NLP articles that are written by working professionals in the Neuro Linguistic and Hypnosis fields.

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What everybody should know about NLP anchoring

What is an Anchor?

Anchors can be created and fired deliberately and they occur naturally. Either way, the conditions for setting an anchor are:

  • The subject experiences a state that is sufficiently intense to be discernible to them.
  • A unique stimulus occurs or is applied physically, visually and/or audibly while the state is intensifying.
  • The unique stimulus stops before the intensity of the state peaks. (To create a blend of resource states, additional states can be anchored with the same stimulus).
  • When the stimulus is re-applied at a later time, the anchored state returns.

Anchors are broken using the same conditions.

  • The subject experiences a usefully resourceful state that is different from the unwanted anchored state. Additional resources can be anchored if necessary to enhance the resource state at this stage.
  • The anchor for the unwanted state is fired while the resourceful state is increasing in intensity.
  • The two states (resource state+unwanted anchored state) merge and become a new state which is different and resourceful.
  • The process can be repeated from the beginning to this stage if necessary to enhance the quality of resources.
  • When the stimulus is re-applied, the new state returns.

“Anchors can be created and fired deliberately and they occur naturally”

We can learn to set anchors with ourselves and others using any of the senses to create the stimulus. We can also invoke internal images, sounds or sensations (representations) to create our own anchors and elicit others’ representations and anchor those. Creating and breaking anchors is a valuable skill when coaching. Many of the difficulties people experience in their lives come from their responses to unconsciously generated internal signals in their internal representations. These signals are anchored responses, often to something which is no longer relevant to the person’s life. When the signals are experienced consciously, the anchors can be traced and broken, thereby freeing the person to respond freshly in the present.

A teacher experienced a real life example of breaking an anchor. She had a very large, strong 12 year old boy in her class. He used to stand too close to her and loom over her and she felt threatened by him. A friend asked her to imagine the boy as something ridiculous, and her unconscious mind presented the image of a giant Donald Duck, complete with voice. The next time the boy approached her, the image of Donald Duck flashed on her internal screen and she almost laughed out loud. The boy unconsciously detected the change in her demeanour and subsequently became her greatest fan and supporter.

Anchors are used in public life to influence individuals and groups to further the outcomes of business, political and other organisations. In TV advertising, jingles, ambience, colour schemes, branding and the style of voice over are all designed to create a mental link with the product and its apparent benefits. Sales people have been eliciting buying states and using anchors for years to exert influence with prospective purchasers and marketers routinely use visual and auditory anchors to elicit approving and acquisitive states in prospective buyers. There is plentiful evidence in the world that an effective marketing machine can produce copious quantities of revenue even when the product is derisory.

Given the amount of public exposure to influence through anchoring, as well as the benefits of using it in change work, learning to detect anchors, set anchors and break them is a valuable skill to have. Kinaesthetic (touch) anchoring is usually learned first, for practical reasons. It is easier to keep track of students’ accuracy, timing and refinement when you can see their actions and their partners’ responses. They can feel their actions and see their partners’ responses. After they have become proficient with kinaesthetic anchors, it is a simple matter to move to setting auditory and visual anchors and to recognise when anchors are being used.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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).

Imagine a child on her way to her first term at boarding school. She is scared, unhappy and definitely wants to be somewhere else. When the bus stops at the school, she can see a riot of wallflowers in bright sunlight outside the school buildings. The doors open and a rush of warm, fresh air, richly scented with wallflowers enters the bus. The child takes a deep breath and feels a moment of joy as she smells the flowers. Then she takes a mental step back and observes herself in the context of starting boarding school. She catches the wallflower moment and places it safely outside the context to keep it special (and not anchored to school). With a little alertness we can redirect anchors while they are forming, provided we catch them in the moment of creation.

Setting an Anchor – The Process

Outside formal training, auditory and visual anchors are more practical to use. For a start, cultural norms have changed and touching others has become a high risk activity. You would also have to be within arms length and could only anchor one person at a time. If you are making a speech and you want to whip up a crowd to vote for your candidate, you can elicit and anchor states of enthusiasm and excitement with your gestures and voice tones while you use artfully vague language patterns. The chances are you will engage enough of your audience for the rest to be swept up in the influence of the crowd.

The conventional NLP classroom method of teaching anchoring is to start people setting and firing kinaesthetic (touch) anchors in pairs. One student anchors their partner and then they swap roles. The instructions are:

  1. Sit or stand where you can be comfortable and have a hand on an acceptable yet unusual part of your partner (in the classic code they use knees, forearms, shoulders).
  2. Place your hand lightly on the chosen site and leave it there.
  3. Elicit a state with your partner that they find pleasing and resourceful.
  4. When you see the state begin to intensify (change your partner’s physiology, skin tone and/or breathing), add pressure with your hand (for subtlety, increase your pressure at the rate of increase of the state).
  5. Keep up the pressure as the state intensifies.
  6. Release the pressure, but not your hand before the state peaks in intensity.
  7. Keep your hand lightly in the same place on your partner and shift their attention with a question or distraction.
  8. When your partner is distracted, test the anchor by applying the same quality of pressure with your hand as you did creating the anchor.
  9. If your partner enters the resource state with the same physiology as before, you have created an anchor.

If nothing happens, start again from the beginning.

