tips on effective communicating

How Not To Communicate

WordsOr… How to communicate ineffectively in three easy lessons.

I Don’t Use Scripts

I don’t use scripts. In my opinion, using scripts without modifying them for each individual is like riding a bike with training wheels. It’s good enough to learn on but you don’t still ride one that way do you?

Publicly I’ve taken a lot of heat from people for voicing my opinion on this point. Privately, a lot of people have consulted me because they just don’t have the confidence to do hypnosis without scripts.


When Morons Attack

I get this email…

one NEVER uses self hypnosis using negative scripts. The mind is a goal seeking device, and avoidance is ineffective. Your scripts need to be revised.

This is hypnosis 101a folks…

If you are going to do it, do it right.

That’s all it said. Really. No name. No hello. No thanks, or goodbye. The subject line was “scripts.”

Now, I have a page up where I have a few scripts for those who want to see some examples. It turns out this guy visited that page and disagreed with something in one of the scripts. They’re not my scripts–they’re from other people who have written them and have given permission for me to post them. I state on the page that “The scripts below are examples of how other professionals approach their work,” and “the approach some of these scripts take may vary from hypnotherapist to hypnotherapist.”

How To Communicate Ineffectively In Three Easy Lessons

Let’s look at how his communication sucked…

1) He failed to be specific.
This email came out of the blue with no context. I had no idea what he was talking about. Did he visit a web page (my site has over 200 pages)? Was he responding to something he’d read in an email or newsletter? Did he see something I posted in a forum? If his goal was to get me to change something, being more specific would have helped.

2) In general, don’t tell people what to do.
If you have knowledge of NLP’s Meta Model, the question that may come to mind when someone tells you that you need to do something is “according to whom?”

3) Don’t ever use absolutes.
Again, anyone with any NLP knowledge at all knows there are always exceptions to absolutes. Never say never. I’m always suspicious of absolutes. When you use them, it sounds as if you think you are the be-all and end-all authority. Although I agree with his point in a general way, it seems to me this guy is not being thoughtful but simply spitting out rhetoric that he learned, verbatim. In fact, it’s fun to go back and read his email with a robotic sounding voice.

Positive vs. Negative Phrasing

The way many of us have been taught goes something like this…

Your suggestions should point toward what you want as opposed to pointing away from what you don’t want. In other words, don’t suggest, “You’re no longer overweight.” Do suggest, “You’re slim and healthy.”

How Might It Have Gone

Hi Keith,
I noticed, on this page (URL) something in one of the scripts that made me think. In the third script, there are suggestions to “not have any fear of speaking in front of other people…” I was taught that we should phrase suggestions in such a way that we talk about what we want to do as opposed to talking about what we want to avoid. What do you think?
Looking forward to your thoughts on the matter.

John Notmoron

Dear John,
Thanks for your input. I too, teach that it’s generally better to phrase suggestions in the positive. However, I don’t pretend to know everything about hypnotic suggestion. Since the script was written by a well-respected hypnotherapist and I don’t have permission to change it, I’m considering what I might do in the matter. I’m thinking of writing sort of a disclaimer up top, mentioning the negatively phrased suggestions. Or, I could take that particular script out. Or perhaps, I need do nothing. What would your suggestion be?


I’d like to hear your input on positively phrased suggestions vs. negatively phrased suggestions too. Not so much what you were taught or read in a book, but what you think or what your experience has been. Does every suggestion need to be phrased in the positive? Are there some people for whom negatively phrased suggestions work better?

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. This kind of criticism coming out of the blue isn’t helpful.
    I agree with you about scripts. I think they can be very useful, and especially so for group work.
    I do agree about individualizing them for the person you are working with.

    But, I agree with your three points:
    being specific and having some possible solutions.

  2. Hi, Keith – I work without scripts, and agree about the “training wheels” aspect. I do have a number of general directions I like to bring people into in various hypnotic contexts, and when I’m doing so I may include wording I’ve worked over carefully and rehearsed in my mind, but at the time I’m doing the work it all just falls out of the front of my head while I hope for the best :). Perhaps I should say I know my hypnotic language patterns and I go in with a clear intention. Yeah, that sounds better…

    I do avoid negative commands – I figure there’s always a way to put an idea that will put the person’s focus on what they DO want – and I tend to err on the process side, trusting their unconscious to decide the particulars in most cases, while I’m being vague and hoping I’m “artfully” so.

  3. Late comment here Keith. If negatives did not work, none of ****** (Name removed by editor) clients or students would have any success at all. I have a dear friend that will just rip that type of work apart.

    In my own practice I’ve switched over to mostly Ericksonian type work which I believe to be easier in the end result and allow my mind to go into uptime while the client goes to down. YES! They still exist and are doing well.

    I happen to believe you are a very good instructor/trainer so you just may want to send those rude people to me.


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