Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Thoughts

Today, I want to talk about NLP.

Given my various topics of conversation, you may be forgiven for thinking this stands for Naughty Little Phoenix, Nummy Lindsey Pastries, or even No Loud Plucking.

In fact, NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a fancy term for using language in a manner that primes the recipient to accept and act upon what you have to say.  It has innumerable uses, from teaching, to corrective feedback / critique, to diplomacy, to debate, to simply being sneaky and getting what you want.

A simple example that falls under the umbrella of NLP is this:  the brain doesn't process negatives.  When you use words like, "don't" or "not," your brain omits them and focuses on what it perceives as the underlying message.  ("Don't think of a white elephant."  All right, what just crossed your mind?  I won't tell.)  So by phrasing advice, directives, etc, in the form of the positive - "Take deep breaths and stay calm" vs "Don't panic" - you make the message more effective.

Writers use NLP a lot, whether they would recognize it or not.  It is an invaluable tool for critiquing:  frame your advice to another writer in a way that gets them thinking rather than defensive.  And, of course, the story itself uses NLP.  We writers often want to make a reader feel a certain way without directly revealing it.  This can be as simple as using aggressive words to describe a neutral action.  The reader feels the tension / conflict, even if the actions themselves are innocent in nature.

In fantasy - or in a modern political thriller, I suppose - the diplomat or politician would be well-served to use some of these principles, even if they aren't a conscious or scientific choice.  Obviously, the term Neuro-Linguistic Programming is so modern as to shock a reader senseless in most secondary fantasy worlds, but the principles are sound, and many of them don't require a chemical understanding of the brain - simply long-term observation and analysis of how human beings process and retain information.  I could see this becoming pseudo-scientific in certain fantasy realms ...

Of course, it's slightly ironic that I think about this now, considering that the narrator of Unnatural Causes is about as anti-NLP as it's possible to get.  She fundamentally doesn't grasp the concept of diplomacy and believes that, if it's the truth, people should accept it, no matter how it's presented.  Obviously, that gets her into trouble ...

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