One way to solve problems is redefine them

The best salesmen, the best communicators, know it’s very hard to persuade someone to do something he doesn’t want to do. It’s very easy to get him to do what he does want to do. By creating an agreement frame, by leading him naturally rather than through conflict, you do the latter, not the former. The key to effective communication is to frame things so that a person is doing what he wants to do, not what you want him to do. It’s very hard to overcome resistance. It’s much easier to avoid it by building on agreement and rapport. This is one way to turn resistance into assistance.

One way to solve problems is to redefine them — to find a way to agree rather than to disagree. Another way is to break their patterns. We have all found ourselves in stuck states, in which we recycle our own mental dirty dishwasher. It’s like a record stuck in a scratched groove, playing the same tired refrain over and over again. He way to get the record unstuck is to give the needle a nudge or pick it up and put it somewhere else. The way to change a stuck state is the same: you need to interrupt the pattern – the tired old refrain – and start anew.

Mr.T was always amused at what happens when he conducts a therapy session at his home in California. It’s on a beautiful piece of property overlooking the ocean, and when people arrive, the surroundings tend to put them in a positive state. T likes to watch them from the turret above the house. and can see them drive up to the house, get out of the car, look around in obvious excitement, and proceed to the front door. It’s apparent that everything they see is putting them in an alive, positive state.

So what happens? They come upstairs, and talk a little with T– it’s all very pleasant and positive – and then T will ask, well okay what brings you here? Immediately, T can see their shoulders slump, their facial muscles droop, their breathing become more shallow, their voice take on a tone of self pity as they begin their tale of woe and decide to enter their troubled state.

The best way to deal with that pattern is to show how easy it is to break. What T usually do is say very forcefully, almost in an angry or upset manner, Excuse me. We haven’t started yet! What happens? Immediately they say “Oh, I’m sorry”, sit straight up, resume normal breathing, posture, and facial expressions, and go back to feeling fine. The message comes through loud and clear. They already know how to be in a good state. They also know how to choose to be in a bad one. They have all the tools for changing their physiology, changing their internal representations, and changing their state in order to change behavior right on the spot. How fast can they do it? in an instant.

T found that confusion is one of the greatest ways to interrupt patterns. People fall into patterns. People fall into patterns because they don’t know how to do anything else. They might mope around and become depressed because they think they’ll evoke sensitive, caring questions about what’s troubling them. It’s their way of getting attention and using their resources in the best way they know how to change their state.

If you knew someone like that, how would you react? Well, you could do the expected. You could sit down and begin a long, sensitive, anguished discussion. That might make the person feel a little better, but it also reinforces the pattern. It tells the person if he mopes around, he’ll get all attention he wants. What if you did something else? What if you began tickling him, or ignoring him, or barking like a dog in his face? You’ll find this person won’t know how to respond to you and out of his confusion or laughter will emerge a new pattern of how to perceive his experience.