communication myths
communication myths

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~

Given that NLP is a Communication Model and Neuro-Semantics is an Integrated Communication Model- communication is our business.  That is also why we often, instead of giving a “NLP Practitioner” certificate, we give a Professional Communicator Certificate.  After all, that’s what neuro-linguistics and neuro-semantics is all about- how we communicate meanings and understandings to ourselves and to others.  And in this, there are numerous communication myths that we have to expose as we train people in advanced communication competencies.

Myth #1: Communication is talking.

People who are deceived by this myth falsely think that by doing more and more talking, they are communicating more.  Others may think that effective communication is equal to the gift of gab.  But it is not!  Professional communicators know that communication involves listening as much as talking.

Talking, in the sense of advocating what you think, feel, and want is only part of communication, and actually it is a minor part.  The word communication itself speaks of a co-union and a communion of two or more persons who interchange ideas, listen to each other, and seek first to understand then to be understood.  Real communication is a collaborative adventure of discovery and, at its best, is a dialogue.

Myth #2: Communication is a one-way process.

Since real communication is not talking, to truly communicate, you have to engage in a two-way process that is more like a dance.  It involves both sending and receiving messages, receiving feedback and reflecting and adjusting, and learning, and co-creating the experience.  In communication, we compare message sent and received to see if they match.  Then we seek to match the other person’s model of the world in order to understand the other person on his or her terms.  In the reflecting process, we check on our own messages to check if we are being congruent and accurate.

Myth #3: Communication is easy.

The only person who could possibly think that this is easy is the person who has not tried it.  When you engage in the process of listening, entertaining another’s ideas, questioning and exploring, re-presenting your own ideas- you will quickly find out that it is challenging and demands a lot of you.

It demands attention, focus, being present, thinking, etc.  The dialogue process is actually a much more difficult challenge than most people imagine.  The challenge is due to the many variables involved, and the ability to truly listen, consider, ask good questions, get one’s ego-investments out of the way, to recognize one’s own thinking and emoting filters, and more.  All of these skills require training and practice in order to become truly competent in communicating.

Myth #4: Communicating is simple.

Rather than being simple, real communication is complex because it is multi-layered.  It is complex also due to the many, many variables involved.

With the messages sent and received, there is also the creation of multiple contexts of those messages.  Complicating things is the language used, the non-verbals, the history of a relationship, and the multiple levels of thinking and emoting.  There are also the multiple frames which govern the meanings and for those you have to go meta.  Then there are the 60 possible meta-programs which filter how each person thinks and perceives.  So getting on to another person’s channel is most challenging.

Myth #5: Communication is saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

If only it was that easy and simple!  But alas, “meaning” itself is an internal constructing of understanding, of linking and associating things together, so that actually “words do not mean” anything.  It is people who use words to convey meanings.  We do the meaning-making and we use words (properly and improperly, appropriately and inappropriately) so that we often have to check with others about how they are using their words and share our own operational definitions.

The basic NLP communication guideline is, “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.”  Given that, you never know what you have communicated.  With a video-recording, you can know what you said, how you said it, the context, etc.  But you never know for sure what the other person heard.  Not until you get a response can you begin to guess the message that the other person constructed from what you said and how you said it.  It’s the co-creation of meaning that makes communication a shared construct.

There are other myths and many, many more communication guidelines in NLP and Neuro-Semantics- guidelines that can enrich leadership, management, parenting, love and much, much more.  For more, contact The Coaching Centre

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What is NLP

What is NLP

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~

Morpheus asked Neo when they first met, “Do you want to know what it is?”
Neo answered with a question, “What is the Matrix?”  The question here is, “What is NLP?”  Now some NLP people seem to have a challenge about defining and describing what it is. I suppose that’s because as a meta-discipline, it can be applied to so many things. And yet, what it can be applied to is not the same thing as what it is. Identity is not the same thing as application.

A Communication Model

In terms of defining NLP, it is a communication model. How do I know that?Well, look at the title of the original books. The two volumes of The Structure of Magic is titled, A Book about Communication and Change. And in those two volumes, the authors present “A Meta-Model of Language in
Therapy.” Next, look at all of the communication models of NLP-

           The list of 12 linguistic distinctions (from Transformational Grammar) and questions to enable a person get a fuller and deeper representation of the person’s experience is the Meta-Model.

