2 0 2 1 M o n t h l y P l a n n e r
NLP Canada Training
Human beings make consistent cognitive errors. We believe the wrong things in
reliable ways. One of those errors is to mistake insight for skill. We think that if we
understand something, we should be able to do it.
Understanding how to do something is only the first step (it doesn't even get you
halfway). Practice is how we develop skill. We divide a task into components and we
do those components mindfully, often and with feedback. Eventually we develop
enough skill to begin combining components to move toward the results we want.
This is a communication workbook, and the components it asks you to practice may
surprise you. You are used to learning about how language works. Now it is time to
learn how to use language better. That takes a different kind of practice, a practice
that includes managing the "you" that communicates.
You are used to steps on a path and steps in a process. Each month in this workout
gives you a different kind of step. It's a dance step, a movement you can use to create
many different patterns in the dance called communication.
Your Communication Workout for 2021
NLP is a state-based model of performance. That means that your state will drive your choices
and your choices will drive your results. Language is not the foundation of your communication:
state is. Before you think about what you want to say, you need to clear your state: you need to
invite your bigger self and your conscious self to work as one to get a result.
Before you decide what you want to say or why you want to say it, take the time to find the state
you want to drive your communication.
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Begin with your breath. Not just one deep
breath, but several. Before you connect to
others, connect to your breath. Feel it
moving in you and through you. As you
release it, focus on that column of air that is
Your state combines your feelings, your
thoughts and your physiology. The fastest
way to clear it is to move your body. Walk,
stretch or sit quietly and focus on tensing
and releasing one part of your body at a
What if your state doesn't release? Some
states are strong in breath and body. What
useful state shares some of the physiology
of this state that won't be cleared? Practice
moving to this useful state by thinking about
a time you experienced it strongly.
Who do you know who is good at walking
into a situation with a clear state? Focus on
this person as if they were with you now.
Allow yourself to step into their shoes and
notice what changes as you breathe the way
they breathe, hold their posture, and observe
with their eyes and ears.
Have you ever looked out of an airplane
window and watched as the ground
becomes farther away? From the air you see
patterns in the landscape that you miss on
the ground. Take a few moments and allow
yourself to experience the feeling of
watching the landscape from the air.
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Some people call it deep listening or active listening. Neither of those names really tells you how
to do it. A better way to think of it is this: you must be so clear in your intention that you can move
all of your attention to getting in sync with a person or group. This includes allowing yourself to
pick up emotion, expression, motivation, reasoning and rhythms.
You can’t manage it all consciously, but your brain has evolved to allow you to intend a
connection and make the adjustments necessary so that connection forms. If you want to send a
message, you start by preparing the connection that will carry it.
Matching and mirroring builds rapport. Make
small changes in muscle tension, postures
and movement so that you are more like
what you observe in the other person. You
can notice how your state changes and they
will notice evidence that you are paying
attention to them.
The most powerful information about state
comes through the breath. If you’re at work,
mirror someone’s breath by picking up its
rhythm (tap your finger or your foot).
Mirroring breath directly is so powerful that it
is invasive. But if you’re home with someone
you love, you can safely share each other’s
You think you should show attention with
eye contact. Sometimes, that’s true. But
people making eye contact seem to be
looking for something, not open to all that is
being said. Instead, turn your head slightly,
so you are tilting your ear toward the
speaker. They’ll see you listening.
Repeat back phrasing someone just said,
word-for-word, as if you want to know more.
Repeating exactly allows you to pay as
much attention to how something was said
as you do to what was said. You’ll hear more
words and pick up the state that drives them.
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Have you ever been sucked in by someone else’s strong feelings? You might not even realize the
feelings are not yours: you can amplify energy and intensify focus just by paying attention to
them. It seems like you are seeing clearly when you are really seeing emotionally. To find a better
way, you begin by reaching for a wider perspective.
You can’t get someone else to see reason if your own focus is on one tiny point. You have to pull
back to create the conditions where logic and reason can identify new patterns and new
pathways. Here are four questions to practice.
When have you faced a problem like this
before? This question can elicit forgotten
strengths or reveal patterns. It always pulls a
person back to search through all of their
experience. It takes a time frame of
moments and pulls it into a time frame of
Who do you know who has been in this kind
of situation? This question uses our social
wiring to uncover options. And it causes the
responder to widen the frame to include not
just the people in this situation, but all the
people in similar situations across time and
What will you notice when you look back on
this five years from now? This question
opens up a wider time frame. It also
presupposes that the problem will not be
fatal and puts the situation in the category of
‘memories’ which is so much larger than the
category of ‘present.’
