Australian General Semantics Society Inc.


                              Seminar Summary - 23 July 2011


"Neuro-Linguistic Programming
and General Semantics"

Facilitators: Pauline and David

Graciously hosted at "Clifftop View"

*NLP: Neuro Linguistic Programming:
a method for psychotherapy started by Bandler and Grinder
author of "The Structure of Magic".

* GS: General-Semantics:
a discipline conceived by Alfred Korzybski,
author of "The Manhood of Humanity" and "Science and Sanity"
- a discipline that helps train us to improve our evaluating.

As Benjamin Franklin said,
"Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of the mind
than outward circumstances."

Today's seminar was punctuated with some little non-verbal warm up -
Rubbing hands together and thinking of what we want - what a wonderful day we will have with such great company in a beautiful location, looking forward to new information and applying it in our life!
- Blow it out into the universe or imagine your smile getting bigger and in your hands 
- Stretch your hands apart and letting your smile expand,
- Then throw it into the air and imagine a hundred smiles raining down on you
- And you can imagine that smiles are raining on you as you walk about!

The brain gym exercises -
This quote by William James is particularly relevant to today’s discussion, and to the purpose IMO of NLP. “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings by changing the inner attitude of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives."

The NLP approach is that anything someone else can do, can be learned by you if you break down their actions into small enough component parts (Does this sound like Milton Dawes on the Calculus?)

It could be something as simple as modelling the skills of a co-worker for example who generally brings projects in on time, or a friend who always knows the right thing to say at the right time. 

You could question the person you want to emulate to find out what inspires them, how they know the time is right to do what they do and how they keep focussed on their goal. The colleague may have a string of strategies to meet their project target which you could learn to reproduce. Modelling someones success is a wonderful way to turn potential feelings of envy into a constructive process for experiencing their success yourself. It is an empowering perspective and also an encouragement to convert large overwhelming projects into lots of small ones - bit by bit.

Some important NLP "presuppositions":

1. Communication is redundant -
You cannot not communicate. Consider that you are in a staff meeting sitting off to one side, with your arms folded, an angry look on your face and are not participating in the discussion at all. Or you choose to not respond to telephone or email messages in a timely fashion, or at all. Are you communicating and what message are you sending? And who are you really hurting? Through your tone of voice, actions, body language, you are always communicating.

2. The meaning of communication is not what you do or say, it is the response that it produces.

3. We think that if someone misunderstands us there is something wrong with him or her! (This is one of the most important presuppositions in NLP) .

4. Both verbal and non-verbal behaviors trigger responses in others.
The point of communication is to get an outcome. An effective communicator is not someone with good command of language and delivery. She is someone who gets her desired response.

Your intended communication is not always what is understood by the other person. It does not matter what your intention is, what matters are the results you generate from your words, tone of voice, body language, … .
Being flexible, you can change how you are communicating until you achieve your desired result.

Consider the following situation. I am a man and I notice a female co-worker has a new dress and I decide to pay her a complement (my intention). I say to her “Gee you look terrific in that dress.” She immediately gets mad and leaves the room.

I do not know what is going on in her mind, but obviously she heard my message very differently from what I intended. Maybe in her model of the world and through her filters, she felt I was ‘hitting on her’. The next time I see her, I could continue with the same behaviour and think all sorts of bad things about her. Or I can realize that I did not achieve what I intended and find different ways to communicate with her so that we can have a productive working relationship.

5. The map is not the territory (Does this sound familiar?)

6. There is no failure, only feedback.
We had a little exercise - Imagine you have failed at something - various questions.

7. Requisite variety
The system (person) with the most flexibility of behaviour will have the most influence on the system.

Have you ever been stuck in life, doing the same things over and over again and each time expecting to get a different result? - Definition of insanity! If you want your life to be different, doing the same things more often, harder, louder, is not the way. You must choose to do something different. If you try one key in a lock and it doesn't fit, would you keep trying the same key over and over again? Or would you be flexible and try other keys until you find the one that works?

