NLP Training: Sleight of Mouth Language Patterns

Submitted by Craig on Thu, 04/27/2017 - 03:19

The NLP term "Sleight of Mouth" came into being through Robert Dilts' observations of Richard Bandler, who was expert at responding to complex equivalent (X means Y) challenges in ways that quickly reframed that challenge to provide an alternate meaning, and steered the dialogue in a new direction.

Example Challenge

"You are late again, and that means you don't care!"

One could simply apologize for being late, but that would not address the meaning the other person has attached to the lateness. Sleight of Mouth patterns do this.

Sleight of Mouth Responses

  • "You are only saying that because you are not considering our whole relationship."
  • "Sorry, I was just thinking how much I love you... what was that?"
  • "That kind of response first thing makes me want to stay at the office a little longer."
  • "If I risked driving faster on the ice to get here sooner, that would be taking the short view."
  • "How late is late?"
  • "Does everyone have to be home at a certain time to show that they care about their relationship?"
  • "You're only bringing it up because you feel unloved, is that right?"
  • "Being on time is not the same as caring. Enemies can be on time and not care."
  • "Have you always been on time?"
  • "What is really important about being on time, and what is really important about caring?"
  • "How specifically does not being on time mean that I don't care?"
  • "There was once this person who had to choose between two difficult choices... help a stranger or keep a prior commitment... "
  • "Being on time is not the real issue... whether I love you is the heart of the matter, right?"
  • "Having a terrific relationship is what we're really shooting for here, right?"

Notice that some of the patterns are slippery, and others are outright confrontational. You must use these with care!


Whoever you voted for, or whether or not you voted, you probably could not escape the deflecting and re-framing that both candidates used constantly to avoid answering questions. Not that they were the first politicians to use this NLP technique, but they took sleight of mouth to a new level.