The most important tool for reading other people

NLP (neurolinguistic programming) gained fame for two things: the promise that you could achieve anything you could clearly imagine and the promise that you could read people accurately enough to detect deception or perform amazing acts of covert influence.  It seemed like magic, and people flocked to it to find out how to become magicians.

When I started in NLP, I was the smart, conventional one and my partner was the one with the magic: he was the one who could freak people out with mind-reading and hypnotic presence. Over the years, as I began to work on my own more often, I learned to do a little quiet magic of my own.  Sometimes now, the magic is less quiet, more - well, more magical.

But I am a teacher, not a magician. So I will tell you the one thing I think you need to learn to do magical acts of reading and influencing other people.  The secret is: metaphor.

In case you've forgotten your high school English course, here is how Wikipedia defines metaphor:

metaphor is a figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object. Metaphor is a type of analogy and is closely related to other rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance including allegoryhyperbole, and simile.

It sounds a little dull for magic.  So let me give you an alternative definition:

A metaphor is a sensory-tangible indication of the conscious and unconscious motivations that are driving a person's attitudes and behaviours.

What does this mean? It's magic: it takes years of serious study and practice to really understand. The superficial meaning is this: when a person is working on a problem or intention, all of that person's behaviours and speech will combine to tell the truth about where they are at, what they want, and what they fear. The less there seems to be a logical relationship between their "small talk" and their real issue, the more available the truth is likely to be in their metaphors.

Metaphors work a kind of instant transformation from one field of being to another. Sounds a lot like magic to me.


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