Directionalizing Perception

The Value of Presuppositional Languaging

Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.

“Communication is the response you get” is one of the Key Presuppositions of NLP. I have personally found this presupposition quite useful to hold as a belief. For, by holding this belief, it forces me to take greater responsibility for my communication. As such, that in turns encourages me to “fill up my communication tool box” with all the linguistic tools I can find to assist me as a communicator. Another NLP Key Presupposition states, “The person with the most flexibility of behavior will have the most influence in a system.” Or, to put it another way, if I am not getting the outcome from my communication that I desire, I go back into my “communication tool box” and pull out another communication model with the hopes that the new one will work in assisting me towards my outcome with the other person.

So, my goal both as an individual and as a trainer is to gather as many communication tools as I can and to impart those tools. The Key Presuppositions of NLP have endured by providing empowering beliefs. Now, there is in NLP another “kind” of presupposition that provides a most empowering “communication tool.” The kind of presupposition that I am speaking of is not the same type as the Key Presuppositions of NLP, which provide key foundational beliefs for the communicator to hold in mind in directing his or her behaviors. The presuppositions that this article is referring to are those presuppositions that come out of the Milton Model of Hypnotic Languaging.

Recall the Meta-Model of Language. Within the Distortions we have a category that we call Presuppositions. The Meta-Model category of Presupposition is those conceptual and linguistic assumptions for a statement to make sense. Presuppositions in language work covertly, indirectly, and unconsciously, as we have to accept them and their assumptions to make sense of the communication. John Burton says that presuppositions function similar to Mind-Reading. They just leave out the “I know.” Any non-sensory specific language will contain presuppositions.

A great way to understand what is “presupposed” inside a person’s statement is to ask, “What do I have to hold as being true inside my head to make sense out of what the person just said?” Consider this statement: “Presuppositional languaging is an effective tool for directionalizing another person’s perception towards a specific outcome.” What do you have to hold as being true inside your head to make sense and “receive” that sentence? This sentence presupposes among other things that:

1. Something called “presuppositional language” actually exists.

2. There are other forms of languaging that are not presuppositional language.

3. This form of languaging is a tool of communication.

4. It isn’t the only tool of communication.

5. Presuppositional language is not only a tool of communication it is an effective tool of communication.

6. Other people perceive.

7. Importantly, the perception of other people will lend itself to changing direction according to the direction given by another person.

8. Presuppositional language is an effective tool in directionalizing another person’s perception.

9. We cannot only have in mind an outcome for our communication, but by utilizing presuppositional languaging, among other tools, we can directionalize another person’s perception towards our outcome.

10. We may directionalize another person’s perception even without his or her knowledge of what we are doing.

While there are more presuppositions within that one sentence, the ten given will assist us in understanding that inside every statement one will find many other presuppositions that are not explicitly mentioned. It is in these implied but not explicitly stated presuppositions that give presuppositional languaging its effectiveness in directionalizing perception.

In the Meta-Model of language we challenge presuppositions in order to inquire about the underlying presuppositions. In utilizing presuppositions in directionalizing perception, we let the presuppositions “roll” hypnotically in leading the other person towards the outcome of the communication. When we USE the Meta-Model’s linguistic distinctions we use the language in a hypnotic way and so the patterns become many of the patterns that we know as “The Milton Model” although the Milton Model includes additional linguistic hypnotic distinctions not found in the Meta-Model.

One of the simple yet very powerful things about the human mind is that when it hears a statement, it will process it. The brain may delete the statement all together but it will to some degree process it. When you are communicating with someone and have any measure of rapport, that person’s brain will be constantly be processing what you are saying. Consider each of the following words:

1. Car

2. Ship

3. Spouse

4. Friend

5. Learning

6. Neuro-Semantics

As you read each of the above, your brain processed each one of them. I am sure your brain did it quite rapidly and you may have not been consciously aware of the Complex Equivalent you gave each of those terms, but for sure your brain processed each one. Each of the above terms is what we refer to as a Presupposition of Existence. Each term presupposes that something called a “car,” “ship,” “spouse,” “friend,” “learning,” and “Neuro-Semantics” exists and your brain no doubt placed a meaning for you (Complex Equivalence) to each of those terms. And, herein lies the power of presuppositions – the brain cooperates magnificently in placing meanings to the words and phrases that we give it. So, by carefully providing words and phrases that we believe will create inside the other person’s head images and thoughts that we desire for them to have, we will direct him or her towards our outcome. By doing so, we stand a much better chance of getting the response to our communication that we desire.

Indeed, one can go on and on with such thinking. What use is this? It has profound use in directionalizing language for often times it is not what is explicitly mentioned in our communication that offers the most potential but what is not explicitly mentioned. Another example: consider the challenge for a Cause-Effect violation. Suppose someone says, “You make me mad.” And in your brilliant NLP response, you say, “Well, I understand that you believe that I am making you mad. Please tell me what is it that I am doing that causes you to choose to be mad?” Note the italicized words “causes you to choose to be mad.” That statement does not explicitly say it but it certainly presupposes that if you can “choose to be mad” you can “choose not to be mad.” Thus, we send a message to the unconscious mind bypassing the conscious mind that you have choice as to whether or not to be mad or not.

