Neurolinguistic Programming

Thom Hartmann program, 11 January 2005

... and we're going to have our NLP class, our tools for activism, for progressive activism today, how to plant an idea in someone's unconscious...

... What I want to do right now is our weekly tools for activism class using neurolinguistic programming and other tools. And just wanted to share with you briefly techniques for embedding ideas or information into people's unconscious. How do you plant something in the un-, in somebody's unconscious mind. This is called, in NLP it is referred to as embedded language and there's a couple of different ways to do it and I'm going to share with you how to do it and also how it's used in the political arena.

First of all, the conscious mind has a filter. The conscious mind knows context. The unconscious mind does not have a filter and it does not understand context, and that's the key to understanding how this works. So if I say, "you, like me, probably agree that apples taste good", your conscious mind knows that I'm saying "you and I probably agree that apples taste good", but your unconscious mind is hearing, "you like me, you like me". Or it could be, "I, like you, believe that apples taste good". The unconscious mind hears, "I like you", the conscious mind hears, "we agree on something". Two different messages.

There, and the second part of this, because the conscious mind has a filter and the unconscious mind doesn't have a filter, the context filter, is the use of the word "you", and I, you know, I just gave you an example of it, but here's, it can get much more powerful. And I will do this when I give speeches, for example. I don't, I don't much do it on the radio because it requires quite a bit of effort, but, to be thinking about it, you know, for me, anyway. I don't routinely just kind of plug this stuff in. But occasionally folks spot it. And everybody does it, everybody has this ability. Most people do it sloppily, which, which is, brings us to the issue of conscious and unconscious competence, but we'll get back to that.

Anyhow, what I'll say, and well here's a way to do it. You know, I was talking the other day with a good friend of mine and he was talking about how he wanted to accomplish his goals in life, and I said to him, "you know, you really can, you really and truly can do anything in this life if you just decide you are going to do it and you begin. And every day you remind yourself to hold the vision of your goal in front of you. You really can do that." That's what I said to him, OK. Now, your conscious mind gets that there was a context of "I delivered this message to somebody else." But your unconscious mind heard the message, because when the word "you" is used, the unconscious mind goes, "Oh! Me?".

So at the unconscious level, you got the, you got the message, "you really and truly can do anything in this life if you just decide you're going to do it and begin and every day you remind yourself to hold the vision of the goal in front of you". The conscious mind got something else. Now, the way that people do this very incompetently and very sloppily, and I just, I hear this all the time, you know, just sitting around, somebody, either in conversation people do this, or you hear other people in conversation and they will say, they'll be talking about a conversation they had with somebody else. And then, and they'll say, "and then I said to him", and usually they're relating how they told somebody off, you know, and, "and then I said to him if you...", and then they go into some kind of rant. "You shouldn't..." whatever. I'm not going to do it to you right now, right, 'cause you don't want your unconscious mind assaulted. But they will be telling somebody else how they told a third person that that person was a schmuck or that person was stupid or that person was sloppy or that person needed a haircut or that person, you know, whatever. But they, but they, but they say, "And I said, 'you...' " and then they go from there. And so, everybody hearing them, their unconscious mind is getting this very negative message and it wears people down over time.

So, be on notice about when you communicate, and when you're telling stories, about conversations you had with other people, particularly conversations where you were correcting people or making negative comments, be very careful to frame them entirely in the third person rather than the second person. The second person being, of course, the word "you", the third person being he, she, they, them. So, instead of saying, "I said to him, 'you should get a haircut' ", that being a kind of mild thing, and now, you know, a third of my audience tomorrow is going to hit the barber, right? I'm saying that because I know I need a haircut. Anyway, instead of saying, "I said to him, 'you should get a haircut' ", you, you, the more appropriate way to say it is, "and I said to him, and I told him that he should get a haircut". And then there is no unconscious embedded language. See, in that case there is no message embedded within the context of the message. There's no secondary message.

