critical thinking and communicating

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

Here are core distinctions of every professional communicator. Given that mastery involves making critical distinctions, how well do you make the following seven critical distinctions? 

1) Map and Territory                   2) Person and Behavior

3) Meaning and Response          4) Sensory and Evaluation information

5) Frame and Feeling                   6) Advocacy and Inquiry 

7) Current and Desired state

I began this series of articles by identifying these set of communication distinctions. You can think of each of those distinctions as presenting one aspect of critical thinking-a distinction which if you ignore, or don’t know how to make, would doom your communications to be vague, imprecise, and sloppy. Consequently, you would be more likely to create mis-understanding rather than deliver a clear message.

That’s why critical thinking is important

It enables you to be more precise and with precision, therefore clear. It also enables your communications to be more mature rather than over-simplistic, naive, and childish. Given the cognitive development stages of childhood, children cannot engage in critical thinking. Only after puberty, with the development of formal logical thinking, can a person’s thinking mature enough to begin to learn how to think critically. Yet even then it does not automatically happen and that’s why many adults (perhaps most) do not know how to engage in the advanced thinking competencies called “critical thinking.”

One of the fascinating and disappointing things I learned when I researched the field of Critical Thinking was that not a single writer in that field knew or quoted the NLP Communication Model – the Meta-Model. And yet it is perhaps the very best critical thinking tool of all. Having read extensively in that field, I never came across a model that was half as good as the Meta-Model. That’s why I put the Meta-Model in the book, Executive Thinking (2018).

Messy Communication

It is the lack of critical thinking that makes most communication messy and lacking important distinctions. So that lack also makes for a whole host of ways to mis-communicate and, of course, with mis-communication comes mis-understandings and conflicts. All unnecessary if a person knows how to think and communicate critically.

The original Meta-Model (1975) provided eleven (11) distinctions to make when using language to communicate. The extended Meta-Model (1997) expanded the list to twenty-one (21) distinctions- all of which enable critical thinking and precision in communicating. As a result, when you learn how to use the Meta-Model, you learn how to think about your thinking while you are communicating. Futhermore, today we call that level of meta-cognition- mindfulness.


That quality of mindfulness is a function of your higher brain functions, your pre-frontal cortex. It is from there that you are able to think things through with a quality of precision and specificity that comprises understanding and clarity. That quality of mindfulness enables you to know what you are doing with your words, your language, where you are sending the brains of those who are listening to you. When you don’t know that- you are guessing. You are crossing your fingers and hoping and guessing that your words will make sense to others and will transmit whatever message or meaning you have in mind.

The critical thinking, or perhaps more accurate, the executive thinking of your pre-frontal cortex, enables you to be mindful about what you are doing when you speak. Hence you can be more strategic. Now you can treat words and language as tools for achieving your ends. Now you can use the communication distinctions mentioned earlier to help you navigate the territory of communicating as a professional.

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

Short-term thinkers- these are the people who focus on the short-term benefits, gains, and results when going after a goal. This would be a good thing except that they are so focused on the short-term, they do so to the exclusion of including the long-term goals, objectives, consequences, and symptoms. This is what, in turn, creates some really significant problems.

The way short term thinkers evaluate things are premature. 

Consequently, they fail to consider what else is and will occur due to the actions and/or choices that they are making. They evaluate by this quarter’s results or return-on-investment and fail to balance that off against the longer-term results.

In business this results in an organization constantly changing procedures, plans, and strategies and this makes the organization susceptible to the sarcastic criticism of going after yet another “fad of the month.” Now a key assumption behind short-term thinking and one which promotes it is linear causation thinking. This refers to seeing the world as comprised of simple cause-effect relationships.  Oh, that the world was that simple!

And that assumption then seduces us into another assumption-that of thinking that we can predict the future. This is where so many middle-managers fall short.

In an effort to gain respect, to establish their own credibility, to be seen as the “go to person” in the organization, many middle-managers over-trust their ability to predict the future as they engage in short-term thinking and making decisions with that criteria. 

As a short-term thinker, they ask such questions as

           “What’s the return on investment if you coach this person?”

           “What increase in productivity can we see this quarter if you do this training?”

           “How will this team be better able to reach their sales targets if you coach the team?”

But there’s some major problems with these questions. The assumption behind them is that results can be quickly seen and detected. Now with machines and computers that may be true. But with people-that is definitely not true. It is not true with human capital – intelligence, creativity, emotional intelligence, relationships, etc. With human capital, things take time- time to learn, to develop, and to integrate.

This time distinction is essential for anyone who works to develop human capital.

