Modeled from the work of renowned psychiatrist Milton Erickson, the nine Milton Model language patterns carefully craft ambiguity. It coaxes the listener to fill in the gaps from their own experience and imagination. After all, curiosity is a powerful thing. The resulting fertile connections between disparate concepts can create life-changing clarity with astonishing speed. And this can be used by coaches to influence positively with integrity.
Well-crafted ambiguity inspires clients to search through everything they already know on a problem or issue while holding a desired outcome, resolution, or solution in mind. This is a powerful process the unconscious mind can do rapidly, while the conscious mind could try for years without success.
In time and effort saved, it might compare to adding a stack of 300 large numbers by hand with an old style calculator versus adding the whole column with three clicks in Microsoft Excel. Plus, with Excel you know it was added up correctly the first time. Similarly, the Milton Model makes clever use of the vastly improved processing power and speed of the unconscious mind.
The Milton Model is core to any NLP training. As with any effective tool, the language patterns can be used to manipulate as easily as to empower or heal. When applied with integrity to create additional options and more possibilities, these tools ease the coach’s job, empower clients, and enlist them in their own solution.It
Context Creates Meaning
The two words ‘made’ and ‘maid’ sound identical. Listeners have to rely on context for meaning. “I made my bed but the maid changed the sheets anyway.”
Such ambiguity is common in language because it reduces the total number of words required. Simple words like ‘tack’ can have multiple meanings, and context seamlessly reveals whether you are steering your sailboat into the wind, preparing fabric for sewing, or using a flat-headed pin.
The NLP Milton Model leverages the human mind’s tendency to rapidly search for associations and context. With a client, it’s easy to lose rapport by adding too many specifics from your life. In that case, you paint a picture that works for you but may not engage your client.
Instead, crafted ambiguities offer the client a frame and leave them to fill in the picture with relevant meaning. The client is able to take more immediate benefit from what you say because they are involved in the content they just added.
Nominalizations are one of the nine Milton Model language patterns. A verb or process treated like a noun instantly creates ambiguity. While an object noun like ‘table’ or ‘chair’ refers to an actual thing, a process noun describes an experience over time that can be unique for each person. Nominalizations include words like: education, optimization, or discussion. The verbs educate, optimize, and discuss are treated as nouns.
Your client’s experience of “education” is different from yours. In general communication, more specific is more effective. Active verbs and object nouns create clarity and answer the questions: who, what, where, and how much.
However, to leverage your client’s rapid unconscious mind and vast personal experience, nominalizations create a general frame that leave space to be filled with that person’s most relevant content.
After all… your understanding of the power of crafted ambiguity is steadily growing.
Congruent Realizations Lead Effortlessly to New Actions
The NLP Milton Model empowers you to speak to clients on a deeper level than you could using just the details of your own life experience. A coach who leans on golf metaphors will connect with some clients and lose others. By respecting your client’s model of the world, you create and maintain rapport. Within their own highly relevant understanding, they can not only use your general instructions to realize their next steps but can also follow-through and take new action.
Milton Erickson’s reputation as an effective psychotherapist was in part built in the spontaneously-seeming way his clients could permanently change old behaviors. He did not tell them what to do specifically, but instead created a space for them to perceive their own clear path forward.
Coaching attracts people who take joy in contributing to others. Many see it as a way to finally use their gifts and live in harmony with their values. However, an overload of other people’s concerns can be a burden to your own life. It’s essential to remember that you, as a coach, are not the source of the solution.
You apply expert techniques (like the Milton Model) to facilitate awareness, unlock resources, and help clients connect with their own potential. The right tools don’t just make you more effective, they also help maintain your own equilibrium.
Effective communication is more than just exchanging information. Feeling heard and listened to with respect and rapport allows people to release their burden and look towards a solution. The Milton Model language patterns empower people in alignment with their deepest intentions. Learn to influence others to discover new options and live happier lives — whatever that means for them.