Conversational Reframing Patterns

"Sleight of Mouth" Patterns Lines For Changing Minds

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." (Wittgenstein, 1922)

"Language is what bewitches, but language Is what we must remain within in order to cure the bewitchment," (Henry Staten, 1984,91)

"Mind-lines can liberate us from our meaning boxes!" (L Michael Hall)

The Myth

Years ago, so the story goes, at a training in Washington, D.C. Richard Bandler conducted a workshop wherein he presented some (as he said) "really new stuff."

To begin the process, Richard marched right into the midst of the conference, sat down, and with a challenging tone of voice, said, "I have a problem. You fix it." (To imagine Richard doing that, imagine the most ferocious, outrageous, and obnoxious person you can doing something like that! It will help.)

Then for two days (yes, he could really torture NLP practitioners in those days!) Richard played the role of a client and invited all the practitioners and trainers to try to alleviate his problem. But, they couldn't. Nothing they did seemed able to touch it, even though these people knew the magic of NLP.

Somehow, using some special language patterns (mind-lines), Richard deflected any and all attempts that otherwise would have enabled him to experience a positive transformation. (Perhaps he had modeled how. people generally defeat positive endeavors!) Thereafter these became known in NLP circles as "Sleight-of-Mouth" Patterns.

The "Sleight of Mouth patterns utilize beliefs and frames-of-references which we can use to empower ourselves. We can empower ourselves to make life-enhancing transformations to bring out our best, or we can just as equally use them to limit ourselves by deflecting any and every transformational idea that comes along. Actually, we all use these patterns (or at least some of them) to maintain our beliefs anyway. Richard did not have to invent them. We find them operative in people throughout history and in all cultures. Bandleronly made them explicit so that we can work with them with more precision and understanding.

In that conference, Richard artfully used these language patterns, to show their power in deflecting and breaking up valued and helpful ideas. He also used them to show how we can use them to put ourselves into conceptual boxes to prevent growth, change, transformation. We can also use them to detect such and to open up new space for generative change. Learning these patterns puts us more in control in handling our conceptual world (and the neuro-semantics of others).

Using "Sleight of Mouth" patterns enabled the co-founderof NLP to resist highly trained professionals as he defeated their best efforts. This illustrates one way these powerful language skills operate as they mold our beliefs, and hence our realities.

In this work we have made these patterns even more explicit as a facet of training and skill development in neuro-linguistics. Such training results in developing greater competency in our use of language. With Mind-Lines, you can break up unwanted belief patterns that hinder you. And you can shift the paradigms of your conceptual reality in one fell swoop.

The original formatting of the "Sleight of Mouth" patterns came a bit later. As the story goes, Robert Dilts and Todd Epstein set about to codify Bandler*s language patterns and came up with the 17 NLP "Sleight of Mouth" patterns. These 17 formats gave one the ability to eloquently reframe anything.

In this current work, the only book on the "Sleight of Mouth" Patterns, we have totally reworked the patterns. We have made the model more rigorous, methodical, and streamlined. We have examined the theoretical undergirdings of the model. We have specified seven reframing directions along with 20 conversational reframing patterns, and we have reorganized it into a logical level system derived from the Meta-States Model.

The S\e\ghto1 Hand/Sleight ofMouth Metaphor

In a sleight of hand move, a magician distracts those watching. He or she will do one thing that captures the attention of the audience while simultaneously doing something else. A similar thing happens with the "Sleight of Mouth patterns. We distract an auditor by leading his or her consciousness one way while making a conceptualmove of some sort which in turn creates a whole new perception. Then, all of a sudden, a new belief (or frame-of-reference) comes into view, and the auditor doesn't really know where it came from, or how.

When a card illusionist does sleight of hand movements, he or she performs one set of actions that so captivates the interest of his viewers, that they really don't see what else he does that actually changes things. Consider what happens to the attention of those watching. It gets shifted, and captivated, so that it preoccupies itself at a place where they think and anticipate the action will occur. Then, on another place, the more significant action occurs.

