Has NLP or Hypnosis in Politics made a difference?

Sep 12, 2015 | Influence/Persuasion, NLP in Media, Public Speaking, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Let’s explore the impact made by NLP or Hypnosis in Politics.

Many more famous people have been trained in Ericksonian (indirect) Hypnosis and NLP than you might guess.  There are certainly far more who have strong interests in NLP or Hypnosis in Politics, than have publicly admitted so.

(This was written in 2015, before Trump was elected).

Yet thanks to a recent seemingly inexplicable political shift, we can add at least one name to the list who’ve gone public with these interests.  (I’m going to add a second at the bottom of this page, as well).  And no, I’m not referring to American business magnate Donald Trump.

Wizard or Charlatan? Untrained in NLP

But Trump was our catalyst… for a recent public Ericksonian admission by another.

Trump ran for President several times in the past (failing and dropping out), and decided to run again for the 2016 race.  This time, longer than has been the case in the past, he’s been enjoying measured increases in his political popularity.  His poll numbers have climbed higher and remained higher much longer than most people would have expected.  Few people expected his popularity to remain high past the 2015 Summer.

Trump’s unexpected success thus far in his 2016 Presidential campaign seems to have been the initial catalyst for a self-admission from Scott Adams, the author of the hugely successful comic strip, named “Dilbert.”

Ericksonian Hypnosis and NLP both rely on Artfully-Vague language.

Artfully-vague language is intentional, incomplete, and encourages listeners or readers to fill in gaps… with our imagination.

Adams fashioned Dilbert as a generic office worker, with no last name, with no obvious specific job.  Dilbert works for a company with no name, and keeps finding himself in a wide array of amusing and ironic contexts.  Anyone who has had a corporate job will inevitably empathize with Dilbert’s circumstances.

On August 17, 2015, Adams started blogging openly about how and why he believes Trump is enjoying this mystifying success, at least, for the moment.

To do this, he needed to share why he believes this to be true.  So he wrote a blog post that, for me, made August 2015, a Very Interesting Month, NLP-wise.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams announced he’d been trained in Ericksonian techniques (and referenced NLP as well).

In my opinion, he framed his background education on Erickson and NLP so that he wouldn’t be too heavily questioned about NLP.  Adams is well aware that NLP continues to spark a lot of debate in academic and scientific circles, so he acknowledged the controversy and used a 90%/10% reference to avoid jumping into that discussion.

I also believe that controversy is losing ground, thanks to the increasing numbers of recently published studies and articles in Psychology Today, that are essentially proving aspects of what NLP has been saying for years.  See some of our previous blog entries about this.

Adams mentioned NLP and Erickson and his perspective on hypnosis (verbal influence), and then described all of the above as simply a form of Wizardry, in the linguistic sense.  He wanted to set up an understanding of people who have used training in these fields to, essentially, become wizards.

My long-time subscribers will know that my longest running, most popular course over the years, was called “Linguistic Wizardry.”  So you’ll understand better, now, why…

I was particularly attracted to Adams’ recent blog posts and the admissions they contained.

Having grouped indirect influence a la Erickson & NLP under the term Wizardry, Adams then began a series of posts on his blog that explore these concepts, analyzing and exploring and identifying wizards and their methods.  So – here are just some of his blog posts in recent days.  There are quite a few more there than just what’s listed here.  This is a subset (with missing posts in between these dated links).  He’s been very busy!

Aug 17:  Wizard Wars
Sept 1:  Identifying the Smart Voters
Sept 4:  The Time of Kings 
Sept 6:  How to Spot a Wizard
Sept 9:  A Demonstration of Persuasion Part of my Trump

If you have the time, I do encourage you to read his blog from August 17 forward, in full, to get the back story including all of Adams’ predictions and analyses.  Make your own judgments!

If you’re limited on time, what follows will be some of my preferred highlights from just the first post – his Ericksonian / NLP unveiling, as it were.  I’m going to share some short quotes and respond point by point.

You see, I don’t agree with everything he’s written.  And that’s OK.  What I appreciate here is that he’s opened a dialogue.  And these topics are now being explored by a well known voice, famous in mainstream entertainment.  I absolutely celebrate that, even where he and I might disagree.

