I recently signed up for an NLP mailing list. One of the first things that I received after I joined was a list of questions to ask yourself or a client. I later saw those same questions in a YouTube video. If you haven’t seen this, you should!
The mailing list I signed up for is at SaladLtd.co.uk.
Here is a quick run-down of the list of questions, worded as a series of interview questions:
- What do you want?
- How will you know when you have it?
- What will it look like? Feel like? Smell like? Etc.
- Step into the future, to a time when you have what you want. Now what is it like?
- What are the advantages to NOT getting what you seek? How might things be better as they are?
- What are the needs or wants behind those advantages?
- How can you continue to fulfill those needs while still getting what you want?
- What beliefs do you have that tell you that you can’t achieve what you want?
- List anything you can think of that suggests that maybe that belief is not true – write it down.
- What would you need to believe to feel that your goal is realistic and attainable?
- List as much evidence as you can think of that suggest that such a belief is true.
- Pretend that you now have that new belief. How does that change your perspective about it?
- Continue to pretend that you believe that, until it no longer feels like you are pretending.
One of the things I recognized right away is, this is a form of conversational hypnosis! Let’s go over these questions one at a time and look at what they are doing:
What do you want?
This question forces the client to ground any generalized wants, fears, or anxieties into something concrete, tangible, measurable.
It’s much easier to do something about water or ice than it is to try to get rid of humidity in the air! This question starts the vaporous feelings in their mind condensing into something we can work with.
How will you know when you have it?
This question further drives the crystallization of the ideas in the client’s mind. If they do not respond with tangible, measurable criteria, you prompt them with follow-up questions. If they respond with unreasonable criteria, you can ask them questions which force them to re-think how they will measure success.
At this point, the client is already beginning to withdraw inward, thinking about their goal. The trance state is beginning to be formed.
What will it look/feel/sound/smell/taste like when you have what you want?
These questions drive the client further into trance, as they invoke their imagination, trying to picture what things will look like, imagine how things might sound, the things they will hear others say, or hear themselves say, what kinds of thoughts or feelings they will have, and so forth. The more senses you get them involved in, the deeper the trance, and the more successfully grounded their idea of what it is they are trying to achieve will become.
Step into the future. Now what is it like?
The suggestion is, you would have the client imagine stepping over a line, maybe passing through a doorway, a curtain, a wall of water, whatever, and on the other side, it is the future, a time when the client has obtained their goal, whatever it is.
In the previous step, they may be being intellectual in their responses. In this step, they are gently nudged into being imaginative, which leads inexorably into a trance state. If they weren’t in one before, then they will be by the time they are done answering this question. And if they were, it will just get deeper.
And as before, this invokes the senses, solidifies the idea of what it is the client wants in their own mind, while at the same time opens them up to suggestion.
What are the advantages of NOT accomplishing your goal?
This starts the client thinking (in a positive way) about why they have not already accomplished their goal. Being already in a somewhat suggestive state, they will be more likely to assume the underlying assumption to be true, that there IS an advantage to the way things are, and so they will start looking for anything that might fit the description.
Some clients may see advantages right away. Others may think at first that there is no advantage. Nonsense! What they are doing now HAS to have its advantages or they wouldn’t be doing it! So of course one must gently persist and prompt until you get them open to recognizing the positive aspects of their current behavior.
What are the needs and/or wants behind those advantages?
Here, we are helping the client to understand their own motivation, and at the same time, starting the process of breaking down resistance to change.
How can you fulfill those needs while still getting what you want?
This furthers the process of breaking down resistance to the idea which the client indicated that they were interested in obtaining. One by one, as the hidden needs that might otherwise stand in the way of adopting this new idea are addressed, the client gets closer and closer to believing that they can accomplish it.
What do you believe that tells you that your goal is unrealistic?
Again with an underlying assumption: You have a belief which tells you that you should not be able to accomplish your goal. Obviously you do, or you would probably have already accomplished it, right? So, what is it? This well phrased question gets the mind of the client reviewing their belief structure, looking for beliefs which are not in harmony with their goal.
If those beliefs were not identified and addressed, they would prevent the client from being able to achieve their goal in the long run. By exposing those beliefs to the light of day, we stand a chance of helping them change them.
What evidence do you have that your belief is not true?
Here is where we begin breaking down the belief. Attacking the belief in a positive way, eroding it from the inside out. Instead of saying what we think, which is “Gee, that’s a pretty stupid thing to believe!” which would have the side-effect of causing the client to defend the belief, we pass no judgment, we simply ask the client to list anything that they can think of which might contradict that belief. This bypasses all internal resistance, and the client begins to undermine that belief with the first item that they list.
What would you need to believe in order to feel that your goal is realistic and attainable?
Again with a question that helps to maintain and deepen the trance, and at the same time, letting the client take the lead in where they want to go from here, thereby avoiding resistance. It also has an underlying assumption, that there is a belief which, if the client merely had that belief, then their goal would become attainable. The already suggestible client hears this, accepts this underlying assumption, and begins looking for something which might fit the description. Whatever they find, they empower that belief with the ability to give them their wish, cleverly making the attainment of that belief synonymous with making it possible to achieve their goal. This removes the destructive tendency to think of goals as being attainable only when outside conditions are favorable.
What evidence do you have that this new belief is true?
Again, leveraging the trance. Assumption: The belief is true, you just need to find evidence in support of it. And with each thing that the client lists for why they should adopt this new belief, the belief gets a little stronger in their own mind, and the ‘contrary’ belief mentioned before gets undermined that much more.
Pretend that your old belief has been replaced by the new belief. How does your perspective change?
Another question that drives the client deeper into a state of trance, as they fabricate an artificial reality in their mind. And every word the client speaks in response to this question is effectively a self-suggestion, working on them, changing them from the inside out.
Continue to pretend that your beliefs have been changed, until it no longer feels like pretending.
This is essentially a post-hypnotic suggestion. If the client has cooperated with the process up to this point, this suggestion will be accepted uncritically, and so they will continue this game of pretending to think in a particular way for some time after the conversation. In short order, the new idea or belief will replace the old belief, and behavior will naturally change as a result.
Quite simply, whoever came up with this was a genius! I can’t wait to encounter more examples of these kinds of techniques for helping people achieve their goals!