           The list of the sensory representation systems and their distinctions that comprise the language of the mind.

           The list of non-linguistic processes (calibrating, pacing, etc.) for communicating.

           The list of meta-program distinctions of perceptual filters that influence communication.

           The list of state or trance inducing linguistic and non-linguistic forms, hence hypnotic communication.

           The list of communication guidelines such as “The meaning of your communication is the response you receive.”


It’s a Communication Model! And the original design was to look at how the expert communicators in therapy (Perls, Satir, Erickson) communicated which resulted in effective therapeutic change. Later, others were modeled for communication expertise in business, medicine, leadership, etc. The originators also used and quoted the Satir Categories of Communication, they started with the linguistic formulations from Transformational Grammar and a little bit from General Semantics.

In April (2017) when I was in London for the NLP Conference, we conducted a short meeting for the NLP Leadership Summit and at the heart of the conversation this year was membership as well as what is accepted as “Neuro-Linguistic Programming.” One person suggested several new age techniques around “energy.” That’s when co-founder Frank Pucelik spoke up to correct that mis-understanding.

Not Everything Is NLP

 “I remember what we did at the beginning and a lot of it was surely not NLP. We studied these things (new age techniques and things from Esalen) to try to find interesting patterns, to increase our observation skills, or to find out if there was any truth claims in these strange systems, and sometimes just for fun to see if we could do them. We studied many things including but not limited to, Psychodrama, Re-evaluation Co-counseling, Art therapy, stage hypnosis, Castaneda (Don Juan, etc.), Bio Feedback, Sensory Deprivation (Isolation tanks), Massage Therapy, Reading Auras, Gestalt, TA (Transactional Analysis), Rogerian Therapy, Earth Coincidence Control Office (John Lilly), Dolphin Communication Patterns (Bateson) , Encounter Group Processes, Sensitivity T Groups, Past Lives, Occult Belief Systems, Pavlov, and many more. But we never considered any
of these systems to be NLP. We based NLP on all the processes that are known to be NLP/Meta today. The Meta-Model, Rep. Systems, Systematic Use of Negations, Calibrations, Major Beliefs, Anchoring, Pacing and Leading, The Milton Model, Satirs’ Conjoint Family Systems, Brain Hemisphere Functions, and the rest.”

The Study of Subjective Experience

Those were “the wild days of NLP” and in those wild days, while the founders explored lots of things, that in itself did not turn those things into NLP.
Later Robert Dilts along with the originators put together the first Volume of NLP and sub-titled the book, The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience (1980). That’s because the elements of communication
(linguistics, sensory systems, non-linguistic responses, etc.) are simultaneously the components of experience. And if they are the components of experience- then we can use the very tools of communication to model the structure of any and every experience. That’s why NLP, as a Communication Model, grew and expanded by the process of modeling.

Components of Experience

Isn’t that fantastic!? The components of experience- then we can use the very tools of communication to model the structure of any and every experience. Did you catch the connection? The variables by which communication works (an experience) are the very variables (structure) of all experiences. That’s why and how the NLP model gives us the tools for modeling the structure (form, patterning) of experiences.

What is it? Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a Communication Model.

It describes how we are patterned (programmed) in and by the communication processes within neurology and linguistics. And yes, it can be applied to anything “human,” especially any and every human experience. But it is not everything. It is not therapy, counseling, psychology, or hypnosis- even though it arose from those disciplines. It is not persuasion, sales, management, leadership, or even coaching. Although obviously as a communication model, it will have lots of practical usefulness in these fields. Nor is NLP any of the many kinds of sci-fi “energy” programs that are touted under the name of NLP. 

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Cognitive Fallacies In Everyday Language

Cognitive Fallacies In Everyday Language

cognitive fallacies
Cognitive Fallacies

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~
In ancient times, tribunals accused certain persons (usually women) of being “witches.” If a woman denied that she was a witch, the denial was used as proof that she was a witch. The reasoning was this, “Witches always deny that they are witches.” Conversely, if she said that she is a witch, she was burned at the stake. If she denies it, she was burned at the stake. It was a double-bind cognitive fallacy-damned if she confesses; damned if she
denies! There was no way for her to prove that she was not a witch. The accusation implied the proof.

