Words and Wheelbarrows – How to check what someone is really saying

Now I’m not writing this about the 14 linguistic distinctions – just about one of the Deletions which Wheelbarroware known in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) as nominalisations – that means it’s a process word (a verb or a doing word) that’s been frozen in time and made into a noun (that’s a naming word).

Some examples – a word like ‘Relationship’

First it can have so many meanings – it can be a relationship with a significant other, with a friend, with a child, with a customer, with a client, with a work colleague, with a boss etc. And whatever of those it is, it can have completely different meanings to those people involved in the relationship (or not).
So when someone says ‘my relationship is not right’ – we really need to start asking that person questions, not assuming we know what they are talking about. After all we only know about the kind of relationships we are in, or the ones we have known, or seen from our perspective. If we assume and give our advice, the worst case scenario is that we can lose a friend or be blamed for giving advice that was well meaning, but they may not want that advice.
To find out more about what that word means for the other person, we need to turn that nominalisation into a process and find out what’s not right for the person who made the statement ‘my relationship is not right’. So we ask (carefully, with great respect and sincerity and in a kind of the ‘pass the salt’ tone) something like ‘how would you like to be related to?’ It might seem weird, but this will give you more to work with. It might bring up another nominalisation or other deletions, distortions and generalisations, but I only wanted to give you this as a taster. You will then find you have more idea of what the person means (and you could have been barking up the wrong tree) and their relationship and what also eventually happens is that the person who was having the problem has more idea of what it is they want in life.

However some clues to which words are nominalisations – firstly there’s the wheelbarrow mentioned in the title. There’s a kind of rule of thumb that anything you couldn’t put in a wheelbarrow (and sometimes it will be a very large wheelbarrow, so for example for a ‘crowd’, a ‘building’ etc.) is a nominalisation, so things like ‘fear’, ‘love’, ‘hate’ etc. and also words ending in the following –

-ance (compliance) -ness (happiness)
-iency (efficiency) -itude (gratitude)
-ful (painful) -ment (fulfilment)
-ship (friendship) -ence (difference)
-able (reliable) -ion (depression)

You can apply the kind of questioning I mentioned earlier; sometimes it’s not so obvious what the process word/doing word/verb is, sometimes we just need to think a little about how we will ask a question to get to the root or heart of the matter, so that we understand more about what the other person is annoyed or upset or aggrieved about.

So (the following are all examples you could use, there will be others) –
Compliance – How’s that not complied with?
or How would you like that to be complied with?
Happiness – How would you like to be happy?
Efficiency – How do we need to be more efficient?
Gratitude – How would like them to be grateful?
Painful – Tell me more about the pain?
Fulfilment – How would you like them to be fulfilled?
Friendship – How would expect a friend to be?
or Tell me more about being friends.
Difference – How do they differ?
Reliable – What is someone like you can rely on?
Depression – How does that depress you?

This kind of thing is really useful, what is also useful and helps you avoid the pain of misunderstanding and misinterpreting and losing friendships, preventing the onset of World War III at home, getting to the core of a problem at work is thinking in this way:

Notice how you form your own reality, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself – this will make you more effective and successful. Also think about what you say to others, if you are not clear, if you use lots of nominalisations (and some cultures and organisation do, all the time) how will others understand you?

Always be in rapport (so point your body towards the person, match or mirror their posture, use their words), soften your voice, softer tones and phrase questions in a more acceptable way.
“I wonder exactly what you mean by that…”
“That’s interesting, can I ask you ……”

Think carefully about what you say and listen carefully to what others say and train your intuition to recognise patterns, know when there is information missing, when it’s useful to clarify meaning or open choices. Where the conversation is based on a relationship (of whatever kind) – be careful, very, very careful with the Meta Model – if not used with care it becomes a task-based process. For example if someone says “I liked that” asking “How specifically did you like it and what exactly did you like?” may not be appropriate in certain circumstances and I can think of a few!

Taken from ‘No More Bingo Dresses’ published MX Publishing 2010 more details please click here.

If you’d like to know more faster, please  contact me Rosie O’Hara the Developing Works website, or via my Coaching Website tel. +44 (0) 7796 134081 (What’sApp as well), +44 (0)1224 900748, +44 (0)1309 676004. And please comment on this blog too.

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