What else? It takes a clear state and strong
connection to harness the power of these
two small words. They transform feelings
into information and presuppose that the
frame is always wider than it seems. They
force the attention away from the pull of what
feels true so that you can scan the context.
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For every communication, there is feedback. Good communicators shape what they say and do
so that they get the feedback they want. This means knowing when you have time to plan, and
knowing when you are in a situation that changes moment by moment. Knowing what you want
requires that you hold your intention while you cycle your attention through what is changing in
your relationship and what is possible in your situation.
Like any complex skill, knowing what you want requires practicing the individual components so
that they become available as fluid automatic processing when you need them.
What will convince you that spring has
arrived? Will it be a date in the calendar or
the colour of the ground as the first tiny
flowers appear? Showing is always more
powerful than telling. To show people what
you want, you must be able to first imagine
the signs that what you want has happened.
Wanting is never simple: it is always a
network of feelings, opportunities, facts,
connections and behaviours. To
communicate what you want, you need to
know the whole fabric: the changes you want
in fact, in behaviour, in feeling and in
relationship. Don’t start with a snapshot:
start with a map of the outcome you want.
What do you want most? Communication is
a simplified version of connection. Knowing
what you want means understanding that
you get a limited number of asks. Don’t
waste your relationship budget by asking for
little things at the expense of the important
ones. Leverage starts with understanding
the weight of what you want most.
The heart of communication is the desire for
further connection. Respect that desire by
seeing what you want from other points of
view. When you appreciate what it will cost
someone else to understand or agree, you
won’t lose focus. You’ll widen the frame and
gain permission to continue to communicate.
Every connection contains information, states, strengths, skills and strategies which could be
useful to you. Great communicators actively look for whatever will help them get the results they
want. This doesn’t mean they look for what they can take from someone else: it means they
amplify the possibilities in a connection so that everyone in it becomes more resourceful.
Obstacles, resistance and argument can all be mesmerizing. The alternative is to stay focused on
making a connection with something you can use.
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The most important information you are
receiving from someone else is almost
always about the state they are in, not the
facts they are offering. Use your body, ears
and eyes to catch states that are useful and
The primary purpose of communication is to
become stronger and adapt better. Instead
of being distracted by words, listen for the
strengths in a connection that you can grow
in yourself to move toward the things you
Do you need information? You don’t need to
respond to state if what you really need is
clear information to slot into a puzzle you
want to solve or a task you want to
complete. Practice clearing your state so you
can pick the facts you need out of the layers
of communication you receive.
Chunking down can help you see something
useful in resistance. You might think that
being resisted is all bad, but resistance
requires energy, engagement, and
perspective. Mirror what you can use and let
the rest fade.
People often lose track of their own abilities.
When you are clear that you recognized a
resource in them in the past, you can bring it
into the present where it can make a
difference.Label the strength, skill or strategy
that you want someone else to bring into
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If the meaning of communication is the feedback it gets, then the meaning of language is the
state it creates in the receiver. Words with similar dictionary meanings provoke different
responses in different situations. This is obvious at the extremes. What is not obvious is that
expert communicators focus less on the dictionary meanings of words and more on the states
that the words are creating in both senders and receivers.
Does this seem too complicated for you to learn and apply? You already do this when you choose
words that are anchored to strong experiences. As you become more intentional, you will also
become more effective in using words for the states they bring into being.
Think of a strong, positive memory of being
part of a group. What word or phrase comes
to mind? You can also find words and
phrases that are anchored to strong
experiences in your life. Some of these
might be linked to a song or a slogan. The
states associated with these words are
personal and powerful.
As you think of someone you want to
influence with your communication, think of
times when they have experienced useful
states, states that would be helpful in the
situation. What words might signal them to
go back to those experiences to revisit those
states? These words might be anchors to
something that was part of the experience.
This week, think about the word “light” and
the way it can mean something profound
(like light in the darkness) or something
trivial (making light of something). Words
often mean two different things. How do
people decide which meaning to apply and
how to change state as they apply it?
Many words that represent achievement
elicit mixed states. Think of graduation: a
happy ending but also an ending. When you
want to talk about an outcome, you need to
think about whether you want people to
imagine an ending or a pause in a process
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The shortest distance to your communication goal is almost always a story. The story structure is
so wired into how we think that some scientists believe it is wired into our brains too. But most
people get stuck when they are asked to tell a story. They try to be clever or funny; they get
frustrated; and they end up blurting out a rough description of whatever they are thinking.
