Contrary to popular belief, no-one else can “make” you feel bad – If you know how to do this:

Most people have specific contexts where they would like access to particular attributes, qualities, and ways of using their attention. If they are dependent on chance or outside circumstances to provide the state they are in, it may not be the most useful for that context. Common situations where resource states are useful include:

  • Learning
  • Presenting
  • Playing golf
  • Driving
  • Prosecuting or defending court cases
  • Making speeches
  • Selling
  • Performing on stage
  • Taking exams
  • Competitive sports
  • Martial Arts
  • Giving concerts
  • Consulting medical practitioners
  • Difficult social engagements
  • Interviews

Before considering how to choose and change our states, we need to offer a frame in which these skills can operate. The prevailing frame proposes that our states alter spontaneously in response to outside stimuli and bodily comfort or discomfort. Hence the notion that others’ conduct can make us feel a certain way.

You Can Have Choice Over What You Feel

First, I would like to distinguish between the world of Newtonian physics and the world of ideas. In Newtonian physics, mechanical laws function, and energy is the capacity to do work. One of its features is that when you hit somebody and give them a bloody nose, energy is transferred from your moving fist to their stationary nose. You hit the other person and make their nose break. You can make someone else move by pushing them physically. If you drive your car into another vehicle, you can damage both vehicles and possibly injure the other driver. If you caused the crash, you are responsible for the damage.

In the world of ideas, you can say something to another person or move in their visual field. If the other person makes meaning of what you say or do, they will respond. Before the other person responds, they will create their internal experience using images, sounds, and sensations from their own repertoire. Then they will present observable behaviour and make comments. All their processing is so fast that even the person doing it is usually unconscious of what happens between your act and their response. Yet their response is 100% theirs, not yours. This is what makes it possible for a person to learn to manage their own state, if they are willing. It is also a liberating concept. As you do not “make” another person enter a different state, you need not feel responsible for their state. Equally, you can free yourself from holding anyone else responsible for your states.

“Learning to manage your own state, if you are willing, is also a liberating concept.”

I am sure you can find apparent counterexamples to my proposal. There are experiences in life that, on the surface, do feel like being forced into a different state. If you think about startle responses, something sudden and unexpected enters your awareness, and you jump or drop something. Your sensory acuity for what was unfolding in your environment did not include that possibility. Your internal processing stopped abruptly when your attention shifted suddenly to engage the new stimulus. You may have experienced a kinaesthetic jolt. This is still your response, created by you, in response to something unexpected in the world. If it was an explosion or an earthquake, you might have been subject to the laws of physics at the same time. If a child jumped out of a cupboard shouting ‘Boo’, there is no cause-effect. The child appears and you jump.

Likewise, a telephone call from someone who gives you life-changing news, desirable or otherwise, does not cause your response. You make meaning of the message and you respond, viscerally, unconsciously and then consciously.

The Process of Elicitation

Other people can influence a person’s state and the decisions they make with their behaviour and choice of words. This is a contributing factor that led people to think they could “make” others feel a certain way. Elicitation is the process of guiding someone’s attention in a particular direction to assist them to discover or remember certain information and then behave in a particular manner. It is usually done with words but can use demonstration and gesture. People say and do things to elicit a smile from a child or invite a pet to come to them.

Effective teachers elicit thinking processes and information from their students by asking specific questions and drawing diagrams. You can elicit a handshake from someone by holding out your hand in the handshake gesture. Mimes elicit recognition for the task they are imitating by the accuracy of their movements. As children, when we were accused of ‘making’ someone feel a certain way, we may have been eliciting responses from them, albeit unwittingly.

Elicitation can be deliberate or unconscious. Teachers use it knowingly and with intent to elicit learning. Elicitation is not guaranteed to work. It uses ideas, not physics to promote its outcome. As a form of influence, we can ask, show, demonstrate, guide, provoke, tease, use logic, tell metaphor, instruct, bribe, threaten and even give orders, but compliance remains within the aegis of the other person. We do not know how they will respond until they do.

Conditioning, Linking and Anchoring

We all have states linked to certain sights, sounds, touches, tastes and scents. Some are pleasing and others are not. In behavioural psychology linking a response to a stimulus is called Conditioning. In parallel distributed processing, it is called Linking and in NLP it is called Anchoring. You may have a favourite piece of music which elicits a particular state for you when you hear it. You might feel special when your pet looks at you a certain way. If you feel a lead balloon in your stomach every time you enter your workplace, you might want a new job or perhaps just to break the anchor.

Teasing uses elicitation and anchors to ‘press someone’s buttons’. The victim is often told that if they stopped responding that way, the teasing would stop because it would not work any more. But no-one has taught them how to break anchors so they go on wearing it. This is how bullying starts. While there is now a huge cultural groundswell to try to stop bullies, it is almost impossible to force change on someone who does not want it. The most effective solution is for the victim to learn to change their own state so they are no longer susceptible. Of course, where there is a form of recourse, this may be appropriate as well, but it is no substitute for internal equanimity. Later in this text we shall learn how to choose and adopt resource states and to break unwanted anchors.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about emotional Emotional Intelligence and NLP, you can get a copy of our latest Kindle book, ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

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