9. The way of influence – NLP for Rookies


The way of influence

The Milton model, language and anchoring

The Milton model is the reflective counterpart to the Meta model, and was named in tribute to the man responsible for its inspiration, Milton Erickson.

In 1974, Bandler and Grinder worked with the brilliant hypnotherapist and teacher Dr Milton H. Erickson, modelling his successful approach and methodologies within his chosen field of clinical hypnosis. By that time, Erickson’s work in “change therapy” had won him worldwide recognition as one of the most influential hypnotherapists of all time.

Erickson’s unique hypnotic style effortlessly guided his patients towards achieving their own internal trance state. Using his subtle observations of non-verbal behaviour and artful implementation of vague language, Milton allowed his subjects to subconsciously uncover their own positive internal resources, leading their minds into providing the solutions required to begin making the appropriate changes in their behaviour.

Erickson’s approach was to pace his patient’s personal reality, understanding that the only way anyone can begin effectively influencing someone else is through an established foundation of trust. This meant being flexible within his own behaviour. He knew that in order for his intent to become properly understood, and for his communication to be truly effective, he had first to join his patients within their own perceived reality, resulting in an extremely permissive hypnotic approach, which began by acknowledging his patient’s own neurological “map of the world”.

Erickson’s use of “vague” language patterns steered his patients towards interpreting his communication in a manner that was relevant to their own perceptions and reflected their own understanding. This led to instant rapport and positive, often inspirational therapy results.

Our minds are always seeking a way to make sense of the world and the communication within it. Our logical mind has a great capacity for organizing any perceived information in a manner that always provides relevant understanding. Even if communication is incredibly vague and none too specific, our minds will still quickly fill in any apparent gaps with our own deemed appropriate interpretation.

Rookie Buster

Our minds are always seeking a way to make sense of the world and the communication within it.

Exercise: Vague language

Ask a friend or colleague to read the previous chapter. Then both of you read the statement below and write down your own personal interpretations of it.

“Once you have finished reading the above chapter, you may find yourself thinking about the new insights you have learned or thinking about how you will begin applying your new understanding into your life.”

As you read this paragraph, you will find it is made up of statements, questions and judgements that are without any specific direction or intention.

Which paragraph?

Thinking specifically about what?

What sort of thoughts?

What exact insight?

Which words?

Are you learning and thinking about insight or just applying it?

Which is it or does it mean both?

How are you applying it?

What understanding and which part of your life?

You have to decide and assign all the meanings to the words yourself, which forces your mind to go internally and think about how, why and which elements of the statement are true, potentially relevant and appropriate to you.

Now both of you compare your answers.

You will notice that you have both found a way of responding appropriately to the statement, but the interesting question now is: Are the responses the same, or have you each chosen to interpret the same statement slightly differently?

The differences between the two

The Milton model is basically the Meta model in reverse. It utilizes the same basic patterns as the Meta model, but it applies them in an opposite context. The Meta model forces our mind to go externally, bringing the specific structure and meaning behind our communicated language into our conscious awareness.

The Milton model forces our mind to go internally, and allows our subconscious to search within our own internal resources to gain a more general and relevant understanding from the communicated language.


Erickson was a natural when it came to building rapport with his patients. A lot of his rapport came from his constant communicative pacing, both verbal and non verbal (see Chapter 5 on rapport), and he believed that the only reason why someone would put up any resistance to you would be because of lack of established rapport.

Pacing someone’s reality is easy to do, and can be something you incorporate into your everyday conversation. To begin pacing someone, you simply need to tune in to their perceived reality, and this can be begun by altering their conscious focus on to a mutual reality (five, seven or nine pieces of conscious attention):

“As you sit on your plastic chairs [pace] and listen to my presentation [pace], imagine [lead] …”

“Since it’s late in the afternoon [pace] and it’s already starting to get dark [pace], I appreciate you may feel a certain way [vague statement] about speaking to me [pace] on the phone right now, so I’ll get to the reason behind why it’s important I speak with you …”

You can never truly know what someone else is thinking, but you can control elements of their conscious awareness. This does not mean you are controlling what they are thinking, but simply that you are able to draw their limited focus of attention on to something you can both mutually perceive, creating common ground and the foundations upon which to begin building rapport.

Rookie Buster

You can never truly know what someone else is thinking, but you can control elements of their conscious awareness.


The Milton model specializes in vagueness, and unlike the Meta model is crammed with deletions, distortion and generalizations. The Milton model forces its listener to actively participate in the communication, searching their own previously collected experiences to understand and attract internal meaning to the words being communicated. This turns the communication into a very personal dialogue, with understanding occurring on a very personal level. The Milton model plays to all our personal belief structures, values and perceptions and leads any analysis of their effectiveness to come from within.