Stories are important because they move teller and listener through a series of states that
motivate change and create a result. You’ve been telling them since you began to speak.Here are
four questions that will help you practice telling your story.
What will be different? The answer to this is
always a story: it always involves starting in
one state and moving through changes in
relationships, behaviours or situations. If
your story is true, the road between start and
finish is never straight. If you want your story
to sound true, allow yourself to include
obstacles, resistance or surprises.
Does this remind you of anything? Human
brains work by comparing new information to
stored experience and looking for the best
fit. Every memory happened in a sequence,
and includes what came before and what
came after. Practice changing where the
memory starts and finishes to change the
states you communicate through the
When have you leapt to the wrong
conclusion? The answer is always a story: it
naturally involves something that was
desired, an error, tension and a recognition
that releases the tension. It's a great pattern
for reminding people to step back and see a
Have you ever made a plan that didn't work
and been successful anyway? This is the
kind of story that depends on interrupting the
expectation that plans are necessary to get
results. It's a great kind of story for
encouraging people to think about goals,
strengths and relationships.
Construct your communication as if it were a shared story. You'll build a shared experience with
the listener or reader in which you go through a series of states and ideas together. You don't
have to tell a story: you can make your presentation or conversation work like a story.
The advantage of using these five narrative stepping stones is that you will build connection and
engagement and you’ll help your listeners remember the key pieces of information that will
anchor what they learn from you.
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Your first step needs to be rooted in time
and place and a state that offers more
energy, strength, or confidence. Beginnings
need to interrupt the thoughts that are
already running in your audience’s head and
direct them to something they want.
Now take the audience to the reason they
are blocked. This is where you reveal a
problem, obstacle or weakness that stands
between your audience and the thing they
want. If there were no obstacle, they would
When you communicate, introducing a bump
makes your message more memorable and
more realistic than simply laying out steps in
a process. Your audience changes states as
if they were encountering and adapting to a
problem with you. This makes it feel like
you're on the same team.
Stories are always about states (like focus or
competence) and the connections to people,
relationships and situations that make it
easier to hold those states. Wire your
information more securely by connecting it to
states and relationships that your audience
knows and values.
Stories must come to an end, but the
characters inside them live happily ever
after. Good communications end by pointing
to what happens next. They are always "to
be continued" in the life of the listener.
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Grammar scares most people. They are sure that errors are inevitable and that errors will make
them look bad. They hate having to follow complicated rules. All of this is nonsense. Grammar is
not a set of hard-to-understand rules. It is a set of guiding principles for making it more likely that
communication will support connection and collaboration.
These four principles don’t look like grammar, but they are the motivation for most of the rules
about how to make language work better. Begin by listening for them in the communication of
other people. Every pattern you recognize becomes available as a pattern to use in your own
One thing at a time. “Complete thoughts” do
not exist in reality: each thought is
connected to many other things. In
language, we have to use only one word at a
time and they have to be spoken or written
one sentence at a time. A complete thought
is “someone does something.” To improve
your sentences, make them simpler. Who is
Actions don’t just happen. Someone has to
do them. Many rules of grammar insist that
you make it clear who is doing the action. If
you aren’t sure or you don’t want to
acknowledge that every action is done by
someone, then your grammar will be
muddled and your message will only
communicate that you are hiding something
or that you are hiding from something.
People need time to respond. That’s why
periods and paragraphs are so important.
People unconsciously recognize patterns in
your communication, but their conscious
minds are following more slowly. Building
pauses into your communication helps
people recognize patterns consciously. The
full stops give people a moment to pull
themselves together and think.
Life happens in a context. We are always in
a particular where and when. Language is
detached from context: we can talk or write
about things that are not present. We need
to put in enough background so that we can
make a mental image of how information
connects to its environment. Mental pictures
help us understand and remember.
Human beings run in rhythms: our blinks, breath, heartbeat, movement and language are just
some of the ways that our bodies keep time. Rhythm is a key to how we isolate meaning in the
endless flow of stimuli that flow in us and around us. People who are in sync with us seem to be
organized like us. Rhythm can support state or change it.
The basic principle is simple: when you are in sync, people pay attention to your message. When
you are out of sync, people pay attention to that disconnect.
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Walk for 5 minutes without checking a clock.
How close can you come to stopping at
exactly 5 minutes? It's hard to connect with
other people's rhythms until you become
aware of your own sense of time.
Slow down to speed up. When you're
rushing, your head is in the future and the
rest of you is trying to catch up. Bring all of
you into the present. Sit absolutely still for
one minute and you will learn how much
time is available in just 60 seconds.