The point of, by the way, competence, that I, the arc of competence, here's the arc of competence. People, this is, this is how we, everybody starts out unconsciously incompetent. That is, they don't know about this stuff, they don't know how communication works and most people are not particularly good at it. We just stumble around and do the best we can, right? Then you discover some of these rules of communication, or some of these tools of communication. And you start noticing when, when you're violating them and you become consciously incompetent. In other words, you become aware of the times that you're not doing it right. And so then you make an effort to do it right and you become consciously competent. That's the third stage, see, you go from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence. In other words, you're doing it intentionally. And you're doing it well. And if you do that for a while, then you begun, you begin to become unconsciously competent, which is to say that it just becomes automatic. And you, you just, you know, it just works, it becomes a new, it becomes a new skill set.

And this is, this is the transition that people go through with everything. From learning to ride a bicycle, OK, the first time, first time, before you got on the bike you were unconsciously incompetent. You didn't know how to ride a bike. You didn't know anything about it. You get on the bike, and you fall over, off it, you discover that you're consciously incompetent. Somebody teaches you how to ride a bike. In my case it was my dad when I was like, you know, 4, 5, 6, whatever, and you know, he's holding the seat as I'm going along and I'm becoming consciously competent. And then after a few efforts of being consciously - I became unconsciously competent. That is, I could ride a bike, and carry on a conversation or think about something else and I'm not even noticing that I'm riding the bike. Same thing with driving, for example, driving is another example. Well, it's the same thing with communication.

Another aspect of embedded language is to embed pictures and, you know, I believe I told this story on the air before but it, I think it might have been a year or 2 ago and, and it's a story that, as I, as I'm pretty sure I said last time, I'm not, I'm not sure if I'm proud of this or not. It may have been in one of these NLP classes. Frankly, I don't, you know, it's, you do this stuff for a couple of years, and, I do this stuff for a couple of years, anything that we do for a couple of years kind of becomes a blur. But I was a frequent flier for years. I used to do a lot of training and teach workshops and what not, give speeches and travel around the country a lot. And so I was at the very top of the Delta frequent flier program and I was a Flying Colonel and I'm a Million Miler, 7 million miles with Delta. And, and I was in one of their Crown Rooms. There's a Flying Colonel, you get free membership, and their Crown, this is a program they used to have, I don't know if they still have it or not. I haven't done so much frequent flying lately. And, so, and it was the Thanksgiving weekend, which is the worst travel, the most intense, heavy dense travel holiday and I was trying to get back home. This is when we were living in Atlanta.

And I was flying through, as I recall, Salt Lake City, it might have been Cincinnati, and I was in the Crown Room, and I walked in the Crown Room, and it was just wall to wall people, it was absolutely packed. And I walked over, and there was a couple of sofas, and a couple of chairs, that, around a coffee table, and everything was occupied except this one chair and I, and it kind of surprised me that there was a chair there. And so I sat down on the chair and opposite me was this big guy, you know, in Texas, in Texas drag, I mean, this guy was like he had the hat, the big belt buckle, the jeans, the boots, the whole bit, and a giant cigar. Now this was back, at least a decade ago, this was back when it was OK to smoke in airports and in the Crown Room, but they had a smoking section. And you couldn't smoke cigars or pipes. And this guy is smoking this cigar and people around him are coughing and looking uncomfortable and finally, and I'm sitting there and I have been on airplanes for hours and I've had probably a few more glasses of wine than I should have.

And this woman next to him makes this comment. She says, she's coughing, she says, she tells him that she has asthma and asks him if he would please not smoke. And he says, and he just, and he takes a puff and he blows it in her direction, you know, like he's a tough guy, right. So she goes over and gets the woman who's running the Crown Room who's got like a line of about 15 people at her computer 'cause there's snow storms, and the whole country's been shut down and it's, and it's a disaster.

And, so after a few minutes this woman who runs the Crown Room comes over and she says to this guy, and she's got a pack of cigarettes ... and she says to this guy, you know, "Sir, I'm really sorry, but here in the Crown Room we don't allow smoking of cigars. Here is a packet of cigarettes. You're welcome to have it and the smoking section is over there and so if you'd go over to the smoking section and smoke a cigarette that would be fine but you can't sit here in the non-smoking section and smoke a cigar." And he takes a long, he takes this kind of long thoughtful puff on his cigar and he stares at her for a long minute or so. She's starting to feel, you know, kind of, uncomfortable. And he finally blows the smoke out and he just, he looks at her and says, "Call a cop, lady." And so she goes back, she stands there for a minute, uncertain, and obviously she decides this is not a fight worth having and so she goes back to her station and takes, back to taking care of customers.

