Frame Control – how the art of framing can make your decisions for you

Framing is a key influence skill which you really mustn’t underestimate.

Framing selects a viewpoint and cherry-picks the facts you present in support of that viewpoint. In short, it creates bias using only truth.

How does that work?

Here’s an example of how the art of framing can be used effectively – to make your decisions for you.

Suppose you tell someone that tapwater is basically really dilute bleach. It is actually true, so – after they’ve checked – they’ll probably freak out about it. They may even start an expensive bottled water habit so they can have ‘pure’ drinking water.

However, if you instead told them that their tapwater sits in a pipe for 3-4 days before it actually reaches their home, and no, no-one actually cleans those pipes… they’ll probably demand that you put something in it to stop it going bad. Something like, for example, chlorine.

This is how two groups of people can be looking at the same set of facts and still draw different (and often opposing) conclusions.

Those groups may face each other in the boardroom, a courtroom, or across a political divide.

But framing is at work in less obvious places too, in your daily life, mainly because framing works like a type of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Framing is everywhere, because we all tend to frame information according to our own viewpoints.

Be more aware of your frames and you’ll understand better how you’re being influenced – and how you’re unknowingly influencing others. That way everyone gets access to a better set of choices.


Agree, disagree? Join the discussion in the comments below.

Are Metaphors Real? – Some Interesting Research

New research suggests there is more to metaphor than using real-life examples to communicate abstract ideas. It goes much deeper…

Many people assume that metaphors are just a way of communicating an abstract idea based on a real-life example.

For example, “I was walking on eggshells” relates the idea of an excessive need for caution, rather than telling us anything about eggshells or walking. It’s a description of a potentially real situation which creates a shared subjective experience so we can easily understand the other person.

A recent study (1) has found that metaphors can be much more than that – and can connect from real to abstract as well as from abstract to real.

Lee and Schwarz examined the metaphor “something smells fishy”, which is commonly related to social suspicion.

  • They found that incidental exposure to a fishy smell undermined cooperation in two trust-based games.
  • They also found that inducing suspicion heightened sensitivity to fishy smells!

The ideas we hold in our awareness may affect us more than we think they do – and our environment may affect our behaviour in many more subtle ways than we ever realised.

Comments are welcome below.


(1) Bidirectionality, Mediation, and Moderation of Metaphorical Effects: The Embodiment of Social Suspicion and Fishy Smells, Lee, Spike W. S.; Schwarz, Norbert, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Aug 20, 2012

How do I know I’m really doing Hypnosis?

This is a question I have thought about a lot over the years – and the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Here’s where I am with it now.

I know that many people use the presence of deep trance phenomena as an indication that hypnosis is occurring and not ‘something else’. However, such phenomena are not adequate markers because so many of them are ‘everyday’ phenomena. For example, most people have experienced ‘negative hallucination’ – a phenomenon where you do not see something that is right in front of you. Have you ever lost your car keys only to find them sitting in a prominent and visible place you had already ‘searched’? This is really common and is a naturally occurring negative hallucination.

The only real difference between naturally occurring and hypnotic versions of these phenomena is a matter of intensity – and therefore only a question of where one draws the line. Unfortunately, in my experience, this varies from client to client.

Arguments based on brainwave frequency are also inconclusive – Rossi’s work on the ultradian rhythm, where we pass through these alpha and theta states regularly throughout the day, shows that trance states occur naturally.

I think a big part of the problem is disentangling state from process. So we’re back to the ‘process vs. state’ argument of hypnosis that has been going on for a while now.

My distinction is that hypnosis is a deliberate, purposeful set of behaviours that access distinct states of mind.

There’s a lot of fluff in that statement, but as a definition, it screens out other behaviours that access similar states (such as certain types of meditation), naturally occurring or accidental access of those states, certain pharaceutical effects and allows us to distinguish between different hypnotic frames (e.g. clinical vs. stage hypnosis).

The defining characteristics of hypnosis are therefore:

  • deliberate access
  • purposeful access
  • magnification of specific phenomena
  • subject undertakes actions passively to some extent
  • deliberate return from hypnotic state

In short, trance states can be naturally occurring to some extent, while hypnosis (including self-hypnosis) is an intentional and purposeful accessing and utilisation of those states.

This definition may seem to restrict the behaviours defined as hypnosis, yet if you think about it, it really opens up the scope of actions that might be hypnotic in nature.

