I learned this exercise from one of my NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) teachers, and initially had a little hesitation in trying it.
The exercise is simply this:
Every day for the next week or so, simply go into a store or restaurant and seriously ask for an item they do not carry. Ask the grocery store cashier for a vacuum cleaner when she asks if you found everything that you were looking for. Or, ask for a pizza at Burger King.
The first time I did the exercise, I was pretty nervous. The “what if” machine in my head was working overtime. “What if they yell at me? What if I get embarrassed? What if people think I’m weird?…” And, then I asked for a gallon of olive oil at a Latin restaurant.
My server looked confused for a moment, and then smiled. She then politely informed me that they did not offer olive oil on the menu.
Most servers are pretty bored with their routine. They have been doing the same things over and over again all day. A break in the routine brightens their day. And, there’s a good chance they’ll think you are joking, and laugh. The world will be a slightly happier place for your odd request.
So, how does this exercise work to eliminate hesitation? The simplest explanation is that it causes us to break out of the normal ways of relating to a server or clerk. As we make a conscious effort to interrupt our own deeply ingrained social patterns in a safe and playful way, hesitation itself gets interrupted. What is left is a “go for it” attitude.
Why not try this NLP exercise? All you have to lose is your hesitation.
“Fred” made an morning appointment for a hypnosis session because he was procrastinating going into work so well that he was not showing up at all.
Fred called me at the time of his appointment to tell me that he had not yet gotten ready to leave his house. We made another appointment for the next day, and the same thing happened. Fred was very elegantly demonstrating his procrastination skills for me.
When Fred called the third time when he was due in my office to let me know that he had not gotten out of his house yet, I told him that I would wait for him until he arrived.
That is how Fred finally made it to my office.
Fred’s story was that he was a lowest level supervisor in a government warehouse. Fred did not like his work. There were some bad or even illegal things happening there. He never told me just what they were. Fred was so unhappy about the situation that he was just staying home most days.
Eventually, because of his absenteeism, Fred was going to get fired. According to Fred, he was penalized more for arriving late than not going to work at all. The government works in mysterious ways.
We discussed the options. Fred did not want to move to another organization. He did not want to move inside his current organization. He did not want to be a whistle blower and confront the problems at his current workplace. And, he did not want to get fired. Apparently, just letting an employee collect a paycheck without ever showing up was unworkable, even for the government.
So, I did a hypnosis session with Fred, and suggested that he needed to make a choice. It was either go to work, move on, or be forced to move on. He started going back to work…for a while.
It turns out that the final solution was to find a compelling reason for Fred to get back to work. Just earning a living was not enough incentive, so I used questions from NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) meta model to determine Fred’s highest values in life and work. And, that provided the key to his getting back to his job every day.
Fred was dedicated to his crew at work.
Fred thought that his crew was not being treated fairly by the other supervisors when he was not there. So, Fred went back to work to take care of his men. While Fred was in hypnosis, I used the imagery of a hero protecting his crew. Fred needed and wanted to be that hero. And, that is the story of how Fred defeated his procrastination.
As a hypnotherapist, I have enjoyed developing as style that lets me do hypnosis in a conversational way. When using conversational hypnosis I am not using what my teacher, Dave Dobson, called “tuxedo”. Dave called “formal” trance “tuxedo”, because it was formal. So, of course, I started calling informal trance, “T-shirt”.
Formal trance involves using a ritual to guide someone into trance. For example, in beginning a formal trance one might say something like, “Close your eyes, and notice the rhythms of your breathing as you go into hypnosis only at the same rate that I count backwards from 5 to 1…”
Successful conversational hypnosis demands that the hypnotherapist pay close attention to the nonverbal, out of conscious, communications of the client. Recently, for example, I offered a client some ideas, and she agreed verbally, but I detected some unspoken skepticism. So I said, “It seems like there’s an unspoken ‘but’…” She agreed.
So, I started beginning all my sentences with “But” and finishing them with “yes?” That frequently will short circuit the patterned responses of someone who automatically disagrees with new ideas.
To get things moving, I said something like, “But, you really do recognize the importance of making those phone calls to build your business, Yes?”
She replied, “Yes.”
After a few minutes of phrasing everything that I said to her in the form of “but…yes?” statements, I noticed something interesting. Not only was my client showing signs of hypnosis, complete bodily stillness, reduced blinking rate, and slowed speech, she was actually saying “yes” to my questions before I finished them!
From that point on, it was easy to gradually shift my questions so that they led her into feelings of certainty that she could and would do what she needed to make her business thrive.
“But, you can already begin to see yourself making those calls regularly, yes?”
“But, you are already noticing that you feel comfortable with the thought that any number of people will inevitably be saying ‘no” along the way as you build your business, yes?”
“But, the old fears of rejection are fading away completely even as we speak, yes?”
One of the keys to conversational, or regular hypnosis, for that matter, is for the hypnotherapist to notice the client’s out of conscious and habitual responses to suggestions. That allows the hypnotherapist to adjust his or her suggestions and hypnotic language to suit the client’s unique personality, which leads to a successful session.
NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) has been defined as the study of subjective experience. The developers of NLP wondered “How do humans think?”, and the answer is rather obvious, once you think about it.
We think in pictures, sounds (including words), and physical sensations. Sometimes we include smells and tastes as well. For example, a woman who loves chocolate may mentally represent chocolate with an image of a favorite candy, and imagine the taste and mouth texture, while saying “mmmmm” to herself. In other words, the thought “chocolate” generates all those experiences in a flash.
Few of us are aware that we think in pictures, words, etc. until someone calls our attention to it. And, why would we? We just think.
The value in exploring the structure of our thoughts is that when we become aware of the structures we can decide change them in useful ways. For example, one of my clients told me that when he went to the gym he’d work out with his trainer, look at the exercise bike and go home. He knew that riding would improve his results, but he just wasn’t doing it.
When asked, it turned out that his representation of riding the bike was a still picture, and he wasn’t even in the picture! When he turned his picture into a movie of himself riding, finishing and then gaining the benefits over time, he started riding the bike regularly.