  • Maybe you need to elicit a more distinctive state.
  • Did you keep your hand in exactly the same position all the way through? If not, attend to that. Accurate placement is easiest to manage by leaving your hand on your partner all through the exercise.
  • Did you increase pressure before the state started? This time, increase the pressure as you watch the state manifest.
  • Did you leave the pressure on for too long? If so, you anchored a declining state. Take the pressure off before the state peaks in intensity.
  • Did you choose a part of your partner’s body that they or others touch frequently? If so, there will be too much noise in the system to respond well to your anchor. Uniqueness of stimulus is important.

If you want to bring the anchor within your partner’s aegis so they can fire it themselves in future:

  • Ask your partner to choose a unique gesture or touch for themselves, for example an ear or the back of the other hand.
  • Ask your partner to apply pressure or squeeze the chosen area at the same time and rate as you apply pressure with your hand to fire the anchor.
  • Break state and distract.
  • You and your partner fire the anchor again, simultaneously.
  • Break state and distract.
  • Your partner fires the anchor by themselves to test it.

These exercises use kinaesthetic (touch) anchoring, but the principles apply across the senses. Most naturally occurring anchors happen when we see or hear a stimulus in daily life. The song of the Cuckoo is a cultural anchor for the promise of spring in England. The chimes of an ice cream van in the street brought children running to buy treats. Drivers stop at red traffic lights without thinking about it. What does the scent of roses or grass clippings mean to you?

Breaking an Anchor

A business client came for coaching. Her job was negotiating high value business deals and she had a reputation for creating reliably advantageous results for her employer. One day, she was introduced to a man with whom she felt intimidated. This was unusual for her and she found herself unable to negotiate effectively, so she sought coaching before any damage was done. In the session, she discovered that unconsciously the man’s presentation reminded her of her father’s behaviour, voice tones and facial expressions. She was still carrying an old anchor to those expressions which triggered an age regressed, disempowered state. Unsurprisingly, this state made successful negotiating unlikely. After an intervention in which the client’s ample adult resources were deposited back into her childhood, the anchor was gone and the woman’s normal capacity was back in play. She was free of the sense of intimidation she had experienced previously and was able to conduct the negotiation with her usual flair.

“Creating and breaking anchors is a valuable skill when coaching.”

To break an anchor:

  1. Prepare a resourceful state you would prefer to have in the context where the unwanted anchor fires.
  2. Anchor the resource state yourself, using a gesture, a sound or a reliable internal or external image.
  3. Test your resource anchor.
  4. Imagine entering the context or wait until you enter the real context.
  5. Fire and hold your resource anchor as you detect the first hint of the old anchor.
  6. Keep the resource anchor running until you feel settled with it (20 sec to 2 min).

Or:

  1. When you feel the first hint of an anchored or habitual unresourceful state, step out of your self into a clean, curious observer position outside yourself where you can feel comfortably disengaged from the action.
  2. Watch yourself and the other people in your context. This is often sufficient to break an anchor.
  3. When you step back into your self, your state will be different.

The essential elements for creating, changing and breaking an anchor are:

  • Uniqueness of stimulus.
  • Timing: the anchor is placed, held and released within the period of increasing intensity of the state.
  • Quality of response: the state to be anchored is distinctive and detectable by the subject.

Formal anchoring as a skill in NLP was developed by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in 1970s.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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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The Myth of “making” other people feel upset, happy or anything else

Emotional States – What They Are and How to Manage Them

A stare is the set of specific values in a person’s physiology, neurology and biochemistry that gives rise to their behavioural expression and their subjective experience of themselves and the world in any given moment. Some states recur in each culture with sufficient frequency to have acquired labels in the appropriate language. Examples include joy, depression, happiness, angst, and joie de vivre. Naming states implies a commonality of experience, which is not necessarily the case. Naming states does not describe the differences in individual subjective experience which actually exist within any particular named state: I.e. one person’s generation and experience of elation, misery or anxiety will be different from someone else’s and two people deliberately generating the same conditions within their bodies may call the resulting state by different names (See NLP glossary definition here)

State is a subject beset by cultural myth. This begins in childhood, when a child is told; “Don’t do (or say) that, you will upset ____”. Fill in the blank with a friend, acquaintance or relative of your choice. The point is that we learned early on that we would be held responsible for other people’s responses, emotions and states. We learned not to make personal remarks and to curb our comments for fear of offending others. In short, we learned to treat other people as if they were fragile and could be destabilised by a comment or question, all in the name of politeness.

As a result, we learned to believe that we ‘make’ other people upset, angry, or happy by our presence and actions. Equally, we learned to believe that others can make us feel emotions. For most people, these beliefs have become deeply held unconscious presuppositions. The evidence for this proposal is found in language and law. People say things like; ‘You make me so happy/angry/disappointed’, or even; ‘You made me spill my coffee’, when you are on the other side of the room.

Can You Have Control Over Other People’s States?

In recent times in the west, this presupposition about agency over other people’s emotions has been taken to extremes. The dictates about appropriate behaviour and comments both in the home and in the workplace are now subject to legal constraint, yet not subject to the normal rules of evidence. A person is deemed to have been harassed solely on the basis of their word. This used to be enough to have the matter investigated, not simply accepted. Now complainants are not required to offer a sensory description of the perpetrator’s exact comments, voice tones, posture, gestures, facial expression and points of contact if touched. While it is common for alleged offenders to deny intent to harass, the lack of requirement for proof still places all of us at risk of accusation.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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).

The myth of agency over other people’s states is closely related to another prevalent western cultural myth about state: that decent people do not have agency over their own states. In other words, states happen to us. Many people suspect those who can and do choose their states of being shifty, dishonest, shallow and untrustworthy or at worst, psychopathic. It is well known, for example, that people involved in a crisis that attracts law enforcement or the press get a better reception if their behaviour is demonstrably emotional.

