The Yin of Language Patterns
The Milton-Model was named for Milton Erickson by the NLP founders, who were introduced to Milton Erickson by Gregory Bateson. The Milton Model is a broad variety of persuasive and hypnotic language patterns that move one from the specific toward the general in search of solutions that have been overlooked under one's present model or map of the world.
Milton Erickson was a world-famous hypnotherapist, whose use of metaphor, oblique references, vague and permissive language was able to effectively bypass the critical faculties of his clients, and work directly on the subconscious mind. By using vague and permissive language in his suggestions, the client would feel as though they themselves could come up with solutions to their presenting problems, which was indeed the case.
Volumes have been written on the topic of Milton Erickson's language, and it is very profitable to learn. We are indebted to Tad James for the following summary of Milton patterns:
1. Mind Read: Asserting that one knows the thoughts or feelings of another without specifying the process by which you came to know their thoughts.
Example: "I know that you want to know..." - Meta Model Antidote: "How do you know that?"
2. Lost Performative: Value judgments (which may include an unspecified comparison) where the performer of the value judgment is left out.
Example: "And it's a good thing to wonder..." - Meta Model Antidote: "Who says it's a good thing?"
3. Cause and Effect: Where it is implied that one thing causes another.
Examples: If... then... As you... then you... "Because..." - Meta Model Antidote: "Are you sure about the cause of that?"
4. Complex Equivalence: Where two things are equated – as in their meanings being equivalent.
Example: "That means..." - Meta Model Antidote: "How specifically does this mean that...?"
5. Presupposition: The linguistic equivalent of assumptions.
Example: "You are learning many things..." - Meta Model Antidote: "How did you know that?"
6. Universal Quantifier: A set of words which has:
Examples: "And everything, always..." - Meta Model Antidote: "Really? Everything? Everyone?, Always?"
7. Modal Operator: Words, which implies possibility or necessity, which often form our rules in life.
Example: "That you can, should, must learn..." - Meta Model Antidote: "Why do you need to do that now?"
8. Nominalization: Process words (including verbs), which have been frozen in time by making them into nouns.
Example: "...new insights, and new understandings." - Meta Model Antidote: "How is it specifically that you come to see or understand?"
9. Unspecified Verb: Where an adjective or adverb modifier does not specify the verb.
Example: "And you can, happily." - Meta Model Antidote: "And I can what, happily?"
10. Tag Question: A question added after a statement, designed to displace resistance with tacit agreement.
Example: "Is is not?" - Meta Model Antidote: "No, it is not."
11. Lack of Referential Index: A phrase, which does not pick out a specific portion of the listener's experience.
Example: "One can, you know..." - Meta Model Antidote: "One can what?"
12. Comparative Deletion (Unspecified Comparison): Where the comparison is made and it is not specified as to what or whom it was made.
Example: "And it's more or less the right thing." - Meta Model Antidote: "More or less than what?"
13. Pacing Current Experience: Where client's verifiable, external experience is described in a way, which is undeniable.
Example: "You are sitting here, listening to me, looking at me, (etc.)..."
14. Double Bind: Where the client is given two choices (both of which are preferable or desired) separated by an "or".
Example: "I don't know whether you'll come to realize it earlier or later..." - Meta Model Antidote: "Who says I'll come to know it ever?"
15. Conversational Postulate: The communication has the form of a question – a question to which the response is either a ‘yes' or a ‘no'. If I want you to do something, what else must be present so that you will do it, and out of your awareness? It allows you to choose to respond or not and avoids authoritarianism.
Example: "Do you feel this is something you understand?"
16. Extended Quotes: Quotes which are extended beyond what is normally used to displace resistance.
Example: "Last week I was with a friend, who told me about something he overheard his co-worker say..."
17. Selectional Restriction Violation: A sentence that is not well formed in that only humans and animals can have feelings.
Examples: "A chair can feel sat on, like a doormat can feel stepped on..."
18a. Phonological Ambiguity: Where two words with different meanings sound the same. IE: "Hear", "Here"
18b. Syntactic Ambiguity: Where the function (syntactic) of a word cannot be immediately determined from the immediate context.
Examples: "They are visiting relatives" "Selling salesmen can be tricky!" "I am really over managing managers."
18c. Scope Ambiguity: Where it cannot be determined by linguistic context how much is applied to that sentence by some other portion of the sentence.
Examples: "Speaking to you as a child..." "The old men & women..." "The disturbing noises & thoughts..." "The weight of your hands & feet..."
18d. Punctuation Ambiguity: Either the punctuation is eliminated as in a run on sentence or pauses occur in the wrong place.
Example: "I want you to notice your hand me the glass."
19. Utilization: Remember to utilize all that happens or is said.
Example: Client says: "I am not sold." Response: "That's right you are not sold, yet, because you haven't asked the one question that will have you totally and completely sold."
Putting it all together:
"I know that you are wondering... and it's a good thing to wonder... because... that means... you are learning many things... and all the things, all the things... that you can learn... provide you with new insights, and new understandings. And you can, can you not? One can, you know. And it's more or less the right thing. You are sitting here, listening to me, looking at me, and that means that your unconscious mind is also here, and can hear what I say. And since that's the case, you are probably learning about this and already know more at an unconscious level than you think you do, and it's not right for me to tell him, learn this or learn that, let him learn in any way he wants, in any order. Do you feel this... is something you understand? Because, last week I was with Milton who told me about his training in 1979 in Miami when he talked to someone who said, "A chair can have feelings..."