Paul & Dee's Column




John Donne wrote “No man is an island” – and it’s true. We live on a small planet, and it’s getting smaller every day. So we have to get on with other people. Everything we are, and do, and hope, and believe, is predicated on that fact; all our relationships depend on it…our very survival itself.

‘Getting on with people’…it’s all based on the art of communication, reception, and rapport. So what IS rapport? And how do we communicate? Do we receive communications in the way they were intended?

NLP says “You cannot NOT communicate”, and NLP’s take on it…the ‘linguistic’ part (you may well have asked ‘What’s the L for?!!’)…. is not just about words.

As a writer I AM about words: I thought, therefore, that I knew all about language. However, NLP has shown me a whole new world of communication skills, made me even more aware of the power of language, taught me how to use words in a completely different way, to help others as well as myself.

It has demonstrated how small the window of trust between two people is for the actual words (which makes them even more important), as against the amounts of trust honoured in our voice and our body language.

I discovered, with NLP, a way of using language to truly gain rapport, by understanding the word patterns of others, and then talking to them “in their own language”. And because ‘people like people like themselves’ – result:- rapport!

Communication can be divided into two main categories, Conscious, and Unconscious.

Under these headings we have:-


  • Our bodies ‘talk’..posture, lips change size, complexions alter.
  • Our eyes have a language of their own. They change direction for visual recall or construct, auditory recall or construct, kinesthetic. Calibrate someone’s eyes and you’ll always know how they’re thinking.
  • Our breathing shows our emotional state.
  • Body – rapport…the ‘dance’ of two people ‘in tune’. They match or mirror each other, like Astaire and Rogers.


  • The measured look, or look away, hair-flicking, lip-licking, touch, all used in flirting for instance.
  • Code-sharing (‘shop’ talk)..people like people like themselves.
  • Voice tone, pitch, speed.
  • WORDS… can tell a person’s sensory preference by what they do as well as by what they say. For instance, an auditory person tends to touch their mouth, or ears. But it’s their choice of predicates…”I hear where you’re coming from”, “I see what you mean”, etc., that really gives you the information which enables you to ‘talk their language’, to make them feel comfortable with you.

As for verbal language itself, NLP has defined the structure of what happens inside our heads when we hear what someone says to us, or, even more importantly, what we say to ourselves! Always remembering of course that the words themselves have no meaning, they are simply anchors to the individual’s experiences; and unless we’ve shared those actual experiences we can never really understand someone else……we can only honour their map, rather than imposing or superimposing our own!

So I have discovered how much better I feel when I am solution- rather than problem-based. We tend to get what we focus on…so I know how to phrase things as ‘what I want’ rather than ‘what I don’t want’.

Tell a child “Don’t drop that! “, and they have to mentally remember an experience of dropping something before they can add the word ‘don’t’ – by which time it’s usually too late! Say instead “Carry that carefully”, and then praise them when they do. Connect a gesture to the praise, repeat the gesture when you again want them to do something well…and they almost certainly will!

How we give feedback is another way we can communicate more effectively, as NLP will show you.

So we have:-

  • Sensory Language…….related to our preferred sense.
  • Precision Language……how we delete, distort, and generalise information, and how to re-access the deep structure, the underlying experience.
  • Chunking…….using ‘big picture’ and ‘detail’ focus at will.
  • Reframing Language……seeing things from a different perspective, in a different context or ‘frame’. To help see things from someone else’s point of view, to give a new slant to our own. “My mind just goes blank sometimes”, can be reframed as “How wonderful to be able to switch off the chattering noise inside”. Or “My boss doesn’t understand me”, can reframe as “It’s great for the Company to have such a wide spectrum of thoughts and experience available”.

Now the all-important:-

  • Indirect, or Vague Language…….Milton H. Erickson’s beautiful and elegant use of trance language patterns to achieve hypnotic states. Milton noticed that we all go naturally in and out of trance many times a day……you’re driving your car; and you’re listening to the radio, thinking about meetings that day, or what to have for dinner, replaying a conversation you had last night.

So who’s driving? Your CONSCIOUS is in a natural trance state so your UNCONSCIOUS, which is your true wisdom, can have full reign. So how is this useful? Milton realised that our conscious can get in the way when it comes to helping to move forward when we’re stuck. That’s why he used trance language to put someone into a trance state, ( in which, by the way, one is MORE in control, NOT less!), in order to talk directly to the unconscious while keeping the conscious busy.

  • Using embedded questions and commands to help a person move forward, to become ‘unstuck’, and presuppositions and analogue marking…..”I wonder how quickly YOU’LL LEARN THIS WITH NLP”:- the presupposition being that you WILL learn it, the analogue marking being the voice change with which the embedded command was spoken. And there are many other wonderful Miltonian patterns you’ll discover as well.

And there’s the joy of

  • Metaphor Language……sometimes it’s more effective to let a person draw an inference from a parallel story, it distances them from all the strong emotion in their situation, and helps them to talk about it. Again, one of the wonderful tools that Milton Erickson used in his work.

For example, I wrote a metaphoric story for someone who had a real challenge with asthma:-

[see the Giraffe story in the Sunbeam Collection, Dee’s Column]

Like me, you too will find that NLP will give you more choice, more chance to entrance, to walk the talk, to move yourself and others forward…….which proves that your mother was right when she told you to MIND YOUR LANGUAGE!!

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