Despite the assumed lack of agency over our states, emotional behaviour in public is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the first half of the 20th century, when people kept a ‘Stiff upper lip’ in times of crisis, it was deemed to be a commendable effort on their part. The underlying assumption was still that they were behaving decently by not showing the emotion that had to be present and that it took some fortitude to do so. Children were expected not to make a fuss when they were upset, though it was expected that they were putting a Brave Face on their emotion. Anyone, adult or child in that situation who genuinely chose and adopted a different state would have been presumed to be morally bankrupt.

Actors have a frame that permits them to learn to embody different states for work without compromising cultural norms. Yet as a profession, in Victorian times they were considered not quite respectable, due to the perceived untrustworthy potential of a person who can act. As a culture, westerners like the idea that what you see is what you get, so long as it is in keeping with the beholder’s eye view of the context.

So the frame for proposing that anyone can learn to choose and change their state at will, is that it is both possible and doable while remaining a novel idea in the context of the culture. It is also extremely useful. The capacity to choose our states enables us to create tailor made states with the most helpful qualities for performing specific tasks. It also enables us to unload pointless, dismal states that have no function other than to indicate that an old pattern is repeating itself.

“The capacity to choose our states enables us to create tailor made states with helpful qualities.”

Learning to manage one’s states is an ongoing process. Initially it feels decidedly clunky while we find out how we put our states together and what we can alter to change them. It is simplest to conduct this exploration in a low stress environment where there is no pressure to succeed. You can learn processes to alter components of your state or simply pick one or more states from your repertoire and re access them to create a custom blend. When you engage your unconscious resources, you can create a custom state and progress quite quickly to choosing resourceful and enjoyable states for specific contexts. To begin with, it is possible to prepare your state ahead of time and then step into it as you enter the context. Later, when your skills are well developed, you can dispense with any ritual and simply ask your unconscious mind to deliver a suitable set of states for a context as you approach it.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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.

If you found this article useful, share it with your network!

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 counter examples 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 the 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.

If you found this article useful share it with your network!

How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)

We can track components of our attention through exploring our states and we can explore our states using attention. We have already discussed state dependent learning in the context of having access to different resources and information in different states. With well integrated, readily accessible states there is overlap between resources and their availability and this includes qualities of attention. In dissociated states, there is limited overlap to resources cached in other states. This is evidenced by lack of access to memories acquired within dissociated states, except when we return to the state in question.

We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state. We also know that effective learning takes place when we are interested in something and curious to find out more. A state that includes curiosity and interest leads us to attend externally in all senses as we engage with the interesting material we have found.

“We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state.”

When our attention gravitates effortlessly to the subject matter, we learn thoroughly and willingly. Learning happens seamlessly and we read, listen and attend with pleasure. This applies to anything we find engaging, from formally presented material to informally shared skills and conversations with interesting and fascinating people.

There are many occasions in life when it would be useful to create a state of effortless engagement; when our attention is naturally external and demonstrably with a person or what they are doing and saying. This is the foundation of establishing and maintaining rapport with people as well as the means for learning anything we need to master.

Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person. This is done most effectively by engaging and holding our own attention on that person and what they are discussing. We attend to seeing and hearing them, not running internal movies and soundtracks about the discussion. The same applies to making learning interesting and therefore memorable. When we attend to the presentation in front of us with open eyes and ears, we record the material for future consideration and application. If we are running internal movies and soundtracks or talking to ourselves, we block the input channels and miss much of what is on offer.

“Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person.”

When we create a deliberate state of Being interested by acting ‘as if’ we are interested, natural interest tends to follow. Equally, when we decide to attend externally with eyes an ears and sometimes hands, engagement follows. We take these actions by attending to, or being aware of how we are using our attention and what we are attending to at any given time.

Applications

Learning dull or outdated material to be allowed to progress to a qualification you want or need. Setting up useful frames, states and attention.

Create a real, multi-sensory, lifelike representation, ‘as if’ you are there, reaping the benefits of having the qualification or prerequisite you needed. Enjoy the experience of learning what you want to learn or doing the work you want to do. Remember that you would not have been able to do that without obtaining the prerequisite (dull) credential with which you have been struggling. Your attention in this exercise is on the ‘as if’ experience, seeing represented, lifelike surroundings and activities as if you were present. You hear conversation, background sounds and sounds associated with the activities. You feel the clothes on your body, the floor under your feet, whatever is in your hands and the air temperature on your skin. When this experience is complete, return your attention to the present, knowing you can remember your ‘as if’ experience any time you need to encourage and motivate yourself to keep going with the dull stuff.

In the present, how can you frame the dull, outdated or incomprehensible material you have to learn? Your outcome is to make it interesting, fun to learn (this is possible) and memorable, at least for the duration of the program. If you enjoy history, you could frame it as “This is what they used to believe, now”. If it has mathematical elements and you enjoy languages, treat maths as a language. Learn the rules that govern your subject, familiarise yourself with formulae as if they were rules of grammar and then the examples you are offered will make sense. If you enjoy dance, frame your dull studies as choreography. If you are fascinated by patterns, find the patterns that govern your subject and learn examples from the patterns. You can do this by taking three or four examples from the material in your course and determining the common set of information that governs them. This is the frame for bringing learning specific material to life. Your frame should include the function and utility of the learning material.

