The previous blog post, “Recontextualizing Skills,” featured an example from Don Aspromonte, who taught a man who was a skilled runner, but had difficulty writing reports, how to “run a report.” (If you haven’t read that one yet, you may want to read it first.)
Don sent us an email with some important additional detail that we’re passing on to you below:
The most important NLP skill to bring to this task is the ability to notice when the client transitions from a dissociated state to an associated state. As you ask them to think of a hobby that they enjoy, they will initially begin to tell you about it. This dissociated state does not fully elicit all the resources and strategies they use when they are actually doing it.
You need to continue to challenge them to tell you more about actually doing it. When you see them transition to the actual state they enter when they are engaged in the activity, you are ready to deliver the integrating question. When they enter the associated state they will begin to describe perceptions and strategies that are difficult to follow. When I get lost, I know it is time to say, “Can you find any parallels between what it takes to [do the skill] and [the problem task]?”
Typically, they will stay in the associated resource state while they process the integration. This intense learning state lasts from about 30 seconds to more than 2 minutes. Then they will begin to make an attempt to explain the solution to me. I do not allow them to do that. I simply change the subject and break off the intervention as soon as possible. This allows the integration to continue without interference from conscious activity until all the connections have been made.
The end result is that they usually become amnesic for the event and find the resulting enhanced solution to be unremarkable — which it is for them, since they already had the skill in a different context. I think that is ideal because they simply accept the ability to do what they have not been able to do before as a natural part of their capability. This enhanced ability in an area where they were previously weak, may also result in some improvement in their sense of identity.
The distinctions Don makes are important when using many other NLP methods, particularly when working conversationally. When someone is talking about something, it is rarely useful in creating change unless they go on to live it more fully from the inside. And when someone’s eyes glaze over, indicating that they are processing something internally — putting things together — that is the time to wait patiently for them to complete what they are doing before attempting anything else.
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