Any manager, leader, coach, consultant, therapist, etc. who aims to develop human potential has to learn to think long-term.  And that’s because the underlying processes of thinking, learning, incorporating, implementing, growing, becoming, etc. all involve time, and usually lots of time. Will that eventuate in greater competence, productivity, and results?

Yes, it will if the development is allowed to continued. Yes, if it is nurtured, supported, given the right environment, etc.

Obviously this yes is conditional and therefore probabilistic. It is this yes that we work with as trainers and coaches- we can say yes to the question about Return-on-Investment conditioned on ongoing and continuous learning.

Imagine asking a first grade teacher the previous questions about the children they are teaching:

           “What’s the return on investment from teaching this child?”

           “What increase in productivity can we see this quarter if the child passes?”

           “How will this group of kids help reach the schools targets?”

Such questions are obviously ridiculous, are they not? And why?  They are ridiculous because we all know that the human capital and potential in the first graders is going to take time.  Lots of time.  Twelve years later, the first graders will be graduating high school, another four years, college.

And for more advanced skills, even more years of training and preparation.

Give all of that, how silly do you now find it for a manager, or anyone in a position of needing to develop human capital, to ask, “What’s the return on investment if you teach, consult, train, or coach someone?”

Obviously, the investment is for the long-term.

This is the shift that we have to make, from short-term thinking to long-term thinking; from results and product thinking to process thinking.  And it is this kind of thinking that trips up so many leaders and managers.  It may even trip you up.  If you have not cleaned that kind of thinking out of your system, you may think that way or be tempted to buy into this kind of thinking when offered it by a business leader.

Here then is a Caveat

Beware of short-term thinking when dealing with the development of human beings!  As systems (mind-body-emotion systems) human beings live within multiple systems (family, business, ethic, cultural, religious, etc.).  And that means that time plays a significant role as information enters into the system, is processed, is mobilized, is integrated, and is transformed into energy for actions.

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Coaching Centre

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

If you listen, really listen, you can hear the matrix. And if you listen with your eyes, really look intensely, you can see the matrix. A person’s matrix of meaning, intentionality, emotions, and sense of self is there for the seeing and hearing, if you have ears to hear and eyes to see. How are your eyes and ears? Test yourself with the following statement. See what you can detect.

I really do want to become an effective leader who can inspire the best in people, bring out their best, and use my personal congruency. But I fear that I don’t have the capacity to do that. I can’t even imagine myself
being like that.

The sentence begins with intention. The word “to” reveals that (“I really do want to…”). And the world is leadership. Others are the objective of the desire (“inspire … bring out the best”). Self is spoken in the phrase,
“I … use my personal congruency.”  State: fear.  Power: “I don’t have the capacity…” “I can’t imagine.”  Meaning: “can’t imagine.”  Time: the word “want to…” imply what the person does not currently have or is.

Matrix Model Dimensions

So much in so little!  How did you do? The key is to know the eight dimensions of the matrix and listen for words that indicate those dimensions of the three process areas- state, meaning, intention and the five content areas (all about one’s sense of self) – person, powers (resources, skills, competencies), others (relationships), time, and world (domains). As you familiarize yourself with these eight dimensions of the matrix- what is entailed in each, then the words that directly and indirectly refer to them becomes cues and signals about what aspect of the matrix is activated and being referred to as a person speaks.

Next, as you tune your ears to really hear- listen for emphasis. Where does the person put his or her emphasis? What word/s does he stress? And what word/s does she gesture with a definite movement of hands? What word/s are repeated several times? This will give you a clue about where the person’s semantic energy is focused. 

“I to become an effective leader…”                  – Intention.

 “I really do want to an effective leader…”     – Self, Time, Intention (again)

  “…and use congruency…” – Power

“… that I just can’t do that.”                               – State/Meaning-the block that’s interfering 

 “… but I fear that that.” – Power

Matrix Model Energy

Seeing and hearing the matrix of a person means paying lots of attention to the information the person is selecting, sorting for, giving attention to- which is on the outside. And then attending to the information processing and selecting that the person does on the inside. To discover this requires asking questions and meta-questions. It requires calibrating, testing, checking, etc. From the information going in, then it requires attending to the energy being created in the body (embodiment, state accessing) and then the energy expressed in speech and behavior.

In this example, was the emphasis on the first part of the sentence or the later? Was it on what he wanted or what was stopping him? Wherever the emphasis, go there. Pace the person, test what he is saying, and then address that. Hence that would be the part of the matrix where the person is focused and where the person is living.

