NLP Techniques: State Calibration

Submitted by Craig on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:20

The Idea:

In NLP, "calibration" refers to using our sensory acuity to guage the mental and emotional state or mood of a person or audience. This ability sharpens with experience, and is a critical factor in the success of any NLP intervention, because when delivering a pattern, timing is everything.

There are many individual clues that our body gives off to reveal one's inner state at any time, including eye access cues, breathing patterns, perspiration, skin tone and color, not to mention posture, voice tone, hesitation in answering, etc. Each of these can be a study unto itself, but a seasoned NLP practitioner will take all of these cues together as a set and then identify areas of incongruence or inconsistency.

Not all signals from another person are of equal importance. What is most important in calibration is that you know if you are getting a positive (+) or negative (-) response. Yes means, I'm with you, please continue, this is working. No means, I'm resisting this, there is something you are missing, this is not working.

Besides calibrating a Yes or No response, here are some other kinds of Positive or Negative responses you can calibrate:

Calibrating Like vs. Dislike

  • Ice Cream
  • Cold Showers
  • Deserts
  • Waiting in Line

Friend vs. Foe

  • Hitler
  • Bush
  • Gandhi
  • Santa Claus

Interesting vs. Non-interesting

  • Seinfeld
  • Animal Planet
  • Discovery Channel
  • ESPN

The Pattern:

In this pattern, we will simply calibrate the yes/no response of a partner, first verbally, and then non-verbally. Then switch.

1. Practice calibrating verbal yes/no responses

Ask 10 - 20 light questions, and be sure to keep them light. Choose questions whose yes/no answers will be spontaneous and quick.

  • Is your name Susan?
  • Do you drive a Ford?
  • Did you go to Oxford?
  • Have you ever been skiing?
  • Have you been skiing recently?
  • ...

2. Note physiological responses to verbal yes/no responses

During the elicitation, make mental notes of physiological shifts that occur concomitant to a yes or no.

  • Is there nodding or a head tilt?
  • Is there a change in eye pupil dilation or eye direction?
  • Is there eye contact avoidance or excess eye contact with a response?
  • Is there a shift in face or neck color?
  • Do the hands activate in response to a yes or no?
  • Does breathing rate change with a yes or no response?
  • Does breathing in the stomach or chest change with a yes or no response?
  • Does the body lean forward or back with a yes or no?
  • What else can you consistently recognize?

3. Practice calibrating non-verbal yes/no responses

Now, repeat the 10 - 20 questions, or come up with a new set. This time, however, request that your partner only think of the yes or no response, but that they do not say yes or no aloud. Write down the yes or no response next to your question, and see how many you guess correct.

4. Rotate

If you are playing this as a game, then switch partners and repeat.

When To Use This Pattern:

Try this pattern at home, in your relationships, with your co-workers and clients. You do not need to announce that you are playing a game with them, but you will come to know when you are in agreement or disagreement regardless of what is being said outwardly.


Michael Hall, and others.