NLP Techniques: State Elicitation

Submitted by Craig on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:13

The Idea:

State Elicitation is one of the core skills of any NLP coach. In NLP, a state is more than I thought. A state involves thoughts, feelings and physiology, and covers the spectrum from deep relaxation to to high excitement, from acute pain to ecstatic pleasure, or from mental vertigo to flow. A good NLP practitioner needs to be able to "light up" the neurology, in order to disassociate an old state from an undesirable outcome, or to associate a new resourceful state to a new desired outcome.

Good neuro-linguistic programming does not happen through intellectual discussions about change. Real change only happens as a result of installing a new neuro-linguistic program in a receptive state. The new neurolinguistic program must be powerfully linked to resourceful states, just as any old unresourceful states must be de-linked. NLP must be experienced, not merely thought about. The role of a good NLP practitioner is to teach the client that they have choices about their states, and that they can enter resourceful states as required. Again, this teaching does not happen through discussion only, but through directly experiencing changes in states.

Here are some states that you may wish to evoke in yourself or client when you wish to move away from some compulsive behavior:

  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear

Here are some transitional or interruptive states that you may wish to evoke in yourself or client in order to interrupt an old program, and prepare for new learning:

  • Disarray
  • Confusion
  • Shock

And here are some resourceful states to which we would anchor new positive behaviors:

  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Forgiveness
  • Willingness
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Going for It

The Pattern:

1. Bring yourself to an uptime state

  • Open up all your input channels including your site your hearing and your feelings in the present moment.
  • Become acutely aware of the signals being sent out by the person in front of you.

2. Assist the person in accessing the state

  • Think of a time when you felt _______, and give it a name.
  • What would it be like if you were thinking or feeling _______, right now?
  • Do you know anyone who thinks or feels _______?

3. Clarify the essential aspects of the state

  • What about this state captures the essence of it for you?
  • What about this state makes it distinct from all other states for you?
  • Avoid emotionally or semantically loaded references.

4. Elicit the state in a congruent and precise manner

  • Carefully choose your questions, and support those questions with voice tone and body language congruent with the question.

5. Give the elicited state time and space to emerge

  • Remain comfortably in silence while the elicited state forms and expresses itself.
  • Comfortably reward small steps in the right direction, using confirmations such as "that's right", "there you go", etc.
  • If the client responds with "I can't", then encourage them to act as if it were possible, and "what would that state be like"?

6. Use vague language patterns in order to elicit a trans-derivational search

  • Integrate commands such as "just think about", "you know", "try to understand", "could you teach me", "can you remember", "try to experience", "just notice", "become aware", in order to encourage the client to go inside and search their experience.

7. Watch and listen for and match the person's predicates

  • Remain in tune with the person while listening for sensory predicates, such as seeing, hearing, or feeling parts of the state you are eliciting.
  • When eliciting a past state, encourage the person to see what they saw, hear what they heard, and feel what they felt.
  • When eliciting a hypothetical state, encourage the person to see what they would see, hear what they would hear, and feel what they would feel.

8. Use good downtime suggestions to light up the neurology

  • Help the person go deeper inside to more fully experience the state in their neurology.
  • You can just feel those feelings again now, can't you?
  • You can just make the picture older and brighter, while you make the sound deeper, and the flow of emotion more powerful, can't you?
  • Now you can double the sensation, and double it again!

When to Use This Pattern:

Use State Elicitation as part of almost any NLP intervention. Remember that it is an art, and not a science. Pay attention to the person in front of you as you ask for the state to come out!

Many persistent problems in relationships are caused by one or both partners becoming stuck in an un-resourceful state, leading to more and more problems caused by acting out of that state. With courage and skill the partners can learn that states can be changed rapidly and effectively, allowing better outcomes to flow out of that state. It is important to be able to go into a learning state when studying, a relaxed state at the end of the day, a pumped up state just before working out, a friendly state when meeting with the new client, a rational state when being sold, or a light trance when integrating new learnings.

Founders of NLP often asked "who is driving the bus", implying that each of us is responsible for controlling and directing our own states.


Michael Hall, and others.