When you create a frame that appeals to you, it is easier to become interested and possibly even fascinated. When you are interested, you attend in class with open channels (see, hear, feel), take in the material and then retain it. You can contemplate it outside class and develop any further understanding you need. Even your personal nemesis can become possible with suitable framing and attention. A side benefit is that you will have better rapport with your teachers, who will be more willing to give you extra time when you need it. Any time your attention drifts off topic, remember your outcome for learning this material.

Developing Rapport Quickly and Effectively

When people learn to develop rapport formally, their attention is drawn to specific behaviour which is supposed to increase the likelihood of rapport. They are instructed to imitate what someone else is doing, called matching or mirroring for short moments of time, or pacing when matching is engaged over minutes. When rapport is present, we often see people matching each other’s behaviour naturally. Matching and pacing is evidence for the presence of rapport between two or more people, but not necessarily the best method of learning to create rapport.

Matching and pacing require us to use a lot of attention to keep track of someone else’s movements, posture, voice tones, pitch and rhythm. This leaves precious little available to engage with the other person and the quality of these interactions can appear forced.

It is much smoother to act as if fascinated or interested in the other person and their conversation or instruction; just as you do to facilitate your learning. The quality of the conversation will be higher, the result more memorable and rapport will follow. Simply engage with external attention and the intention to be interested. You probably know your intention for engaging with the other person already, so you have a frame for acting ‘as if’ until it becomes real. Again, this is similar to a learning scenario. You have a frame for finding someone or something interesting, a state of being interested and external attention in all senses.

In Conclusion

You can discover how you are using your attention in the moment or by reviewing an event or context. Are you using your senses to attend externally or your representations of memory or imagination? Are you talking to yourself and if so, is it useful? Do you want open input channels or does the context require you to think, using internal processing? Are you engaging your unconscious resources and or conscious attention? Are you distracted by discomfort and if so, can you change it?

When you want to shift your attention, or part of it, you can act on it directly or via your state. When you want to access a resourceful state, you can find it from memory or use your attention to create one. There will be a more detailed and practical discussion on eliciting, accessing, creating and changing state available soon.

Attention Training

Learning how to organise attention to change state and how to use state to modify attention is referred to as “Attention Training” and is an important part of high quality NLP trainings. Attention training is part of syllabus of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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.

If you found this article useful, please share it!, 

Attention and Performance: How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it

Attention, State and Performance

In article 4 in the Attention series Jules the relationship between how we use our attention, our state and performance.

States

The set of specific values in a person’s physiology, neurology and biochemistry that gives rise to their behavioural expression and their subjective experience of themselves and the world in any given moment. Some states recur in each culture with sufficient frequency to have acquired labels in the appropriate language. Examples include joy, depression, happiness, angst, and joie de vivre. Naming states implies a commonality of experience, which is not necessarily the case. Naming states does not describe the differences in individual subjective experience which actually exist within any particular named state: I.e. one person’s generation and experience of elation, misery or anxiety will be different from someone else’s and two people deliberately generating the same conditions within their bodies may call the resulting state by different names.

Our states influence the quality and direction of our attention and our attention influences our states. States act as frames for how we use our attention, what we attend to and what we delete from our attention. States influence the perceptual filters we apply and simultaneously our more pervasive perceptual filters influence our access to different states.

“Our states influence the quality and direction of our attention and our attention influences our states.”

States give rise to mood frames such as happy, sad, optimistic and pessimistic. They also influence the likelihood or absence of choice and opinion based responses such as willingness, co-operation, participation and trust.

States are not fixed. They shift continually, sometimes imperceptibly in small increments, yet they can also shift radically. This may be in response to receiving new information or to a sudden recognition of a change of meaning of existing information, though it can also occur when an activity starts or ends. Receiving important exam results, making a large purchase and even having a meal often precipitates a change of state.

Some people experience states which are notably different from most of their other states. Certain frames and information which are normally accessible to them are not found while in these radically different states. If these states also require special circumstances to enter and leave, they are known as Dissociated States. Dissociated states often carry framing and meaning that is only accessible to a person when they are in that state. Examples include the sudden state changes associated with experiencing road accidents and chemically induced altered states such as exposure to mind altering drugs or alcohol. The alcoholic Black out is a case in point, where a person cannot remember what happened at a party until they are that drunk again, when it all comes back to them.

“There is anecdotal evidence that it is very hard to maintain a depressed state while doing a headstand.”

Chronically depressed states often have characteristics of dissociated states. When someone is experiencing depression, they are likely to express a belief that it is pervasive and continuous. In depression, they may not have access to the moments in their day when their attention has elicited a different state. They have difficulty imagining life being more rewarding, and often they cannot access their memories of pre-depression life or the moments, hours and days where their attention is on something other than being depressed.

Where You Place Your Attention Can Affect Your State

What we attend to and how we attend to it can elicit changes in our state. We can learn to enter and leave any state by shifting our attention. If the process we use to shift our attention is sufficiently compelling, even the most subjectively difficult states will shift for long enough to provide a reference experience, unless they are chemically induced. Yet most of us have heard anecdotes relating to people in chemical hazes who seem to snap out of it for a brief period to present a straight or sober countenance to the world.

There is anecdotal evidence that it is very hard to maintain a depressed state while doing a headstand. Certainly this is not a long term option, but giving someone live evidence of a state change, even for a minute or two, can shift a belief that feeling depressed is all-pervasive. If someone can change that belief enough to consider other options, they may be open to learning more user friendly attention shifting skills. Then they can discover, through live experience, that changing state by choice is a skill which they can learn.