Cognitive Fallacies and Irrational Thinking

Talk about craziness and irrational thinking-that kind of double-bind reasoning condemns a person by the very act of making an accusation. A very similar thing happens today with name-calling. You use a derogatory label to refer to someone, and the label itself presupposes the very thing that it asserts. The fascinating thing about that is that when a person argues against the label, that person subtly assumes the validity of the label.
“No I’m not stupid.” This tends to reinforce the label inasmuch as it has the structure of a command negation. “Don’t think of blue.” “Don’t question my sincerity.” “I’m not dishonest.” “I’m not a crook.” (Nixon).

Double Binds In The Mind

In these double-binds, name-calling, criticisms, etc. there is a cognitive fallacy. What is the fallacy? It lies in the fact that the person on the receiving end is being called upon to prove a negative. This kind of thing happens a lot in language. Here is another cognitive fallacy that’s incorporated into language and that is difficult to flush out because it requires some thinking things through and some critical thinking skills. I bring it up now because calling someone a racist is today American Media’s Accusation Flavor of the Month.

Unconscious Bias

I’m speaking about the cognitive fallacy within the phrase “unconscious bias,” “unconscious racism,” or any other “unconscious X.” Let’s begin by considering the two words “unconscious bias.”  If we use the NLP Meta-Model, you will notice that what we have here first are two nominalizations which have been tied together. And when they are used together in this way, the result sounds meaningful while it actually is not and does not point to anything empirical. You can tell that it is not meaningful when you start questioning it.

           What do you mean by unconscious bias (unconscious racism)?

           Who is not aware of his bias? When is he not aware of it? In what way is he not aware?

           What does he need to do to be conscious of his bias? 

Often, the person using this terminology will say, “It is just there and you can’t know that it is there, if you don’t, that’s evidence that you are unconsciously biased.” Ah, the double-bind assumption of the very thing which is being proposed!

Open Up Mental Thinking

To open up our understanding of this let’s begin by de-nominalizing the words. Underneath the false nouns (nominalizations) are verbs indicating actions or behaviors.  

Bias: an orientation, tendency, attitude, a thinking pattern.

Unconscious: not-conscious, unaware, not aware.

By turning the false-nouns back into verbs (and actions) here’s what we have: becoming aware of what we were not aware of, namely, our orientation, attitude, and thinking patterns. With this we can now ask questions that will provide more clarity of thought:

           What actions are you seeing or hearing that indicate a bias against certain persons, women, racial heritage, ethnic background, sexual preference, etc.?

Manipulative Language

Now often those who use such language do so to promote a certain agenda. It is manipulative language and they are using it to get an unfair advantage in their propaganda. So they say things like the following to prevent the
phrase from being clearly understood, “But unconscious bias is very subtle, it is hidden in social and cultural structures,” it is institutionized bias. Yet if the person shifts from an individual to talking about a group (e.g., organization, society, country), then again, we ask the Meta-Model questions to derive some clarity of meaning:

What are the practices, polices, rituals, rules, ways of operating (group behaviors) which we need to be aware of that dis-advantages some people, those of one race or another, females, etc.?

The point in using the Meta-Model is this

If you can’t identify the behavior of some concept and put it in terms of external actions and words, or internal behavior such as thinking patterns, then you are dealing with an
unsubstantiated vague concept that only exists in a person’s mind, and not in reality. It’s an ungrounded assumption. Without identifying a specific behavior, it is a muddled double-bind cognitive fallacy, in other words,
craziness and irrationality. No wonder the person cannot clarify.

To further push for clarity, ask, “How can I demonstrate that I don’t have an unconscious bias?” If the answer is, “You can’t” then that reveals you are facing someone with a belief-system which cannot be falsified. And that, of course, makes it not only unreasonable and unscientific, but a form of manipulation. The structure of the person’s argument is unanswerable which is probably what the person wants. Now he can rest confident (and arrogant) in his belief.

Experimental Awareness

Actually, there is no such thing as “unconscious bias” or “unconscious racism” apart from behaviors, words, utterances, etc. that a person-at some point in time-is unaware of. Once we make it conscious, we can fix that
bias by adopting a more sane and appropriate way of thinking. That’s what we do when we reframe a limiting understanding or belief.

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PARENTING #101 – Parenting for Esteem not Shame

PARENTING #101 – Parenting for Esteem not Shame

parenting foe esteem not shame
PARENTING #101 – Parenting for Esteem not Shame

~ Written By Dr L.Michael Hall and Shawn Dwyer ~

Parent Shame Not All The Same

Parents, when it comes to the emotional state of shame, all “shame” is not the same.

