Connect with us

Personal development

How NLP can change your life



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:

Let’s begin…

What is NLP?

Michael Frank: What is NLP?

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 to enter into that person’s world by matching and mirroring the other person’s tone, their volume, their posture, their breathing rate, the words they’re using, the predicates they’re using, to match what they’re outputting. 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”. So matching or mirroring, is the process by which we can create sometimes near instant rapport.

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 a words of 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:





…and I make that distinction, now I can ask questions, and some of the questions are just so simple and intuitive, like:

“NOBODY likes you?”

“It ALWAYS goes wrong?”

So 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 communications.

Michael Frank: So you’re asking them to question their all or nothing, black and white thinking?

Dr. Michael Hall: Exactly.

Michael Frank: So to improve our communication skills, we listen, we seek to understand the other person’s model of the world, we speak their language, and we match their tone, their pitch and their pace of speech. 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. We might be in a calm state or an angry state. We could be in an appreciative state and respectful, or in a disrespectful state and contemptful. So the quality of our communication is the quality of our state. So this makes state really important. 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. 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.

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 your presentation is you’re nervous, you’re anxious, you’re worried about what people think…

What’s the question in the back of your mind that is actually driving that presentation?

It’s probably:

“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 are some other things we might do, or some questions we might ask in order 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. It’s terrible. 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 we’ve got deframing, what are some other frames?

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 you 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, missing all these opportunities, what consequences will then occur? 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 the person says can be applied back to that person or to the speaker. 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, it takes some time for me to process it. I don’t know on the spot whether I agree or disagree. I just need a little time with myself to think it through.

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.

The NLP phobia cure

Michael Frank: I’m guessing when we talk about changing a belief or curing a phobia with NLP as we’ve just described with public speaking, it comes back to these frames, examining the frame and then reframing. Is that correct or are there other aspects and elements to it?

Dr. Michael Hall: Well in NLP we have what we call a phobia cure. What it actually is is a different way to process information. People who have phobias, people who can sit in a chair in a comfortable room, and then just by thinking about something, whether a spider or snake or a small place, just by thinking they can feel their body full of fear and hyperventilate, and their body gets really activated. The reason that occurs is because of the way they’re thinking about it. So what the phobia cure does is it uses a metaphor of watching a movie, and you step out to watch yourself watching the movie, and by changing that way of thinking about it, then the way our neurology responds becomes different. Actually what is happening is a new frame, and in that particular pattern, the phobia cure pattern, actually probably about ten different frames are being introduced. That helps to make that change.

Michael Frank: So let’s look at a couple of specific examples, potentially one with public speaking. How would the NLP phobia cure solve that?

Dr. Michael Hall: Well, the first thing I would do is to ask you some questions, to change the way you think about it.

Michael Frank: I guess the core of the fear that I had with public speaking was probably a fear of being judged, of making a mistake, of making a fool of myself, something like that.

Dr. Michael Hall: So it reminds me of a quote from Dale Carnegie. If anybody was able to teach public speaking, and effective public speaking, it was Dale Carnegie. He said that the secret to effective public speaking is to get up, make a fool of yourself, and do it often enough until you get used to it.

Michael Frank: Desensitization.

Dr. Michael Hall: Yeah. That’s essentially what happened with that process, but there’s a lot of easier ways of doing it than that. So with public speaking, first of all, just like with any kind of speaking and communicating, are you in the right state? If a person is fearful of making a mistake or looking like a fool, obviously they’re in the wrong state. So first of all let’s get out of that state. What would be the state that you’d want to be in if you’re speaking in public to a number of people?

Michael Frank: I guess, confident and excited to share the message.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So now, two more questions. Are you confident about the message you’re going to share?

Michael Frank: Yes.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So you know what you’re going to say, and you’re confident that it’s valuable?

Michael Frank: It’s good information yes.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. And are you excited about that?

Michael Frank: I would like them to know it. I’m just afraid I might deliver it badly.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So you’re not confident.

Michael Frank: I’m confident about the message, not about my presentation skills.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So the content you’re confident about, the process of delivering it, maybe not so confident?