John Grinder’s ‘Chain of Excellence’

For our purposes, learning to change state is predicated on a person’s natural and habitual states, more than those involving artificial aids. John Grinder, the co-originator of NLP, proposes a ‘Chain of Excellence’ leading to enhanced performance in any context:

Breathing

Physiology

State

Performance

The Chain of Excellence has three points of leverage to shift attention and create a better quality of action in the world. They are:

  1. Change your breathing pattern and your physiology (posture, movement, carriage) will change.
  2. Change your physiology and your state will change.
  3. Change your state and your performance will change. (Performance includes natural interactions, reading, sleeping and eating as well prepared activities and working).

If you act on any one of the three, the categories below will shift in response. To test this, consider an issue in your life and note your state. Then go for a ten minute brisk walk with an even, balanced posture and your head up comfortably. You will find your breathing will deepen, your physiology will be nicely shaken up and your thinking will become clearer.

You can attend to any matter on your agenda as you walk, or you can think about it before you walk, then shift your attention to enjoy the walk and return to the matter afterwards. Your take on it will be different. This is an example of a model known as ‘Personal Editing’, created by Judith DeLozier and is the simplest and most natural way to do it. You can see it unfolding in daily life if you attend gym, exercise or dance classes. The class members come in after work in a work state. They attend to class, move, exercise and perform routines. Then they leave in a different state.

When you engage the Chain of Excellence, your attention goes to the element you want to shift. When you follow through, your body function supports resourceful states that promote high quality attention. Personal editing can provide you with a generic resource state which you can take anywhere. Then, when you enter a specific context, the state will enable you to access appropriate resources for performing well in that context.

A ‘Four Step Change Process’

In the New Code of NLP, John Grinder has developed a ‘Four Step Change Process’. It applies leverage through the Chain of Excellence to create generic, content-free (go anywhere) resource states. Step 3 requires an activity that applies the leverage of the Chain of Excellence. In this case I recommend the Personal Editing brisk walk as you can do this by yourself and I have described it already.

  1. Identify a context where you want to perform with excellence and currently do not.
  2. Step briefly into the context and experience it.
  3. Step out of the context and start a Personal Editing brisk walk immediately, attending only to the sensory experience of walking and seeing and hearing your environment in real time.
  4. At the end of 10-15 minutes brisk walking, step into the context you chose in the state you are in now. Let the state blend into the context and enjoy the result. Now you experience the difference.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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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Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world

How The World Is Represented

When we look at the world or at our internal images, we are using the visual system. When we hear sounds in the environment or compose or playback sounds internally, we are using the auditory system and when we feel sensation, touch, our own muscle twitches or emotion related feelings, we are using the kinaesthetic system. We see, hear and feel our surroundings, but if we are attending to an argument we had with someone yesterday, we do not register everything we are exposed to. Our attention is on the recalled images, sounds and sensations associated with the argument.

We can change the meaning we attribute to the argument by exploring the sub components of our representations. These are known as ‘Submodalities’. If the visual system is a Modality then size, location, brightness, hue, motion, focus, and colour saturation are examples of visual submodalities. Auditory submodalities include volume, location, bandwidth, speed, pitch, rhythm and timbre (resonance). Kinaesthetic submodalities include pressure, temperature, volume, area, rhythm, texture and shape.

“We can change the meaning we attribute to the argument by exploring the sub components of our representations. “

The Making of Meaning

People make and code the meaning they attribute to experiences by representing the experience with specific submodalities. The exciting aspect of submodalities is that different people use different submodalities to make meaning. Thus, one person might discover that increasing the size of an image increases the intensity of the sensations they feel while another might find that moving the image to a different location in their visual field has a similar effect.

When we explore our individual application of submodalities in a group, it is fascinating to discover the different submodalities and combinations people use to denote different meanings for their experiences. Belief, alone, can be represented in many forms and some people code limiting beliefs (I wish that were not true) differently from generative beliefs (Of course I can rely on that being true).

Exploring our own submodalities brings this important part of attention to conscious awareness. For practical purposes, we can retain the memory of exploring our submodalities without overloading ourselves by attending to them constantly. When we want to change or enhance the meaning of an experience, we can attend to our submodalities long enough to map the changes. It is a matter of finding which submodalities in what combinations provide us, personally, with the particular meaning we are after.

Altering Meaning

Sometimes changing a submodality in one sensory system will alter a submodality in a different system. This is called a ‘Driver Submodality’ because changing it drives change in another submodality. Even though individuals use different submodalities to make meaning, there are some sufficiently prevalent combinations for advertising agencies to harness them in TV commercials. For example, natural gas used to be advertised on TV in the UK and more recently in Australia, using steel blue lighting to denote freezing cold conditions with people skating on the Thames or Sydney Harbour. When the skaters arrive home, the door opens and the gas fire lights as the lighting switches to golden amber, denoting warmth. If you are someone who creates a subjective temperature change with a change in colour temperature, this will be obvious. If not, what gives you a sense of warmth on a cold day, (other than crouching over a direct heat source)?

“Sometimes changing a submodality in one sensory system will alter a submodality in a different system”

Some people have a similar experience between sensory systems. In this case, they may see something which promotes a sensation or a sound, or feel something which promotes an image or a sound or hear something which promotes an image or a feeling. This is called Synaesthesia. Examples include seeing particular colours with numbers, seeing swirling colours when music is played, feeling a cringe when someone scratches a blackboard or feeling rhythms when looking at abstract or fractal art. A lesser known example is seeing the environment brighten, dim or change hue in response to smelling different substances.

