In this article I interview world renown expert on NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming Dr. Michael Hall to find out how we can use NLP to improve our lives.
In this article you will learn:
- What is NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming
- How to use NLP to influence and persuade other people
- How to use NLP to improve your communication skills
- How to use NLP to improve your public speaking skills
- How to use NLP to change a belief
- How to use NLP to accelerate your learning
What is NLP?
Michael Frank: What is NLP? What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
Dr. Michael Hall: The shortest and simplest definition is it’s a communication model. It’s how we think, it’s how we communicate to ourselves, and it’s how we communicate to each other.
How to influence and persuade with NLP
Michael Frank: I’d like to speak in depth about the specific techniques of NLP, and how we can use them for success in our careers and in our lives. For example, if we’re trying to build rapport with other people, or potentially even to influence and persuade them, how would we go about doing that?
Dr. Michael Hall: Well what the NLP founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder learned from Virginia Satir especially, was that the best way to enter into someone else’s world and to create near instant rapport was by matching and mirroring them.
So match and mirror (mimic) the other person’s:
- Breathing rate
- The words they’re using
- The predicates (verbs) they’re using
And as we do that, from their perspective, we’re similar to them, or as Tony Robbins put it: “People like people who are like them”.
Michael Frank: Does that mean if you’re speaking to an angry, or a difficult person, or even someone that is purposely trying to break rapport, that we would mirror them as well? So if they were speaking to us in a harsh tone, would we also speak to them in a harsh tone in order to build rapport?
Dr. Michael Hall: The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I would use a harsh tone with a lot of compassion. I would use a harsh tone, but my words would not be words of a similar kind. So if they’re using pretty strong language, maybe even some curse language to me, I might use the same tone and say (aggressive tonality) “This really means a lot to you… more than I realized…” So I’m going to use the same tone, but I wouldn’t use the same words. I’d use words of compassion.
How to use NLP to improve your communication skills
Michael Frank: What are some other techniques we could use within NLP to improve our communication skills?
Dr. Michael Hall: If I know that the other person is using universal terms:
I can ask questions to get them to question their black and white thinking:
“NOBODY likes you?”
“It ALWAYS goes wrong?”
This really helps people to get clear and to be more precise and to say what they really mean, instead of exaggerating it, which oftentimes creates the miscommunication when we are not precise in our communication.
Check your state
Michael Frank: How else might we improve our communication skills?
Dr. Michael Hall: So the other thing about communication is that every communication we make is from a state, and this makes state really important. We might be in a calm state or an angry state. We could be in an appreciative state and respectful, or be in a disrespectful state and contemptful. So the quality of our communication is the quality of our state. So if I want to communicate in the best way, I want to get into the best states. I want to be in states of respect, of care, of concern, of flexibility, of being really conscious and aware of what’s going on, and once I can do that, once I can get into those states, I can then help the state of the other person, so as to help them get in the best state.
Another basic communication principle would be if I’m communicating with someone who’s not in a state where they can even hear me, I’m really wasting my words and wasting my time and energy. I’d be much better to just shut up and either talk to them at a different time, or help them to get into a better state.
How to use NLP to improve Public Speaking
Michael Frank: How might we use NLP for Public Speaking? A lot of people including me don’t love public speaking. Especially when it’s a high pressure situation. Maybe you have to do a presentation at work. Maybe you’re the intern, the newbie, or the least experienced, or least knowledgeable person in the room. Or maybe you’re intimidated by the executives in the room. What are some tips that you could give us within NLP to improve communication within public speaking?
Dr. Michael Hall: (Laughs) Okay, well given that description, the first thing I would work on with that person would be their state. So with public speaking, first of all, just like with any kind of speaking and communicating, if a person is fearful of making a mistake or looking like a fool, obviously they’re in the wrong state. Because obviously if a person is putting themselves into that kind of pressure, they’re not going to communicate well, no matter what they know, or how well they can present it. They’re just going to be struggling if they’re in that kind of stress and pressure state. So first of all they’ve got to get out of that state.
Some of the things we know, having modeled top presenters and public speakers, is that as long as the speaker is thinking about themselves and how they’re doing, and judging themselves and evaluating themselves, they’re going to be a hundred times less effective than they could be.
So one of the paradoxes is that we’ve got to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about the people we’re communicating to. So when we do trainers’ training, we have all kinds of techniques for getting people to stop thinking about themselves, and to start thinking about the people they’re speaking to.
Change your core question
Michael Frank: For example? What kind of techniques are we talking about?