I hope this provides some food for thought. Feel free to comment below.

Hypnosis in Business?

When I talk about hypnosis to business people, I often get some strange looks. It’s also fairly obvious what they’re thinking at that point: “What place could hypnosis possibly have in business?”business hypnosis

This is a perfectly natural response because most people don’t really know about or understand hypnosis, so they draw upon one of the two apparent stereotypes of hypnosis available to them:

  • Stage hypnosis
  • Hypnotherapy

Both of these are applications of hypnosis – and both are distortions of what hypnosis really is.

In the case of stage hypnosis, if someone really had complete power over you, do you really think they would just use it to have you cluck like a chicken? In stage hypnosis, this illusion of control (and the showmanship surrounding it) is what makes the show entertaining. It’s not that someone is on stage pretending to be an aeroplane – it’s that someone appears to be making them do that. And that’s not what hypnosis is really about.

In the case of hypnotherapy, the hypnosis is reduced to a set of formal practices that have a healing effect. Despite the immense value of hypnotherapy, there’s really much more to hypnosis that that. And (to return to our main topic) do businesses really need therapy? Some might, but that’s not necessarily the best way of looking at business development.

Think about this: therapeutics is derived from the medical mindset, which is all about ‘getting to okay’. If you have any doubt about that, what would happen if you went to your doctor and said “I’m feeling healthy and well at the moment – could you give me any pills that make me feel fabulous?” Similarly, any business development focused on ‘getting to okay’ is a recipe for disaster – if being average is your highest aspiration, you might struggle to compete with those who wish to continually raise the bar on excellence.

What type of hypnosis has an important place in business? Think about this broader definition of hypnosis:

Hypnosis is a special form of everyday communication. It involves (or is characterised by)

  • Purpose-focused, or outcome-focused communication
  • explicit feedback which values verbal and non-verbal responses
  • access to authentic responses only
  • triggering of resourceful response and/or resourceful states of mind

Given that definition, I’m sure it’s becoming easier to see why hypnosis might be an essential part of the tool-set necessary for bringing out the best performance in others. To take it further, think about this:

What would business be like if your staff were at their best?

What would it be like if your suppliers were at their best?

And what would it be like if your clients were at their best?

What if your business was filled with clear, direct, authentic , purposeful communication. How valuable would that be to you?

So put aside stage hypnosis – it’s just for entertainment. Don’t ask someone with a therapeutic mindset to develop your business – unless you’re a long way short of ‘okay’.

Hypnosis does have a vital place in business. If you want to know more, ask me about specifics.

Book Recommendation – “A Whole New Mind” by Dan Pink

I was reading this interesting book last week and one point in particular caught my interest. The author, Dan Pink, says ‘story’ is one of six factors that are becoming increasingly important in our modern world.

How? It’s a product of information availability. At this point in history, there is so much information at our fingertips that for every point, a counter-point is usually available. So persuasiveness is not just based on the facts any more – the facts are now rarely decisive in and of themselves.

What does decide it is the best story – the most persuasive narrative around the facts.

Daniel Pink suggests that this is not a traditional skill of the type we expect to learn at school. In fact, this particular skill requires us to create rather than remember, to explore rather than choose, to challenge rules rather than obey.

How do you learn to do this? Pink doesn’t say so in his book, but it may surprise you to know that the skill-set for creating persuasive narrative is based on hypnosis.

Not just any hypnosis though. What I’m talking about here is the incorporation of hypnotic language into normal conversation. This is a completely separate skill-set from therapeutic hypnosis and stage hypnosis. Yet at its heart, it is still hypnosis.

My upcoming book will provide simple, practical ways of creating persuasive narrative of this type. For now, read the taster for some broad hints and clues to how you might learn to do this.

In the meanwhile, get Dan Pink’s book to find out more about ‘story’ and the other five factors.

Book Recommendation – “Flipnosis” by Kevin Dutton

Buy this book! Seriously.

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t make recommendations very often. This book is an exception because I think it has something for everyone.

It’s a book about influence and we all influence each other every day whether or not we want to – even when we’re trying not to.

Those of you who have trained with me know that the only other book I recommend on influence is by Robert Cialdini. That’s because Cialdini’s approach is straightforward, ethical and supported by good research.

Flipnosis is all about instant influence and how that works. Dutton is a psychologist, so the material in his book is well researched. It’s also very readable, facinating and entertaining too.