It is worth discovering your own synaesthesias if you have them, as they can change the quality of your attention without your realising if they are running in the background. An administrator used the telephone extensively in her work. In the early 1990s, Australian telephone numbers acquired a nine (9) at the front to make them eight digits instead of seven after the area code. Shortly after this change, the administrator complained of feeling depressed. She and her partner knew about synaeshesias and they gave this one some attention. They discovered that she had fixed colours for numerals and each colour queued a sensation.Nine was an unpleasant grey colour with a dragging kinaesthetic and suddenly it prefixed every telephone number she used. They changed the synaesthesia and the depressing experience lifted.

Submodalites, synaesthesias and sequences of sensory representations all contribute to the quality of attention we bring to experience. They are also elements of how we use our attention.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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.

If you found this article useful share it with your network.

5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes

The quality of attention we apply and the selection of filters we use to limit it can be enhanced with exposure to different frames of reference and more effective classification patterns.

Before we can enhance the quality of our attention deliberately, we need to become aware of how we are filtering and applying our attention currently. For most people, attending is something we do with reference to content; that is what we are attending to.

“We need to become aware of how we are filtering and applying our attention currently.”

Discovering Our Attention

If we want to identify and track how we attend at any time, a simple method uses common content as our medium. To give you a taste of this, take a composite memory of driving your regular vehicle, as if you are driving now, in the present. Driving your car is the frame for this experience and it queues your driving perceptual filters. Now consider the following questions:

  • As you are driving, are you aware of looking at the road ahead?
  • How far ahead do you look, normally?
  • Do you notice the presence of other vehicles?
  • Do you notice anything about the cars in front of you?
  • Are you aware of movement in your peripheral vision?
  • Are you aware of the sound of your engine routinely?
  • Are you aware of the sound of your engine when it sounds different?
  • If you have music playing, do you notice it?
  • Do you register the speed you are doing?
  • Are you aware of selecting the distance you drive behind other vehicles
  • in slow traffic?
  • in medium fast traffic?
  • when you stop at traffic lights?
  • Are you talking to yourself?
  • Are you seeing through internal images?
  • Do you feel speed, torque, acceleration?
  • Do you feel emotional responses to your thoughts?
  • Are you aware of the speed limit?
  • Are you aware of the sequence of traffic lights?
  • Are you aware of when to signal at a roundabout?
  • Are you aware of the route you are taking to your destination?
  • Are you aware of finding the appropriate pedal with the appropriate pressure?
  • Are you aware of steering the car?

Your answers will provide you with valuable insight into your process for attending while driving. The next question in response to each answer you gave is:

How do you know that?

The elements of attention can be classified and punctuated in different ways. The driving questions invite answers related to use of our senses and internal representations of remembered and imagined sensory experience. We use our senses and internal representations to think and attend. The quality of any experience we have is related to the combination of senses and representations we select to process it. Most selection occurs outside conscious awareness. So another classification for attention is what are we aware of consciously and what are we responding to outside conscious awareness? We took a common scenario like driving and asked the questions above to bring some of our process to conscious awareness.

“The elements of attention can be classified and punctuated in different ways.”

Now you have more conscious awareness of what you do while driving, you can enhance your experience and possibly your skill as well. For example, the further ahead you look, the more time you have to respond to changes on the road in front of you. If you detect and respond to movement in your peripheral vision, you can avoid potential obstacles more smoothly. If your attention is on the road instead of on your internal experience, (be it dialogue, images, sounds or sensation), you are likely to detect and respond to more external activity and drive more safely. If the rearview mirror is in your peripheral vision, you will detect flashing blue lights at the earliest opportunity. Once you have updated any parts of your driving experience, you can allow the changes to automate once more, so they function seamlessly while your conscious attention is where you want it.

This exercise can be applied to any activity, experience or context you choose. It is a useful method for refining skill development, enabling us to identify the elements of a skill set that could benefit from enhancement. We can pick and apply the enhancements, practice them deliberately and allow them to integrate into automation.

Using attention includes (but is not limited to) the following components:

  • The frame, context or situation for attending.
  • The combination of senses and representations used in attending.
  • Conscious awareness of parts or elements of the experience.
  • Conscious awareness of prior knowledge and related future outcomes.
  • Unconscious awareness of prior knowledge and related future outcomes.
  • Unconsciously included parts of the experience.
  • Unconsciously applied frames and perceptual filters surrounding the experience.

Another aspect of attention is how we apply each of our senses to the content we are seeing, hearing or feeling, be it internally represented or externally sensed.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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.

If you found this article useful share it with your network.

Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice

‘Pay attention. You won’t find the answer on the ceiling’

‘Pay attention. You won’t find the answer on the ceiling’. The teacher’s admonition cut across a child visualising the answer to a maths problem. The child was attending, working out the problem using implicitly learned rules and making mental images in the most natural place. The teacher expected the students to be bent over their desks, calculating into an exercise book or a screen. Unfortunately, relatively few people appreciate that visualisation is most accessible when looking upwards and teachers want to see recognisable evidence of compliance.

Visualising to do calculations is a very effective way of using our attention for calculating. It is faster than using writing and saves paper. Most people rarely notice how they use their attention, so there is little awareness in the general population that attention can be subject to deliberate application.

“There is little awareness in the general population that attention can be subject to deliberate application.”