Dr. Michael Hall: As you’re talking, notice the eye color of the first five people in the front row. You can’t think about yourself when you’re doing that.
Michael Frank: Beautiful. It pulls the focus away from yourself. I like it. What else?
Dr. Michael Hall: Well, one of the traditional things in NLP is the core question:
“If your presentation is the answer to a question, what’s the question?”
So if you feel anxious, nervous, worried about what people think…
What’s the question in the back of your mind that is actually driving that presentation?
“How am I doing?”
“Do they like me?”
“Am I impressing them?”
When you change the core question:
“Are they learning?”
“Are they having fun?”
“Are they taking away something that’s going to make their life better?”
Then your presentation as the answer to that question will change.
Michael Frank: What else should we do to improve our Public Speaking skills?
Dr. Michael Hall: You can ask:
“Am I connecting with the group?”
“Am I using the language of the group?”
“Am I connecting to the belief systems of the group?”
So always look for group rapport and group engagement, then it’s the use of voice, the use of gestures, and then we do a lot around framing.
We say in neuro-semantics (Dr. Michael Hall’s NLP training company):
“The person who sets the frame controls the game”
So the question then becomes what frames am I setting with a group, or with an individual, that’s going to help them to understand what I’m doing, that’s going to help with the presentation?
Michael Frank: Let’s quickly define frames and what a “frame” is…
Dr. Michael Hall: A frame is a way of interpreting something. It’s the mental context that you’re using. So if I say to you as a friend: “How are you?” You’re going to interpret that as an invitation for friendliness. If I say the same words when you come to see me for a therapy session: “How are you?” It’s the same words, but you’ll interpret it differently, because you’ll have a different mental context in your mind. So a frame is a mental context that you’re using to interpret something.
Michael Frank: A frame is how we mentally define a situation or an environment. Would that be fair to say?
Dr. Michael Hall: Exactly. That’d be a good way to define it.
Michael Frank: And I’m guessing we often use unhelpful frames which hurt us in our lives.
Dr. Michael Hall: Yeah, exactly. So those would be things I’m going to reframe. So I’m going to reframe failure. There’s no failure, it’s just feedback. Now we found out what didn’t work. So that’s reframing, it’s giving a new interpretation to the same thing.
How to use NLP to change a belief
Michael Frank: How do you reframe something that you firmly believe? So for me in a lot of my twenties I had a fear of public speaking. So if I said to you: “Michael, I hate public speaking. I’m afraid of it. The anticipation kills me.” How would you, or how would I, go about reframing that frame, that public speaking is scary, terrifying, or whatever?
Dr. Michael Hall: So I would almost always start with deframing first.
So I would say to you:
“Michael, when you talk about public speaking, are you speaking about two people in an audience? Would that be public speaking? Is that what gives you a great and fearful anticipation? If you’re speaking to two people?”
Michael Frank: I would say no.
Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. With three?
Michael Frank: No, it would need to be at least ten.
Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So nine you’re okay but ten you’re not?
Michael Frank: Mmmmm. I’m not sure. I’ve never thought about it that way before.
Dr. Michael Hall: And of course what I’m doing is I’m breaking this down, because I’m guessing you can speak to a person. And you can speak to two people. And you can speak to three. So I’m deframing it to take away this global generalization of an audience or a public.
Michael Frank: So it’s very important to get specific within NLP and within our thinking.
Dr. Michael Hall: Well one of the things that NLP allows us to do is to get very specific. Sometimes we’ll want to go the opposite direction and do more abstraction, but being specific helps to deframe things. And oftentimes what we’ve done is we’ve overgeneralized. “I’m afraid of public speaking”. And when we come back to say you’re just speaking to people, you just look at them, and talk to them like you talk to people. It changes the framework.
Michael Frank: So once we’ve deframed, what happens next?
Dr. Michael Hall: Well once we deframe, it gives us lots of information that we can use for other kinds of reframing. Reframing itself is essentially saying: “Maybe it’s not this, maybe it’s something else”. So maybe it’s not public speaking. Maybe it’s being prepared, because the more prepared a person is, the less they’re going to be worrying about what they’re going to say, or how competent they are in saying that. So that’d be reframing. It’s not this, it’s this other thing.
Pre-framing is looking at something from the standpoint of the positive intention that brought it about. So, I’m just going to make up some stuff now…
“I can see why you would have a fear of public speaking, because you were pushed out onto that stage. You weren’t prepared, you didn’t know what to say, and they asked you some questions that caused you to start stumbling, it makes perfect sense as to why you’d be afraid of speaking in public.”
