Showing posts from July, 2016

Trusting the silence in conversation

Silence doesn't sound scary while you're looking at a photo of a path through the woods. Primed by this photo, you are likely to imagine silence as calming or peaceful. 
In the middle of an important conversation, this may not be your first reaction to silence. Most often, when we say something significant and get silence in reply, we are rattled. Silence is not processed as calming; it's processed as a warning. The quieter it is outside, the more alarms go off in our brains. "Danger!"
Is silence always a bad sign? Probably not.  Think of a time when someone said something and your reaction was "I need to process this." The time when you were processing was best spent in silence (processing out loud is not always a good idea, even for extraverts). This processing time could have been used to do many things: to understand; to tease out an association at the edge of your awareness; to think several jumps ahead; or to disagree.
Disagreement is only one of…

The fine line between observations, suggestions and commands

I have been watching Tony Robbins this week in the documentary called "I Am Not Your Guru." You can read a nicely ambivalent review in the Financial Times here.  I think the ambivalence is built into the process, which might be surprising given the loud celebration that characterizes the Date with Destiny in the film.

For those of us whose work has evolved from NLP, there are lessons to be learned from modelling the most famous and successful practitioner of NLP (Robbins has far surpassed all the founders by all measures of success). Because he does so much so well, Robbins lets us see how fine the line is between observing and suggesting.

Let me explain. Robbins frames his "interventions" both with the exercises and performances we do not see in the film and with his invitations. The film opens with an intervention with a young man who says he is suicidal; it is only later that we see Robbins say he is looking for someone who is suicidal to work with. Since many p…

Plans are not just maps: they are tests of your commitment to an outcome

We make a plan when where we want to accomplish something. We want change to happen, and we list the actions we will have to take to make it happen. When we do, we assume that the plan is a roadmap: it describes a territory that we will have to navigate.
I have come to believe that this is probably not what makes plans useful. In the map above, the mountains and loch are real (I visited them recently and can confirm they are there). But the steps in a plan are not real: they describe something that has not happened and that might never happen.
Actions in a plan are not like the roads on the map. They are more like thermometers that measure your commitment to your outcome. At this moment, do you want this enough to take this action? If you do, take the action and then take the next test. In NLP, we would call this a test of your congruency. Congruency requires that all parts of you are engaged in moving in the same direction.
The difference between plan as map and plan as a series of …

Seeing to the bones of your message

I heard on the radio this morning that archeologists have discovered the skull of a 10 year old boy who died 17,000 years ago in Calabria, Italy.  They are going to use the imprint his brain left on his skull to recreate the brain of the boy so that they can compare it to the brains of modern children. Learn more here. 
There are always connections between the bones and the brain, between structure and meaning. Usually that connection is hidden by other stuff, the muscles and skin and decoration that make it hard to notice the frame underneath. By digging out the bones, you become aware of the meaning that sits behind your words and drives the effect they make. 
Here are the bones of this post.

A skeleton like this gives you choices. The bottom left corner is for the current situation. The top right corner is for the change you want to make with your communication.
Now make a map (use arrows and place the points strategically) of the beginning and ending of your message and at least …

The two stories we tell: finding and fighting

I have been working with an advanced communication group and thinking about the quickest way to catch the story someone is telling so that you can support or change it. It seems to me that the essential question to ask is this: "Is this a story about finding something or is it a story about fighting something?" There might be other options, but for the moment, let's assume that it's useful to start with this one frame.

Problem solving is generally pitched as a fight against something (although some people love to explore for answers). Creativity is generally framed as a finding of something (but some people describe it as a battle). There is no set formula: you have to listen for clues in the words and structure that someone is using in a message. Once you have a working idea whether they are working to find something or to fight something, you can listen to chunk down further.

People look for things they have lost, things they know exist but do not have, things they…