I welcome the debate; my customers, students, and coaching clients know that what I do and what I train works profoundly well.  Anyone who doesn’t, yet, can find out a lot more about my NLP-based work in business, without having to buy anything or commit to any workshops up front.

What does Adams actually think of NLP or Hypnosis in Politics, and the Wizards who use it?

Adams refers to people with these skills, colloquially, as Wizards (whether they were formally trained, or not, or surround themselves with people who have formal training).  He also suggests they’re using their skills to try to control, or at least shape, the messages and the dialogue in the election.

He shared a diluted characterization of NLP.  Dilbert’s creator says: “In my experience, NLP is about 10% real and 90% marketing. But the real part is exceptionally powerful. Even that heavily-qualified endorsement is still really interesting, and valuable.  Naturally I’d like to think my courses and programs offer far more than just 10% real/powerful content;  Of course, there’s no question I’m biased.

Admittedly, there is a lot more marketing hype than there used to be in NLP 15-20 years ago when business applications of NLP really started taking off.  There was less marketing still, 25-35 years ago, back when NLP was almost exclusively focused on faster and more effective methods of therapy and change-work.  With many poorer-quality training providers showing up more recently, many less experienced trainers needed to set prices low and shorten training course durations, to attract students away from more experienced trainers.

I have to work harder, today, to prove significantly higher value than would be available from some other choices.  I’ve been doing this since 1997, and this is even more true for trainers who have been doing this longer than I have.  So I readily admit there is some marketing hype, but I don’t think it’s anywhere close to the level of Adams’ assertion.  I think he used 90%/10% to avoid getting pulled into the debate of whether or not NLP works.

What did Scott Adams say in his August 17 2015 blog entry?

“If you have seen the Star Wars movies, you know all about the Jedi Mind Trick. Erickson’s power was like that, but slower, and with more words.”

Milton Erickson’s power was very much like that.  Part of NLP was modeled from Erickson’s language and communication strategies. A lot of NLP does focus on gentle, indirect (conversationally hypnotic) influence, and we call this ‘the Milton Model.’   As a trainer of these skills, with a particular focus on using them in real-world business contexts, I agree with these comments 100%.

What did Adams say about Trump regarding Tony Robbins?

Regarding Adams’ assertions that Donald Trump is friends with Anthony Robbins, “the most powerful wizard alive,” let’s clarify.  Robbins is most definitely NLP trained and used to run NLP courses before he published his first book, Unlimited Power.  Now he refers to ‘his techniques’ as Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC).  He gives his explanation behind the renaming in his second book.  We invite you to make your own judgment about that re-naming.

The NLP rumor mill suggests that Robbins may have hired top NLP Trainers to ghost-write multiple chapters, for Unlimited Power.  According to other NLP Trainer friends who have worked with Robbins, he himself is very skilled at NLP and does excellent changework.  No one can run a huge seminar room the way Tony does.  But he himself is not known for training deep levels of NLP skills.

His business model aims to give people transformational experiences, and tools.  The Robbins format is not designed to convey high skills with high levels of trainer feedback loops.  Trainers cannot accomplish that in vast audiences!  That can only work in small groups with high levels of trainer personal attention.  So, by all means, if you want the transformational group experiences he sells, then go to his seminars.

By contrast, if you want to become as skilled as Robbins (is perceived to be) at NLP, then go to more in-depth NLP courses.  Then, you could learn some of the other things he learned, from the types of people he learned them from.  For perspective, one might easily contrast a solid NLP Business Practitioner training ($2K – 3K) to Robbins’ Mastery University for $10K+.  I’d always rather pay $3K and put the remaining $7K+ back into my business or into other educational experiences.

As for Donald Trump… I have:

…no evidence that Trump has any Ericksonian background, himself.

It wouldn’t surprise me that he’d skimmed some NLP or Ericksonian books, if we could get any proof he ever reads any books.  He might have hired trainers for 1-on-1 training with an iron-clad nondisclosure agreement.  But Donald Trump can’t just show up at a public course as yet another student.  What I think is far more likely is that Trump is paying Ericksonian or NLP-trained advisors to strategize his political kill-shots.