And so I'm sitting there thinking, hehehehe I'm going to get this guy. And, and, so I leaned across the table and I said, in the most friendly voice I could come up with, "You know, I'll bet there's something that you know that I don't know". This is what I said to him. I'm not trying to implant or embed a message to you. I'm just telling you a story here, but, you know, and I, you know, keep the good stuff. Good, and avoid the bad stuff. So anyhow, and he looks at me for a second, and he says, "Oh, yeah?" I said, "Yeah, you know, something that, you know, I've, I, all my, all my life I've wondered about this and I'll bet that you know the answer to this question, and it's probably a question", I told him, I said, "It's probably a question that..."

Well, I'm not going say, do it in the second person, having just told you this whole thing. So I told him that it was probably - I'll do it in the third person - I told him that it was probably a question that everybody he knew had had in their mind, and that everybody he would meet, you know, anybody just meeting him would probably have this question. And he was like, you know, he was wary. But he was willing to have a conversation with me, so he says, he says, "Well, what's the question?" And I said, "Well, you know, we all learned in high school, I mean everybody." And I told him that, you know, I said, "As you walk down the street, you know, people that you meet learned this in high school".

Ok, there's the limit of the embedding I'm going to do. And I said that "Sigmund Freud said that the larger the cigar, the smaller the penis, and I'm just wondering, is that true?" And there was this long silence, and he's looking at his cigar, and I'm thinking, "I shouldn't have done this, 'cause this guy is going to put his cigar out in my face". And, you know, but I'd had a couple of glasses, as I've said, I was rather uninhibited at the moment. And finally he just stands up and walks out of the Crown Room, and the whole room bursts into applause. And it was just one of those, like, marvelous moments, you know.

But the embed in that was the part where there, it was the future pacing and the previous pacing where I was telling him that in the future, everyone who sees him will have that question, and in the past, probably everybody he knows would have the question. So there's a lot of ways of embedding this.

Another one is double negatives and this is used in politics. And I'll give you the political spin on all this right after the break. We'll wrap this thing up with how, how this is used in politics. I find this stuff fascinating and I'm getting so much email on these NLP classes, you know, I hope you do too. Anyway, we'll be right back. It's the Thom Hartmann radio program, the home of reality-based radio. ...

... Song (Lola by the Kinks): "I met her in a club down in old Soho, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Cherry Cola, C-O-L-A Cola. She walked up to me" And welcome back "and she asked me to dance. I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said, 'Lola'." And in response to the chat room, yes it was a very large cigar this guy had, a very large cigar. "Lo lo lo Lola."

Here's the, now the embed, here's, if you really wanna, to mangle somebody's unconscious mind, the other thing that the unconscious mind can't do because, because it can't filter context, is it can't interpret a double negative. In fact, the unconscious mind can't even interpret a single negative. In other words, if I say, "don't think about elephants", the title of George Lakoff's book about this topic, you have to think about an elephant to know what it is to not think about, right? So it's not possible to say to somebody don't think about ele..., you know, it's like an old Zen koan, right?

But the double negative, or the triple negative, will completely blow away the unconscious mind and you can use this if, say you are debating with somebody, and you want to just completely, you know, disorient them for a minute. Say, for example, oh, and you can, and you can, one other thing, and that is by using the word 'k n o w', like 'I know this', 'you know this', the unconscious mind will more often than not will hear that a 'n o'. Which is interesting. So you can say, for example, to, to a Conservative, "I know you don't think George Bush is somebody who doesn't give a damn about the fact that working peoples' incomes are falling year after year." And there's a series of negatives in there. 'I know', right, 'you don't think' George is somebody 'who doesn't give'. So there's 3 negatives in there. So, first of all, for a moment; it's like, 'what? what?' But the message gets, gets through.

