Dr. Phil, Her Butt & Ambiguity
How amusing language can help us understand NLP & hypnotic language patterns.
I was flipping through the channels the other day and landed on Dr. Phil for a moment. Well, I didn’t land on Dr. Phil, I landed on the channel that airs his television show. It was a makeover show and he said something I thought was pretty funny. He was talking to the boyfriend of the woman they were making over… He said “Now, she’s got hair down past her butt which she’s had for 17 years.” I thought, “She’s had her butt for 17 years?”
But(t) what Dr. Phil meant was, of course, that she’d had her long hair for 17 years. It was an ambiguity. Specifically, an ambiguity of scope.
Why Ambiguities Are Useful
Here’s a little blurb I’d written previously about ambiguities and how they’re useful…
Ambiguity (From the The Hypnotic Language Mastery Pack)
Sometimes things can be interpreted two or more ways. When a meaning is uncertain or hazy we can say it’s ambiguous. Most communicators believe ambiguity is bad. That’s because they don’t know how to use ambiguity to its full advantage. What they don’t realize is that the unconscious mind processes all possible meanings.
What if you could design a communication that could move toward your outcome with all the possible meanings? You’d squeeze more meaning and benefit out of that communication. While the conscious mind will latch onto the obvious meaning, the unconscious is considering and taking in the others.
You might also consider what might happen when you don’t understand ambiguity. Some time ago, a government agency started a campaign to try to curb drug use among teenagers. The slogan was “Drugs, it’s your choice.” Well, there’s a couple of possible meanings there. One is that it’s your choice whether or not to take drugs. The other meaning is that your choice is to take drugs; “drugs, it’s your choice.” Not the idea they were trying to get across, I’m sure!
Ambiguities also take up a lot of brain power for the listener to process. When the conscious mind gets overloaded trying to figure out the meanings, the unconscious mind becomes more open to suggestion. There are several kinds of ambiguities, let’s start exploring them…
How To Generate A Scope Ambiguity
Here’s one way to generate a scope ambiguity…
1. Pick a goal.
2. Create a sentence with a subject acting on some thing or person (“She met the waitress” or “He lost the ball”) and that includes the goal.
3. Add a descriptive term to the person or thing being acted upon (“She met the short waitress” or “He lost the red ball”).
4. List something (or several somethings) in such a way as to be unclear whether or not the earlier part of the sentence applies to the later parts (“She met the short waitress, cook and bartender” or “He lost the red ball, cap and shoes”).
Here’s an example, where the therapeutic goals are that the client feel better and go onto trance. (Listening and relaxing are small steps toward the “going into trance” goal.)
“How soon will you begin to realize that you’re feeling better, listening to the sound of my voice, getting relaxed, closing your eyes?”
In this example, you’d use your tonality to indicate a suggestion rather than a question. If you know about embedded suggestions, I’m sure you can pick out several helpful ones from that wording.
A Little (very little) Humor
Similar language patterns are also useful for generating jokes. Do you remember the movie Airplane? Here’s a couple of lines from it.
“Excuse me sir, there’s been a little problem in the cockpit.”
“The cockpit . . . what is it?”
“It’s the little room in the front of the plane where the pilots sit.”
You too, Dr. Phil (I know you’re reading this).