Adams wrote:

“Erickson’s discovery is that words are like a UI for the mind. If you pick the right words, the mind goes into admin mode and you can rewire things at will. It might take lots of repetition, but you can get a lot done with that wiring over time.”

I agree with that in part;  Its nowhere near as simple as just picking the right words and repeating them.  The emotional state felt by the listener plays a very important role, as does the emotional state of the person aiming to influence.  The values of the person listening play a critical role, as do the types of values that would be satisfied by the words and influence being extended.  All these things have to line up well, for influence to take place.

I have an entire audio program devoted to skill of influencing people emotionally, using a skill set called emotional-state-chaining.  This teaches listeners how to move people out of unresourceful or unresponsive emotional states, into more resourceful and responsive states, where they’re more likely to agree with us, consider our perspective, and take the actions we’d like them to take.  Learn more about my “Creating the Automatic Yes” audio program.

Adams also pointed out that there is a great deal of misinformation out there about hypnosis, and then described stage hypnosis.

I agree fully with his assessment of stage hypnosis as (my paraphrasing:)  an entertaining experience that seeks to find the most obedient and least self-conscious people, and give them permission to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Then he goes on to say this:

“Real hypnosis, in my view, is closer to the science of persuasion.”

I also agree fully with Adams’ view above.  He goes on to say:

“The best book on that topic is ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, by Dr. Robert Cialdini.”

Cialdini’s Influence is an excellent book, and in it, he explores six major principles behind influence.  As a social psychologist, Cialdini only includes lessons that have been extensively studied through actual scientific experimentation.  Though by no means is it the only such book on persuasion.  Also, “Influence” truly does not delve into any of the Ericksonian or NLP -styled wizardry that Adams is discussing in recent blog entries.  There are many better books, audio programs, and courses available when one becomes ready to learn more of the actual skills being referenced in Adams’ blog series.

The Dilbert Comic Strip was intended to hypnotize you, starting Day 1:

Adams says:

“Have you ever wondered why Dilbert has an uncommon first name, no last name, a nameless boss, and he works for a nameless company, making nameless products, while living in a nameless city? That’s hypnosis. By omitting those details I allow the reader to better feel some version of “That’s me!”

This is precisely the intent behind Ericksonian-style process language, so I want to validate this paragraph fully.  The nature of NLP’s Milton Model is to understand that by being artfully vague in our language, the listener fills in the vagueness with their own details.  As Adams says, that’s hypnosis (or, at least, part of it).

Here’s an example.  If I say “it’s cool in here” or “it’s warm in here,”  I’m giving you my content, my judgment.  Some listeners will agree, some will disagree.  If by contrast I say “We can all feel the temperature in here.”  Everyone has to agree.  I’m giving you no content;  Instead, I’m using process language to say the same thing, and everyone fills in the specifics with their own, while agreeing.  More agreement, less resistance.  More process, less content.  This is classically Ericksonian communication.

Not everyone will end up empathizing with every situation Dilbert gets into, but Adams does maximize his comic-strip readership by leaving out as many details as he can.

Adams suggests that Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump are all wizards.

Adams and I begin to differ more thoroughly on this point.  It comes down to how he and I view the term Wizard, differently.  I suppose in the highest sense of the word “wizard”, Adams’ assertions about Jobs, Clinton and Trump apply, because these people all rose to international power and fame in one form or another.  So in that broadest sense, yes, these people are all wizards.  I use the term wizard to refer to someone who has been thoroughly trained in NLP and/or Ericksonian techniques.  Its not enough just to have been exposed to them, or heard about them.  I refer to having these skills integrated into one’s abilities through years of training and feedback.

I do believe Bill Clinton is in a class by himself.  He has often been described as being extremely effective at many of the skills NLP-trained people seek to learn.  He can create profound rapport instantly, he puts people at ease and makes them like him so easily.  Clinton can influence people’s minds towards his position during negotiations, and tells stories to make effective points.  These stories and points loosen up other positions.  Also, he can speak slowly and rhythmically in a slightly hypnotic fashion, and more.  He may have developed these abilities by reading books, or by learning from audio programs or spending time with Robbins.  Or possibly, he’s just an absolute natural and pays deep attention to other people.  It’s probably some combination of all of the above and more.

