NLP Word Power 1 – Words that magnify emotion

Influence. Most people want more of it. It can be frustrating if you are unable to affect important events and circumstances in the world around you.

Those same people don’t realise how much influence they already have, but are unknowingly frittering it away. It’s not really their fault – they don’t know any better yet.

This series will cover simple things you can do to use your language to reclaim your influence and expand on it easily.

Language that magnifies emotion

There is one simple word that you use every day which amplifies emotions: “why?”

More specifically, asking “why?” will tend to magnify another person’s current emotional state.

How you currently misuse it:

When dealing with problems and when you are trying to help people out, I’ll bet the first question that comes to mind is “why…?”

When I train people in NLP, I put a temporary ban on ‘asking why’ when dealing with problems, because it tends to magnify the problem.

In short, “why?” creates “because.”

Asking “why are you feeling sad?” results in the client generating more justification for the sadness. This brings them further into the emotion of ‘feeling sad’ and tends to focus their mind more on sadness. A downward spiral.

In this way, a carelessly worded, but well intentioned question can suck any remaining positivity out of their day.

How you can use it powerfully:

On the upside, asking “Why?” doesn’t just accelerate negative feelings. You can take a more positive emotion and build upon it instead.

If someone is mildly happy, asking “why are you so cheerful today?” tends to result in reasons for the cheerfulness, creating more cheerful feelings and focuses more of their attention on the good feelings. it creates an upward spiral.


To amplify their current state, good or bad, just ask “why…?”

Inside The Science of Ethical Influence

Since I teach hypnosis and NLP, plenty of people ask me about influence and persuasion. Many people wrongly assume that influence is about ‘clever’ language, often to the point of asking for ‘scripts’.

The truth is that the language is far less important than certain other motivating factors that surround the influence situation.

There are six universal factors in influence and persuasion that you should be aware of.


  • it is important to be aware of when someone might be trying to influence you against your interests
  • it is useful to know how to influence someone ethically

I know that, for some, the words ‘ethical’ and ‘influence’ don’t normally belong in the same sentence. The difficulty is that we can’t not influence each other, so – if you consider yourself to be ethical – you need to know how to do this for the best of all concerned. And ethical influence is the only good long term persuasion strategy.

The six influencing factors are described in the video below. This is the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, the most cited expert on influence and persuasion.

Notice how so little of this is about clever or convoluted language. All influence depends on simple, normal everyday actions – done with awareness for mutual benefit.

Changing behaviour – Leveraging Values

In NLP, we talk a lot about ‘values’ – those ideas and concepts that hold importance for each of us.

It’s widely believed that knowing your values in a specific area of life, or for a specific outcome is a positive thing.

However, ‘leveraging’ values has received a lot of bad press, often described as manipulative and therefore given negative connotations (e.g. the usual approach to making a new law more palatable to the population is to tie it back into values – “putting your fingerprints on your passport is about security”. You’ve probably heard someone say “I don’t like it… but security is really important to me”.)

I like to give examples of how these tools can be used positively to create useful changes in behaviour, so I’ve included the video below which leverages ‘fun’ :

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:

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

NLP – Influencing Decision-Making

One of the most interesting things about the way our minds work is the way that we make decisions. We do this every day – we have to decide between one thing and another thing and there is some internal mechanism that allows us to do that.

Sometimes this mechanism works really well and we make a great decision.  And sometimes the result is not so good. You know the decisions I’m talking about. All the exercise equipment you bought and never used. The clothes you bought that you never wear. The things that seemed like a good idea at the time, which you regret later.

And there are other sorts of decisions – the ones we make most unconsciously. A sort of decision like: do I eat the chocolate cake or do I eat a salad? Do I go and do some exercise or do I sit in front of the television? The results to these sorts of decisions are not always entirely what we hoped.  And a big part of that is down to how we think about the decision.

How do we compare the options?

The moment of decision

In the moment of decision we have to choose between the options to select what is best for us. So most decisions involve some sort of comparison. Should I buy the brown shoes or the black ones? Which car is most comfortable / looks best / sounds best / is fastest / is most economical? We tend to compare some aspect of each experience and choose the option that comes out best for that aspect.

For example, if you look at the choice between a piece of chocolate cake or a salad and you make the choice based on a picture of the chocolate cake and how that feels and a picture of the salad and how that feels – if you do the decision in this way the chocolate cake will always win.

However if you compare these in a slightly different way, focusing on a different aspect of the experience, you get a different outcome. Suppose you were to fast-forward each of the images until you see where they lead and then compare those images. For example, the chocolate cake fast-forwards to a picture of standing in front of the mirror feeling bloated. The salad can fast-forward to an entirely different picture. Now when you compare those pictures, the salad wins.

And that’s just one way in which how we make decisions impacts the results we get.

Channelling our decision-making

We don’t always make decisions with pictures though. Sometimes we talk about the two options with ourselves – we talk about one option then we talk about the other. How you talk about those things – the words you use, the tonality you use and how you express the words makes a tremendous difference in what you will decide.

There are other ways that our decisions can be affected because decision-making is a process.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) we call this process a ‘strategy’. There are many different ways that a strategy can be affected by other conditions which will ultimately affect the sort of decision we get and whether it’s a good decision or a bad decision.

But what makes a good decision good and the bad decision bad?

That’s something that is much more difficult to evaluate for most people. I would suggest that as a rough rule-of-thumb a good decision is one that gets you what you want in the bigger picture or in the longer term.

It’s important to look at utility from a broader perspective because how you frame the decision – whether you look at the chocolate cake or the consequences of the chocolate cake later on – affects how you move through the world. To make decisions you’ve got to know what you really want and that’s a whole other issue. I suggest that you evaluate your decisions from a broad enough perspective and find out if they really give you want you want in the long-run.

For NLPers

For those of you with NLP training, you’ve probably noticed that this article includes only two of the many ways to influence a person’s strategies. There are at least twelve easy ways to do this – and about twenty in total, without splitting hairs.

My challenge to you is to add your favourite way of influencing strategies in the comments section below. Care to play?

NLP Influence 3 – Placebos, Persuasion and Urban Myths

In the previous parts of this series, (part 1 part 2) I’ve looked at the psychology of our natural decision-making processes (convincers) and some ways to bypass those processes.

In this final part, find out how both convincers and bypass techniques can be used to create significant practical effects.

Topics covered include urban myths, creating more effective placebos and managing reality.

Questions and comments are welcome below:

NLP Influence 2 – How to Bypass Convincers

In my previous post on this topic, I explored the psychology behind our natural decision-making processes – and how you can make use of that knowledge to be more persuasive.

This time, I’m going to show you several of the ways you can bypass those natural processes by making use of some common mental short-cuts.

Come back soon to see part 3 of this series, which describes how these methods can be used to create urban myths, manage reality and increase the effectiveness of placebos.

You can ask questions and make comments below:

NLP Influence and Metaprograms

One of the major realisations that comes from learning NLP is that we all experience the world in different ways.

In NLP, one of the ways in which we describe this distinction is through ‘metaprograms’.

In practical terms, metaprograms are a series of filters through which we experience the world. They dictate what we focus on, how we best absorb information and what our expectations are.

Metaprograms do their filtering ‘out of awareness’, so only the informed mind can catch them at work.

Two of these filters in particular can influence other people’s decisions. Watch my video below to learn more about them:

The most powerful way to incorporate metaprograms into your communication is to listen and be aware of which ones a particular person uses most. Then tailor your communication to fit that.

That’s all for now. See Part 2 here.

If you have any questions or comments, you can add them below.