When this happens, sleight of hand creates for the viewer an illusion, and this illusion frequently results in a shock to consciousness. "How did he do that?" "Hey, I saw her move it over there, so this can't be!" This process itself then becomes codified in a distorted statement which encourages the illusion even more because the operator will say, "Well, the hand is quicker than the eye." But not really.

The solution, however, does not lie in "seeing faster," it actually lies in not getting distracted. No matter how fast or skilled a person's seeing, if they send their "mind" off to pay attention to irrelevant factors, the illusionist will get them every time!

A similar process occurs with verbal behavior when we deliver a really good mind-line. This happens all the time in human interactions anyway. Sometimes it occurs in interactions that we engage in just for fun and enjoyment. Sometimes it occurs when we interact and negotiate with someone to create win/win situations. Then again, sometimes it occurs when someone intentionally seeks to pull the wool over someone else's eyes in order to take advantage of them.

So what corresponds linguistically or conceptually in mind-lines that distracts a person's mind? Content.

Yes. Just invite another human being into a discussion about content and you can do all kinds of things (and I'm not kidding about this!) in altering, changing, and transforming the context. And when you do, most people will never notice.

Conscious minds seem to have this thing for content. Feed them a little gossip, some details, the specifics of this or that person, in this or that situation, tell them a story, or even better—a secret, and presto... and you can shift the person's frames and contexts without them ever suspecting. (Do you yet feel anxiously impatient for hearing more about content and context well, just wait and we'll let you in on it!)

Hey, That Doesn't Seem Ethical!

There you go! We knew you would bring that up! And, yes any talk about doing things to people's brains (especially shifting their consciousness) inevitably brings up the question of ethics.

And it should.

We actually applaud this. Yet the problem doesn't actually pose that much of a problem. Not really. After all, given the nature of communication and relationship, we cannot not communicate, we cannot not influence, we cannot not manipulate. After all, to "manipulate" only refers to "handling" ourselves, our messages, our intentions, etc.

Of course, in negative manipulation we "handle" ourselves in relation to others in a Win/Lose way wherein we seek to benefit at another's cost. And conversely, in positive manipulation we relate to others from a Win/Win attitude so that everybody benefits. Further, while manipulating someone to that person's disadvantage may "work" momentarily, it will not work over the long-term.

The NLP model actually assumes this ethical position. By operating from a systemic and long-term perspective, it begins with the presupposition that when people feel resourceful, empowered, and at their best, they will bring out their best, not their worst. This underscores the importance of the Win/Win perspective in personal relationships and communicating, does it not? It also eliminates any need to engage in negative manipulations with people. Since NLP grew out of a systemic paradigm that encourages systemic thinking, it therefore disavows any behavior that creates long-term pain for others.

The language patterns of persuasion (the "Sleight of Mouth" patterns) originally arose from the Meta-Model (Bandler and Grinder, 1975). This very powerful model explains how language works neuro-linguistically (rather than linguistically), and how we can work with language effectively. So when we translate the Meta-Model into a conversational model for reframing (for transforming meaning), as we have here, we have obviously incorporated a lot of powerful verbalizations—which an unethical person could misuse. Yet the best defense against such lies in knowing the same model! Then you can catch mind-lines that would otherwise "play with your m i n d at unawares.

Mind-Lining "Beliefs"

What do we use mind-lines for? We use mind-lines primarily in order to work with, transform, and enhance beliefs.

Beliefs, as such, can involve a wide range of conceptual ideas. Frequently they relate to our semantic "shoulds" that we put upon ourselves as moral imperatives. They relate to our assumptions about causation—what causes or leads to what, and to our assumptions of meaning—what equals ("is") what, what associates with what. These semantic constructions describe our mental filters which we rarely question. Via these linguistic patterns, we can loosen a belief or semantic structure. We can question whether we really want a particular belief as a part of our mental map.

