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Let’s Visit the Monkey Saloon

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My Internet buddy Adrian Reynolds has started a blog. Go visit the Monkey Saloon or subscribe in your RSS reader. He’s already got some compelling stuff up there.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 14th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Web sites

Letters from Santa

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Santa has a blog. It’s awesome.

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 24th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Left Field

Locking Eyes

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an article I read on President Bill Clinton’s charisma and someone’s attempt to model a bit of it. I also mentioned that I’d be playing with it. I thought I’d update here.

According to the original article, there are three things Bill Clinton does that make people feel as if a “reality distortion field” has wrapped around them:

  1. Eye contact;
  2. Judicious manipulation of interpersonal space; and
  3. Focused attention.

I’m pretty good at the second one, though there are a couple of aspects of it that I could improve. It isn’t so much the actual space, but the way the other person perceives it. There are things one can do to make interpersonal space seem smaller or larger without actually moving toward or away from the other person. I think that’s an interesting idea. I’ll play with that last.

The third one? I’m horrible at it. Nearly 25 years of security and Emergency Medical Services work have required me to habitually cast my attentiveness as wide as I can. It looks like I’m easily distracted, especially in unfamiliar places. I’m really not, but there’s no way someone talking to me can tell that. I’ll play with that next.

What I’m playing with now is eye contact. I’ve always been really bad with it. When I lock eyes with someone, I get the same feeling I get when I look into someone’s living room window. Sure, if the curtains are open, you can’t help but notice it in passing, But to really look? It feels invasive to me. Like I’m violating someone’s privacy.

Irrational, I know. I’m hoping to find someone who can offer me a better way to think about what I’m doing. In the meantime, I’ve been doing it anyway. Looking into people’s eyes and keeping it.

Two things have surprised me.

The way other people respond to it is a surprise. Most of them genuinely don’t mind, and some of the rest really seem to appreciate it. Those who (apparently) feel like I do simply look away quickly, but they don’t seem offended.

Many of the first group suddenly find me a better conversationalist. Not that I say anything. They do a lot more talking to me. I guess if I appear fascinated, they must assume they’re fascinating… which does make sense. A number of people have found it difficult to go on about their business. One deliciously beautiful woman actually accused me of preventing her from leaving.

The other surprise was my own internal responses. Absolutely nothing bad has happened, and sometimes I feel surprised at that. On occasion, when I lock eyes with someone and they look away quickly, I feel a small, but primal, sense of power that I’m not at all happy about in retrospect. With many, I really am a better listener; I want to listen, I actually crave it. And the most unusual response of all: one particularly blue pair of eyes actually fascinated me… and I mean that in the original sense of the word: “to cast a spell which renders one unable to move.” I have studied hypnosis long enough to be able to break that “spell,” but for the few seconds that I was there, I went meta to it and wondered how something like that could happen to a grown man.

I learned, as well, that there are times when I need to not make or hold eye contact.

In a restaurant, for example, no matter which staff member I looked at, they stopped what they were doing and asked what they could do for me. I was actually interrupting them without meaning to. Not polite.

I spoke with the CEO of the hospital for which I work a couple of days ago, and I intentionally did not lock eyes with him. I won’t tell you the circumstances (no, I wasn’t in trouble; far from it) but somehow I felt it wasn’t appropriate at the time. He’s the type of guy that I could connect with that way if the context were different, though.

Tonight, I made eye contact with a co-worker, and I quickly broke it. I believed that if I held it, he’d ask me what the heck I was doing. I didn’t feel like explaining because I was ready to go home. You know how it is.

It’s been interesting and pleasant so far, and I think it’ll continue to be.

If you have a good, strong belief that allows you to make and hold eye contact comfortably, would you mind sharing it with me in the comments? I’d appreciate it.

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 6th, 2010 at 3:24 am

Hacking the Clinton Charisma

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Bill’s, not Hillary’s. Um… obviously.

I wasn’t a fan of Bill. But there’s something to the fact that I feel comfortable calling him “Bill” in my own mind. I don’t think of any other President by their first name. His personal power is undeniable. And Michael Ellsberg has been studying it:

“I have a friend who has always despised Bill Clinton,” a person at a cocktail party told me during the time I was writing my book […]. “Yet, somehow my friend found himself at a function that Bill Clinton was attending. And, within the swirl of the crowd, he was introduced to Clinton.”

“In that moment, face-to-face, all of my friend’s personal animosity towards Clinton disappeared, in one instant,” my new acquaintance at the party continued. “As they were shaking hands, Clinton…”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a charismatic guy; I’ve actually taught myself to not be, though I didn’t realize I have been doing so. Ellsberg’s three-step model looks like it’d be very powerful to me. I’m going to play with it.

Read more at How It Works: Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma

Note: I searched for a while for a candid image of Bill Clinton looking at the camera. I found only one, and it was unflattering. Isn’t that weird?

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:55 pm

We didn’t need self-actualization after all

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Maslow's pyramid of needs, old version and new

Those of us with a fascination for the “P” in “NLP” may be delighted to learn that Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs has been updated to reflect the past 50-ish years of research.

