Language Patterns of NLP

What is your favorite NLP language pattern?  For example, I might use a ‘mind read’ as in “I know you are wondering..how many ways I can invite you now to go into a deep and relaxing trance in the next few sentences.” 

The beginning of the sentence holds the mind read, “I know you are wondering…”  Note that it is unspecified ‘who’ is wondering.  And do I really know?  I am making a big assumption that might be accurate or not.

But, I am trusting that you will accept the suggestion as if it were true.  Most people don’t even think about it; they just accept the ‘mind read.’

AND…you probably were not expecting to go into a trance state while reading this article, but you are now, ‘wondering,’ aren’t you?  I have also assumed facts that are not in evidence to lead you to this particular thought.

AND… I have given you an ’embedded command,’ to trance in the next few sentences.  Tricky, huh?


This beginning of a sentence does not specify how I ‘know’ you are wondering but most people accept the sentence without questioning.

The sentence is also an example of kind of Meta-Model violation.  NLP’ers will want to challenge the violation to help people fill in missing information in their communication.

Since it can be said that every sentence in English is missing information, it can be valuable to help people to fill in the gaps in a more precise manner.  People could then develop a more complete map of the reality about what they wanted to express.

Not only does communication get cleaner and clearer, but many people reported challenges to Meta-Model violations often helped them deconstruct problem states.  If you think about it, it’s amazing people ever understand communication from other people at all.

NOTE: This part of the NLP ‘Meta-Model’ is sometimes called the Precision Model.  A challenge question to the above sentence is, “How specifically do you know I am wondering?”  For now, let’s focus more on what the mind accepts and not so much on the challenges.  Note also that this article contains several language patterns. See if you can recognize some of them.

There are a number of different kinds of language patterns.  As they were developing the Meta-Model, a colleague, Gregory Bateson, suggested they meet Milton H Erickson, MD.  Some of the most basic language patterns come from modeling Milton H Erickson, MD.

They (NLP pioneers John Grinder and Richard Bandler in particular) modeled his (Erickson’s) ability to cause patients and seminar participants to go into deep and profound, highly-suggestible trance states.  Milton used ‘artfully vague’ language that presupposes that any person will make the best connections possible for higher good of that individual and at a deep unconscious level changes will have occurred.

There’s a story that Milton Erickson decided to write down all the linguistic patterns that he had discovered, you know, that could cause a person, like you, and me, to go into profound trance.  You might also wonder as you wander through the paragraph, and be curious how he went from 20 pages of linguistic patterns to 10 and then on down to 9, and then 8 pages, until he had narrowed the number down to 7 and then 6, that’s right, just keep following on down, more deeply and easily relaxed, all the way down to 5…

…And Milton might have said “don’t ask them to go into trance this particular way or that particular way, but allow them to go into a deep and profound trance any way they want to go on down to 4 and 3 and 2 now.

But, before you do, go all the way down to 1 and notice that you can allow yourself to enjoy a deep and healing state of relaxation, where time slows down and in some moment you might have become aware that you have learned something important, something useful, that you had not thought you would learn today and as you do learn, take a deep breath and come all the way back up from 3 to 1, fully awake, feeling good.

Another type of language patter is  a Sleight of Mouth patterns.  These Sleight of Mouth patterns are very useful in influencing change, aren’t they? When you hear a limiting statement like, “I can’t learn this.”, you might say something like, “You haven’t learned this yet.” I have reframed the limitation from ‘can’t’ to ‘haven’t’ which puts control back in the hands of the person and added the word, ‘yet,’ a very powerful time-related reframe.

To make sense of what was said, the person listening must represent that the learning will occur at some point in the future, don’t they?

What’s a language pattern you like?

by Bill Thomason
Your NLP Executive Coach and Certified NLP Master Trainer

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