I am a dream-hypnotherapist, narrative therapist. Looking for inner peace and abundant resources is a self-discovery and healing process.
If indeed all communication inherently involves
aspects of the hypnotic and if an intense and personal coaching
conversation takes a person inside in a hypnotic way— how can you tell?
How can you recognize when a client is in a trance state? How can you use
hypnotic language patterns in an effective way in your coaching?
In answer, calibrate to your client. Learn to tell
when a client is speaking from what’s on the edge of his tongue versus when he
goes inside and enters into a “downtime” state. Can you tell? What
are the signs of a trance? It’s obvious when a person goes into a deep
trance— eyes glaze over or close, facial muscles smooth out, breathing becomes
slower and muscle tension relaxes, etc. Similarly, these same signs will
be there when your client is turning inward— except they will be more minimal
and less obvious, hence he need to calibrate.
Perhaps the biggest difference will be the time
element. In a coaching conversation, your client will be going in and
coming out ... sometimes moment by moment. The time spent in trance will
be short, sometimes momentarily ... and there will usually not be any awareness
of this in your client. From her perspective, she is just talking and she
thinks she is present to you. In terms of calibration— you will have to
refine your skills to tell when your client is inside and when outside.
Here’s a clue. Whenever you ask questions that
cannot be immediately answered, but the person has to think about something,
the person will be going inside to access that information. This is where
detailed questions— questions about what something looked like, sounded like,
felt like, etc. are often questions that cannot be immediately answered.
This is where asking Meta-Model questions often elicits what we call a
transderivational search to the person’s reference index. In everyday
language — he has gone inside to get his reference (what he’s thinking about),
when, where, how, etc. He is in a trance. At that point, the
question for you is —what trance states are you inviting?
Now because the coaching conversation is designed to be
a dialogue— an exchange of meaning as you ask about the person’s meanings, the
trance states are often just a second or two long. The person goes there
and comes back out with the required information. Sometimes in your
conversations, you have probably noted that a person is taking a long
time. Depending on the context and the conversation— you might “hold that
space” so the person can gather her thoughts while inside. And to help
her, you might want to quietly utter the key words that will help her stay
At other times, the person is inside and up against an
internal barrier. It may be a taboo, a repression, a blank, etc.
Now you not only “hold the space” but validate that moment and that experience
giving the person permission to be there, to “not know,” to just stay there,
and that it’s okay. At other times, the person may be inside getting
stuck in a negative loop. Since that is never useful, you will want to
detect that and then interrupt that old dysfunctional trance and bring the
person out. That’s when you need to have several ways to do a state
As a Meta-Coach I suggest that you start with this
recognition — the hypnotic is present when you are coaching. Why is
that? Simply because the person’s larger unconscious or out-of-conscious
mind is present. The person sitting there has lots of history (past)
that’s held in memory. The person sitting there has lots of future that’s
held in her imagination. Many of the person’s knowledge is now in the
body, in muscle memory, it also is there. By recognizing the presence of
the hypnotic— you can also begin to listen for and distinguish old trances that
the person is living. Often these are the very trances the person has
come to have you help them de-hypnotize so that they can stop their past from
being so determinative in today’s living.
In Executive Thinking (2018) and Brain Camp we focus on
aspects of the unconscious (the not-thinking) and how you can detect these
aspects of the person’s experience. When you know how the old learnings,
the limiting ideas, beliefs, and decisions manifest themselves— you can begin
to calibrate for them and catch them in real time. And as you become
increasingly skilled in recognizing the hypnotic moments, you’ll be developing
your skills for leading Hypnotic Conversations (2020).
As a Meta-Coach, you know all about the basic conversations that are inherent in coaching. You have been trained to discern the first five: Is this a clarity conversation? Is this a decision conversation? Is this a planning conversation? Is this a resourcing or experiencing conversation? Is this a change conversation? The great majority of coaching conversations will fall into those five basic categories.
In PCMC training and in the manual, there are pages about the distinctions within those conversations. And the importance of that lies in being able to think strategically with your clients. That is, to think in terms of where are you in relationship to what your client wants? Further each conversation entails a different state and a different strategy. Almost every conversation begins with a clarity conversation because it takes the communication dialogue of going back and forth in an effort to understand your client— on your client’s terms— and to begin to recognize the meaning-making patterns which your client uses.
There are, of course, many more coaching conversations. You will find some in the book, Coaching Conversations, you will find specific ones in Systemic Coaching, as well as in Executive Coaching. And when it comes to coaching groups of people, there are yet even more coaching conversations (Group and Team Coaching).
Now for another question, and one that may seem strange upon first glance. Can a coaching conversation be hypnotic? Actually that’s an easy question to answer. The answer is yes, of course. Anytime you take a client inside so that he focuses narrowly on some concern— a memory, an imagination, a concept— you have just induced a hypnotic state. This state differs from an uptime state of being in external sensory awareness. It is a downtime state (to use NLP language). The person has gone down inside herself.
I said, “yes, of course,” because to exchange words, to dialogue about meanings, to “communicate” is to invite your listener and responder to go inside. It is inevitable. That’s how words work. To make sense of any word, phrase, sentence, or story, you have to go inside yourself to access the linguistic code that you have learned. If you didn’t learn the linguistic code, then all of the words are gibberish to you. You do not know what they are saying or talking about. It is in this sense that language itself is hypnotic. That’s why in NLP we say that all communication is hypnotic.
So whenever you and your client are engaged in an intensely focused conversation about things not present — the person’s job, spouse, children, boss, financial dealings, exercise, etc.— you and your client are, at least partially, in a hypnotic state. That’s what you learned when you learned the Milton Model in your NLP trainings. And if you took Master Practitioner training, you learned the basics about how to recognize hypnotic language patterns and how to use them.
This is important as a Meta-Coach. Why? For many reasons. Here’s one. Because a basic core coaching competency is state induction (skill #7), your ability to elicit, induce, invite, deepen, and use your client’s state is essential to being an effective coach. That’s what makes coaching experiential. If you cannot do this — and most coaches cannot! — you cannot truly “coach.” You are only have a chat. You are merely intellectualizing about coaching and not coaching. Coaching, as an intimate, intense, deep, personal conversation absolutely requires the induction of state so that the client feels and experiences the meanings of
Is that a strong enough reason why? Watch most coaching conversations, especially by people who have not been trained in NLP, and you will be watching boring, blah, bland, and non-transformational talks. Anyone could carry on those talks! What distinguishes a true coach — and hopefully every Meta-Coach, is that you know how to get a person to experience and emotionally feel things. That’s what state induction is all about. If your client’s are not getting significant transformational changes — review and practice the state induction skills in your ACMC manual. Then practice daily until you can look like and sound like what you’re talking about.
While coaching is not hypnosis, to the extent it is a deeply felt conversation that gets to the heart of things and brings about transformation — coaching is hypnotic in nature. That’s what the new book, Thinking Hypnotically (2020) is all about and more specifically what the PDF file book, Hypnotic Conversations is all about.