Why do we have beliefs in the first place? We develop them in order to "make sense" of the world. They help us to reduce its size and complexity. Beliefs enable us to delete a great deal of the chaotic over-load of the world by shifting our attention to an organizing frame-of-reference. Given the complexity of the world, Aldous Huxley (1954) said that our brains function as "reducing valves." So with all of the information that constantly bombards our brain/nervous system, to make sense of things, our brain deletes to only let in so much. Then it generalizes into belief formats. This obviously distorts things (and does so in both useful and unuseful ways).

Suppose every time we saw an automobile, we had to learn afresh its meaning and purpose? We would always learn and never develop stable learnings so that we could get things done or get anywhere. Happily for us, our brains generalize an idea of "an automobile" by deleting unimportant distinctions (color, model, year, make, etc.). Using the classification of "car" gives us such a program. Now we don't have to think! When we get into a car, our internal mental map (belief) activates... and off we go, unthinkingly driving down the road (and boy do some people drive unthinkingly!).

Beliefs not only set frames by establishing classifications, beliefs also tell us how to feel and respond. To hold a belief like, "All politicians are evil!" not only classifies politicians, it also programs us about how to feel about any specific member of that class. A generalization like this induces several negative neuro-semantic states (aversion, distrust, dislike, etc.) and controls our perceiving, thinking, and feeling.

Beliefs exist as concepts or mental constructions. They arise as learned and invented ideas—conceptual understandings about ourselves, others, the world, etc. So while they may lead to various external realities (actions, talk, behaviors, etc.), they do not have that kind of reality in and of themselves. Structurally, they only exist as ideas in the mind. They emerge in consciousness as learned, created, and installed frames-of-references.

Because these constructions exist as ideas, then other ideas can powerfully affect them. This describes the interface point between beliefs (a kind of idea) and mind-lines (another form of ideas). Beliefs, as lines that construct meaning in the mind respond to mind-lines. So using one or more of the mind-line patterns enables us to shift our limiting paradigms. Mind-lines can liberate us from our meaning boxes! Mind-lines can alter internal realities.

Because these patterns of reframing work directly on beliefs, we can use them in a wide range of contexts: personal and interpersonal, business, negotiating, arguments, persuasion, sales, advertising, effective public speaking, writing, etc.

Here we have 20 Mind-Lines that you can use to handle objections, persuade someone of your point of view, motivate yourself, do therapeutic change, invite others to consider your viewpoint or proposal, etc.

The reframing patterns that make up the mind-lines especially play a significant and powerful role in therapy. Accordingly, Connirae Andreas developed her skills in using the "Sleight of

Mouth" patterns by spending an entire year just using these shifts with all of her clients. This consequently enabled her to became highly skilled in this domain.

The "Sleight of Mouth" patterns do not, in themselves, comprise "therapy," and yet they do open up space where personal transformations can occur. As psychotherapists, we have used these mind-lines to loosen up (or deframe) a client's beliefs, so the person can make the changes he or she desires.

Overt or Covert Mind-Lines?

Typically, therapeutic reframing makes one's frame-of-reference conscious and explicitly overt in order for the person to alter it with choice and awareness. Yet this takes time. It also takes effort. "Okay, let's think about what this means to you And what does that mean to you? ... And what significance do you give to that?... And what learning or presupposition do you attribute to that behavior?

By contrast, conversational reframing avoids the time and effort involved in such conscious work. We just get "down and dirty" and do it! None of the overt stuff. No stopping in the middle of a business conversation or negotiation to therapeutically explore a person's beliefs systems or where he or she learned it.

No! Wth Mind-Lines, we work covertly. We just deliver them in our everyday talk. We speak the conversational reframe, redirect consciousness, speak the line, and then watch someone suddenly develop a more resourceful frame of reference.

