a normal conversation with opening your eyes wider, changing your tonality and volume (up or down) and saying "Oh, WOW... something you just said reminded me of this AMAAAA-ZING thing that happened last week... oh, wait, I probably shouldn't mention it here... sorry... (then change your state and tonality back to neutral... and say : ) what were we talking about?

      In Comedy and conversational humor... intentional incongruence of a variety of forms can be found in almost everything that we find funny. Some NLP materials point out that some of the ambiguities in the Milton Model are at the structure of humor. Well, that's partly true, but certainly not all "funny" can be traced/connected to NLP ambiguities - not by a long shot.

      I've been studying comedy recently. Not for the purposes of doing stand-up (which is why most people study comedy). I've been modeling humor for the purposes of learning to become more conversationally funny. And the formula I'm arriving at, time and time again, involves a unique combination of language, emotional state, transformational patterns of frame-changing, and our own unique personalities.

      For those of you who really believe they want or need to develop their sense of humor in an accelerated way, I run a course occasionally called "Becoming Outrageously Funny", aimed at teaching you how to become far funnier in unique ways, using this "formula" - and structuring lots of awareness and exercise drills aimed at "installing" this model for improved conversational humor, and an increased ability to be funnier, including intentional incongruence!

      written by Jonathan Altfeld, March 2010


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