Sleight of Mouth : The Magic of Conversational Belief Change by Robert B. Dilts
Robert Dills has been a developer, author, trainer and consultant in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NI.P) since 1975. In addition to spearheading the applications of NLP to organizational development, learning, creativity and health, his personal contributions to the field of NLP include much of the seminal work on the NLP techniques of Strategies and Belief Systems, and the development of what has become known as “Systemic NLP.”
In the nearly twenty years since their formalization, the Sleight of Mouth patterns have proved to be one of the most powerful sets of distinctions provided by NLP for effective persuasion. Perhaps more than any other distinctions in NLP, these patterns provide a tool for conversational belief change.
There are challenges in teaching these patterns effectively, however, because they are about words, and words are fundamentally abstract. As NLP acknowledges, words are surface structures which attempt to represent or express deeper structures. In order to truly understand and creatively apply a particular language pattern, we must internalize its ‘deeper structure’.
Otherwise, we are simply mimicking or “parroting” the examples we have been given. Thus, in learning and practicing Sleight of Mouth, it is important to distinguish genuine magic from trivial ‘tricks’. The magic of change comes from tapping into something that goes beyond the words themselves.
Until now, the Sleight of Mouth patterns have typically been taught by presenting learners with definitions and a number of verbal examples illustrating the various linguistic structures. Learners are left to intuitively figure out the deeper structure necessary to generate the patterns on their own.
While, in some ways, this mirrors the way that we learned our own native language as children, it can also present certain limitations.
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