Consider the child in the example. She had no idea that she was making calculations using rules and images outside conscious awareness, only that they worked. Her teacher had no knowledge of how the child did it, only that she wanted to see the child’s workings written on a page. The child could not present her workings and eventually stopped presenting answers. No-one thought to give the child an explicit description of the rules she had discovered implicitly and subsequently stopped applying. If they taught these, she and others would be able to derive the workings for any problem in the set governed by those rules. Then they could generalise and use their attention to discover the principles governing other sets of facts and figures.

If people learned to attend to the process of how something works, they would be able to produce multiple examples from first principles. Currently, most formal learning at school level focuses on knowing facts and figures. Only a few students manage to infer the underlying principles from exposure to a collection of related facts and figures. Yet many of the facts and figures can be inferred from the principles. They make sense in light of the principles, thereby becoming inherently more memorable.

What is attention?

Attention is awareness of activity occurring in the world around us and or in our internal experience. We use our senses to detect movement in the world and then process what we detect via neural pathways. This experience is as if we have direct contact with the world. This is sensory input and is our first access to incoming data. It is a common experience for small children and a rare experience for most adults.

The author, Carlos Castaneda alluded to first access experiences when referring to a ‘Stop the World State’ as part of shamanic training. You can have a similar experience by extending your peripheral vision to its extremes on both sides and up and down, while focusing on the far distance. This will reduce your internal dialogue (verbal thoughts) and allow you to experience the world with minimal categorical filtering. It is a delightful and absorbing experience. If you go for a walk in a Stop the World state, take someone with you, so you do not have to attend to safety and traffic while in the state.

We filter incoming data routinely, to avoid overloading our attention and to reduce mental effort. For example, we expect a chair to take our weight when we sit on it and we know to sit on it because it is ‘chair’. Linguistic filters name and categorise everything we have encountered before, that otherwise would have been experienced at first access. Our knowledge, beliefs and values frame what we attend to and how much attention is given to any concept or object. The generic name for the filters we use to order our world is: ‘Perceptual Filters’. They are used to classify the raw, incoming data, to attribute meaning, relationships and other groupings of inclusion, exclusion and value.

Any form of perceptual filtering reduces the amount of information we accept into our systems and its function is to protect us from too much simultaneous input and enable efficient mental processing. When it is done automatically, using low grade classification systems and without deliberate periodic review, we can become inflexible or at worst, stereotyped utterers of platitude. At its best, perceptual filtering allows us to learn new and interesting material, classify existing knowledge in flexible and accessible sets (including sets of sets) and to use patterns of excellence as the frames in which we operate.

The quality of attention we apply and the selection of filters we use to limit it can be enhanced with exposure to different frames of reference and more effective classification patterns.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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).

If you found this article useful share it with your network.

Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business

from NYT Education Life (7th April 2015)

Today we are considering the last, of Goleman’s recommendations for effective leadership in business. Along with self awareness, self management and empathy (without joining others in lack of resources), there are:

Relationship Skills:

  1. “Compelling communication: You put your points in persuasive, clear, ways so that people are motivated as well as clear about expectations.
  2. Team playing: People feel relaxed working with you. One sign: They laugh, easily around you” Goleman (2015).

Relationship skills is a shorthand name for the skills that facilitate useful initial interactions and enable them to develop into freely chosen, functional, mutually satisfying ongoing relationships. Just because you are assigned to work with someone does not preclude the possibility of choosing their company and vice versa.

If you are going to develop a relationship with someone in any context, first you have to make their acquaintance and engage and hold their unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport with someone. Rapport is not just for first time encounters. Each time you interact with someone, including loved ones, friends and long time colleagues, you need to engage and hold their unconscious attention, preferably willingly on their part.

“To engage and hold someone’s, unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport.”

Rapport, like empathy, is subject to widespread misunderstanding. It is defined in the previous paragraph, yet many people think rapport is liking and being liked by someone, getting on well with someone, reducing perceptible differences between people, being like (similar to) someone and sharing similar views on important subjects.These experiences may follow from engaging and holding someone’s unconscious attention, but not necessarily.

You can observe rapport in action if you watch people when they are engaged with each other. You will see entrainment of the parties’ rhythms with each other. These include movement, posture, gestures, breathing, voice patterns, rate of speech and sometimes rate of blinking. Certainly, rapport is often taught at this level, but this makes it harder work to learn than necessary and too specific to keep enough attention free for the matter under discussion. Does this sound familiar?

The common feature when people are engaged with each other is interest. This can be interest in the individual, interest in the conversation and/or interest in the topic of conversation. The greater the interest, the quicker and smoother the development of rapport.Thus one person can initiate rapport with someone by showing interest and engagement in their behaviour. Most of the time it will be reciprocated. Demonstration of interest is worth learning. The result may not be instant, but perseverance for a few minutes should free up the interaction making it more comfortable for both parties so interest becomes more natural.

You can create a frame for yourself to facilitate interest for the sake of developing rapport. If you are discussing a boring topic, for example, make a point of discovering your intention for having the conversation. When you find an intention frame that you find worthwhile, that can spark a genuine interest.

A bright but bored medical student started earning unacceptable grades one year. He was told to shape up or be sent down from university. He wanted to join a particular speciality in medicine, but found the course content irrelevant. He loved history and anthropology, so he created a frame for 20th century medical training that said: This is what they used to believe, now. With awareness of his intention and a frame that invited interest in the work, his grades improved markedly. In the fullness of time he became a specialist in his chosen field where he made radical and far reaching contributions.

When you establish rapport with topics and subjects as well as individual people and groups, learning flows with less effort and greater retention. Work becomes more interesting and less of a chore and colleagues can be friends. This is quality of life at work. Rapport enhances the quality of your attention and the quality of your attention enhances rapport.