Michael Frank: Yes. That would be fair to say.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay. So now the issue is not public speaking. It’s the skills of speaking in public. So now the subject has changed. It’s the skills. So now we could ask: “What skills do you know about public speaking?” and: “What skills do you need to have for public speaking that you may judge yourself as not having the right amount of skills?”

Michael Frank: Okay. I think I just maybe don’t have enough experience. So like with any new skill, I don’t know what I’m doing too much, so yeah, I just feel inexperienced and that lack of experience leads me to feeling fearful.

Dr. Michael Hall: Okay, that makes perfect sense. So what’s your expectation of being somewhat inexperienced as a public speaker? What’s your expectation when you do public speaking?

Michael Frank: Well, I think about it from the perspective of the audience and I think it should be awesome (Laughs)

Dr. Michael Hall: (Laughs) Okay. So, whether this is your second time, or your fifth time, or even your twentieth time, when you lack of experience, your expectation is that would be awesome.

Michael Frank: I know that maybe not be realistic, but that’s what I want to deliver.

Dr. Michael Hall: So what I’m doing now is exploring a Meta frame, and that’s the frame of expectation. So just like we have beliefs, intentions, decisions and understandings, at a higher level we have expectations. And if the expectation is unrealistic, we essentially have created a structure for disappointment. So once we start making our expectation realistic, this is where acceptance of our actual competence level moves us in that direction.

Michael Frank: It seems that with so much of NLP, whether we’re contemplating things and speaking to ourselves, or speaking with another and trying to help them, we’re asking questions in order to unpack their beliefs, their frames, and their meta frames to understand how they’ve mentally defined a person, an environment, a situation, an activity, an event etc. and getting to the root cause of the problem and then using Socratic questioning to unpack it, to really get us to become conscious of those unconscious beliefs.

Dr. Michael Hall: Yes. I think that was very well stated. What you have described is what is now commonly being called mindfulness. We’re helping people become mindful, that is conscious of their experience, so they have choice.

The NLP Meta Model

Michael Frank: What about NLP in regard to thinking, learning, problem solving? My favorite subject hands down would have to be critical thinking. If someone was to learn critical thinking, logical fallacies, cognitive biases, that kind of thing, as a newbie, as a beginner, how might one use NLP to do that?

Dr. Michael Hall: Well the meta model itself is a great critical thinking tool. It helps us to see where language, and therefore thinking, is just not formed very well. There’s distortions in it. Things are left out. Things are overgeneralized. So by identifying the language distinctions that encode that distortion or bias, then we can question it. Now we have choice instead of just reacting to to old conditions.

NLP Meta Model

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.

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. And this is what Robert Dilts did when he wrote the series of books on strategies of genius. Every one of the geniuses that he looked at and found their strategy was already dead from Walt Disney to Mozart to Sigmund Freud. But he went to the literature and was able to pull from that literature, different strategies.

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.

Michael Frank: That makes perfect sense. What are some of the 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 possibly to strengthen some of their weaknesses that may be holding them back.

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.

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: 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?

Michael Frank: Are there any limits to NLP? Is there anything that it can’t do or is there anything that you would recommend that people do e.g. hypnosis in addition to NLP?

Dr. Michael Hall: Oh, good question. Well there are limits to it. NLP as a meta discipline, because it’s a discipline about how we think, how we communicate, and therefore anything human, it can identify the strategies and the processes. So it’s a Meta discipline in that sense, and it’s very powerful. And so the biggest danger of NLP is if it’s in someone’s hands who is unethical, and this has been the dark side of NLP from the beginning really, people misusing it, using it to manipulate, using it to do unethical things with people. So that’s the biggest danger of a person not a operating from a good code of ethics.

Michael Frank: And I guess the only way to protect ourselves from NLP when it’s used manipulatively, is to have an understanding of it ourselves, to know the strategies, the techniques that have been used to be familiar with them.

Dr. Michael Hall: Right. That’s a great way to have a caveat against the misuse of it, to understand what’s going on. I would say if someone is presenting an NLP and you’re a customer, ask them what they’re doing. If they won’t be transparent about what they’re doing and how it works, I would run. Anybody legitimate will be more than glad to explain how it works and why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Michael Frank: Dr. Hall, thank you for your time.

Dr. Michael Hall: You’re welcome.


Michael Hall, NLP

Michael Hall, Ph.D.

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.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved.