Hello, I’m happy to offer my latest article for the Banyan Hypnosis E-Zine. This series is intended to help hypnosis professionals by briefly summarizing concepts from sources outside of the field, and describing how the information can be applied within a hypnosis practice.
This time, we will briefly summarize “Crucial Conversations” (multiple authors). This is a popular book that is very appropriate to study in the context of hypnosis, since it is all about communication.
First let’s define what the authors mean by a “crucial” conversation.
Definition of Crucial Conversation.
- opinions vary
- stakes are high
- emotions run strong
The work we do with hypnosis clients actually may not fully fit this definition. Why? Because although b) and c) are very often the case, a) is not, or at least should not be.
The reason is, up to a certain point, I think the hypnotist’s opinions shouldn’t matter. This relates to the Crucial Conversations concept of “the Pool of Shared Meaning”.
Filling the Pool of Shared Meaning.
Wow, that sounds pretty heavy, dude. But it just represents the idea that when people interact for a common purpose, they each bring their ideas and beliefs and motivations to the pool, and hopefully find a way to mix and combine them in a way that achieves that common purpose.
Oh no, it’s that dreaded buzzword: “synergy”!
I think hypnotists can do well by being careful to keep their meaning (their opinions, judgements and analytical interpretations) out of the shared pool as much as possible.
Of course, as helpers we hypnotists know that we shouldn’t make our clients feel like we are judging them. But I wonder if people realize that by implicitly (or explicitly) emphasizing positive happy thinking as the right way to be, then implicitly they are pre-framing the other person as being defective, or “not as good as I am”.
People often talk about “meeting the client where they are”. But then will turn around and try really hard to present themselves as fountains of positivity and confidence and happiness.
You know what? Not everyone wants or needs to get into a pool that’s filled with “light, love and warmth” in order to achieve their goals and to lead a fulfilling life. Many people who could benefit from this kind of work find that sort of thing to be repellent.
In the self-help field, people seem to try really hard to project that kind of thing in an effort to make people feel good in their presence. But that’s like putting up a sign that discourages people from getting into the pool in the first place.
What you hope to present as a tasty Baby Ruth chocolate candy bar, full of kindness and caring and positivity, may be perceived very differently by a client who sees that brown thing floating in the swimming pool!
Dialogue Skills are Learnable.
Crucial Conversations is all about dialogue. But consider the popular concept of the “Elevator Pitch”, a concept that made sense in the original context of trying to acquire venture capital funding.
Lots of experts and coaches will tell would-be achievers “You need to perfect and practice your elevator pitch”. Then you’re supposed to go to networking events and pitch your stuff all over the other people there.
But as Michael Port (author of “Book Yourself Solid”, one of the other books I’ve summarized in this series) points out, have YOU ever been eager to listen to someone else give their “elevator pitch”?
And, have you ever been excited or eager to GIVE an “elevator pitch”?
Sure, it’s a skill, but it’s not a dialogue.
So, if you don’t look forward to hearing elevator pitches, and no one wants to hear your elevator pitch, and no one wants to give an elevator pitch, why try to perfect a skill that is about doing something no one wants?
This leads to the next point, about focusing on what people really want.
Focus on What You Really Want.
Here’s another controversial idea for hypnotists: Do not focus on “building rapport”.
Here’s why: let’s imagine a client whose goal is “to be more confident in social settings”.
So, during the consultation, we explore what it really means to them. What would it mean for them to be a good socializer?
“OK, so imagine I’m at a party. There’s someone I’d like to meet. What would I do if I were confident? Well, I would go up to them and introduce myself. I would tell them about what I do for a living and make it really interesting. Then I would tell them a funny joke. Then I might tell them a cool story about the vacation I just came back from. Then I’d launch into the elevator pitch that I’ve been practicing. Want to hear it?”
Did you notice something?
Somehow, in this imaginary social event, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else there. It’s almost like the other people there are not significant. They are not of any real interest, except to serve as an audience for this wonderfully charismatic and confident individual.
That is naturally what happens when a person focuses on “being confident” or “being charismatic”.
So, can you imagine a hypnotist meeting with a potential client, with this belief drilled into their head: “You must build rapport and gain the confidence of the client, here’s how...”
Then the hypnotist tries to implement all the things they’ve studied: techniques and tips and tricks like mirroring and matching, using utterly fascinating hypnotic syntax, etc. etc.
But I think that is a totally confused and backwards misrepresentation of cause vs. effect.
Here’s an idea: just listen, open your awareness, and pay attention to the individual right in front of you. Forget all that rapport stuff when you’re interacting with a real live human being.
Refuse the Sucker’s Choice
Speaking of confidence, there is often a tight coupling between “confidence” and desired action.
People often say “I would get started with doing hypnosis but I am not confident yet. If I could just get more confidence then I could start helping people.”
So many people get stuck in the idea that if they aren’t confident, then they can’t get started. That is a form of Sucker’s Choice. It causes them to spend a lot of time and energy trying to gain confidence when it’s just a completely imaginary prerequisite for action.
Guess what? You don’t need confidence to get started with helping people. Who cares if you’re confident or not? Get over yourself!
The story that “I need confidence or I can’t take action” is just fiction. It belongs in the fantasy section. And not with the “grown-up” quality fantasy books --- it belongs on the shelf among all the teen vampire book series.
Master My Stories
Boy, my brain is a story-telling machine. It can’t stop.
One morning, I got a voicemail from a client who was supposed to come in later that day. The voicemail asked if I took insurance and what the fees were going to be. On my site, this information is clearly available before appointments are made in the first place.
I heard this voicemail and immediately the story-telling machine started in motion.
“So annoying! This person can’t even be bothered to read the information that’s in black-and-white. Why would they setup an appointment if they can’t afford to pay for the service? I bet they’re going to complain about how it costs too much, even though they spend money on cigarettes. They’re going to tell me a sob story about some disability or being out of work and how they need me to give them a discount. I bet they’re going to try to make me feel guilty about how much I charge. Geez, people are so irresponsible for wanting insurance to pay for this kind of work. Don’t they understand it’s about personal responsibility, not about a co-pay? What am I doing having to deal with idiots all the time? People are so stupid! I think I like cats better than humans. I should get out of this business, it’s too many hassles, it’s not worth it. What the heck am I doing with my life? I wish a comet would just hit the earth and then I wouldn’t have to deal with this!”
Whew! All this from one voicemail.
This story-telling machine kept churning out this narrative at a low-level for a few hours, in the shower, on my way into the office, in-between appointments, until I had a chance to call the person who left the voicemail.
Of course, when I called them, it turned out to be a very pleasant conversation. They simply were not in a financial condition to afford the service, but they did not ask for any special consideration or pity. Instead, they were very apologetic, and said they would just have to work on saving up the money. They seemed like a very nice person.
This episode relates to the Crucial Conversations chapter “Master My Stories”. A key concept is that “other people don’t make you mad” (or otherwise emotional). You and only you create those emotions.
I got angry about this person trying to make me feel guilty --- when that never even happened! It was all a story in my mind.
Crucial Conversations points out that these kinds of stories usually have a common plot: either a Victim story, a Villain story, or a Helpless story. If we learn to recognize these stories, we can save ourselves a whole lot of “agita”. That day, I spent my morning and part of the afternoon in kind of a bad mood because of my story, for absolutely no reason!
So it can be good to learn to be skeptical of our own stories. But this also applies to “positive” stories, like being the Hero or Healer or Savior.
When I get feedback from clients expressing how much better they feel as a result of working with me, and if they describe me as something like a “wonderfully calm and friendly presence”, that’s nice, but I like to remind myself of how one little voicemail can lead my brain into a storyline that indicts the entire human species as worthy of mass extinction... from “You’ve Got Mail” to “Armageddon”.
Mastering My Story is a crucial skill for anyone who deals with people like hypnotists do. Remember to question why the story is making you feel the way you do, and what evidence you really have, or don’t have, that supports that narrative in the first place.
Well, I hope this hypnotic summary of “Crucial Conversations” has been of interest to you and provoked some useful thought processes. This summary is not in any way a complete representation of the concepts in the book. There is a lot more to it, but I hope this is a good introduction to checking it out for yourself.
© 2012 Steve Roh