Vague language provides an outline for our thoughts, but doesn’t specify the detail. Once mastered it can be a useful and influential tool.


“Nominalizations” are an NLP term for abstract nouns. They are very effective for deleting specific information out of language and are useful to incorporate into your vague statements. Examples are:











These words were previously verbs (“to be frightened”) and have been turned into nouns (“fear”), and they are very hard to define specifically, as everyone’s personal interpretation and understanding of them can be different.

Unspecified verbs

These are verbs that have no specific meaning and again lead the listener to seek out and attach their own personal meaning. Examples are:







Generalized nouns

These exist when the collection of information behind the word has been left out. Examples are:






Judgements and comparisons

Judgements and comparisons are also good to use if you want to make a statement that you do not want to be questioned. For example:

“That car is like your tie [comparison] in the way it creates an impression [judgement]. Imagine the statement and impression you will be making to your clients when you turn up in this car [judgement], similar to the statement you make with your tie, a perfect reflection [comparison].”

Although if you are making a judging statement like this, do calibrate first whether or not your listener actually likes their tie!

Universal quantifiers

Universal quantifiers are great for adding weight to your argument. For example:

Everyone in the office thinks this is a brilliant idea.”

“As a company we think it’s important always to deliver the highest standard possible, to every one of our clients.”

“That’s right”

“That’s right” are two magical words to use in influential language. We are not stating exactly what is right, but we can use these words to agree, confirm and maintain our rapport within someone else’s reality.

Tag questions

Tag questions are used to invite agreement from your subject. They can help distract the conscious mind and allow the tag question to go directly to the unconscious mind. For example:

“It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?”

“You can understand why this product is a bestseller, can’t you?”

“You can imagine how, with my relevant experience, I would be a perfect fit for this role, can’t you?”

Double blinds

Double blinds lead your subject to believing they have options and choices, although these are in fact very limited. They present an idea in a manner that allows your subject to feel that they have a choice in the decision. Using a double blind is a good way of managing someone’s behaviour without consciously making them feel manipulated. For example:

“Do you want to ring the client before or after your lunch break?” (The command is that they will ring the client; the choice is when.)

“Would you prefer to sign the contract now, or shall we do it after we’ve looked around the property?”

Rookie Buster

Using a double blind is a good way of managing someone’s behaviour without consciously making them feel manipulated.

Embedded commands

These are sentences instructing the focus of the subconscious mind, without the conscious mind’s logical interference. Most embedded commands are delivered with a change in vocal tonality or pace: “I’m not sure at which point of this conversation you will choose to meet my client, but I will go through all the points and we’ll see which ones will match your own requirements.”

Vagueness in language is an incredibly important influencing tool, as it permits our listeners to create and personalize the meaning behind our words. This internal approach to our communication will often prevent the listener’s conscious mind from blocking or over-analysing the intent behind our communication, and it also provides the listener with the opportunity of finding the most suitable and appropriate meaning and understanding from within our words.

It is very important that you remember that with influence comes responsibility – so always ensure that all of your communication begins by respecting another person’s realities, beliefs and values!

It’s a cliché but still an appropriate one: “Always treat others in the way you yourself would wish to be treated.”


A lot of our responses and interactions with reality are a result of our emotional frame of mind at the time. These mindsets are known in NLP as “states”.

Most of our directional behaviour can be influenced through our states. When we feel happy, we are more likely to filter our information to reflect our perception of this state, and under these conditions decisions will become more impulsive, we feel luckier, we will often overlook small negative details and we will generally respond with a more positive, open and proactive approach to life. When we feel in a sad or angry state, again our perceptual filters become influential in the way we then look at and react to life, and our new expectations also inevitably become reality.

Milton Erickson recognized the importance of states when it came to influencing his patients into positively altering their behaviour.

It is easier to persuade your client to sign a multi-million dollar contract when they are in a happy state and feeling optimistic about life. You are more likely to tackle that 10,000-word proposal when your state is motivated, focused and excited about the idea you’re proposing.

Rookie Buster

It is easier to persuade your client to sign a multimillion dollar contract when they are in a happy state and feeling optimistic about life.

Mastering how to influence state change both within yourself and within others is a key influential tool that will have a massive impact upon your work, personal and social life.

Since our emotional states are a result of the thoughts that we are thinking, our external perceptions and our internal thought processes, we can actively influence our states by simply manipulating our thoughts.

Exercise: Altering your state

Remember a time when you’ve felt extremely happy. It doesn’t matter what this memory is, whether it is real or imagined, with friends or on your own, as long as the thought makes you smile.

