The REALITY about BELIEFS (I hope you catch the irony there)


The REALITY about BELIEFS (I hope you catch the irony there)

This month we will offer our most popular and broadly useful seminar, “Sleight of Mouth.” It is an amazing 2-day experience that, on the surface, allows you to become more persuasive conversationally by influencing another person’s beliefs – an obviously useful application for sales people, therapists, marketer, etc… basically ANYBODY who wants to be more persuasive. But, at a deeper level, the class examines the structure of beliefs and reveals the basic reality that, in a way, our world is created by our beliefs.

Now let me caution you away from thinking that I’m espousing the half-baked conjectures of “The Secret” or similar “if I believe it strong enough, the genie of the universe will provide it,” silliness, although there is some veracity in those beliefs.

Instead we will discover how each and every belief in the world has the exact same STRUCTURE, and that when we learn to “unpack” those beliefs, we can be hugely more influential.

This is because most people don’t really know what a belief is. When asked they will tell you things like “it’s a inner feeling… a knowing.” Or they will give examples like “it’s a faith in something like a deity you can’t prove,” or “it’s an inner feeling of worthiness.”

People will spout slogans like “If you conceive and believe it you can achieve it!” and attend pep rallies and repetitively shout affirmations like “I will believe, not doubt!” as if the sheer intensity of state creates the belief. However, if that belief has no real foundation, it’s like building your castle on shifting sands.

With Sleight of Mouth we start by asking “What actually IS a belief?” After all, NLP is defined as “the study of the structure of subjective experience.” What, therefore, is the structure of a belief?

What I first learned from NLP co-developer and creator of Sleight of Mouth, Robert Dilts, is that EVERY belief has the same basic three-part structure and that can be stated as this: Cause – Effect – Meaning. This can be mapped out as a triangle to a square to a circle.

Another way of wording the three parts is “If-Then-Means” so a fully stated belief will be stated like this, “If I’m hungry, then I eat and that means I’m taking care of myself.”

Now that is a simple example of a complete belief in sentence form. The trick to beliefs is that we rarely hear them, say them or even think them in their complete, three-part form. We don’t need to. It’s like, we don’t need to read all of Einstein’s formulas and reams of mathematical figuring he did to arrive at E=MC2. We just need to know that last part. It’s like we packed all that experience and cognitive deliberation into a folder and simply put a label on the outside of the folder to make it easier on us. That label is a shortcut that represents everything packed inside. It is that shortcut label that people think of as a belief but it is not the whole understanding.

Examples of some shortcut statements people think are beliefs but are only the shortcut:

  • “Life’s hard.”
  • “Ah, that’s better.”
  • “Life is good.”
  • “Hey, you can’t do that.”

But for us to DO anything with that in any sort of elegant way, we need to understand a bit more of how the person who believes that more fully represents that to him or her self.

When we successfully “unpack” a belief it means we are finding out it’s full three-part structure. If we ask the person questions like “How do you know that?” he or she might respond, “Because there is so much poverty and violence in the world.”

We now know a lot more about their belief. The word “because” has the word “cause” right inside it. So when you hear a person say “because” you are getting their “Cause” of the “Cause-Effect-Means” structure.

In this case, they are really saying, “IF there is so much poverty and violence in the world, THEN life is hard.”

If you were to then ask, “So – what does that mean to you?” they might answer, “That means we have to keep fighting and never quit.”

Of course, there might be a hundred different meanings that could be attached there…

“…it means – why bother trying?” …”it means we have to post cute cat videos on Facebook.” you name it.

Finding an more empowering meaning to a cause/effect statement is one strategy for using Sleight of Mouth. Sleight of Mouth is is powerful and so elegant because it so closely fits in with the person’s belief system. This individual tailoring is only possible if we first know how to and bother really unpacking the person’s full belief in the first place.

About Doug O'Brien

Doug O’Brien is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, and a Certified Hypnotherapist. In 1988, while assisting at NLP and NAC training seminars with Anthony Robbins, Doug achieved the designation of Master Trainer. He now conducts numerous seminars of his own around the globe (specializing in the “Sleight of Mouth” patterns of Robert Dilts, NLP Certification Courses, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy) and helped found Columbia-Presbyterian’s Department of Complementary Medicine with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

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