Try this one:

“But I’m not at fault, Bill started it as he always does calling me a goofball and then saying it was just a joke. But it is not a joke, it is an insult and he knows it. I wish I could speak up and tell him to cut it out. But I’ve never been good at conflict, I guess I fear it too much.

     Others: Bill.

     Power: fault, Bill started it, can’t speak up, can’t tell him, “not good at.”

     Meaning: calls me goofball, insult, mind-reading thinking pattern (“he knows it”).

     Intention: I wish...

     State: insulted, fear of conflict.

This one strikes me as mostly focused on the Power dimension of the matrix where the person feels incapable, unable to speak up, unable to handle conflict. That’s where the energy seems to be and where I’d go in response.

Eyes and Ears

So when it comes to us humans, the eight categories of the Matrix Model offers you a way to cut through the complexity and focus on one of those eight dimensions. It’s there right in front of you- if you have eyes to see and ears to hear.  
Join our Meta-NLP programs to find out how to communicate more effectively

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~ Article co-written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~

While having a good memory is not a prerequisite for coaching, it certainly helps.  And while we do not explicitly train memory development in Meta-Coaching, it is fully implied in the NLP Communication Model.  In fact, one of the things that many people discover in learning NLP is that their ability to think, learn, and remember is enhanced- sometimes significantly enhanced.  How does that work? What implicit training occurs in learning NLP? And how can I, as a Meta-Coach, develop a richer and more robust memory?

What You Need to Know

The first thing you need to understand is that memory is intimately connected to thinking itself.  If in thinking, understanding, comprehending, believing, deciding, etc. you didn’t remember anything, then everyday you would be starting all over again. All your learning and understanding would be for naught. What you remember from your reading and studying forms a reference base within you that you then use to build upon.  And it is how your “mind” is constructed.  So thank your brain structures for that- thank your short-term memory that your hippocampus processes and your higher neo-cortex and prefontal cortex for transferring into long-term memory.

You also need to realize that memory is not a thing, but a process. Veto the idea that you “have” “a memory.” It is not a thing that you have. It is a process- a living, dynamic, fluid process that you utilize and maintain.  That’s why it is not separate from thinking, but an intimate expression of thinking. Your memory is dependent on the quality of your thinking. The process begins with inputting, processing, and encoding- what we call “memory”is how you retrieve your knowledge, understanding, and reference points.

Encoding Excellence

Your “memory” can only be as good as your encoding. If you do not code some information very well- you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve. This takes us to the way you represent information. 

           Are you using all of the representational systems- visual, auditory, kinesthetic, language, etc.? Have you developed these systems so that you can use them?

           How distinct do you encode the pictures, sounds, and sensations?

Do you use the full range of your cinematic features (sub-modalities)? If not, are you ready to practice doing that? That is, turn your little black-and-white pictures into big colorful movies!

           Do you know how to “snapshot” sights, sounds, and sensations which are all around you to enhance your sensory systems? Are you willing to start doing that? If you want something to be memorable, then encode it so it is memorable.

Vivid Memory

What you experience as your memory is to a great extent a function of your skills to encode in a memorable way. Start with making the information vivid. If the content of your thinking is vivid to you- clear, colorful, bright, big, full of action, etc.- it will be easy to remember. Code the images so they are specific and detailed. As you notice a person’s semantic space, see it with crystal clarity and imagine using a colorful paint brush to paint some movements with strokes of bright blue, orange, red, yellow, etc. The more intensely visual your code, the more memorable pictures you will have in your mind. To distinguish levels, I sometimes color code the levels- blue for beliefs, gold for values, silver for identity, purple for permission.

Another cinematic feature is making the data that you are encoding animated.

Like animation cartoons, have things move. Imagine seeing a frame of reference that a person describes and code it in terms of something that moves. “The difficult boss” becomes “a fat 600 pound wrestler” see him trying to sit on your client! Images that move, that are wild, that are bigger-than-life, that are crazy, outrageous, exaggerated, humorous, etc. are images that you will be less likely to remember.

Organize the Data for Memory

Think of your computer. How do you keep track of files that you write or that are sent to you?  You need some sort of sorting system so that you can classify things. I have a category for “Coaching,” another for “Training,” one for “Meta-States,” “Psychology,” etc. Then under each category are next-level categories. And I often have 5 to 6 layers of categories. A system like that enables you to keep track of things and know where things belong.

Do the same in order to think effectively in an organized and structured way. What things do you want to group together? By creating semantic networks- you have an organizational structure that holds information.

Using NLP, I set up- in my mind- the natural categories of study:

           Communication Model: Sensory systems, sub-modalities, etc.

           Meta-Model: Language distinctions and questions.

