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Healing with Language: The Meaning of a Message

from SCS Matters

A useful observation about the communication process that comes from neurolinguistic programming is that "the meaning of a message is the response it elicits." It's a bit of a tongue twister, the idea is really clear: People tend to think that, if they say it, others will know what they meant and behave accordingly. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

Fortunately, you can usually tell what others think you meant by the way they respond. Sometimes it is a matter of word choice. An X-ray revealed that Joel was having a problem with a tooth, and his dentist recommended a root canal. Because there was no pain, Joel asked when it needed to be done. The dentist said, "If there's no pain, it is not an emergency."

Joel dawdled and had not seen the orthodontist by the time of his next dental check-up. This time the dentist said, "While it is not an emergency, there is urgency. Have this done quickly to avoid bone loss." The change in language resulted in a change in behavior.

When Debra's nephew was about 4 years old, he asked his grandmother if he could drink out of the Kool-Aid pitcher. His grandmother said, "No, you cannot drink out of that heavy pitcher." Immediately, he picked it up, tipped it back, and took a big glug. With a look of utter accomplishment, he gleefully said, "Sure I can. See!"

Even while you think of a variety of possible treatment and drink options, notice that the meaning of the message really is the response it elicits. To change the behavior, change the message.

As you integrate this awareness, you are able to help patients and clients see themselves doing what is really good for them. "As you are doing your daily exercise more regularly, notice if you will also naturally start to sleep better, too."

Send your questions about communication to Joel P. Bowman or Debra Basham, co-developers of SCS Matters, LLC. We will provide answers to those for you. For more information about Healing with Language: Your Key to Effective Mind-Body Communication, neurolinguistic programming, hypnosis or hypnotherapy, or about the imagine healing process, visit or more

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