So that’s a preframe. It’s helping a person to be a little kinder, gentler with themselves.
Post-framing is, let’s say you don’t speak in public because you’re afraid and so you don’t go a whole year… How’s that going to affect your business or prevent you from taking opportunities that present themselves to you? And what if you spend another 5, 10, 20+ years worrying about it, fearing it, and missing out on all these opportunities, what consequences will occur then? What will you miss out on?
So post-framing is consequential thinking. And sometimes it challenges a person to step up and just face something and deal with something, instead of letting it go on.
Counter-framing will work when a context is such that when what a person says can be applied back to them. So if you said: “I’m afraid of confrontation” I might say: “Well it’s interesting that you’re confronting me about that right now”.
Michael Frank: That’s funny. How many of these changes within NLP would you say happen consciously versus subconsciously? Because sometimes when an argument is presented to me, I don’t know on the spot whether I agree or disagree, I just need a little time with myself to think it through and process it.
Dr. Michael Hall: Well, I really don’t know, there’s not any research I know that tries to look at the percentage of that, but what you’ve described is a common experience. Sometimes a new way of thinking about something, a new frame, it takes a while to settle in and integrate probably because a number of things have to alter or change in order for it to settle in, and when it happens quickly, maybe there’s very little against it except maybe just one thought.
How to use NLP to improve thinking, learning and problem solving
Michael Frank: What kind of techniques can we use within NLP to improve our thinking, learning and problem solving?
Dr. Michael Hall: So probably the best well known NLP pattern for that, is the well formed outcome. If you have an outcome, then a problem is anything that stands in the way.
So we have four patterns:
- The well formed outcome
- The well formed problem
- The well formed solution
- The well formed innovation
And together this is the very structure of problem solving, creativity, and innovation.
So if you imagine a funnel, then we ask a series of questions for each one of the four.
The first questions for each one is the “What”.
“What is the outcome?”
“What is the problem?”
“What is the solution?”
“What is the innovation?”
As soon as we’ve asked that question, we’ll ask a sensory awareness question:
“What does that outcome look like?”
“What does the problem look like?”
“What does the solution look like?”
Then we’ll ask the why questions:
Why is it important to get that outcome?
Why is it important to solve that problem?
And then we contextualize it:
“So when and where and with whom do you want that outcome or that problem solved?”
And then we’d go down to a whole series of process questions:
“Do you know how to get that outcome?”
“Do you know how to solve that problem?”
“Do you know how to define that problem?”
“Do you know how to innovate it?”
So we just funnel it down with more and more refined questions in that way until we come to a KPI for each one.
So in the well formed outcome, the KPI question is:
“What will be the evidence that you have achieved that outcome?”
For the well formed problem:
“What is the evidence that you have a well formed problem statement that we can now work on solving?”
So each one is a very precise set of questions that allow us to address these four aspects of problem solving.
How to use NLP to learn a new skill
Michael Frank: Let’s go into learning specifically. So when we’re learning a new skill, I don’t know if this completely crosses over with problem solving, but what are some of the techniques that we can use within NLP to learn a new skill?
Dr. Michael Hall: So now we’re talking strategies. So in NLP we have a strategy model that helps us to unpack that from someone who can do it well, or to begin to design it from scratch.
Michael Frank: So talk us through that model and let’s say we’re talking Chess, so if we look at a Gary Kasparov for example, potentially the greatest chess player ever, how might I model his strategies?
Dr. Michael Hall: So we would probably ask him, sit here at the chess board with someone who’s of equal skill level, and begin playing, and as you do say out loud how you’re thinking about it. And so the person would just start talking themselves through, when they start the game, and what we would hear would be their intentions, their process for how to think about the board, how to keep it in mind, maybe the references, because as they get started and some of the pieces move, someone at his level, would have all kinds of references of games that they’ve studied from other experts.
Michael Frank: So we need to interview an expert, in other words, as part of the process?
Dr. Michael Hall: Well that’s one of the ways to do that. And it’s a way of accelerating learning. Go to the ones who do it best and find out how they do it.
Read, watch, and listen to the experts
Michael Frank: What if you have difficulty interviewing or unpacking the strategy, because you don’t have access to someone that is world class within a field? How then do you go about learning within NLP?