In the longer term as interactions develop into relationships, rapport continues to be necessary and with application, becomes habitual. This is the underpinning relationship skill. If you go back and review Goleman’s evidence for relationship skills, you will find that he is describing evidence of rapport.

Emotional Intelligence And The Quality Of your Life

To close the series, here is another frame on rapport and by extension, on self awareness, self management and empathy. All of these qualities, skills and attributes, when practiced and in use can contribute to our own sense of wellbeing. When we feel welcome with the people in our lives, we have a better experience with them than if we are on guard or expect unhelpful consequences. This does not detract from our varying needs for time alone, be it five minutes or most of life. When we deal with people, if they are well disposed towards us, we tend to have a better time. This is my frame for agreeing with Goleman’s recommendations. It is not a homily about what should be done. It is a recommendation for increasing your own quality of life.

At my own happiest workplace as an employee, I stayed longer than in any other job I have had because of the people. I started as a casual and had amazingly welcoming experiences on my first two days. By the end of three weeks I had a permanent position, expedited by my manager. I continued to feel welcome and appreciated for the whole time I was there. I only left because Inspiritive was granted RTO status and needed more of my attention.

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business Articles Series

  1. Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence – Introduction
  2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  3. Self awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  4. Self Management and Emotional Intelligence; Three attributes
  5. Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

(Note: If you would like to learn more about 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.

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Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Empathy, Goleman’s 4th Component for Emotional Intelligence in Business

from NYT Education Life (7th April 2015)

In the previous articles in this series, we have considered the first two of Goleman’s recommendations for applying elements of emotional intelligence in business and possibly in other contexts. Initially, I proposed that however worthy the frames and assumptions surrounding any recommendations might be, it is still useful to identify them and choose for yourself which, if any, fit for you. The following two articles discussed self awareness, and self management.

Today’s topic is called, Empathy

  1. Cognitive and emotional empathy: Because you understand other perspectives, you can put things in ways colleagues comprehend. And you welcome their questions, just to be sure. Cognitive empathy, along with reading another person’s feelings accurately, makes for effective communication.
  2. Good listening: You pay full attention to the other person and take time to understand what they are saying, without talking over them or hijacking the agenda”.,  Goleman 2015

Goleman has answered the question; “How would you know if you are demonstrating empathy?” As before, the demonstrable acts are too specific to use for learning to do it comfortably, but they provide a clear idea of how empathy is supposed to operate. This description is different from the way many people, including some coaches and therapists, understand empathy. In my opinion, Goleman’s frame is much more robust as it is predicated on observation, listening, information gathering and external attention rather than interpretation of someone else’s behaviour.

The trap for new therapists is an understanding of empathy as ‘A Therapeutic Activity’ predicated on joining the client in their (unresourceful) experience so you can ‘share the pain’ and understand their predicament. This is not useful. If you join someone in their unresourceful state for more than 30 seconds without shaking it off cleanly and then returning to your own self, the chances are your state will become similarly limited. Then you will lose access to the resources you had in your working state. Now you have two people who cannot solve problems instead of one leading the other to a functional state.

“Joining the client in their (unresourceful) experience is not useful.”

Yet the skills for enabling the behaviour Goleman recommends are very similar, with important distinctions that ensure you stay resourceful and you only bring information back to your own state; not residue of other people’s states.

Consider three different points of view or perceptual positions:

One position is me in my own skin, aware of myself, my values, my outcomes and intentions, my posture and breathing and how I am using my attention.

Another position is me as observer. In the observer position I take my attention out of my skin, to somewhere I can observe an actor who looks like me in conversation with one or more other people. My brief is to gather information about the quality of the interaction between the parties and whether the actor who looks like me is engaging the attention of the other people. I notice if there is anything my actor could do differently to facilitate the outcome of the conversation.

From the observer position, I can move my attention to step into the shoes of the other person in the conversation. I match their posture, movement and breathing and after a few seconds, I begin to experience the conversation from their perspective. As soon as I have enough exposure to their take on the matter, I leave the other and return to the observer, with my information.

The observer is not engaged in the conversation, but is interested in each party’s take on it. The observer also acts as a way station or a metaphoric shower to remove all residue of the other person before returning to my own skin. In my own skin I only want myself and information I gathered when in the other positions. The only exception to this is when the other person has skills I want to experience for myself. Then I can take relevant elements of my experience in their shoes into my own position, but this is rare and requires special framing to preserve my integrity.

Use Your Imagination

The act of shifting perceptual positions uses the imagination. When I teach it, I do not expect students to be able to do it seamlessly in a live conversation until they have had some practice. There are exercises for learning the skills by replaying recent memories of conversations as if they were happening in real time. This way the skill is learned off line and can then be applied in real life without compromising the quality of your attention and without anyone else being the wiser.

It is important only to go to another person’s shoes via the observer. If you go straight from self to other, it is too easy to operate for an extended period partly from their position. If you do this you will probably become less resourceful and less clear about your own outcomes in the short term and you may experience burn out if you do it habitually. Many people think empathy is a self to other direct step. Goleman’s description, on the other hand, reflects the evidence you can experience only if you keep self and other cleanly separated by moving between them via the observer. The observer is valuable in its own right as a source of a different quality of information.

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business Articles Series

  1. Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence – Introduction
  2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  3. Self awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  4. Self Management and Emotional Intelligence; Three attributes
  5. Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of 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.

If you found this article useful, share it!