Now politically, you want to embed positive language for your candidate and negative for theirs. For example, it would be wrong to say, if you were in favor of Ralph Nader, to say, "Ralph Nader would never condone torture", because what does that do? It, it rai... the word 'never' can't get processed by the unconscious mind so you get 'Ralph Nader condone torture' would be the message so instead, the correct way to say that would be to say, "Ralph Nader supports human rights", or "most Conservative political commentators would never suggest that George W Bush inserts water-boarding detainees when they're wrapped to a board and can't move and then being held under water thinking they'll drown", right? Although he does, actually. But the point is, I mean, you could say that in a debate and it raises, it evokes the picture, even though there's a negative in there.

So, this is embedding language. That's our tool for the day, tool for activism. Start noticing, particularly in political campaigns. If you can find some of the old political web sites, particularly in the Republican campaigns, go back and look at all the embedded language. There's a, there was an enormous amount of embedded language in the Bush campaigns, in the Bush ads, and a fair amount of it actually in the Swift Boat ads. So, remarkable stuff. Interesting stuff. It's your minimum daily adult requirement of sanity. Thom Hartmann here with you. ...


... The ACLU has a new campaign, welcome back by the way, welcome back. It's, it's Thom Hartmann here with you. Where the truth is non-negotiable. Is that a double negative? No it's not. That's just straight up. The ACLU... Boy, here's again, it's interesting, see you can, you can... Just following on from the tail end of our conversation in the previous hour about NLP.

If you put a strong enough active verb before something you can reverse it at the level of the unconscious but it's hard to do, it's a challenge. But you could say "Ralph Nader opposes torture". And if you, or "strongly opposes torture." And that, then, then, you know, it would, it wouldn't so much implant the idea of Ralph Nader and torture.

The ACLU has a campaign "refuse", which is a good strong verb, "Refuse to surrender your freedom". This a new campaign, Anthony D. Romero, the Executive Director of the ACLU just rolled this thing out. 73,000 people now have taken the "Refuse to surrender" pledge to help the ACLU. And this is a good cause. aclu.org is their website, and just wanted to let you know. These guys are getting active about, about doing something, among other groups.

There's a number of other excellent groups. humanrightsfirst.org is another great group. In fact, they provided me with some of the information that went into the article that I, that I wrote on, it's on Common Dreams. It was at the top of the page. Probably still is, they usually update around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Yesterday, anyway.


So, welcome back to the Thom Hartmann program. We have Michael, Michael in Brisbane, Australia sent me an email, and this just to, to kind of wrap this stuff up. He says, "Hi Thom, I don't get to hear you live because you're on at 3 a.m. down under." He says, "I'd thought I'd offer some sug...". So I'm assuming he's listening to the archive programs at White Rose Society. Thanks to Ben Burch for that. We're very grateful to have the program, in its entirety, every single day, archived there and I know that we have listeners in over 97 countries last I checked who download, regularly download our mess-, our program. And I know that we have a number of listeners in Australia, in fact one of them came over here and visited with us just a few months ago.

And in any case, Michael, Mike says, "I don't get to hear you live because you're on at 3 a.m. down under. Thought I'd offer you some suggested terms to help you in making some things a little easier to communicate. Number one, instead of 'instant runoff voting', use the term 'preferential voting'. That's the term we use here," (here being in Australia), "and it makes it clear what IRV is all about". Good point.

By the way, I was going to share with you, lest I forget, here's an example of George Bush. See, people say, "how can it be that 70% of the people who voted for George Bush believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11?". Right, here's, here's George W. Bush on the topic: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th deaths". Now, we have no evidence, right, but again, the unconscious mind doesn't process the no, so, the, I mean, he came out, and he said this in a news conference. It was widely reported. "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th deaths." We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11th. And what do people hear? 'Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11th.' That's what they hear. And so, there you go. So any, any, George Bush using a nice little linguistic trick there. ...

Transcription Queries

Word(s) after "pack of cigarettes"? ( 107 )

Michael Ray? ( 139 )

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