Dr. Michael Hall: One of the ways is through reading or watching videos of the experts. So in normal research, we call this literary review. So one of the first things I ever modeled was resilience. People who when they get a setback in life, very quickly just bounced back and with very little emotional upset. Highly resilient people. And although I had interviewed people who had bounced back through some emotional hell of a setback, most of the information I found was in the literature, survivors of different things, survivors of the Holocaust, Victor Frankel’s work and other people’s work like that. So reviewing literature of people who have addressed some experience and how they learned it gives us a lot of clues about their strategies.
Start with the meta-frames
Michael Frank: So when we’re learning something new, do you feel that we should begin with the strategies, or the frames, or the meta frames of these experts and world champions? Or should we begin with the techniques themselves?
Dr. Michael Hall: My recommendation would be to get the meta frames of the experts. That’ll make all the techniques ten times easier because it’s just behavior. If you can win that inner game of the mental strategies, and get the right kind of states, the right kind of beliefs, the right kind of supporting understandings, the techniques will come ten times easier.
Know how your learn best
Michael Frank: That makes perfect sense. What are some other strategies or techniques you recommend we use to accelerate our learning?
Dr. Michael Hall: The next thing I would encourage someone to do is to understand how they learn best, and then to play to their strengths, and then possibly to strengthen some of their weaknesses that may be holding them back.
Know your why
Michael Frank: And for younger people that may not even be conscious of how they learn best, is it just a case of experimentation? Try a lot of different things and find which way that you learn best?
Dr. Michael Hall: Yeah, that’d be one way to do that. Also, in terms of learning, intention becomes critical. So a person who doesn’t have an intention to learn is going to be miserable. It’s really going to be a struggle. So why do you want to learn this? Having a big reason why is going to really accelerate the learning. So set a big why. Once a person does that, what I do, once I learned this in NLP, is I read one book at a time, before I knew that I would read seventeen books at a time, just a little bit here and little bit there, and it wasn’t focused, and therefore my comprehension was much lower. So today I read one book at a time, one area at a time, and as I do so, I’m taking notes, and I have an intention that I’ll probably write about it, or share it with someone.
How to read a book
Michael Frank: When you read a book, do you tend to skim the book first? How do you go about reading a book specifically?
Dr. Michael Hall: I’ll scan it to get a sense of the subject and what it’s about, and I’ll look through the table of contents to see how it’s structured. But then I just start on page one and go through it. And the first time I read through, I do so trying to understand it on the author’s terms. And the second time, I always read everything twice, the second time, I’ll read it mismatching looking for what I don’t agree with.
Michael Frank: What is mismatching? Can you quickly define it?
Dr. Michael Hall: So mismatching is looking for differences, whereas matching is looking for sameness. So when I look for a difference, I’m looking for a distinction or a difference that I think exists that maybe the author or person speaking hasn’t made.
Michael Frank: So the first time you read it from the perspective of the author, the second time is almost in fault finding mode where you’re looking for counter arguments. Is that fair to say?
Dr. Michael Hall: Well it’s a little different from that. My story is this: One time I was reading a book and somebody came up and said: “Oh, I heard about that book. I’d like to read that. What’s that book about?” And I was just stumped. Because I’d been reading it from a mismatching point of view, just getting what I wanted from it, and being more conscious of what I disagreed with it, and I could not tell that person what the book was about. So that’s when I made a decision: I’m going to read a book to match the author’s point of view so that if someone asked me what’s the book about, I can describe the book to the authors satisfaction, and maybe describe it even better than the author could. The second time I read it, now that I understand what the author is saying, I’ll ask: Do I agree or not agree? While parts do I agree with, what parts do I not?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dr. Michael Hall is a visionary leader in the field of NLP and Neuro-Semantics having been a modeler of human excellence for 25 years. Searching out areas of human expertise, he continues to model the structure of that experience and then turn that information into models, patterns, training manuals, and books. With his several businesses, Michael is also an entrepreneur and an international trainer.
His doctorate is in the Cognitive-Behavioral sciences from Union Institute University. For two decades he worked as a psychotherapist in Colorado. When he found NLP in 1986, he studied and then worked with Richard Bandler. Later when studying and modeling resilience, he developed the Meta-States Model (1994) that launched the field of Neuro-Semantics. He co-created the International Society of Neuro-Semantics (ISNS) with Dr. Bob Bodenhamer. Learning the structure of writing, he began writing and has written more than 40 books, many best sellers in the field of NLP.
In terms of creativity, Dr. Hall has created a dozen major models in the field of NLP and Neuro-Semantics, hundreds of patterns, and including the serial books, more than 75 books. He has created a board game for learning Meta-Programs, the Neuro-Semantic and Meta-Coach communities. He has also co-created the NLP Leadership Summit.