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Archive for October, 2009

Changing States

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I recently got ahold of Jonathan Altfeld’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set, the subject of which is the powerful skill called “state chaining”. (I won’t define or describe it here. Hit the link for a full description of the course, and buy your copy before the special sale ends.) I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to the basics of Jonathan’s approach in the Master Practitioner training he co-trained with Doug O’Brien a little while back, and it was something I wanted to play with and get better at doing. Before the end of the training, I realized I’d been doing it in certain contexts all along, in shorter chains, and I hadn’t realized it.

Listening to the CDs reminded me that I’d never really spelled out how I think about how I do it, so I resolved to put it here. I’ll start with one particular aspect: how to shift someone from a high-energy unresourceful state, such as anger, to something a little more flexible.

Many years ago, I was an Emergency Medical Technician working for a private ambulance company, and I was stationed at a state psychiatric hospital. I happened to walk in on a training they were having for their nurses and technicians: Bruce Chapman’s Handle With Care Behavior Management System. I was immediately captivated by Master Bruce’s teaching style and his philosophy. I arranged to take the training for myself. What I’m about to share here is roughly based on something I learned in that class and in much subsequent reading of Chinese philosophical work such as the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Tai Chi Tu (click image for SVG source)

Tai Chi Tu (click image for SVG source)

Here we have the Tai Chi Tu, commonly known as the “Yin/Yang symbol”. This is the Taoist in-a-nutshell representation of the way the universe works. You’ve seen it many times, no doubt, but I imagine nobody’s really explained it. I’ll give it a shot.

First, you’ll notice that it’s a circle. No beginning, no end. Now, pick a spot, either at the top or the bottom, where either the black or the white is almost non-existent. Moving clockwise, you’ll see that the color you chose increases while its opposite color decreases… and that as soon as it gets to the point where it can’t hold any more, you’ll see that the opposite color starts to kick in, PLUS, there’s a little “seed” of the opposite color contained in the fullest part of the swell.

Now, I can’t find the citation at the moment, but there’s an old saying that hard winds don’t blow all morning and heavy rains don’t last all day. Physics tells us that energy constantly changes form. Biology tells us that we change or we go extinct. It isn’t just that change always happens; it’s that it must happen. So when I’m in front of an angry person, I know I don’t have to do anything at all to get them to stop being angry. All I have to do is get rapport, pay close attention to when their angry state changes to another state, catch the transition point, and steer it to where I want it to go. The best part is, if I can figure out what the “seed” of the next state is, knowing that it’s already there, I can speak to it… drawing attention, and therefore the other person’s energy, toward it… making sure that it really is what’s next.

Anger, and most other high-energy emotional states, cannot last long. It’s physically impossible to maintain it. It costs too much. Anyone who claims they’ve been angry about something for years and years… they aren’t angry. They may be bitter, but they aren’t angry. Anger is a flash, not a smoulder. (This is one of the ways the psych nurses know when someone is faking a condition, and why we keep people for observation for up to 72 hours.)

Jonathan suggests in the Automatic “Yes” CDs that, to move someone out of a high-energy unresourceful state, we should turn it up rather than try to turn it down. I agree. Several times I’ve been called to the psychiatric unit where I work because a patient is scaring the staff and the other patients despite the fact that he isn’t actually doing anything. He’s got a clenched jaw, closed fists, and knitted brow, and he’s pacing, and he’s been doing it all day. When I respond, all I do is engage the guy in some sort of conversation and then do something that I think will annoy him. Not anger him; just irritate him. It adds energy to his stuck state, and then he has to choose which side of the fence he’s going to crawl off on. Is he going to start throwing things and kicking walls and cursing, or is he going to start talking? As soon as he gets to the decision point, I lead him to the state I want him to have. Usually I just tell him what it is: “It’s gotta be frustrating,” I say, or “I’d be scared too if I were in your place.” Sometimes I offer a path to follow instead: “You just have to wonder what’s going on, but the more questions you ask the more answers you get.”

(Of course, I’m ready if he decides to go the other way, too. It’s never actually happened, but if it does, at least he’ll have resolved his stuck state and can work from there.)

I can take these more energetic states and ride/drive them to something a little more useful for the other person and a lot safer for those around them. Which is, essentially, what state chaining is about.

I strongly recommend Jonathan’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set to you and to anyone else who wants to take their social skills to the next level. And I want to thank him publicly for helping me to think more clearly about one of the things I’ve been doing without realizing it.

The US Federal Trade Commission requires that I add: While Jonathan did ask me for a product review, it should also be noted that I bought my copy of this audio program directly from his Web site, and that my recommendation is not a form of payment for the product.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 31st, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Painful memories

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We’re often asked to help someone who has a painful memory. Whether it’s a phobic response, grief, post-traumatic stress, or what-have-you, NLP gives us the tools we need to help.

Sometimes, though, I question whether or not we should. I see value in grief, myself, and believe it should be left alone unless it’s crippling. According to my CISM trainer, post-traumatic stress should be left alone too, at least for the first 24 hours, to give the client’s own coping abilities time to work. And as I mentioned in this thread on NLP Connections, I believe altering or eliminating the memory of a painful event could have negative effect in and of itself, by preventing the client from learning from the event.

