Smart pacing – an easy alternative to boring your hypnotic subject into trance

When talking about hypnosis, most people get the wrong idea about what pacing is. The system in question consists of a pattern of pacing (matching) and then leading (sameness and then difference). As I mentioned in the first video, a pacing statement is commonly reduced to one which matches the obvious perceptions of the hypnotic subject, such as “you are aware of the sounds in the room” or something similar.

I’d suggest a broader definition may be more useful, as it would be better to be able to get things moving towards where you want them straight away, rather than all this tedious and unnecessary business about how things are right now.

I define pacing as “matching aspects of their model of the world.” Notice that I didn’t say anything about ‘statements’ and that I’m intent on focusing them only on certain aspects of the way they think the world works.

You see, you don’t need to ‘pace’ overly much when you’re making suggestions within their model of the world. You can work within their model of the world while asking questions which focus them on relevant and useful parts of it.

How do you know, then, what they suppose is true about the world, without making stupidly obvious statements or outright guesses?

Firstly, questions are better than statements, because they reduce the need for mind-reading, or for tediously stating things which are obvious.

More interestingly, we can ask questions which focus them on aspects of awareness that begin to lead towards where we want them to go.

A ‘formal’ example of a focus question would be “where in your body are you feeling most relaxed right now?” You can immediately understand how much more of an effect that would have than “you are feeling relaxation somewhere in your body”. The question sends them on a search for relaxation, while the statement can, at most, be a loose confirmation of a fact.

It’s self-evident that they’re feeling relaxation in some areas more than in others, even if they’re somewhat tense overall, so the question is partly a pace. It also will have the effect of focusing them on relaxation and causing more of it – a lead.

So the focus question (especially one which uses a comparison) is the most effective form of an indirect lead.

This form of indirect lead is a powerful substitute for the old pace – a smarter form of pacing.

If you want to know more about smart pacing, or to be led through the hypnotic process in detail, with plenty of examples and practical exercises, get my book Hypnotic Conversations: The Secret Structure Behind Everyday Hypnosis.

Or if you want to know even more first, then watch my next video – The best way to practice Hypnotic language without wanting to slam your head in a door.

How to have hypnotic conversations that won’t sound like you’re a therapist or a weirdo

There’s lots of talk about this thing called ‘conversational hypnosis’ but not everyone is talking about the same thing.

  • some are talking about a style of therapeutic hypnosis pioneered by a doctor called Milton Erickson
  • some are talking about ‘influential language patterns’
  • some are talking about hypnotising others in an everyday setting for influence
  • Some are talking about super stealth black-ops ninja Jedi mind control


Conversational hypnosis, to me, means having an influence conversation using language and frameworks from hypnosis.

This isn’t the Erickson approach – if you just go and listen to Erickson doing hypnosis it’s not very conversational at all. His work is only called ‘conversational hypnosis’ because it’s a lot more conversational than “10…relaxing deeply…9…closing your eyes now…8…sinking down in your chair…7…giving me your wallet…” Well, you get the idea.

You see, the first mistake most people make when they want to do conversational hypnosis – they learn hypnosis. Then they try and make hypnosis sound like a conversation. Then we all get to experience the great train wreck that is their new ‘conversational’ style.

Let me give you a specific example. There’s a thing in regular hypnosis called ‘pace and lead’. A ‘lead’ is a suggestion of some type. A ‘pace’ is a statement that the hypnotic subject can easily verify right-then-and-there. A classic pace would be “you can hear the sound of my voice”. Of course they can. And that’s okay in a clinical setting, but in a conversation? Are you kidding me?

That approach falls far short because there are basically three types of ‘pacing statement’:

  1. a good mind-read (this is an insightful acknowledgement of the subject’s experience) for example “you’re a little nervous, aren’t you?”
  2. environmental pace (stating a common experience in the environment) for example, “it’s a bit cold today”
  3. Captain Obvious Strikes! (a boringly obvious environmental pace) for example “you can hear the sound of my voice”

Most people slavishly follow the pace and lead pattern when trying to do conversational hypnosis without knowing why you might want to pace and lead in the first place. And they try to do it with boringly obvious statements:

“you’re listening to me, and I’m about to say something, and you’re wondering what it will be…” It sounds like Forrest Gump!

I went with a non-hypnotist friend to a presentation where the speaker was trying to pace and lead like this. My friend thought the speaker sounded like he was on heavy medication.

Pace-and-lead is all about building trust and testing the responsiveness of the hypnotic feedback loop (more about this in the fourth video – hypnosis in a nutshell).

My question is this: are you more likely to accept a suggestion from someone who is insightful and understands you, or from someone who is boring and shallow?

Clearly, the pace and lead approach will work well enough if you use good mind-reads. This involves a skill that is absent from formal models of hypnosis but is common in conversation: asking people about themselves, listening to the answers and making an effort to understand their point of view.

This is the second mistake – forgetting that hypnosis is an interaction. Formal hypnosis tends to involve lots of talk from the hypnotist and little, if any, from the subject. In a conversation, we share the talking more or less equally.

So if you’re using formal hypnosis models for a conversation and the other person goes off into a long story or veers off on a tangent, you’ll probably think “disaster!”. That’s far from the case, because that is what conversations do. If you do conversational hypnosis a different way, that tangent’s not just useful – it’s a bonus!

Am I talking about nested loops? Multiple embedded metaphor? Lesser-included-deep structures? Leveraging Archetypes? This is the third mistake – high tech hypnosis.

There are so many ‘techniques’ out there and so much structured language – hypnosis – and persuasive language in general – has become really high tech and complicated. There are 1001 tiny things to remember and track. What a juggling act!

Good hypnosis is simple hypnosis. The most effective methods for influence are really simple. And when complicated things break down, they usually need an expert to fix them.

My hypnosis model is really simple and anyone can learn it. It’s based on a single premise:

Don’t take hypnosis and try to make it sound like a conversation. Start with a conversation and make it hypnotic.

That’s it. There are some key elements of hypnosis that can be added to a conversation, but we start with the conversation first. That way, your influence conversation will sound like you’re a normal person and not a therapist or weirdo.

How do I know this? I wrote the book on it. You can learn the specifics of truly conversational hypnosis in my book Hypnotic Conversations: The Secret Structure Behind Everyday Hypnosis.

Or if you want to know more first, watch my next video on the Myth of Secret Hypnotic Language.