Saturday, January 24, 2015

Managing your outcomes when you are sick on game day

You've been waiting for this day for weeks - actively preparing so that you'll be at your best when you need to perform. You've researched and rehearsed and you are ready. Until the bug hits, the one that has been going around the office or the school. You're all set and you're sick.

Now what?

There are times when there is no choice. You're too sick to carry on and so you miss it. Other arrangements get made.

What I want to think about now are the majority of days, the days when you have a wicked head cold and you have to face a 2 hour commute before presenting to a room filled with important people you want to influence. You have choices. You could cancel and begin the long, hard process of preparation again.  You could muddle through miserable and hope for sympathy points from your audience.

Or you could excel despite the bug. You could be so committed to your outcome that you show up fully and let go of most of the rotten feelings until after you're done.

First, you go through your rituals. By the time we are adults, we all have rituals for getting through a cold. The point is not whether they change any of the biochemistry of the cold. The point is feeling better and the rituals themselves begin to make you feel better because they are anchored to feeling better. Use them.

Second, give the voice in your head a good script. It may be telling you that "This is terrible. This always happens to me. Why can't a catch a break" etc. etc. etc. Listen the first time. You owe yourself that. Stabilize that feeling of injustice - it's part of what you need to fuel your excellence. And then tell yourself "I don't have time for this. I need every part of me to get onboard with making my performance shine today."

Now go looking for what you need to shine: the clothes, the practical stuff you need to pack, the hot shower, the works. From this point on, the way you feel is just the way you feel. It's not rotten or unfair: it's part of the toolkit that is going to get the job done. Whenever the voice in your head (or the voice of well-meaning helpers) talks up how unfair and unfortunate it all is, you listen and replace it with a thought about what you want to remember as you perform.

Even when you're feeling at your best, you need 100% outcome focus to get to your best performance. In NLP, we call it congruence.This day is no different. Stay focused and your brain will make amazing backstage arrangements to get you to your outcome.

And after it does, after you've created what you wanted to create, rest and say thank you and let yourself be fully onboard with getting better.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Commands are less reliable than you might think

I've been developing two courses at the same time. One is our new course on Hypnotic Language and the other is the Business Communications courses I teach at Sheridan College. Theoretically, teachers fall into the class (joke!) of people who can tell other people what to do. Teaching is a great way to find the limits of that theory.

Here are three ways I make it more likely that my students will do what I tell them to do:
  1. When I really need compliance, I use a tone of voice that lets them know it's time to do what I say. This is a voice that rings out with my determination to get an outcome. It's not really about them: it's about presenting an outcome so clearly and compellingly that they are likely to do what I've asked before they notice that they have started or stopped.
  2. When I don't really need compliance, I suggest or offer or encourage or give permission. I frame - which means I tell stories or give explanations that put people into a mood (or state, in NLP terms) that shapes their response when we move to an activity. 
  3. I insist that my students show respect for one another. This is a combination of using the compliance voice with framing. Of course the result is that students will also show respect for me. If they thought that was the point, this frame would not work. Because the frame is built up over several repetitions and made explicit at appropriate times, they know that I really do expect that they show respect for each other. And that makes all the difference.
I wonder how many workplaces would benefit from meetings where people only asked for compliance when it was absolutely necessary, encouraged collaboration through verbal and non-verbal framing, and insisted that peers show respect for one another. It is deceptively easy to substitute commands: to say I have the authority to tell you what to do. Sometimes it even works. 

No one learns on command. No one can be commanded to be engaged and curious. No one can be commanded to understand what you say in the way that you understand it. Commands do have value. There are times when timely compliance is necessary to everyone's well-being and a well-voiced command will get results. Those times are just less frequent than we think.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Hypnotically delicious words

There's a lot of misleading information about how to use language to make the kind of suggestions that get carried out without resistance. The first step, the one on which everything else depends, is to understand that anything you say is only a suggestion.

The Oxford online dictionary defines a suggestion as an idea or plan put forward for consideration. If you keep reading, it adds what seem to be paradoxical dimensions to this word. In psychology (and hypnosis), a suggestion is not supposed to trigger conscious consideration. This is true whenever suggestion involves talking about one thing to call up another.

We can resolve this paradox if we add an element of playfulness to a suggestion. Playfulness is never mistaken for either commands or appeals for help. When we are playful, we suggest (meaning imply, meaning make a connection) that we are doing something together, something that will engage us both. Whatever is being suggested is part of an interaction designed so that we can interact and learn safely (that's what play does).

This is what is happening when hypnotic language is effective. It's not sneaking something past conscious criticism. It's an invitation to play that is accepted when the other person takes the suggestion by taking action.

If the suggestion isn't taken, then the relationship doesn't support enough play. How do you get someone to want to play with you? Of course, you pay attention to them, but you also keep in mind an intention of what will be good and rich and rewarding once they join you in play. You tantalize with a little puzzle here, a little humour there, a little charm. (You noticed - didn't you? - that charm is a suggestion that what we do when we play together is at least a little magical).

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose and Connection: A Well-Lived Life

The new year is still a baby, and we don't want to load it with too many expectations. Most of you will not be working because it is an official holiday: one of the few shared by people of all faiths and backgrounds. This is the pause before the downbeat, the moment before 2015 really gets going.

I think it's a good day to look forward and backward and think about what makes life worth living. It sounds like a big, important question (and it is) but it is also a question we answer every day with the choices we make and the things that we do. Your answer is not what you would say if asked: your answer is what you choose to be important from one day to the next.

Once I had a business partner who always said his ultimate goal was to not have to work. He had no concept of work being something that shaped you as you shaped it into something of value, something of influence, something that was inherently worth doing. This caused a certain amount of difficulty, since I believe that satisfying work is one of life's great gifts. Like most rare and wonderful gifts, it is high maintenance but worth it. The difference of opinion caused less difficulty than you might think, because for us (as for most people) working was not optional.

When I was thinking about this post, I wanted to say that the creation of satisfying work is the most important problem of our time. Then I remembered all the children who go hungry in the midst of affluence and abundance. So now I will say that after feeding our kids, the next most important problem is providing people with work that feeds their bodies and satisfies their spirits and connects them in useful ways with other people.

I think that everyone needs the structure, the competence and the connection that comes from work. Little kids need a structure that allows them to learn, which is the work of their heads and their hearts. Young people need work that allows them to find out how smart they are and how much they still have to learn. Old people need work that allows them to gather the threads of their lives and weave them into deep reflection and the promise of a legacy.

My challenge to you is this: what will you do to make your work and your workplace safer or more satisfying in 2015? NLP doesn't allow for the regular excuses. Whether you are the beginner or the boss, whether you work from home or in a mega-corporation, the central presupposition of NLP is that you have the strength, skill and influence to make your own life more satisfying. When you do, you will also influence other people, possibly in ways that make their work more satisfying, too.

You will probably work this year.  You will reach for autonomy, mastery, purpose and connection because that is the way the human mind/brain functions. You will likely have bills to pay.  It's even likely that you will spend more waking hours with your work than you do with the people you love. Work matters.

Don't put up with work that doesn't satisfy you. Begin to make the shifts that will make it better. Make the smallest change that could make a difference and see what happens.