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Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)

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Neurolinguistic programming is the science of how the brain codes learning and experience. 

This coding affects all communication and behavior.  NLP involves the use of proper syntax (or language). 

Using it properly can make all your written communications more persuasive.  There are several NLP devices that foster in writing web copy. 

Among them are embedded commands, presuppositions, linguistic binds, and reframing.

Embedded Commands
Web copywriting is direct-response writing, which means that its objective is to generate a response of some kind, such as getting your readers to pick up the phone and call your business, subscribe to your newsletter, sign up for your mailing list, or buy your product or service. 

Using embedded commands entails crafting the action you want your reader to take and wrapping it in the cushion of a casual, innocent-looking sentence.

Consider the following sentence:
I wonder how quickly you are going to buy this product.
It seems harmless enough. Your reader might consciously take it as a hypothetical comment. 

But notice the embedded command, which is quite hypnotic in effect:
. . . you are going to buy this product.

Using embedded commands in speaking calls for altering your tone of voice.  You would lower your voice and speak the command part of the sentence more slowly for emphasis and to produce a hypnotic effect.

In writing, however, you use the boldface type (or quotation marks, or italics, or a different color) to set off or outline your command. 

When you write, “I wonder how quickly you are going to buy this product,” use boldface type for the command, “you are going to buy this product.” 

The bold type plays a role in how effectively the command is communicated.  A person will respond to that part of the sentence as a command, and will follow the command without consciously realizing it.

In this way, you gain compliance effortlessly.  Your readers don’t even perceive that they’ve been given a command. 

Typically, they will obey your command as though they had received it directly, without any resistance whatsoever. 

Clearly, this is a very powerful tool.  Because embedded commands evade the scrutiny of the left brain (the critical, logical side of the brain), the readers are not aware of what is causing their desire.

Embedded commands motivate people to take action and compel readers to come to a quick decision. 

Advertisers have known this for years, and that is why they write slogans like, “Aren’t you glad you use Dial?  Don’t you wish everybody did?” 

The embedded command, of course, is “use Dial.”  The same is true of, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?”  Of course the embedded command used in the sentence is “have a Buick.”

How to Write an Embedded Command?
Start by constructing your command.  This is usually three to seven words articulated in the imperative voice; that is, you begin with an action verb that presupposes the subject “you.”

Examples of commands
Get your hands on this [name product].
Act on my advice.
Say yes to this offer.  Learn this secret.
Pick up the phone.

Next, simply embed the command in a sentence and set it off in bold type.  For example, if the action you want your readers to take is to “read every word of this article,” your sentence could read, “As you read every word of this article, you will discover advanced psychological tactics that will boggle your mind.”

Powerful as the brain is, it usually can focus on only one major thing at a time.  Therefore, when bombarded by multiple thoughts, it is forced to presuppose (assume) and accept suggestions as facts. 

This is why using presuppositions in your web copy is such a powerful technique.
The question, “What will you do with the extra $2,500 you’ll earn next month?” is an example of a presupposition. 

Your brain is asked the question, “What will you do . . . ?” By its very nature, the human brain is compelled to answer it.  It’s an involuntary, spontaneous reaction. 

When your brain is asked a question, it instantly goes to work in search of an answer.  If you’ve ever had the experience of waking up in the middle of the night with the answer to a question you were thinking about earlier in the day, then you’ve experienced the profound effect questions have on the brain. 

The brain will keep working on the question subconsciously until it comes up with an answer (if not verbally, then mentally). 

The answer may not always be correct, but the brain will be satisfied only when it has produced an answer that it considers convincing.

The question, “What will you do with the extra $2,500 you’ll earn next month?” assumes that you will earn $2,500 next month simply by asking what you’re going to do with it. 

This is called an adjacency pair in NLP parlance, and the reader’s/listener’s brain pays attention only to the first part (“What will you do . . . ”) of the pair. 

A significant percentage of language processing takes place subconsciously.  To understand a question or sentence, we must subconsciously make assumptions in order to make sense of what is being asked or said. 

Therefore, in order to answer the question, your brain has to assume that the second part of the question “the extra $2,500 you’ll earn next month” is an established fact. Do you see how smoothly that just slides into your consciousness?

Presuppositions are often seen in the leading questions so prevalent in courtroom dramas.  These leading questions imply the existence of something when, in fact, its existence has not been established. 

Consider the following questions: “Why did you steal the money?”
The question assumes the existence of a sum of money.  It further assumes that the money has been stolen, that “you” have stolen it, and that you have a reason for having stolen it (“Why”?). 

When questions such as these are delivered by a lawyer skilled in the syntax of presuppositions–especially when fired in rapid succession (stacked presuppositions), the listener is often forced to tacitly accept the implied meaning of the questions, even when the adversarial questioning was designed to introduce damaging arguments.

Here’s another example of a presupposition:  What will you do when the government imposes a five-cent surcharge on every e-mail that you send out? 

The brain focuses on the first part of the adjacency pair (“What will you do. . . ”), which means it has to presuppose that the latter part of the sentence (about the government imposing a five-cent surcharge on every e-mail that you send out) is an established fact, when it actually is nothing but a rumor.

Here’s another example:  “Are you one of the 295 million people in America who’s tired of the nine to five corporate grind, who wants to start her own business?” 

The question presupposes that there are 295 million people who want to start their own business in America, when that fact hasn’t been established.  Heck, that figure even exceeds the total population of the United States!

