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Well, It Can’t Hurt

Posted by John Hathorn on April 7, 2011
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Most people don’t think very much about the words they choose, how they phrase the ideas, and messages that they convey.

As a husband of 26 years, a father of three challenging sons, and a real estate sales professional for over 20 years, I have taken a keen interest in the power of words and phrasing, and in the past 20 years there has been much written on the science of language. There is probably no more controversial and interesting topic than neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and its use in sales, parenting, politics and even in attracting a sexual mate. It is hard to describe what NLP really is but I explain that it is all about being very deliberate, and very careful with the words and “body English” I choose and use to communicate. Google NLP and be prepared to read various and confusing descriptions and claims, including one of my favorites: “NLP helps people change by teaching them to program their brains.”

For each and every expert touting “magic” in the field of persuasive language (whether the intent is to persuade themselves – as in self improvement, or someone else), there are just as many skeptics and the skeptics make a compelling argument – namely, there is no real research to back the claims of the NLP people. My attitude about NLP is one that I often adopt – the old “well, it can’t hurt” attitude is what I call it.

I may be over simplifying NLP but this is how I understand the language part of it:

The way we phrase sentences, the meaning of words and going beyond semantics can help us be more effective with ourselves and others.

For instance, instead of telling someone: “Don’t forget”, if you say “please remember” the listener might actually have a better chance at remembering whatever it is that you are asking him or her to remember.  Another example: “don’t be late” becomes “be on time”.  A very basic guide for this is to simply avoid the word don’t. It takes practice but with a conscious effort, you can get the hang of it.

A step further is to take some negative self talk like: “I might goof this up” and change the thought to “I will get this right”, or as you paddle in to a big wave at your favorite surf break, thinking “Make this wave” seems a far better thought than “Don’t fall”. You agree, right? (Did you catch that? “You agree”)

As often as I can, I remember to use these principals. After all, it can’t hurt, can it?

Photo courtesy of plentyofants’ Flickr

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