NLP E-Prime Technique
Neuro-linguistic Programming places great deal of importance on non-verbal communication and body language. However, our language also plays a significant role in effective communication. It embodies not just the vocabulary we use in our dialect, which is around seven percent of the communication, but also the language we use in our brain. Every word we use has an impact on the communication and individual words can carry deep meanings.
Often we find that the meaning behind a word is different for different people. This is because people use their sensory information to create a distinct map of the world. This internal representation can change with a change in the words used for communicating a thought. Often the speaker will make certain assumptions, and express an idea using words. The listener might not be aware of the same assumptions, or make contradictory assumptions, and will generate a disparate meaning of the words used. This will not be known to the speaker unless the listener explicitly expresses his inner comprehension of the statement. This will result in a disparity of meanings and thoughts, leading to misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Sometimes we even come to a point where we are unable to express our thoughts, feelings or events using the limited language of spoken words. Our inner feelings are so profound that choosing only the right or close fitting vocabulary can bring out the true emotions. A person who cannot express his thoughts effectively is often misunderstood and is unable to achieve success no matter how talented he is. On the other hand, effective communicators know the importance of knowing and using the right set of words, phrases, constructs and vocabulary for any particular situation. These people are able to make an impact on the audience, and impress them with proper language and clearer image of their thoughts and ideas.
E-Prime Structure of Language
Using Neuro-linguistic programming, we can employ words in a better manner so as to express our thoughts at a much deeper and different style than usual. This can be achieved by being acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of the language. We also need to understand how the language is interpreted and filtered through our minds using the representation system of the Neuro-linguistic Programming model. Language is an important tool for efficient and appropriate communication, and has to be used wisely by undertaking Neuro-linguistic courses.
The Neuro-linguistic Programming presupposition states that the meaning of a communication is the response that it receives. We use language as a means to achieve an outcome and get a desirable response. The words we choose are very important, and must have appropriate meaning for the other person. The words used must fit the other person’s map of reality, and cater to their unconscious mind. Similarly, the words spoken by another person must be analyzed so as to grasp its underlying meaning by asking appropriate questions. Using these Neuro-linguistic communication skills, any person can benefit from a conversation, and create a better understanding and rapport with others.
Neuro-linguistic training promotes the use of E-Prime language style. This style was developed by the Neuro-linguistic expert, David Bourland, also a Harvard business school graduate. The term is used to refer to the English language without using the verb ‘to be’. Although the verb ‘to be’ is the most commonly used verb, it often leads to unambiguous meanings and incorrect grammar. For example, instead of using passive tense such as ‘It is understood’ or ‘It is said’, Neuro-linguistic courses promote answering the questions ‘By whom?’ or ‘who said it?’
According to Neuro-linguistic training, the reason behind excluding the ‘is’ word is that it can be used to make extensive assumptions. The word ‘is’ assumes that all things can be divided into black or white, true or false. However, our life is full of grey areas. The word puts a definite label on every piece of information, which is extremely precise. The real problem occurs when other people begin to interpret and comprehend different meanings of the words used. This can result in a mismatch of understanding, resulting in a breakdown of Neuro-linguistic communication and spoiled relationships.
As per Neuro-linguistic courses, we need to avoid taking shortcuts in our everyday conversations by using words like ‘is’ and ‘to be’. By replacing these words, we are forced to think and express in words the actual meaning that we intended to convey. By using the E-Prime technique of Neuro-linguistic programming, we can come up with a lucid and superior way for expressing our thoughts. We can then make use of active ‘doing’ verbs and illustrating who performed a certain action. The English language provides several alternatives for replacing the ‘to be’ verb in spoken or written communication.
There are two possible dangers of using the ‘is’ word in sentence construction, as identified by Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics. The first danger is called the ‘is’ of identity, such as making a statement ‘Tim is a student’. The other danger is called the ‘is’ of predication, such as making a statement ‘Cathy is mad’. The verb ‘to be’ indicates that there is no in-between area of compromise, something either ‘is’ or ‘is not’. This forces us to make absolute and generalized statements that might not even be logical. For example, apart from being a student, Tim is also a son, brother, tennis player, debating president and guitarist. Tim might also be a part time student, and working part time. Therefore, the initial statement cannot possibly describe the complete identity of Tim.
Similarly, the statement ‘Cathy is mad’ can be converted to Neuro-linguistic E-Prime by the sentence ‘Cathy went mad with anger when the person insulted her’. An even better statement would be ‘Cathy appeared to me to go mad with anger’. Thus by using Neuro-linguistic E-Prime technique, we can avoid making offending statements, and make the meaning clearer and truer to reality. This technique can be learnt using Neuro-linguistic training.
As per Neuro-linguistic courses, E-Prime technique forces us to state a direct and clear statement, by identifying who takes the action and for what reason. It helps avoid generalized ambiguous statements by using action verbs. The passive voice statements used commonly by politicians and bureaucrats are dismissed by making abstract statements more concrete and real.
Using E-Prime technique
The E-Prime technique is not a mere mechanical replacement of words. It is preceded by carefully thinking what you mean to say rather than simply change the way you say it. Therefore, the E-Prime technique, taught in Neuro-linguistic courses, forces the person to think clearly before opening the mouth. Clarity of thought brings clarity of speech.
As per Neuro-linguistic training, the impact of using E-Prime technique is profound. It radically transforms the way you think. It can also bring about positive changes in your behavior, relationships and achievements. That is because you break away from generalizations, incomplete and offending statements. You make it a habit to bring in a detailed and realistic perspective to your communications. Any misunderstandings that might occur during your communication with your spouse, family, friends, coworkers, boss or clients are automatically eliminated. Since the language becomes clear and exact, there is little mismatch in the internal maps of different people.
Also, since a more clearer and logical thinking precedes the actual speech, the language and words chosen become effective tools for communication. Neuro-linguistic training talks about the link between behavior and thinking. This link makes E-Prime such a powerful agent for bringing about personal change. The E-Prime technique is used in several applications ranging from personal achievement to problem solving.
Even a partial use of the E-prime technique in our day-to-day communication can bring about a sweeping change in our lives. It forces us to rethink what we or others mean to say using the range of words available. Some people are not comfortable writing and speaking in E-Prime everyday. They think using E-Prime is a complex process, and difficult to put into practice. The process of eliminating ‘is’ also involves avoiding the various forms of the verb. These variations of the verb include were, was, be, been, will be, is, am, are, being and concealed forms such as it’s. Although it might seem difficult to remember not to use these form in communication, practicing the technique consciously every day will help turn it into an unconscious habit.
The benefit of using this grammatical omission in everyday communication is enormous. It will bring about an enforced clarity of meaning by getting rid of all the drawbacks of using the verb ‘to be’. Moreover, it will create opportunities where you will arrive on unfamiliar territories of the language, forcing you to think more deeply about the actual meaning behind a thought, and express it more clearly and precisely. With effective, consistent and deliberate use of E-Prime, the technique will become an unconscious process, and will supplement and foster clearer thought processes and language.