How Our Politicians Manipulate Us With NLP

Given that we know our top politicians are coached in how to manipulate us through using Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques, the main soundbite that seems to have emerged from David Cameron’s recent speech to the Lord Mayor’s banquet was a little surprising.

“We have to get a grip on growth.”

If nothing there seems untoward to you, it may be because you’re unfamiliar with Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques, or NLP as it’s known for short. So here’s an article explaining how useful NLP is as a therapy, but how in the wrong hands, and used outside its therapeutic context, it can cause all sorts of problems.

So first of all, what is NLP?

Anchoring and reframing

NLP is an alternative form of psychotherapy which is based on language and communication and which has the aim of supporting self and personal change. It was originally developed by a linguist, John Grindler, and a mathematician, Richard Bandler, in the 1970s, when they aimed to determine patterns between behaviour and communication. Their work was based on that of three successful and popular psychotherapists – Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton H. Erickson.

Knowing that our bodies listen to our thoughts, and that many illnesses have been attributed to how we think, the over-riding idea with NLP is to reprogramme how we think which include techniques known as anchoring, reframing, rapport and Swish and also forms of hypnosis.

This makes it a very useful therapy for life coaches and for business development. It is also quite commonly used to treat addictions and phobias and for personal development, for relationships and to enhance sports performance.

However, politicians and other opinion formers are also using ‘anchoring’ and ‘reframing’ to change our thinking, and not necessarily for our own good.

So how does it work?

Anchoring is a technique where an association is created between two separate elements where none existed before. Anchors are subtle and powerful, especially when they are attached to a strong emotion. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the anchor. People subconsciously form some type of anchor in everyday life. For instance, you may hear a favourite old song playing on the radio. As you listen to it, your mind is transported back to the very first time you heard it and what it meant to you then. David Cameron’s favourite anchor word seems to be ‘grip’.

Reframing works by giving us a new way to look at and old idea, for example, in the use of the word ‘credit’. What previous generations called ‘debt’ and therefore ‘a bad thing’, we were taught to call ‘credit, which had a more positive associations (after all, which of us does not want to gain credit?) Therefore, we were more able and willing to accrue ‘credit’, now that it no longer was no longer nasty old debt.

So in last night’s speech, David Cameron used the NLP techniques of anchoring and reframing it, and I’ll explain how.

We first started hearing his use of the word ‘grip’ in the televised pre-election debates last year. Mr Cameron stood on the podium then with Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, and used the word ‘grip’ several times in describing how would approach the ‘credit crisis’, given the chance. But he used the word ‘grip’ in an unusual context. He said: “We must grip it,” rather than ‘get a grip on it”.

However, the word ‘grip’ went down well because it gave the impression of someone who was going to grab hold of a problem which seemed to be running away with us like so much quicksilver, and solve it.

So the word ‘grip’ was duly introduced to support all manner of barely supportable cuts.

Stifling growth

However, last night, Mr Cameron brought out his ‘grip’ word again ~ this time to a banquet-hall full of bankers, although his speech was really intended for a much wider television audience.

“We have to get a grip on growth” he announced, and anyone who may have been on the verge of panicking about the seismic tremours emanating from Brussels could instantly feel reassured by the nice, familiar word ‘grip’.

But, in this case, is ‘grip’ the most appropriate word? One would think that ‘encouraging growth’ or ‘supporting growth’ or even ‘fertilising growth’ would work better than ‘gripping growth’. If one grips growth, one is strangling growth, one is stifling growth. One could even be intending paralysis of growth.

So either Mr Cameron needs to go back to NLP school, or he has a different agenda to the one he claims.

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