I expect you’re already familiar with this pattern, aren’t you? It’s called “Negative Tag Questions“. These are closed questions tagged onto the end of a sentence.
On the surface these tag questions are seeking agreement with what’s being said, but they also have the effect of displacing opposition, don’t they? And that’s how Milton Erickson used them.
Our minds are programmed to pay more attention to questions than statements, aren’t they? Because questions demand a response, do they not?
So when a tag question is added to the end of a sentence, it diverts your attention there and makes it easier for what the sentence is saying to slide past any conscious examination or resistance, doesn’t it?
Now that you’re aware of this pattern, you’ll be a lot more aware of it, won’t you?
These last few sentences, where I’ve used tag questions a lot to give you some examples, should also alert you to be careful about using them too much. The general rule with the Milton Model – or any NLP language pattern – is ‘if it doesn’t sound natural, you’re overdoing it’.
If the listener’s conscious mind notices something unusual, it goes on the alert to critically examine what you are saying, which defeats the object of making suggestions at the unconscious level.
Milton Erickson, and hypnotherapists in general, can get away with a lot more in terms of weird language patterns than we can in everyday conversation, and much more than in business contexts like sales, where we are on our guard to some extent anyway.
When a client goes to see a hypnotherapist, there’s an implicit contract that whatever the therapist says is designed to help them, and also, people expect hypnotherapists to say strange things – not the case in everyday life.
With the tag question pattern, also be careful about using it if you are asking a question where you actually want a truthful answer – if you ask an interviewee “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” they might be tempted to say they have just to go along with your suggestion.
Previously in this series: Understanding And Using The Milton Model 1: The Hierarchy Of Ideas (Chunking)
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 2: What It Is And Why You Need To Know About It
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 3: Distortions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 4: Generalisations
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 5: Deletions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 6: Pacing
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 7: Ambiguity
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 8: Embedded Suggestions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 9: Extended Quotes
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 10: Switching Referential Index
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 11: Negation
For more about Milton Model patterns, and many other NLP language patterns, get my book Practical NLP 2: Language: How to use presuppositions, chunking, the Meta Model and the Milton Model in practice