The research team – which included Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Mark Schaller of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver – restructured the famous pyramid after observing how psychological processes radically change in response to evolutionarily fundamental motives, such as self-protection, mating or status concerns.

The bottom four levels of the new pyramid are highly compatible with Maslow’s, but big changes are at the top. Perhaps the most controversial modification is that self-actualization no longer appears on the pyramid at all.

What do you think? Will you stop striving for self-actualization just because a group of psychologists says you no longer need it? Does the new pyramid make more sense?

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 23rd, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Psych,Values

Useful Grammar and Punctuation Points

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In another installment of “Let’s Help Others To Take Seriously What We Write,” I’d like to offer a link to Solveig Haugland’s “OpenOffice.org Training, Tips, and Ideas” blog:

The key thing about many of these items, and useful grammar and punctuation in general, is they’re not just fancy-schmancy rules. They are important rules that affect the meaning of what you say. I think most people would agree is an important component of communication–controlling the meaning of what you’re writing.

Some of them don’t affect meaning, but do make it easier and more pleasant for your readers. That means they’re more likely to read your email, spec, or marketing blurb, and thus get the information you’re trying to convey.

Here are the high points. She goes on to explain them (and beautifully, I might add) in the body of the article.

  1. Use the word that is correct (the correct word, which helps your readers understand you, is always a good choice)
  2. Wherever possible without sounding dorky, put only in front of the thing it applies to.
  3. Keep your intransitive verbs off my body
  4. Lay off using lie incorrectly
  5. Dangling participles are as bad as you’ve heard.
  6. Few and less and more (but is less more?)
  7. Remember the comma.
  8. Cut down on the parenthetical phrases
  9. Forget you ever encountered ellipsis….unless you’re quoting a movie review…and leaving out the…bad parts…
  10. Hyphenation is important.

(For what it’s worth, I disagree with her about the serial comma. I think it’s important to use it. There are times when it matters a great deal for sake of clarity, and in those times when it doesn’t matter, it does no harm. Good habits are good habits.)

Go read — and learn well! — the rest: Top Ten Useful Grammar and Punctuation Points I Learned as a Techwriter and in Life in General (and Three to Ignore)

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 10th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Shrinking Pain

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Yet another “NLP was here first” example. I saw this on a trivia buff’s blog, “Futility Closet:”

In 2008, researchers at Oxford University found that subjects could reduce pain and swelling in an injured hand by viewing it through reversed binoculars.

Conversely, a magnified injury was more painful. “If it looks bigger, it looks sorer,” said physiologist G. Lorimer Moseley. “Therefore the brain acts to protect it.”

A judicious Googling led me to the pertinent issue of Current Biology online. On the right-hand side of that page, there are links to PDF and HTML versions of the article.

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 10th, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Therapist Competence Matters

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We have yet another “NLP said it first” moment in an article in a recent issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology:

A new study underscores the benefit of receiving cognitive behavioral therapy CBT from a competent therapist who follows the guidelines for delivering CBT.

Prior studies have shown that while cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression, a clear understanding of the role therapists’ training and expertise plays in making treatment successful was unknown.

The new study suggests therapist competence may be a particularly important determinant of outcome for some patients.

I’ve heard this from my trainers from my first training with Richard in 1997. How is it that Psychology takes so long to catch up to NLP?

Go read the rest at Therapist Competency Important for Treatment Success on Psych Central.

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 7th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Behold… The World’s Funniest Typo!

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I challenge you to find a funnier typographical error than this one (follow the link):

That IS a strong winter storm..

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 7th, 2010 at 4:17 am

Implicit Modeling? Watch out for this.

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I’m a bit of a money geek. Not too crazy, but I like to keep an eye on what I have. So I read a couple of personal finance blogs. Recently, Monevator had an article titled, “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” and it pointed me to an interesting group of articles of interest to implicit modelers:

Appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the mystery of overimitation has been a long-standing one in developmental psychology. How is it that young children, who are able to learn and reason in so many impressively agile ways, can be utterly stumped by something as simple as the transparent Puzzle Box shown above? Specifically, when kids see an adult getting a prize out of that box in a way that adults — and even chimpanzees — can easily identify as clumsy and inefficient, they seem to lose the ability to figure out how to open the box “correctly”. Watching an adult doing it wrong, in other words, effectively blocks children from figuring out how to do it right. Children become stuck overimitating — or copying the adult’s wasteful strategy, even when doing so leads to bad outcomes.

We humans are too smart for our own good, and make things harder than they need to be. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in discovering that. But I hadn’t heard of “overimitating” before. I’d heard that implicit modeling is the way we all do it from birth; it’s the way babies learn practically everything. At the same time, we forget how long it takes for babies to get it right. We don’t want to take seven to eight years to, say, learn a language… we want to hold a coherent conversation in a few weeks.

It’s important, then, when we model by imitation, to remember to take the model apart and find out what needs to be there and what doesn’t. We don’t want to have to tap stuff with a feather just because that’s how we learned to do it.

Read it all at The Mystery of Overimitation over at Hello Felix, a childhood development blog for parents.

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 4th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Modeling,Psych