Typically these conversational reframes occur during those times when we find ourselves communicating with a client, customer, or friend (or ourselves) and need an easy and quick way to redirect a brain to a new point of view. In such a moment, we don't have the time (or even permission) to go through all the trouble of conscious meta-modeling. So we just reframe the person with one of these Mind-Lines. If the person buys it, then presto—they suddenly have a new perspective! By doing this, we provide new enhancing meaning to something that otherwise produced an unproductive state.

When we offer a different viewpoint, we essentially frame a piece of behavior (or understanding) which then transforms its meaning. The following lines for the mind redirects a brain to expand perspective. This, in turn, expands one's model of the world which makes experiences bigger, broader, more expansive, and more empowered. Communicationally, it truly offers a positive gift.

Conversationally Reframing To Avoid Resistance

The following patterns presuppose a basic communication principle. Namely, people will fight tooth and nail if they feel attacked. Induce someone into a state where they feel attacked, inadequate, or vulnerable—and you can count on their defense mechanisms going up. Does that sound familiar? And when people "go defensive," count on that further complicating communicational clarity.

In light of this, these Mind-Lines enable us to track a person back to the experience or experiences out of which the learnings (beliefs) arose. When the person gets there, he or she then has an opportunity to remap—to create a new and better mental map. As conversational reframing, the mind-lines activate the Meta-Model strategy (see Chapter 10). After we do that, then we can redirect the recipient to new and better understandings and perspectives that offer a more useful way to think.

In life most of us all too easily become entrenched and enmeshed in our maps. Then we forget that our perspectives, beliefs, understandings, "drives," etc. exist only as mental-neurological maps of reality, and not reality. Korzybski described this process as identifying. We identify our maps (thoughts, beliefs, decisions, etc.) with reality. Yet reality consists of much more than our maps about it. Our words and perceptions function as inherently fallible and limited constructions. Sometimes we need them shifted, sometimes we need them deframed.

With these Mind-Lines, we can engage in some mighty elegant map-shifting with ourselves or others. As you practice them, notice if and when they shift you. Notice when and if they create a shift in another. Some will elicit pleasant shifts, some will evoke unpleasant shifts. As a neuro-semantic class of life, whenever our internal representations shift, so does our experience, our neurology, our identity, etc. This describes where "the magic" occurs. So get out your wand; and let the magic begin!

Discovering Your Current Linguistic Patterns

Since we have all used various linguistic patterns throughout our lives to maintain our beliefs, this suggests one route we can use to learn these patterns. Aim first to discover which patterns you already use (or over-use).

Following that, we can learn these patterns by noticing the ones that we do not typically use. As you get an overview of the reframing patterns in the next chapter, and then study them, when you notice a category that seems unfamiliar or new to you, especially attend to that pattern.


Staten (TQjffi) Oftfed the bewitching nature of language in the quote at th^^SjRRiB^of this chapter. And certainly, language can bewitch. Withotrtrquestion, we can get bamboozled by words and caught up in various word prisons. "I am a failure." "He's nothing more than a sexist pig." 'You're always sabotaging yourself."

Korzybski (193311994) noted the unsanity that results from the neuro-linguistic forms of the old Aristotelian languaging. As an engineer, he sought to remedy the situation by creating a new more systemic and Non-Aristotelian way of thinking. His efforts resulted in General Semantics and Neuro-Linguistic Training.

Both men recognized that we need a new use of language—a relanguaging to cure the bewitchment. Bandler and Grinder (1975, 1976) created such a re-languaging model (the Meta-Model) by utilizing many of the Korzybskian maplterritory distinctions. They relied upon the foundational work of Bateson et al. regarding reframing. From this came the "Sleight of Mouth" model and in the next chapter, we will rigorously rework this to create ...

the Mind-Lines Model fordoing Neuro-SemanticMagic for fun and profit, for transformation and health.

"Language is what bewitches, but language is what we must remain within in order to cure the bewitchment."

(Henry Staten, 1984)

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