I actually learned this from a client, a good friend of mine. She had been sexually abused as a child, and had a phobic response whenever someone patted their thigh in a “come sit on my lap” sense. She’d talk about it, and every time I’d offer to help her with it, she’d refuse. She was wise enough to know she wasn’t done with it, and knowing she could have my help with it gave her the strength to face it on her own, as much as she could, drawing knowledge and wisdom from the event. This went on for many months. When she finally gave me permission to help, it took all of fifteen minutes. (I can’t tell you how gratifying it was when, a couple of days later, she came over to me and sat on my lap.)

Anyway, today on the Freakonomics Blog, author Steven Levitt wrote:

My son Andrew died exactly ten years ago today, October 23, 1999, nine days after his first birthday. No one would describe me as emotional. And yet the wound still remains remarkably raw.

I say there’s nothing wrong with that.

Please read the rest of the article: Naming the Child

The title of his article is taken from the book of the same name, which he recommends. It looks quite compelling. (If you choose to buy the book, please go ahead and follow the amazon referral link from his article, rather than the one here.)

All I’m suggesting is that we, perhaps, consider ecology before we do anything like this. We humans evolved with the ability to feel fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and the like, and there’s an evolutionary advantage to them. Let’s not just toss them away.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 24th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Once and for all: how to use the comma

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I once filled out an anonymous survey at work. My manager knew which one was mine. I asked him how he knew. He said it was the only one where everything was spelled and punctuated correctly.

That isn’t a slam on my co-workers, each of whom is a very intelligent person who communicates wonderfully in everyday informal speech. It’s just that my writing is better because I care more about it. My attitude is: if we want to be understood, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing; if we want to be taken seriously, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing; and if we want to think clearly, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing.

Even on Internet, where nobody knows you’re a dog, the way you present yourself and your language matters. It may matter even more online than in real life, because the way you use language is pretty much all you’ve got.

Consider this, too, while we’re at it: we’re NLPers. Neuro-Linguistic Programmers. As I’ve heard John Lavalle say, Linguistics is our middle name. If we’re going to call ourselves NLPers, we should pay attention to the L.

Today at Dumb Little Man, one of my favorite blogs, they posted an article on how to use the comma. There’s a great place to start. Here’s the list:

  1. To glue two sentences together
  2. To give additional information
  3. Writing a series of three or more words or phrases
  4. Non restrictive phrases
  5. Demanding a pause
  6. Setting off direct quotations
  7. After conjunctive adverbs
  8. Set off a direct address
  9. Parenthetical phrases

For a fuller explanation and some good examples, go read The DumbLittleMan Guide to Comma Use.

Incidentally, here’s another good, albeit short, article from Dumb Little Man: Impress Your Clients, Boss and Colleagues: How To Improve Your Business Writing

As I come across more goodies like this, I intend to post them. If you’ve got a favorite article on the use of, say, semicolons, apostrophes, or quote marks, drop me a note in the comments.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 23rd, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Linguistic,Writing

Subtle is the New Micro

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I love, love, love Lie To Me. I’m fairly good at reading micro-expressions, having gone through an abbreviated version of Paul Eckman’s METT training a few years ago, and my NLP training and practice have improved my calibration and time-distortion skills. And I check out the Eyes for Lies blog every day, too, which led me to this article: Subtle Expressions Key to Detecting Deception:

New research in a paper called Detecting Deception from Emotional and Unemotional Cues by Gemma Warren, Elizabeth Schertler and Peter Bull suggests that subtle expressions, not microexpressions, could be a more accurate tool in detecting deception.

It’s an interesting distinction. Micro-expressions, which Eckman’s work covers, are full manifestiations of a facial expression which last only a fraction of a second. Subtle expressions, though, are the tiny twitches and incomplete movements that indicate a facial expression is on its way, even if said expression never makes it.

More cool stuff to learn.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 21st, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Calibration,Psych

How to Keep a Job

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Yesterday, someone I know was relating how she well had done on her 90-day evaluation at her new job. It turns out that not only was her immediate supervisor fighting her own boss to give her double the raise they tend to give new folks, the CEO was brought in to mediate/settle the dispute and he gave her 33% more than that. And they intend to evaluate her again in another 90 days — something they typically don’t do — to see if they can give her even more.

In this economy. Think about that. She not only got a new job easily, she created an environment in which they are, relatively speaking, throwing money at her.

As synchronicity would have it, Seth Godin wrote a short article today which explains how she’s doing it:

You will never be out of work if you can demonstrably offer one of the following:

  • Sales
  • Additive effort
  • Initiation

She’s an absolute star at the latter two, and makes up for her current lack of sales skills with wit, charm, and physical attractiveness. Who knows what will happen when she decides to learn to sell.

Anyway, for an explanation of what those three terms mean in real-world terms, go read The three elements of full employment at Seth’s Blog. How you learn to apply them to yourself is up to you.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 9th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Articles,Business