Same for your life, be flexible and explore different behaviours/strategies to unlock what you truly want in life or who you are destined to be.

At work, I am sure you have noticed two types of people. One person who is very inflexible and tries to control everything. They live under the illusion that they are in charge. In actual fact, their co-workers are finding workarounds in order to avoid dealing with them. Then there is the other person, people enjoy talking to her and helping her with whatever needs to be done. Why? Because by being flexible in her behaviour, she is able to communicate with everyone and people see her as a valuable co-worker.

If you are a parent, consider the following assertion:
"There are no resistant children, only inflexible adults."
Would the same apply in other leadership situations, for example at work?

8. People work perfectly
Everyone does the best they can with the resources available to them. No one is wrong or broken, its simply a matter of finding out how they function now, so you can effectively change that to something more useful or desireable.

People already have the resources they need to succeed. However, their perspective of the world (beliefs, values and limiting constraints) or temporary state of mind (overwhelmed, sad or angry) may prevent them from seeing what is really possible or prevent them from fully accessing their capabilities and resources. In these situations, a person may make decisions or take actions that, from another viewpoint, are much less than they are capable of and that may even be experienced as hurtful.

With hindsight, that person could have done many things differently, but it was deemed the best choice at the time. We do not always make the "right" decision or take the "right" action; simply, decisions and actions are taken based on what resources we have available to us at the time.

9. People always make the best choice available to them at the time -
Every behavior has a positive intention!

No matter how strange, hurtful or inappropriate a person's behavior may seem to you, for the person engaging in that behavior, it makes sense from their perspective - their beliefs and values - and is predicated upon satisfying a positive intention for them.

The key is to appreciate that there is a positive intention behind the other person’s behavior - for them, maybe not for you. This does not mean that you must view the other person's behavior as positive or acceptable.

On the contrary, you may find it quite distasteful. You need to look behind the behavior to discover the positive intention or, if it's not apparent, look for an intention that makes sense in their reality. This intention may be for themselves, for you or for someone else. Once you have an understanding of their intention, you can explore alternative ways to help the person achieve it.

Every behaviour is useful in some context nothing is good or bad, only our thinking makes it so!

Choice is better than no choice - you are more likely to reach your goals if you have more options.

The mind and body are interlinked and affect each other 

The Finger Exercise: 
Each make a circle with our left finger and thumb. Then link the right finger and thumb through the first circle (like two links in a chain).

Think of someone you really like and pull hard to break the circles.
Think of someone you really dislike and pull hard to break the circles.

Now think of a food you really like, a food you really dislike ...

You can do this when trying to decide what to do, to see what your subconscious is trying to tell you.

Reframing - A major NLP concept:
The frame provides a context or focus for your thoughts and actions. Just as a picture frame puts borders or boundaries on what you can see in a picture, the frames of reference that you choose as a result of your beliefs about yourself and others, your perceived role in life, your perceived limitations in skills/abilities, etc. can limit what you see as possible or can open up all sorts of possibilities.

You (and if you allow them, others) are continually setting timeframes, boundaries, limits, etc. on what you can and can’t do - often without any real thought about the consequences or if the limitations are true.

Changing the frame of an experience can have a major influence on how you perceive, interpret and react to that experience. Being told that you have one hour to complete a task will most likely result in a different emotional state, approach and quality of work than if you are told that you have one week to accomplish the same task. This illustrates how a change in frame (in this case a timeframe) can have a significant impact on the choices you make.

Changing the frame of reference is called reframing in NLP. The purpose of reframing is to help a person experience their actions, the impact of their beliefs, etc. from a different perspective (frame) and potentially be more resourceful or have more choice in how they react. Say something the way you want it - eg if you say "Don’t shout", they will shout. Say something like "Speak calmly". Or instead of "Don’t speak to me like that!“

Reframing going on all around us:

You can see a failure as just a chance to learn feedback. In reply to the suggestion that he had (so far) failed to produce a working lightbulb, Thomas Edison replied: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Politicians are masters at reframing. It seems no matter what happens, they can put a positive spin on it for themselves or a negative spin for their opponents.

