Plans and Problems

If someone says, your plan just won’t work, you need to find out what specifically they have a problem with. A rebuttal like it will work will not maintain the rapport or resolve the situation. Often, it’s not the whole plan – it’s a small part of it. If you try to rearrange your whole plan, you’re like a plane flying without radar. You might fix everything but the one thing that’s the problem. If you specify where the problem is and deal with it, you’re on the road to bringing about valuable change. Remember, the closer the map approximates a real territory, the more valuable it is. The more you can discover what the territory is made of, the more power you have to change it.

Now press your thumbs together for the last part of the precision model. One thumb says, too much, too many, too expensive. The others says compared to what? When we say, too much too expensive we’re using another form of deletion. Often it’s based on an arbitrary construct that’s lodged somewhere inside our brain. You might say that more than a week’s vacation is too much time away from work. You might think that your kid’s request for a $299 home computer is too expensive.

You can step outside your generalizations by making a comparison. Two weeks away from your job may be worth it if you’ll come back totally relaxed and able to do your best work. That home computer may be too expensive if you don’t think it will do any good. If you think it’s a valuable learning tool, it could be worth many thousands of dollars down the line. The only way to make those judgments rationally is to have valid points of comparison. You’ll find that when you start using the precision model, you’ll end up using it naturally.

For example, occasionally someone tells ‘your seminar is too expensive’. The seminar conductor and organizer responds, Compared to what? He might say, well, compare to other seminars you have gone to.

Then find out what specific seminars he’s referring to and ask about one of them. How specifically is that seminar like mine?

That’s interesting. What would happen if you felt the original seminar conductor was really worth the time and money?

His breathing pattern changes, and he smiles and says, “I don’t know I’d feel good, I guess”.

What specifically could I do to help you feel that way about my seminar now?

Well, if you would spend more time on such and such a subject, I probably would feel good about it.

The last pattern to learn is a little more subtle, which is a wonderful reason to give it your attention. What do words like attention statement and reason have in common? They are nouns, yes. But we can’t find them in the external world. Have you ever seen an attention? It’s not a person, place, or thing. That’s because it actually used to be a verb, describing the process of attending. Nominalizations are words that have lost their specificity. When you hear one, you want to turn it back into a process – which gives you the power to redirect and change your experience. If someone says, I want to change my experience, the way to redirect it is to say, what do you want to experience? If he says, I want love, you would respond with. How do you want to be loved? Or what is it to be loved? Is there a difference in specificity in the two forms. There sure is.

There are others ways to direct communication by asking the right questions. One is outcome frame. If you ask someone what’s bothering him or what’s wrong, you’ll get a long dissertation on just that. If you ask, what do you want? Or How do you want to change things? You’ve redirected your conversation from the problem to the solution. In any situation, no matter how dismal, there’s a desirable outcome to be achieved. Your goal should be to change direction toward that outcome and away from the problem.

Do this by asking the right questions. There is any number of them. In NLP they’re referred to as outcome questions.

What do I want?
What is the objective?
What am I here you?
What do I want for you?
What do I want for me?

Here’s another important frame? Choose how questions over why questions. Why questions can get you reasons and explanations and justifications and excuses. But they usually don’t come up with useful information. Don’t ask your kid why he is having trouble with his algebra. Ask him what he needs to do to perform better. There’s no need to ask an employee why he didn’t get a contract you were bidding for. Ask him how he can change so you’ll be certain to get the next one. Good communicators aren’t interested in rationalizations of why something is going wrong. They want to find out how to do it right. The right questions will lead you in that direction.