It is those subtle presuppositions that provide the leverage in directionalizing perception. For, once we plant that subtle suggestion we can follow up on it by building a more concrete representation of our outcome. With this person, you have planted a thought of choice and from there you can lead the person to hopefully choose not to be angry with you.

Importantly, every time a person makes a statement, he or she is giving you his or her model of the world. Every time I open my mouth, I give you suggestions of my conscious and unconscious model of the world. You know the surface structure and you can make judgments about what lies in the deep structure based on what my language presupposes. Suppose I say, “I love NLP and sharing it with others.” What does that statement presuppose about what I believe and hold as important yet is not explicitly stated? Does it not presuppose that I have a passion for NLP; that I have studied NLP in order to know it well enough to share it or at least to believe I know enough to share. Does it not presuppose that I love assisting and helping other people in utilizing the tools of NLP to run their own brains? Yes, and it presupposes even more. All statements have hidden presuppositions that tell us much about the other person. The Master Practitioner listens to them.

In our forthcoming book The User’s Manual for the Brain, Vol. II, we will present presuppositions in more detail. I only use eight of the presuppositions. For a much more detailed listing of them, look in the Appendix of Patterns I (1977). I like the model taught by Tad James and John Overdurf (1990) in organizing presuppositions. In their NLP Master Practitioner Manual, they divided the Presuppositional Language Pattern by the Cartesian Categories of Matter, Energy, Space and Time plus a category for Relationship Operators. Below find them listed with a brief description of each category with an example of utilizing them in directionalizing perception:

1. Matter and Energy

A. Existence – We create our reality with words. We take nothing and make it something (for us) with language. All of our frames of mind are linguistically constructed realities.

B. Awareness – We utilize Presuppositions of Awareness to direct attention to those “things” of “existence” that we wish to direct the other person to focus on. Words like aware, notice, sense, realize, consider, think and any sensory word (see, hear, feel) are Presuppositions of Awareness.

C. Possibility and Necessity – Modal Operators by definition define the boundaries of a person’s belief system and therefore provide a marvelous tool in directionalizing a person’s focus. And, we really need to communicate our outcome to the other person. And, with our linguistic skills, we cannecessity, desire, possibility, impossibility, and choice provide fantastic tools for directionalizing perception. Think about it, “You need to learn to communicate more effectively if you want to and since your brain isn’t broken, it can learn how to overcome seemingly impossible odds to learn more effective communication if you want directionalize perception. Modal Operators of to.”

2. Space-Time

A. Temporal and Spatial – Utilizing verb tenses, adverbs, adjectives and prepositions, one can direct another person’s brain to go to the past, the present, and the future. Consider a person who presents a problem and you say, “You had a problem, hadn’t you? And, how was your thinking beforehad the problem? How were you thinking then? And, how would it be to think that way now? Thus, you can utilize Temporal Presuppositions to do Linguistic Time Lining. you

You can utilize Spatial Presuppositions to lead a person to rise above his or her problem or to go beyond it where there is no problem. You can access higher levels frames with Spatial Presupposition as you direct the person’s brain by asking him or her what a particular statement was about and what happens when they apply those higher-level frames to his or her problem?

B. Ordinal – Ordinal Presuppositions imply order and syntax. Words like first, second, third, etc are ordinals. Other words like next, finally and lastly are also Ordinals. What will be the next thing you do after you have solved your problem?

C. Exclusive/Inclusive Or – The Exclusive/Inclusive Or Presupposition provide the basis for Double Binds. You will come to appreciate Presuppositions in either your first or second reading of this article.

3. Relationship Operators

A. Cause-Effect – Cause-Effect statements come directly from the Meta-Model of language. They offer excellent tools for setting up causations. “And, as you read this article on Presuppositions, you will come to appreciate the power of Presuppositions in Directionalizing Perception.” Note the hypnotic affect of such statements. This is Milton Model language through and through.

B. Complex Equivalence – Again, right out of the Meta-Model, Complex Equivalences implies things or their meaning as synonymous. Words like is, am, are and any variation of the verb to be are linguistic Complex Equivalences. As with Cause-Effect, I love to utilize Complex Equivalences to link one thought with another as I chain a person’s perception towards my outcome. “And, as you read this article on Presuppositions, you will come to appreciate the power of Presuppositions in Directionalizing Perception. And that means that you are becoming a more proficient communicator and a Master Practitioner of NLP.”


· You can directionalize a person’s perception through the skillful use of language.

· Presuppositions offer a structure in directionalizing perception.

· Presuppositions define what a person has to hold true in order to make sense out of a statement.

· We can utilize Presuppositional Language in sending a person’s brain, backwards, forwards, up or down.

· We can meta-state a person with the hypnotic effect of presuppositional language.

Bandler, Richard, Delozier, Judith and Grinder. John. (1977). Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Volume 1. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications.

James, Tad. (1990). The basic NLP training collection. Honolulu, HI: Advanced Neuro Dynamics.


Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.
The Institute of Neuro-Semantics
NLP of Gastonia
1516 Cecelia Dr
Gastonia, NC 28054
Phone 704-864-3585
Fax 704-864-1545