When someone does something in traffic you don’t like, you can usually think of a reason they are inattentive, in a hurry, or aren’t sure where they are going etc can change the whole inner experience within yourself from frustration or anger to a calmer acceptance.

You may be frustrated at your wife for inviting the elderly gentleman next door for supper. Until she points out that if you were in his shoes, then you may find this simple act to be the highlight of your week.

Consider that old wooden table in the basement that you use as a temporary workbench for sawing wood, nailing things together, etc. Instantly, it is seen differently if some tells you that it is a valuable antique.

Jokes are reframes - you are guided to think in one frame and then the frame (meaning or context) changes. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Only one, and the light bulb must want to change!

Fairy tales often use reframes to help children see different perspectives or consequences - ‘crying wolf’.

An excuse is a reframe that attributes a different meaning or context to your behaviours.

During the 1984 campaign, there was considerable concern about Ronald Reagan’s age. Speaking during the presidential debate with Walter Mondale, Reagan said “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.” Reagan’s age was not an issue for the remainder of the campaign!

A father brought his head-strong daughter to see Milton Erickson - the famous hypnotherapist. He said to Erickson, “My daughter doesn’t listen to me or her mother. She is always expressing her own opinion.” After the father finished describing his daughter’s problem, Erickson replied, “Now isn’t it good that she will be able to stand on her own two feet when she is ready to leave home?” The father sat in stunned silence. That was the extent of the therapy -- the father now saw his daughter’s behaviour as a useful resource later in her life.

Content Reframes and Context Reframes

Content Reframe:
The content or meaning of a situation is determined by what you choose to focus on. An electrical power failure can be viewed as disruptive, a major disaster given all you have to get done. Or it can be viewed as an opportunity to spend some intimate time with your spouse or to have fun with your children finding innovative ways to manage the situation. The kids and I had a lovely time during a power outage made a little fire on the front verandah and told stories, and played 3 truths and a lie.

A content reframe is useful for statements such as: ‘I get annoyed when my boss stands behind me while I am working.’ Notice how the person has taken the situation and given it a specific meaning -- which may or may not be true - and in so doing limits her resourcefulness and possible courses of action. To reframe this situation, remember the NLP presupposition ‘Every behaviour has a positive intention’ and ask questions such as: · What other meaning could the boss’ behaviour have? Or for what purpose does he do it? A possible reframe might be: ‘Is it possible he wants to help and does not know how to offer his assistance in any other way?’

What is the positive value in this behaviour? The positive value could be related to the boss’ behaviour (as above) or it could be related to the speaker’s behaviour. A possible reframe might be: ‘Isn’t it great that you know your boundaries and are not prepared to allow someone to violate them?’

Exercise: Think of a situation that you thought was a problem, or an action someone performed that you could have reframed and changed the feelings created by that situation.
If you are experiencing a physical problem (including phobias and allergies), you may ask yourself, ‘Is this problem useful to me in some way?’ For example, it may give you permission to say ‘no’. If this is the case, you could ask yourself, ‘Is there some other way that I can get this same result without having to have the physical problem?’ And just maybe the physical problem will disappear.

Context Reframe:
Almost all behaviours are useful or appropriate in some context. Interrupting a speaker by standing up and offering your view in the middle of her lecture may be judged as inappropriate. To do this same behaviour at the end of the presentation in order to provide a different perspective may be welcomed by all present.

A context reframe is useful for statements such as: ‘I am too pushy.’ or ‘I wish I did not focus on what could go wrong.’ In this type of situation, your client has assumed that this type of behaviour has no value. You job is to discover when it is of value by asking yourself the question ‘When or where would this behaviour be useful or viewed as a resource?’ A possible reframe might be: ‘Isn’t that a great skill to have when you need to get things done or to avoid potential problems?’ Once you have your client more resourceful, you can then assist him to discover behaviours that may be more appropriate in other situations.