I’d be shocked if Steve Jobs or Donald Trump actually knew much about either Erickson or NLP, first hand.

— other than from an intellectual awareness — and other than from having hired and possibly spent time with actually well-trained NLP and/or Ericksonian Practitioners, Master Practitioners, or Trainers.   I think they’re far more likely to have succeeded thanks to other factors.


Not every successful person is trained in NLP/Ericksonian techniques.

Not everyone trained in these techniques will necessarily become deeply skilled at them.

But there are some true “Jedi’s” out there.  Quite a few of them use NLP or Hypnosis in Politics and political consulting.  These people’s careers rise and fall based on the results they get.  So the NLP and Ericksonian wizards working for people like Trump (and everyone else at the Presidential race level) will be among the better ones out there (but not necessarily ‘good wizards!’).

My opinion about Donald Trump, regarding NLP or Ericksonian Hypnosis in Politics:

I strongly doubt Trump is personally trained in Ericksonian techniques from anyone reputable or skilled.  Trump has surrounded himself with deal makers, and movers and shakers for decades.

I’m betting he’s untrained.  We know “the art of the deal” was ghost-written, and Trump has dealt with millionaires for years.  His father gave him all the money he needed to get started.  This trains a person to be confident (if not overconfident) in their assessments.

Also, Anthony Robbins sounds like the type of guy Trump would want to connect with. Trump has been a bad keynote or marquee speaker for a long time.  He might very well have met and shared stogies, drinks, and meals with all who run in the top speaker circuits.  But chatting over dinner will never equate to a transfer of Ericksonian or NLP language skills.

Trump may very well have acquired an iPod full of good conversational hypnosis training MP3s, but Trump himself could never call and order them personally without risking reputation issues.  And he could never just show up at a live course as a fellow attendee, for live practice. Which is to say, he really can only do his own self-training, while wheeling and dealing.  And yet, that is, of course, still some formidable experience.

He might have invited in a trainer for private training and required an iron-clad nondisclosure.  I’ve done similarly on occasion with some very famous people. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but I only disclose such names where there’s no nondisclosure and I get clear permission.

My belief is: Trump doesn’t *need* Ericksonian skills. 

Also, his notoriously short attention span, poor state management, inability to complete sentences, and his toxic impatience, all lead us to conclude he couldn’t perform them well, even if he did have any such skill.

We can review his cult of personality, willingness to ignore truth, name, money, stature, wardrobe, image, and the company he keeps.  These all speak a lot louder and at least as effectively as Ericksonian techniques… at least, to those who are so easily led by him!

I can’t really see Trump saying, “I’m certainly not saying you’re fired, but if you were to begin to feel a need to step out on your own… after all a rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor, and maybe this is truly the moment for your star to rise, for you to shine, this could be the dawn of your time. And no one would be happier than me to see it happen. Remember, the more you dream and take action, the more you get what you’ve always been destined to have created, now… so with all that in mind… what was it you weren’t thinking about anymore, and what decision can you share with me that you just made?”  That would be an Ericksonian approach.

Nope. It’s far better television to just say “You’re fired.”

Wouldn’t it be fun to hear someone say that back to him on national television?

So what kind of Wizards are supporting Political Candidates?

Many of the major candidates are having their dancing strings manipulated or, are at least informed, by wizards using NLP or Hypnosis in Politics.  GOP and Democrats alike.  In my opinions, the best ones help their candidates use subtle influence instead of blunt force.  They aim to Influence with elegance instead of a steamroller.

But some play by their own rules.  For example, GOP political consultant Frank Luntz has authored multiple memoranda aimed at attempting to control the discourse between Republicans and Democrats (in the Republicans’ favor).  Luntz got Newt Gingrich in some very hot water back in the 1980’s, when he published a memo with two separate word groups, such that Republicans would use one group of words referring to themselves, and another group of words when referring to Democrats.  I personally know 2 people who’ve met Luntz, and mentioned his name in the comments section of Scott Adams’ blog.  Mentioning Luntz there got this response from Adams himself — which mirrors the opinions I’ve received from others.