Not all presuppositions come in the form of questions.  You can use presuppositional phrases like “As you know,” “I’m sure you know,” “Everybody knows . . . ” and presuppositional words like “clearly,” “obviously,” “evidently,” “undoubtedly,” “easily,” “readily,” “automatically,” and “naturally.” 

Any statement you put after any of these words is more likely to be received or accepted by your reader without resistance. 

For example, “obviously, these triggers usher in a revolutionary–and immensely more effective–era of selling that you simply can’t miss out on,” or “Clearly, investing in Adam Ginsberg’s program, Creating Successful eBay Business, is the fastest way to start earning eBay profits in as little as one day.

“Clearly” and all the other presuppositional words and phrases impart a halo of credibility around what you are saying and lead the reader to assume that the ensuing statement is true. 

It makes the statement take on the appearance (fact and therefore makes your sales argument go down smoothly.

I am not suggesting that you use this device to tell lies, use weasel words, or slip your readers a Mickey. 

I believe in telling the truth in advertising.  As with any powerful psychological device, you have to use presuppositions ethically and judiciously.

Linguistic Binds
A linguistic bind is a form of syntax that makes your reader say, “Why, of course, what you’re saying is true!” and is another powerful tool in the art of persuasion. 

Let’s analyze this linguistic bind:  “While you’re sitting there reading this letter, you begin to understand why you can’t afford to waste any more time getting less than everything that life has to offer.”
It consists of two parts.  Part 1 states something obvious (“you’re sitting there reading this letter”), and part 2states what you want your reader to think, say, or do. 

It is the command.  Curiously, this pattern makes your reader believe that what you are saying is logical, when in fact, parts 1 and 2 of your sentence are not linked by logic at all. 

Nevertheless, this device can make people agree with practically anything you say.
Here are some more examples of linguistic binds:

“Now that you’ve read this special report, I’m sure you realize that you need to beat your competitors to the punch by attending this seminar now.”

“As you sit there reading this, I know that you’re thinking about all the ways you can turn your book into a bestseller as a result of attending Mark Victor Hansen’s Book Marketing University.”

“As you think about what you really need in your business, you begin to realize that you have only one choice to make, and that is to invest in this [product or service].”
There are other variations of linguistic binds.  One is “The more you A, the more you B” syntax.  For example:

“The more you understand the power of this one psychological trigger, the more you’ll realize that you need to get all 30 of Joe Sugarman’s Psychological Triggers.”

“The more you read, the more you won’t want to be without this incredible product.”

Another is the cause-and-effect syntax:  “Taking advantage of this free trial of our water purifier in the comfort of your own home will cause you to fully understand why buying bottled water is simply not the way to go.”

Again, I caution you to use this powerful device judiciously and ethically.

Reframing is the process of altering one’s perception of a person, place, or thing by changing the context in which it is viewed. 

Consider reframing in its literal sense.  Imagine a piece of canvas on which paint has been splattered, dripped, dabbed, and flicked in a chaotic manner, and then imagine hanging that canvas on a wall in a plain metal frame. 

You would most likely view it as just one big mess.  Now imagine that same piece of canvas reframed in an ornate museum-quality, solid-hardwood frame with custom moldings.  Suddenly, you perceive it as a work of art.

Our perception of a person, place or thing is altered simply by changing the context–the frame–in which it is viewed. 

In verbal or written communication, perception can be altered by using a technique known as reframing.

Reframing in the context of copywriting is a technique for communicating a flaw, a shortcoming, an imperfection, or it disadvantage in a way that transforms its meaning to one that is pleasant, desirable, or advantageous. 

Advertisers often abuse this concept by saying misleading things like, “When you purchase this camera, you will also get as a free gift this genuine, handsome, imitation-leather carrying case.” 

There is nothing genuine about imitation leather.  Don’t reframe in this way because it will insult the intelligence of your audience.

The key to successful reframing is to shift the reader’s focus to a desirable, sometimes hidden, aspect of a disadvantage and turn it into a plus. 

You may be surprised to discover how just about anything can be reframed into something desirable when you look at it in a different light or, more accurately, with a fresh set of eyes.

Reframing is an excellent tool to use to justify the price of what you’re selling.  In the following example, reframing was used to justify the $1,595 price tag for a one-day speakers’ workshop:

What price can you put on learning how to get as many speaking engagements as you can handle?  $25,000?  $15,000?  $10,000?  (Believe it or not, that’s how much other speaker trainers charge!)

If you paid me my standard consulting fee of $625/hour for the 7½ hours I’m giving you at the Speakers’ Workshop on October 18, it would cost you $4,687.50.

Would you believe it if I told you the workshop won’t even cost you $4,000?  No, not even $3,000.  Your investment in your speaking career–and your life–is only . . .

You’ll most likely earn at least twice that much on your very first speaking engagement.
Here, the price of the workshop ($1,595) is compared to: 

(1) How much other speaker trainers charge ($25,000, $15,000, or $10,000);
(2) The cost in consulting fees to receive an equivalent 7½ hours of training ($4,687.50); and
(3) How much the buyer would earn on his or her first speaking engagement (twice as much as the price of tuition to attend the speakers’ workshop). 

When reframed in this context, what could appear to be a prohibitive amount of money to spend on a one-day workshop suddenly seems reasonable–even inexpensive.


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