Think for a couple of minutes about this memory. Imagine all the qualities of it. What do you see, hear and feel?

Allow yourself to truly associate with this memory for a couple of minutes, then break state and become aware of reality once more. (“Breaking state” is an NLP term for when you choose to alter your current state and focus of mind and change into a more neutral state. This can be done by simply shaking your body about a bit, moving your arms or shifting your physical position.)

Every time we daydream, play make-believe, watch TV, read a fictional book or just socialize with our friends, we are actively altering our emotional states.

Learning how to alter or create different states on command helps us to choose how and in which direction we wish to direct our behaviour.

Elicitation and the calibration of others

In NLP, the process of understanding someone’s state in order to influence and change it is known as “elicitation”. “Calibration” occurs when we accurately observe another person’s non-verbal signals.

When we are experiencing a specific state, both our mind and body respond at the same time. Our gestures change, our physiology, tonality and even the submodalities within our internal representational system (hearing, seeing, feelings) will begin to alter.

This is useful to remember when you are interacting with others. The only way we can gain any insight into how our communication is being interpreted is by eliciting someone’s response to it. Remember: the meaning behind your communication is the response you get. And by learning to recognize another person’s state, we can gain the information that allows us to communicate more effectively.

Rookie Buster

The meaning behind your communication is the response you get.

Imagine walking into your boss’s office with the intent of asking him for a pay rise and then noticing that he was scowling, his arms were folded and his voice was stern and lifeless. You would probably decide that now wasn’t the best moment to approach him and that maybe it would be sensible to leave it to a more appropriate time.

By learning how to elicit and calibrate someone’s state, we can gain the information necessary to enable us to respond more appropriately with our body and mind, and this in turn establishes a deeper level of understanding and rapport.


Once a state has been elicited and calibrated, we then need to “anchor” it, so that we can access the desired state at will. An anchor is usually an external stimulus that, when triggered, provides a direct link to our desired physiological or mental state.

Any new behaviour that we learn begins by being linked to a stimulus. For example, the phone rings and you immediately feel the desire to pick it up.

Rookie Buster

Any new behaviour that we learn begins by being linked to a stimulus.

When we experience a strong emotion as a response to an experience, both the experience and its response will be linked and stored within the subconscious as a memory. These memories are known in NLP terms as “anchors”.

Anchors are often created when a person experiences a situation that contains a high level of emotional content or when the experience is frequently repeated. An example of a powerful, negative anchored state is a phobia (such as a fear of public speaking, of spiders or of heights).

Anchors linked to our emotional states are very powerful and persuasive, and can provide us with a very influential tool to apply to our behaviour.

Tapping into and recreating our resourceful states using anchors provides us with a methodology that can help us manipulate our own and other people’s behaviour. Anchors allow us to choose how we feel and how we wish to experience the events within our lives.

Anchors can be linked to any stimulus (fingers, words, feelings, people, places), but for personal use, it is often useful to link the trigger to a physical stimulus that can be easily accessed.

Coach’s notes

Learning how to anchor the perfect resourceful state

1. Identify the particular resourceful state you want.

2. Now go back through your memories and remember a time when you have experienced that resource. Spend a couple of minutes reliving all the elements of this memory. (What did you see, hear, feel, what was your physiology like, how did you sound, etc.)

3. Break state.

4. Now choose a physical stimulus to which to anchor this state – for example, your finger.

5. Now put yourself fully back into that experience again, and spend a couple of minutes fully associating with all the submodalities (qualities) heightening the experience. When your emotions are at their peak, trigger your anchor (for example, squeeze your fingers) and hold this state for as long as you can, then break it.

6. Repeat Step 5, at least two more times.

7. Break state.

8. Now test your anchor. Fire your stimulus and notice your subconscious respond with your desired state.

Go for it! If you practise calibrating other people’s states, you will quickly learn to notice whether or not your communication is having the desired affect. You cannot not communicate, and because of this it’s important that you learn how to recognize the impact your communication is actually having upon your intended recipients.

By paying attention to another person’s physiology, language and perceptions of their reality, you will always gain access to the information you need to enable your communication and subsequent influence to be constantly powerful and effective.




































If we want to learn how to begin doing anything new, then we need to create a strategy for our subconscious mind to follow in order for us to reach our behavioural destination. In the same way that a company needs to have a business plan to highlight its objectives, so our subconscious needs a plan in order to deliver all of our ambitions and goals. In this chapter we are going to go through the basic process that will provide all the tools you need, so you can begin developing your own strategies in order to attain your goals and master all your ambitions.