It takes willpower to use the language of agreement

When I am training NLP workshops and courses, I ask people to do two simple exercises to build agreement. In one exercise, I ask that they have a conversations where they start everything they say with a form of Yes. No matter what their partner just said, they have to say yes before they reply. In the second exercise, they have to begin by repeating exactly a few words that their partner has just said.
It's hard to imagine a simpler language pattern. When you want to build agreement, show that by saying a form of yes every time you speak. When you want to build connection, show that you are connecting by repeating something you heard before you change or add to it. These two language patterns have the power to change how people respond to you. They are 100% reliable.

So what happens? People forget. They can either say yes or they can have a meaningful conversation, but they find it hard to do both. They can repeat back words or they can have their own thoughts, but they struggle to…

There are no true stories.

Why would you read a novel? It's not even true.
Do you believe that non-fiction books are "better" because they are "true?"  NLP (neurolinguistic programming) offers an interesting perspective on how language works. It uses words to anchor experience, so that every communication with language is completed by the receiver. The words are not the point: the connection is the point.

In the meta-model, it is understood that language necessarily distorts experience because it cannot create a one-to-one correspondence between what the words say and the experience represented by the words. This isn't because people are trying to be misleading. It's the way language works. There is no evolutionary advantage to being able to predict the past or to being so accurate that no one else can connect with what you are saying.
Stories are never true (even if they really happened) because they are all experiences that are communicated through language. Language necessarily c…

Are you waiting or are you growing?

Have you been stuck in a waiting room for the past three months, or have you been building something? The lockdown has changed a lot of things, but it hasn't change this basic choice. We are always either circling or growing. Usually when we are circling, we are running from one thing we know to another in a cycle. Other people look and see busy. We see busy. But that doesn't always mean growth. It can mean wearing a rut in our thinking.
The lockdown grabbed us by the shoulders and said "sit still." It felt like being plunked into a room and being told "wait here." Wait for the news that will change your life. Wait for the principal. Wait for the dentist's drill. Kill time until you get back to your real life.
Many people were already living in the waiting room. They were hoping something would change around them, that something would  open up new possibilities. But their minds kept running in the same patterns, so they kept seeing and doing the same thin…

Growing stronger is more satisfying than just hanging in

Are you hanging in? There's a sense these days of life suspended - I mean both that it feels like we have been left hanging and that we have been shut out of our real lives for an unspecified amount of time (probably much longer than you hope as your fingertips begin to bleed).
Some people have lost their work and some are overwhelmed by work. Some are trying to be full time parent/teachers/caregivers while also doing their day jobs. As if. They are quickly becoming their evening into night-time jobs too. They don't have a choice about their circumstances.
They do have a choice about how to respond, and so do you. You can hang in there and hope that you will adapt (or that life will go back to normal before you have to adapt). Or you can recognize that many, many changes are coming, and you can start developing the strength and flexibility to build a life that satisfies you, no matter what happens.
If you've read this blog before, you know which option I am going to recom…

A long walk with no particular destination

How do you feel about the title of this post? Some people love to go for a long walk. Many famous people have gone for long walks every day, just to think. Other people walk for exercise: it doesn't matter where they go as long as they keep moving. And some people walk because it's a good way to get where they want to go.
Someone asked me today to talk about how to successfully be in a relationship with your partner or family while under quarantine. I am suspicious that what you are feeling now is what you feel when you go for a long walk together. 
Humour me. Think of your partner or one person who is living with you in isolation from the rest of the world. Have you ever been for a walk with this person? What did you like about it and what was difficult? Did you get in sync and did you have the same need to talk or to walk in silence? Did you walk one behind another or side by side? What made this walk worth remembering (because you are remembering it)?
If you are happy to t…

Owning all of you

I've recently had discussions with people who were worried that they could never be all of one piece, that choosing a different path meant that they would be permanently severed from their old selves. It's a worry that can keep all of us stuck from time to time. If I change, what will I lose?

The answer is to stop thinking that you are your path. You can only walk one path at a time, but you can choose lots of different paths over time, learning and growing and exploring without losing any part of the self. The brain does not have to cut off old connections to make new ones. A new path doesn't make the old path bad or wrong.

That's not to say that your new path might not be bumpy, or go through swamps or run into impossibly steep cliffs. One of the more difficult truths about human life is that we often grow strength and flexibility by confronting obstacles. Achievement is wonderful, but failure is a teacher who  often sticks with us until we get the point. The path yo…

Family is a state of mind

It's Family Day long weekend in Toronto, and it's the day after Valentine's Day.

When I ask my international students about holidays, they often imagine connecting with family. They are often a very long way from home, and they imagine time spent with family as if they live in a greeting-card: parents are wise and siblings are fun and the world is a safe place.

My grandson is growing up in that kind of a family. His parents are smart and kind and love him with all their being. He is surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who play with him and wonder at him and want the best for him. He is blessed.

People say that you can choose family, but I wonder. I think family are the people we do not get to choose. They are the people who show up and who make us admit, more often than not, that being human is very different than being perfect. Family sometimes gives us a wonderful boost (which we did not deserve) and sometimes are the crabs in the bucket, clawing …