I recommend it highly.

For more info, go and have a look at the reviews: http://amzn.to/j64wxd

Or if you’re in the USA, it has a different title. Go here to take a look: http://amzn.to/lclfss

Successful Learning

When you learn something new, you move through various phases. However, completely new learning seldom happens – we usually build on existing skills to some extent.

When you want to improve something or add to your skill-set, your success depends on a critical phase in the following process.

  1. Unconscious Competence – you can currently do what you can do, near to the level you believe is possible for you.
  2. Unconscious Incompetence – You realise you can do better, but do not know how to increase your performance.
  3. Conscious Incompetence – You are aware exactly where you need to improve but have no strategy for doing that, so you engage in a “trial and error” process.
  4. Conscious Competence – You know where to improve and how to do that, while needing to practice and fine-tune the new model.
  5. Unconscious Competence – You have internalised the new skill, to the extent that you can just do it without much thought. You are at or near the level you now believe is possible for you.

That is what happens when all goes well in a process of self-directed learning.

Critical Point

However, there is a critical phase where this natural learning process can be disrupted, preventing completion.

During the ‘conscious incompetence” phase, there is a process of trial and error. Performance can actually drop at this point, due to self-consciousness and the experimental nature of the “trial and error” process.

A crisis point can come at the greatest difference between expectation and performance – when the person’s experience is most different from their perception of how it could be.

If that difference passes beyond a threshold value (too uncomfortable/painful) the person believes the goal is not achievable and stops the trial and error. They go back to square one.

The sad fact is that they may be incredibly close to success and they will never know it.

“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not
realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

– Thomas Edison

Avoiding Crisis

Fortunately there are several ways to prevent the crisis threshold being crossed.

Persistence in the face of adversity is one solution – a dogged determination to succeed. This involves consciously raising the ‘discomfort’ threshold. Some people will just “tough it out”.

Approaching learning with a playful attitude is a great way of reducing the self-consciousness of the trial and error phase.

Emotionally letting go of the importance of the outcome without letting go of the desire for the outcome is another way to reduce the impact of trial and error.

A comfortable environment (which includes both people and setting) is another way to encourage this phase beyond the point where crisis was an option.

Our Solution

My preferred solution is to short-circuit the critical phase by removing the need for the “trial and error” stage.

How do you do that?

You train the person in methods, skills, techniques and strategies so they do not need the trial and error. In short, you teach them how to achieve the higher performance and provide convincers that the new approach is a valid one in achieving what they wish to accomplish. Then accelerate learning to the “unconscious competence” phase.

This is why we train people

  • through experience
  • in a light-hearted way
  • in a comfortable, relaxed environment
  • using accelerated learning techniques.

This approach totally bypasses the strain and discomfort of conventional learning. By contrast, learning becomes rapid, comfortable, straightforward and fun.

About trial and error

Sometimes trial and error is a completely redundant process – “reinventing the wheel” so to speak. And sometimes you can end up with a better wheel as a result.

If you want to maximise the effectiveness of the trial and error process, I recommend coaching. Effective coaching is a great way of managing and accelerating the natural process of exploration and discovery.

To summarise:

There are better ways of learning available to you than those you are most familiar with. There are ways to train and coach for success that greatly accelerate the process and are free from the drama and crisis of conventional learning.

Think about the things you want to achieve in your life. What can you now do to achieve those quickly and easily? The choices are yours.

Ten Hypnosis Myths

There are a lot of popular myths about hypnosis, many of which have come from a misunderstanding of the process, from dramatic literature or films, or from the ‘air of mystery’ that stage hypnotists tend to cultivate.

I’ve highlighted some of those myths below.

MYTH 1 – Hypnosis is like being asleep

Hypnosis is very different from sleep, as you will be aware of your surroundings while in trance. Many people find that through hypnosis they become more aware of smells, sounds and feelings than usual.

MYTH 2 – The hypnotist can make you do things against your will.

This is completely untrue. If the hypnotist were to make a suggestion that you did not want to follow, you could easily ignore it. Hypnosis is a process that requires an atmosphere of trust.

MYTH 3 – You won’t remember what happened while you were hypnotised.

Most people remember what has taken place while they were in trance, with the obvious exception being that they have accepted a suggestion to remember nothing that took place…

You can find the rest here:

10 Hypnotic Myths