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NLP 101 Language Patterns: “But”

By on September 5, 2014

In this series of blog posts we will be explaining an NLP language pattern of trance. We’ll be explaining how your hypnosis clients use the pattern to put themselves into trance, and how you can use the pattern to dehypnotize them, or at least give them a better trance.

The pattern

We’d like to tell you what this language pattern is about, but we don’t have time right now. Just kidding! This pattern is about using the word ‘but’.

How your client hypnotizes themselves with it

Your hypnosis client comes to see you, “I’d like to stop smoking, but I’m just to stressed at work…”

This use of ‘but’ negates their desire to stop smoking.

How to respond

There is a simple linguistic trick for when your client puts there ‘but’ on the table in front of you, you simply spin it around…

“So you’re stressed at work, but you’d like to stop smoking”.

This preserves the power of the ‘but’, but uses it to empower the client (did you see what we did there?).

We prefer this approach to the alternative of turning all ‘but’s’ into ‘and’s’. “So you’d like to stop smoking, and you’re stressed at work”, because keeping the ‘but’ plays into your client’s pattern of sorting for difference, ‘not this, but that’. At the same time it redirectionalizes them toward their outcome.

Meaning and Root of the word ‘but’

‘But’ means ‘if it wasn’t for the fact that’. ‘But’ denies the truth or possibility of what comes before (stopping smoking), by reason of what comes after (stressed at work).

‘But’ comes from an old English or Germanic word meaning ‘outside of’. It is a word that divides the world into to two parts, the first defined by the words that come before the ‘but’, “I’d like to stop smoking”, and the second by what comes after the ‘but’, “I’m just to stressed at work…” The speaker (and listener) are placed firmly in the second reality with no access to the first reality.

Putting the word ‘but’ to use

You should always be on the listen-out for the word ‘but’ whether from your clients or in general conversation.  Your clients are likely to use it to negate their own outcomes, “I’d like to stop smoking, but I’m just to stressed at work”. Use the reversal pattern above to flip them into a better trance.

“You’re stressed at work, but you’d like to stop smoking?”

You can also use this pattern to address any other objections to change that they may have raised.

Other people may use ‘but’ to negate what you are saying, “I agree with you, but….” But don’t let them (see what we did there?! There are a number of fun responses, here are two:

  • Direct attack: “Don’t put your but on the table” (but only use this if you have good rapport with them)
  • “Great so we are in agreement!” (they will either agree with you, or at least openly disagree so you’re into negotiation land)

The bigger picture

“But’ is an awesome word full of meaning. As we explained above, it masquerades as an agreement with a caveat, but in reality is pure disagreement.

It also presupposes a cause and effect between the two halves of the sentence, ‘The stress I experience at work causes me to not be able to stop smoking’. This cause-and-effect is almost always flawed as well and can be challenged in a number of ways:

  • Direct challenge: “How does your stress at work cause you not be able to stop smoking?”
  • Opposite cause-and-effect: “Did you know that smoking actually increases your level of stress?”
  • Counter factual: “So if we could find a way to reduce the stress you have been experiencing at work, you’re ready to quit smoking?”

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