Practice the art of the pause. When you run
out of words, just do a full stop. No ums and
no excuses. Take a few intentional breaths
and look at the people you are trying to
reach. Then start again at a pace that feels
right to you. You’ll have their attention and
they’ll respond to the pace you set.
Until they share your rhythm, people find it
hard to understand your message. Begin by
listening with your body: tap your finger, nod
your head or move your foot in the rhythm of
another person's voice or the movements of
a group. Only change pace after you have
attention and connection.
A sudden change of pace interrupts a
pattern. In some circumstances, the change
allows people to respond directly to clear,
active messages. In other circumstances,
the change can be used to guide people into
a shift of state so that they are better
prepared to hear the details of the message.
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Most communication advice is designed to help you connect with someone else so you can walk
them across a bridge to share your point of view. But sometimes the goal of your communication
is not to send a clear message. It’s to meet halfway and build on one another’s ideas. This is
actually what language does best: it keeps ideas rough enough around the edges to invite others
to add to them.
There are three keys to communicating to collaborate: stay connected; stay committed to a
shared goal; and say “yes” more often than you say “no.” It also helps to make active use of your
sense of humour.
Think about the best conversations you have
experienced, conversations where you had
ideas together that you would not have had
separately. As you remember, become
curious about the matching and mirroring,
the sound of the voices, and the rhythm of
the conversation. What have you learned
that surprises you about the give-and-take of
What is the shared reason that you are in a
conversation? The clearer the shared
purpose, the more resilient the conversation
when you differ. Difference is necessary, but
it is never comfortable. You need to remind
yourself and your partner that there's
something you want enough to be a little
uncomfortable in pursuing it.
We say no when other people describe the
world in a way that doesn’t match what we
have storied in our brains This allows us to
recognize our own thoughts, but it doesn’t
build shared understanding. “Yes” does not
always signal agreement: it can signal that
you understand that you have different
perspectives and both can be true. Practice
saying yes more often.
When we say something is funny we can
mean that it is unfamiliar or that it makes us
smile. Go into collaboration ready to smile
about your differences. This does not mean
making jokes. Communicate that your
collaboration is a safe place to notice funny
points of view and surprising twists of
thought. When in doubt, smile.
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Is truth a fact or a feeling? We think of facts as true and the truth as something real that exists
whether or not we understand or agree. It’s possible that’s the case, but that’s not a useful basis
for communicating. In communicating, it helps to understand that truth is a feeling that people
have about information. If you can’t get them to experience that feeling, then they won’t be able to
understand what you say as being true.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to base what you say on facts. It means that facts have
impact when they land with a feeling of truth. If you don’t make sure they connect with that
feeling, you won’t be satisfied with your results.
Think of something that you know to be true.
This is a fact: water freezes below zero
degrees Celsius. Summer is warmer than
winter in the northern hemisphere. Scan
through your perceptions as you focus on
this fact. Where do you get signals that this
fact is true? Some people see truth and
some get a feeling in their balance, breath or
Your body is always part of your experience.
Truth is easier to recognize when it is
accessible to the senses. Which of your
senses perceive the truth you want to
communicate? What is the background to
that truth, the context that makes it feel like a
part of your lived experience and not an
What do you believe now that you didn’t
believe ten years ago? Explore the facts,
connections and states that allowed you to
move from an old belief to a new one. How
were you able to recognize a new truth?
What needed to be true for you to accept it?
Learn the feeling that allows you to make
change, and use that feeling when you want
to motivate others to see change as
Life is full of complexity that cannot be
adequately held in words. Pay attention to
those moments when a few words capture a
big idea. You might notice an anchor or
symbol for a shared experience. You might
notice a moment that seems bigger than the
seconds it contains. Recognize the feeling
you have when language stretches to
contain a really big idea.
If you're new to NLP Canada Training, please visit us at https://www.nlpcanada.com.
You'll find many ways to learn more about how people perceive, process and make
the choices that make their lives work better.
There are no routes to satisfaction and success that do not involve two kinds of
communication: one is the interaction of your conscious mind and the powerful
brain/body system from which it emerges and the other is the communication that
supports and shapes your social network. To get better at one, you need to be
mindful of the other.
Communication is a skill and skills only improve with deliberate practice. We hope this
workbook encourages you to join us in our ongoing exploration of how to be more
intentional and more effective in connecting through your words and actions.
Linda Ferguson, Chief Education Officer
NLP Canada Training