How to Get What You Want With Simple Communication Tools
One of my favorite Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) instructors is Mike Mandel, a world-renowned master hypnotist who has been studying and teaching this stuff for over 50 years.
A few years ago, I invited him to be the main presenter at an Intensive for my private mastermind group.
Within just a week of attending the intensive, some members went on to save thousands of dollars each in flights, hotels, and other services, just by implementing a few simple communication tools.
One of the concepts he shared really stuck with me…
I’ve since used it to improve communication in all my relationships, especially with my son, co-workers, and even with myself.
It’s all about how we process language.
To help explain: Picture your mind as a basketball.
If you placed a dime flat on top, that would represent the size of your conscious awareness.
The rest of the ball, which is 99.9% of it, is the unconscious awareness. This part is what processes and sorts the millions of bits of information available to us at any given moment.
Since the conscious mind has such small bandwidth, it has to take shortcuts, and relies on the unconscious sorting process to operate in the world.
So, when we’re listening to communication, the unconscious mind does most of the interpretation. It takes in the dialog, and plucks out the major message to form an understanding. (This, by the way, is something advertisers have been exploiting to sell us products for decades.)
As a simple example, when you tell someone, “Don’t be mad at me when I tell you this,” the main message you’re sending is: “Be mad at me.” Their mind strips away the “don’t” and takes on the rest. A more harmonious message to send is, “You may not be totally happy when you hear this.”
This principle especially applies to relationships, the workplace, and other areas of potential stress.
Focus on the positive outcomes
Instead of focusing on danger and risk, and implanting negative outcomes in people’s minds…
Focus on expressing the positive aim, or the outcome you desire.
You’ll find that performance improves, tension lowers, and more desired outcomes happen.
I take this point to such a degree that instead of telling my son Tenn “be careful,” I say “be aware.” Awareness is a trait that will serve him well in life, whereas being overly careful of everything will not.
Let’s take this focus on positive outcomes one step further
…to the questions we ask ourselves.
The rule of thumb is: We get what we focus on.
If someone doesn’t have what they want in life yet—whether it’s inner happiness or external success—they tend to ask themselves why that is, and look for explanations.
But all this does is recruit the unconscious mind to generate negative answers. And there’s no shortage of supply.
In this situation, the least helpful questions start with the word “Why,” because they don’t move us toward the target we’re aiming for.
Instead, asking questions that start with “How” is much more useful.
Because if we want to move toward any goal, such as creating a better state of mind, way of being, lifestyle, or business…
The How to the Why
Your need resources.
These resources could be in the form of positive emotions, habits, ideas, supplies, or people.
“How” questions create resources.
“Why” questions only create judgments, diagnoses, criticisms, or negativity.
So, instead of defeatedly asking “Why don’t I have enough money?” ask “How can I make more money?”
“How” questions create resources. “Why” questions only create judgments, diagnoses, criticisms, or negativity. So, instead of defeatedly asking “Why don’t I have enough money?” ask “How can I make more money?”
Change “Why is this happening to me?” to “How can I move past this?”
Replace “Why do I always feel crappy?” with “How can I feel better?”
This simple tweak can instantly turn your mind from your worst enemy to your greatest ally.
Let me know any great How questions you discover through this process that work well for you.
One more big idea from NLP I want to share with you…
It’s all about reframing
Reframing is about taking a situation, problem, or experience, and expanding our mental frame to create a new interpretation of it.
Like a picture frame, our mental frame is often a limited perspective. So, the reflexive interpretations we make of situations tend to be narrow and self-centered…
Which can lead us down paths of action and emotion spins that are unhelpful, or even regretful.
But if we change our frame, we change the interpretation—which lets us change how we respond.
Suddenly, more powerful solutions and understandings are unlocked, that we couldn’t see at first.
As I just mentioned above, switching “Why” questions to “How” questions (moving from negative focus to positive resource focus) is a simple kind of reframing.
Since I’m always fascinated by human communication, let’s use another example in relationships…
Using NLP to better your relationships
When we’re upset, we don’t always say what we mean. We tend to react from past pain, rather than calmly expressing our needs in the present.
So, when our partner gets upset over something that we perceive to be tiny, our small-frame interpretation might be that they’re “crazy,” or irrational…
Which immediately makes them “wrong” and creates a combative dynamic.
Let’s say you came home late from work, and your partner was hoping for quality time. This could leave them feeling unimportant, or unloved.
Most of the time, this situation escalates into a stress-fueled fight about who is right or wrong.
But if you reframe the behavior in the bigger picture, beyond the “me-centric” frame (ie. “This is totally unfair. I was busy meeting a deadline…”)
You could zoom out and ask yourself:
“What unmet need is causing them to feel upset?”
Or, “What is it about this situation that is poking an old wound?”
This often helps you understand and acknowledge their reaction, own your part, and explain the situation in a way that brings you back together.
When you frame their behavior in the bigger context, you’re more likely to quickly switch from seeing it as “crazy,” to seeing it as perfectly natural.
And we can ask the same questions of ourselves whenever reactivity arises.
Instead of dwelling in anger about feeling wronged, asking those questions above can help cut to the chase and see what unmet need or sensitive wound triggered our reaction.