Children and Parenting
Children exhibit all sorts of behaviours - some appropriate and some not so appropriate. Focusing mainly on a child’s inappropriate behaviours, may result in the child feeling overly criticized or attacked; resulting in an increase in problem behaviour or the child becoming overly defensive. As an alternative, a parent may choose two courses of action: · Assuming every behaviour has a positive intention, the parent may choose to discover the positive intention. Then the parent can discuss with the child other behaviours that would meet both the parent’s and child’s needs. Eg the child might break something when in the kitchen important to focus on their positive intent to help tidy up, and not the accidental breakage. 

The parent may point out where or in what context that type of behaviour is acceptable; thus validating to the child that his behaviours are useful in certain contexts - eg playing with your food, or eating with your fingers might be fine at home, but not in a classy restaurant.

The former is an example of a content reframe and the later an example of a context reframe.
When presenting a reframe to another person: · Make sure you have rapport and their permission to offer it.

· You may believe your reframe is the best ever and yet it may not work for the other person -- simply because they have a different model of the world than you do. Remember the NLP presupposition - There is no failure, only feedback - and explore other possible reframes.

· If you present the reframe in the form of a question or a metaphor (story), it will most likely be more fully considered than if you present it as a statement of fact. Can say I have an idea, I wonder if it of any value, instead of ‘you should do it this way’

· I find too many NLP novices saying they ‘reframed’ someone, when in fact you can’t reframe anyone other than yourself. The best you can do is to ask someone to consider your reframe and then he can choose whether or not it reframes his experience.

Setting SMART Goals (outcomes) - get them to think of a goal and put it into the SMART language - write a specific goal

What has led us to where we are now - where will we be in 5 years if we don't change what we are doing now?

What are your top 3 values regarding this goal?

We can do a kind of Time Line exercise with the goal - Imagine stepping into the future and having your goal fully look back and determine what steps were required to achieve the outcome now that you have it (as-if frame) a vivid compelling future will guide you in your decisions.

Getting clear on your motivation is a fantastic way to head towards your goals, as is imagining what will happen if you don't work towards your goals can be motivating.

Motivation Strategy exercise

  - a shift in perception - "JUST DO IT"
This was a simple and effective way to move our perception from being negative about getting started with a task w feel we need to do, to focussing on how we will feel after it was done.

   * Stand up. 
   * Think of a task that you have to do, but not feeling particularly motivated to do. 
   * Imagine it
   * Now ask yourself what would it feel like to have that task done. 
   * Picture yourself having completed the task,
      and vividly imagine the feelings you would have. 
   * Hold that image in front of you as a picture, and physically step into that picture
      and enjoy the feelings of completion.
   * Sit down

This exercise bypasses the discomfort of starting the task and focuses on the feelings you might have when you have completed it. Many of the things that make the biggest difference in your life are the things you commit to and follow through.    *** JUST DO IT ***

Time line Exercise

 Go back 5 years and forward 5 years re your main interests in your life.
   * If you do things the way you are doing them now,
     are you pleased with the future you and what might happen
   * Consider Health - a strong difference between what will happen if I follow wise eating,
      drinking and exercise if I am mindful, I will be healthy, attractive and a young 55 yo,
      looking great, feeling healthy and energetic and feeling in control of my life.
   * Top 3 values: To nurture and respect my health and my body, to be true and honest.


They set a framework around NLP

If what you are doing is not working, do something different! 

So simple, yet we do not always modify our behaviour. If we accept this presupposition, then we recognise that it is better to change tactics than to continue to beat our head against a wall or spend our time lamenting our misfortune!

It is important to work out why what we are doing is not working. Could it be that we have not communicated what it is our want? So what can you do differently to get the desired results?


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