There is healthy shame and there is toxic or dysfunction shame. On the positive side, shame as an emotion is one of the social emotions that helps us to become socialized, even civilized. It occurs along the continuum of one’s awareness of being seen. Being seen and observed by others typically evokes a feeling of self-consciousness, and at first (as a child) we connect that with feeling vulnerable, with having our weaknesses seen. Then in our teenage years, we connect it without a sense of awkwardness and judgment.

Obviously, being seen by others can be positive or negative. Yet either way, the person seen must have a strong enough sense of self (ego-strength) to handle it and that usually means sufficient self-awareness and social skills.

                                      Vulnerability – Humanity 

Rejected Shame  Embarrassment  Observed   Praised   Proud of Valued

Symptoms of Shame

Sometimes when we are seen, and we feel self-conscious, it divides our attention and awareness to such a degree that we cannot function very well at all.  We become awkward and clumsy. This occurs when we become nervous when we speak in public, whenever the spotlight is suddenly put on you, and/or when you suffer performance anxiety. What we’re afraid of is judgment- the other person or persons’ critical evaluation of us, of what we’re doing, of our ability, etc. Often we even join the chorus by adding our own judgments against ourselves.

What we typically feel in such a situation is embarrassed.

We’re aware of being watched and so we feel embarrassed and self-conscious. If what someone catches us doing is socially unacceptable, we feel ashamed. Shame shouts that you have violated a social law, a culturally acceptable way of acting, talking, or relating. This is a healthy sense of shame. It is about behavior in a social context. “You should be ashamed of yourself for doing that!” Given this, let’s create another scale, let’s put shame on a continuum of “sense of doing wrong.”

“Sense of Doing Wrong”

Social wrong—————–Interpersonal wrong———————-Moral wrong

Feeling bad about – Embarrassed – Ashamed – Conscientious – Guilt -Pseudo-Guilt a situation


This shame is an essential emotion for children to experience in order to learn to self-regulate their states of mind and emotion and their behavioral impulses. Yet although this form is inevitable and necessary, parents should not use it intentionally as a strategic form of parenting and that’s because it is too easily misunderstood by children.

Dysfunctional Shame

The not-so healthy form of shame comes when we shame a person for being who he or she is. This shame addresses and attacks the person rather than the behavior. If we humiliate a child so that he feels unworthy, less than others, an inferior human being, we shame that person, not behavior. As a result, one of the interesting things that happens (and this is cross cultural with most groups), the child veers his eyes away from our glance. In fact, often a child is then unable to hold eye contact when in a state of dysfunctional shame.

Behaviour Not Person

In The Developing Mind and Parenting Inside-Out, Daniel Siegel appeals to Attachment Theory to say this about shame. Shame of self as a person is “the emotion evoked when a child’s arousal state is not attuned to by the parent.” By this he means that it arises in a child when the child is in a strong activation of the parasympathetic system (the “stop” emotional system, sense of being wrong, doing wrong) while simultaneously in the very face of a highly charged sympathetic system (the “go” system).  As this confuses the child, the child tends to think that he is wrong.

Schore proposes that “not connecting with a child’s active bid for attunement leads to shame.” Here a child is trying to connect with parents and if what the child does (behavior) isn’t recognized and in fact, treated as an irritant, the child will experience toxic shame. Here as parents, we may misread the child’s behavior and then treat the child as doing something wrong. But “shame on you!” in this context is taken as against the child as a person. Here the child learns something- namely, that he is bad or wrong.

Children naturally personalized (a cognitive distortion) and so a child can develop an understanding, belief, decision, and identity as being inherently wrong, inherently bad, as flawed. This is toxic shame.

Because this distinction can be subtle for a child, as a parent you have to be explicit and crystal clear. 

“You as a person are just fine. You are unconditionally loved and valued. Now when you do X, that’s notokay behavior.”

Parent Responsibility

Here it is up to the parent to make this distinction and then live this distinction in the way one talks with a child. If you esteem them as a person, a human being, unconditionally, then social shame becomes entirely about behavior – social behavior.