“I shared a limo with Luntz after a speaking event years ago. Strange vibe from that guy. Not in a good way.”

Luntz has given some other people really bad vibes, too.  He was described to me by another person as very, very smart, and seemingly utterly devoid of any ethical sense of right vs wrong.  Note — I have no personal experience of him, apart from reading his troublesome memos for the GOP.

Not all wizards behave and influence with such impunity or indifference, but some do.  All the more reason for -everyone- to learn how to defend against unwanted influences.

Presume this:  Every Presidential candidate in modern races will have at least one if not several consultants, and at least one if not several speech-writers, who are all trained up in NLP or Ericksonian pattern language.  In today’s political climate, you should assume there’s unlikely to be more than a rare exception to the rule.

As for me, I’ve personally trained one current politician to the level of NLP Practitioner; he’s a State Representative in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (State level, not the US Congress, yet!).  And he is very, very good at Ericksonian patterning.  He was already a natural but needed refinement and feedback; taking live training just made him even more skilled.

One NLP Coach in England was a speech-writer for Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as for other Ministers of Parliament (MP’s), and has been quoted as saying “NLP Books were visible scattered on tables throughout #10 Downing Street.”

NLP and Ericksonian techniques are essential back-room political tactics now.  If you want better control over your mind, you’d better get good solid training, yourself.

The Best & Worst of NLP or Hypnosis in Politics and Speeches

I love to hear examples of NLP in political speeches when they enable me to visualize very vividly, and congruently, regarding things I care deeply about.  They’ll paint active, vivid pictures, and help me imagine the vision they bring to their leadership.  I remember their speeches more easily, I follow their communication naturally, and I have a better sense of where they’d like to take the country.  More to the point, their words match their deeds, and I am left with a sense of their congruence.

By contrast:  The type of NLP examples I hate to hear from politicians, are exclusively process communication with no content at all.

When I hear politicians layering too many nominalizations in their language, that’s a big warning sign.  E.g., “The wisdom of finding grace under pressure, and having more choice for the future.  Layering nominalizations is one great way to slow down listeners’ minds.  While audiences struggle to process the complex meaning of these specific word forms, the politicians drop in their suggestions.  When I hear layered nominalizations, I know they’re being intentionally slippery.  They’re trying to sound meaningful, while speaking in largely meaningless terms.  In self-improvement courses, it can be a powerfully valuable technique for all, audiences included.  In politics, it’s manipulative.  So when I hear this from politicians, I am left with a sense of their incongruence or lack of trustworthiness.

Is it odd to find a Comic Strip Author as a Wizard?  Not that odd!  The writer of another major Comic Strip attended one of my NLP courses in 2002!

Highly trained NLP and Ericksonian enthusiasts are all around us!  And, Scott Adams is not the only Comic Strip author who has sought out such training.

I’m so grateful to have just received permission to share this tidbit with you!

Back in March 2002… I had the pleasure of meeting a quiet, friendly man attending my “Linguistic Wizardry” course in Cincinnati.  The LW course shares NLP skills for higher awareness, persuasive language, and influential communication frames.  Some of the attendees were new to NLP, so it was also a great course for dipping one’s toes in the NLP pool of ideas.  After all, three days isn’t a particularly long course duration.

At lunch on the second day, I and some of the other attendees learned that we had a minor celebrity in attendance.  The quiet, friendly gentleman we’d met, was Craig Boldman, writer of the internationally famous “ARCHIE” Comic Strip.  Yes, the same Archie comic strip with characters like Archie, Jughead, Veronica, & Betty! You can learn more about Craig at his website, www.craigboldman.com

Thanks, Craig!  I hope we get to reconnect sometime soon.  Maybe my readers can catch you at a comic-con!

Might there not be others to add to our list?

Are there any other comic strip authors or famous names who were trained in NLP and/or Ericksonian techniques?  Other examples of NLP or Hypnosis in Politics?  Please comment below!  Or send us a web message!

I’ve attempted to reach a few others, and if I get positive responses, I’ll add their names here.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this blogpost!

Share widely, and I welcome your engagement below!

author: Jonathan Altfeld
 photo credit: Donald Trump via photopin (license)