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Milton Model Language Patterns

This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig on April 26, 2013
posted under Milton Erickson

After discovering some basic techniques that allowed the founding of what became known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the founders spent time with and modeled the techniques of Dr. Milton Erickson. Eventually, they formulated a set of verbal techniques based on Erickson's methods and they incorporated them into NLP.

One of the basic concepts of NLP is that its techniques allow us to communicate more effectively. Using these codified techniques, termed Milton Model Language Patterns, had two purposes. First, they could be used to make daily communication more effective. Second, when collectively used they naturally cause a state of trance. There are nineteen such patterns:

  1. Mind Read. This is where the speaker acts as if he or she knows what the listener is thinking. The listener is thus encouraged to agree. Example: "I know you want to do what's best for your family."
  2. Cause and Effect. We're all familiar with this concept. You do A, and B will result. In usage here, however, although it is stated in this form, there is no actual linkage. Even so, the mind of the listener tends to agree that the effect is the result of the cause. Eample: "You're in this class because you want to learn."
  3. Lost Performative: This is where you make a value judgment that goes beyond merely being generalized (such as "everyone loves pancakes"), omitting the person(s) who have made the value judgment entirely. Example: "It's a good thing to have saved money."
  4. Complex Equivalence: This is where two things are considered to be equal whether or not they actually are equal. Example: "Loving your mother means that you love your wife.
  5. Universal Quantifier: This is simple a large generalization with no actual evidence to support the validity of the generalization. Example: "Everyone knows you always need to be right." ("Everyone" and "always" are both universal quantifiers.)
  6. Modal Operator: These are words used to indicate necessity or possibility. Often they rely on common assumptions that may or may not be accurate. Example: "If you want to get ahead you must work hard."
  7. Presupposition: The Milton Model jargon meaning "assumption." Example: "You are learning many things."
  8. Tag Question: Adding a question to the end of a statement in an attempt to gain agreement. Example: "You are relaxed now, aren't you?"
  9. Comparative Deletion: Also known as an unspecified comparison, this describes a comparison what one part of what you're comparing is omitted. Example: "Doing that is the right thing, more or less." (What has been deleted or omitted is saying what it is more or less right than.)
  10. Unspecified Verb: This is an unusual and purposefully confusing language pattern, more often used for indirect hypnosis, that can cause a trance. It features an adjective or adverb where the verb they are supposed to modify is not specified. Example: "And you can, rapidly."
  11. Nominalization: Using what are called "process words," including verbs, but freezing them in time by turning them into nouns. This is very popular in business and in politics. Example: "New insights, learnings, and understandings."
  12. Lack of Referential Index: This is a confusing, generalized phrase, that forces the listener to invent their own specifics. Example: "Yes, you can." (It doesn't say what the person can do.)
  13. Pacing: Although this has another meaning in different aspects of NLP, here it used as a way of obtaining agreement through a description of something the listener is undeniably doing. Example: "You are sitting in the chair listening to me."
  14. Conversational Postulate: This is simply a yes or no question used as part of a communication in order to get agreement and avoid the appearance of authoritarianism. Example: "Do you hear what I'm saying?"
  15. Extended Quotes: This language pattern is used to help induce hypnotic trance through confusion and boring the conscious mind of the listener. It is simply a long series of interlaced quotes that are only vaguely associated. Example: "So my friend John says that his brother, Tommy, said, "I was at the store when I met Bill who asked, "What are you doing her? Lisa told me "John isn't coming..."
  16. Double Bind: Often used by salespeople, it is a question that gives the listener what seems to be a choice, but either choice is in the favor of the communicator. Example: "So do you want the car without all of the options or the package with the options?" (This assumes you're going to buy a car.)
  17. Syntactic Ambiguity, Phonological Ambiguity, Punctuation Ambiguity and Scope Ambiguity:Although these four patterns are different, they are usually listed together due to certain similarities.
    • A phonological ambiguity is where two words that sound alike but have different meanings are purposely confused in order to induce a trance. Example: "Hello? Are you there? Can you here is the book." (Confusing "here" and "hear.")
    • A syntactic ambiguity is where the function of a word cannot be determined by the context where it appears. Example: "Selling salesmen can be tricky."(Is it tricky to sell to salesmen or are salesmen who are selling something tricky?)
    • A punctuation ambiguity occurs when either the punctuation is eliminated (such as in a run-on sentence) or pauses are put in the wrong place. Example: "I'd like you to look at your hand me the pencil."
    • A scope ambiguity occurs when the context doesn't allow the listener to determine how much of a modifier in part of a sentence applies to another part of the sentence. Example: "There are some dirty old men and women." (Are the women also dirty and old or do those adjectives apply to just the men?)
  18. Selection Restriction Violation: Associating feelings to things incapable of having feelings. Example: "The house was sad."
  19. Utilization:This is the ability to grab whatever a person says and turn it to the benefit of the communicator. Example:
    Salesperson: "Will that be cash or credit?" (Note double bind pattern.)
    Consumer: "I don't know. I'm not sold on it."
    Salesperson: "Of course you're not sold yet. That's because you haven't asked me the one question that will totally convince you that this is something you want and need. You can ask me that question now."

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