           Meta-Programs: Perceptual lens, thinking patterns.

           Meta-States: States, meta-states, gestalt states, etc.

           Matrix Model: Systems thinking and processes.

           Framing: Mind-Lines, pre-framing, reframing, etc.

           Neuro-Semantics: meaning-performance, quadrants.

           Self-Actualization: pyramid of needs, theory X & Y of leadership, etc. And so on.

And why? We do this because of another understanding about memory- short-term memory is severely limited. George Miller’s famous 7+/-2 bits of information at any given time explains why we can quickly get overwhelmed and over-loaded. But there’s good news- if you take the 5 to 9 chunks of information and rehearse them so that they get connected (associated), the multiple chunks become one chunk. The 9 numbers of a phone-number now become one chunk. Then the 26-letters of the alphabet become one- the alphabet. You can now have a category of the Meta-Model with 21 distinctions.

The way of memorizing in ancient Greece was through pegging.

This mnemonic device refers to taking a picture of something you know very well, like your house or living room, and attaching various data to different scenes. For your speech introduction connect it to the doorway, the four points to four locations in the living room, and the closing the door into the kitchen.

That kind of thing. There are even peg systems that you can learn (rhymes or pictures for the numbers) by which once you memorize, you can encode lots and lots of information. Chaining is another mnemonic device. Because brains go places anyway, you can consciously choose to send your brain in useful directions and create a chain of associations (a syntax between ideas). When I think of a state, I immediately go to meaning which creates state, and then to intention, the backside of meaning. Then to self, power, others, time, and world. So then I have all of these dimensions of the Matrix chained (linked) together.

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making it count

~ Article written by Shawn Dwyer and L. Michael Hall PhD ~

There is “thinking,” and then there is real thinking. 

Most thinking is System-1 thinking- the fast thinking of Kahneman which is automatic, easy, inevitable, and without effort. You do this kind of “thinking” whether you want to or not. It operates from the lower levels and functions of your brain.  Here you are on automatic. Kahneman says that real thinking involves cognitive effort, even strain. It is the kind of thinking that requires choice and intention. So Daniel Kahneman also notes that when you opt for the path of least resistance, you are actually let your meta-cognitive powers go wimp. When I read that- I got several ideas about wimpy meta-cognitive powers.

Now your meta-cognitive powers are your higher executive thinking powers- considering, questioning, exploring, doubting, explaining, reasoning, creating, inventing, synthesizing, systematizing, etc. These are your powers or functions above and about other cognitive powers.

1) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers means you are highly limited in “running your own brain.”

To “run your own brain” you have to “go meta” to your thinking and to your emoting. You have to transcend the primary state so that you can observe your thinking, monitor your thinking, learn about the way you think, the ecology of your thoughts, meta-model your linguistic expressions, etc. When you can do all of that, then you can choose the best thoughts and beliefs.

2) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers means you struggle to govern your attentions with your intentions.

At the primary state these are your attentions- what you pay attention to and unless you set higher intentions, you will live attentionally. Then you will be a pawn of social media, of advertisements, of TV, of political correctness, etc.

3) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers means you will struggle in making high quality decisions. 

The only “decisions” at the primary state of fast thinking is your automatic programs- pleasure, short-term values, what looks good, etc. To truly decide and to be a informed and skilled decision maker, you have to access your conative powers- which are part of meta-cognition.

4) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers means you probably struggle with your sense of self, personhood, and “being.” 

A rich, robust, and strong sense of self arises as a concept that you build with your best thinking. What’s automatic are the programs you experienced form your parents and peer groups. And that probably means that you have constructed a conditional self-value, one dependent on various things.

5) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers means you avoid real thinking, and default to what others have thought, and to being politically correct. 

This describes the life of a slave, not a free person. You are defaulting to the easy and fast thinking. To get approval.

6) Wimpy meta-cognitive powers may mean you fear real thinking. 

And why would you fear thinking? Because you don’t know what it will bring up, where it will take you. So you opt for that status quo and to keep confirming your present biases. Without developing your meta-cognitive powers, you may even fear thinking. “You better be careful, you think too much!”

Your executive thinking (which you can develop as skills) are those that arise in your neo-cortex and in your pre-frontal lobes. These are the powers that enable you to be executive of your own life. Without developing these, you are a pawn, a worker in your own factory, a non-voting member of your union, a slave on your on plantation, a citizen of a country without a government, a choir member without a conductor. Now let’s say that you discover that your meta-cognitive powers are wimpy, under-developed, now what?  Get a cognitive make-over. Discover your executive thinking patterns and develop them today through The Coaching Centre.

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