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Attachment – Bonding for Healthy Attachment

Attachment – Bonding for Healthy Attachment

Attachment Parenting

~Written by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Shawn Dwyer, ACMC ~

What does it mean to parent, to raise healthy children, to be a “good” parent?  

Attachment – While we can answer that question in lots of ways- at the heart of parenting is bonding. It is to connect and to bond with the infant or child so that there is a healthy attachment between parent and child. Now the good thing about this is that every child is genetically wired to seek this attachment. Every child seeks proximity to the parent- seeks to be soothed,
feed, nurtured, loved, stroked, embraced, etc. And this will occur if the parent is mindfully present to the child- compassionate, caring, patient, understanding, etc.

Young Parents

Ah, but here begins the problem. Young parents are often busy, stressed, impatient, and do not understand much of what’s going on within the mind and emotions of the infant or small child. Many young parents are not ready for the infant at all! Many times they are hardly out of their own childhood.
And others are in a place of life where figuring out who they are, what they are about, what to do (go to college, start a career, develop some quality skills), how to pay the bills, etc. are the most demanding, and even
over-whelming, questions that they are facing. And now there’s a baby?

Informed Parenting

All of that has led me to say for many years, people need to be licensed before they become parents. Parenting is not for the uninformed, the stressed-out, the preoccupied, or the psychologically unwell. No. Parenting is for those who are informed about what parenting requires, for those with the time, energy, and patience, for those who have completed the unresolved issues of their own past, for those who have learned how to be present to another, empathetic, and disciplined. And that’s a lot!

Demanding Parenting Skills

Generally speaking, it takes a lot of self-development and self-awareness to be ready and able to be fully present for the demands of bonding for healthy attachment. If you have learned anything from your Coach Training at The Coaching Centre -you know the challenge as a basically psychologically healthy person to listen, support, receive feedback, and manage your own state. Think about that! These are requirements if you want to bond with a client as a professional coach so that you can be truly helpful.

If that’s the case in handling a group-up client, imagine being able to do that with a screaming infant at 3 a.m.-a little person who can’t talk, can’t manage his state, who doesn’t know what he needs or wants, who can’t tell
you and who is screaming. Truth be told- parenting is a very demanding profession and one that most of us enter into without any (or very little) preparation.

Secure Attachment

Let’s begin by seeking to understand the psychology of attachment for an infant and small child. The child’s attachment to mom and dad (or whoever is the care-giver) provides the context for safety, protection, and love.
Attachment is what enables the little person to begin to create implicit memory maps that says, “The world is a safe place,” “I am valued and loved unconditionally,” “There is someone there for me,” “I am free to grow and
learn and explore,” etc.  This describes the secure attachment pattern.

Brain Development Through Attachment

Attachment also enables the child’s developing brain to rely on, depend on, and use the parent’s brain for development. That is, the way the parent talks, communicates, attends, interacts, etc. with the child gives the child the kind of experiences that provides a model for his own brain. Parenting thinking patterns intimately play a developmental role in the child’s developing mind. The child’s mirror neurons, in part, makes this happen.

Genetics only play a partial role in brain-body development, experience plays the other part of the formula and perhaps the most significant part. This is called epigensis which refers to how gene expression is a function of the experiences (or environmental contexts) in which we learn what we learn. That’s why the experience of attachment plays such a profound role in the child’s mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development. And we can see this most clearly by the problematic forms of attachment.

Attachment Patterns

Secure attachment. A bonding pattern of love and support, parents giving compassion, patience, time, etc.  Parents able to “read” the infant’s signals, respond empathetically.

Avoidant attachment. A non-bonding pattern. Parents essentially not available emotionally or mentally for the child. They are preoccupied, busy, stressed-out, etc.

Ambivalent attachment. An on-and-off bonding pattern. Parents sometimes available, sometimes not. Sometimes highly intrusive, sometimes completely dis-connected. The child cannot depend on them due to inconsistency.

Disorganized attachment. A dis-orienting non-bonding pattern.
Parents themselves unstable and therefore frightening to the child. They scream at the child, hit, beat, abuse, etc.

Avoidance Pattern

Finally, when a parent is not there, the child learns a pattern of avoidance and learns to dismiss connection with parent and then others. With the ambivalence pattern, the child learns to be anxious, unsure, insecure. With the disorganized pattern, the child finds the world and especially the social world chaotic and crazy.  Hence, in these ways, we fail our children, fail parenting #101.  

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