This article is about how language shapes our reality and how we can use that to motive people.
NLP Metaphors Used in Personal Development
In the personal development world there is a twee little story that does the rounds every now and again about three brick layers building a wall. They are being interviewed for the local newspaper. The journalist asks the first bricky what he is doing and he replies that he is building a wall.
The jurno asks the second bricky and the she replies that she is building a children’s hospital. When the jurno asks the third bricky the response she gets is that he is helping to save children’s lives.
In the superficial world of personal development this is supposed to be an example of how being attached to the big picture helps with motivation. In my slight more sceptical world it is only an example of how language shapes the meaning of an event.
Language Shapes Reality
There are several points that are worth making here. The first is that you need to match to the communication to the situation and the person that you are speaking with. I know people that will burst into tears and give you everything they have got based on that third response and I also know people that would be sick over what they would consider gooey sentimental tripe.
I don’t know any, but I imagine there are brickies out there that get paid by the brick and are more interested in the wall than the purpose that it is being built for.
In terms of context if I were a baby brick layer learning to build my first brick wall the end goal might be very noble and all that but I might be more interested in the technicalities of building a wall. And how that might be different for a children’s hospital than any other wall.
And on the same grounds a jaded old brickie that has been there and back again in terms of wall building achievements might be motivated in to building this particular wall to the best of their ability because of the noble end results.
Framing and Reframing an Event Changes the Meaning
Obviously the main point is about matching the level of your communication to the person you are talking to i.e.. framing the conversation in a way that makes the best impact.
The second point might be whatever the event there are different levels of explanation or frames for it and each of those frames can be attached to a different meaning or emotion.
So by tapping in to these different levels of communication you motivate people in different ways. Remember that people are dynamic beings so the way they are thinking changes from moment to moment. When you get good at being able to spot the differences you can match your communication style to match how they are thinking in the moment.
But for the moment I want to come back to the personal development thing. Can I assume that you recognise that you communicate with yourself in your own head? If I can’t then these next couple of lines are for you.
We Aren’t Speaking to Other People
We Are Speaking to Who We think Other People Are
When you speak to other people you don’t really know what is going on in their heads, what they are thinking, feeling or understanding from the conversation. The best you can do is guess and make assumptions. Or if you are a spectacularly poor communicator you are not concentrating on how your message is being received but just on getting your words out.
In either case you are not really talking to them. You are either talking to who you think they are or you are just talking to yourself and hoping they might be listening.
There is a lot more time and instances where you are communicating with yourself but let’s just stay this simple for the moment. Just like with anyone else these different levels of speaking will have a different impact in different situations.
For example perhaps doing those extra set of push ups might be about finishing building that wall. Getting to the gym might be about building the hospital. And saving lives might be about developing consistent exercise habits.
The Key Takeaway
But here is the key take away from all of this. The language we use shapes how we think and that can encode meaning to the situation. Knowing this means you can motivate yourself and others not just with what you say but by what level you say it at.
You can find out more about the specifics of how this works through the newly updated Advanced Persuasion Patterns Course right here:
I’ve been coaxed out of my cave and back to delivering an NLP Course. This is the first in three years. On the course you will gain the skills to change the way people think linguistically as we discussed above and completely non-verbally in a way that is purely scientific but would have had you burnt on a stake just a few hundred years ago. Click through and find out more here: