Structure, Content, And Pajama Wearing Elephants

Would You Mind Passing The Guacamole?

Once I had to meet a friend of mine at the last minute to play a round of golf. I was at this party the week prior, and one of my buddies was talking about how he’d recently started playing, and we should play sometime together. He’d asked me if I wanted to play the following weekend, and I said “sure, why not.” The way he asked seemed to be more like a “we should play sometime” rather than getting his calendar out and actually filling in that morning.

I figured if we were going to play for real, he’d call me during the week to let me know what our t-time was. Little did that his idea of playing golf was just to show up at the course and wait for the first available slot. He didn’t mention any specific times, nor did he call me during the week to confirm, so I was surprised when he called me at 6:30 on Saturday morning, from the golf course, asking me where I was. I suppose you get much better luck just showing up on a Saturday if you show up at 6:30 in the morning. Silly me.

One of the interesting things about language that Seven Pinker points out in “The Stuff Of Thought,” is how we humans tend to cloak our intentions behind our language fairly often. If you were to look only at the surface structure of language, we’d have a lot of miscommunication. The example Pinker gives is when sitting at the table with friends or family, we rarely blurt out “Pass me the guacamole,” in it’s the pure imperative form of the word, even thought that’s exactly what we mean.

Even in something as simple as asking for the salt or pepper among close family or friends we shield our raw intentions through vague language. If somebody took the surface structure literally when we said, “Could you pass me the salt?” We would never get the salt.

It’s amazing that misfires in communication like in my golf story don’t happen more often. My friend assumed I knew that “Lets play golf next Saturday” meant it was not only a done deal, but also it meant to show up at the course at 6:30 A.M.

Often times when we communicate, we don’t even have an intention to shield. But we don’t want to give our freedom completely over to our friends, so we attempt test out their intentions and see if we like them, or we’d like to improve on them or not. This happens frequently in the familiar “I dunno, what do you want to do tonight?” Once I spent about two hours on a date (thankfully not a first, or it would have been the last) driving around going back and forth like that.

When two people that don’t have a plan come together, not much is going to get done. When people don’t have a plan, we tend to gravitate towards a feeling of ego protection, so we tend to not want to try new things. For most of us, in order to try something completely new, we’ve usually got to specifically plan to do so, or have somebody that knows what they’re doing take us along.

Once I had a boss that wasn’t quite at skilled at oblique communication (either that or it just didn’t matter much to her). I was working on a project, and wanted her input. I asked her advice, and she said, “I don’t know. Tell me what you think and I’ll let you know if it’s acceptable or not.” Thanks for the help, boss.

Many a vaudeville routine has been built up around miscommunication, or misunderstanding of what each other is saying, the most famous being the “Who’s On First” routine by Abbot and Costello. (Recently enjoying a surge in popularity due to the president of China being a guy named “Hu”). Many jokes are set up so that the first have is interpreted one way, and the punch line is based on a completely different interpretation. Couple examples:

Losing one parent is difficult. Losing both is just plain careless.

Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.

Why did the guy keep a clock underneath his desk? He wanted to work over time.

Ok, I’ll stop.

One way to use vague language is in sales, seduction, and hypnosis. Most people are not completely aware of their criteria in these areas, what they want to buy, who they want to hook up with and how they want to solve their problems.

When you skillfully use vague language in such a way that the target of your words can fill in the blanks, even on a subconscious level, you can elicit some pretty powerful states and desires. If you’re in sales, you can elicit a strong pleasurable feeling of buying something really nice, without really getting into specifics of what that actually was. Most people would be hard pressed to describe in detail what it felt like when they bought something they really liked.

But when you artfully vague language, you can elicit those feelings, and attach them to any product you want. Likewise for seduction and therapeutic hypnosis.

If somebody comes to you with a bad habit they’d like to quit, you don’t have to specifically elicit how they got rid of other bad habits you can just elicit that resourceful state that everybody has experienced when they know they can overcome something. Everyone, through the simple fact of still being alive, has over come hundreds if not thousands of obstacles in their lives. All you need to do is elicit a few of those strategies, as well as a belief that it’s within that persons capabilities, and you can effectively transplant that strategy and self belief into their current habit they’d like to quit. All without really being specific about anything.

This entails using a lot of “structure language” rather than “content language.”

Content language:

This water has been filtered through .04-micron filters seventeen times, and then aged in walnut casks to give it a pH of 7.3, which has been shown to be the perfect pH for thirst quenching, according to the latest research. There we fully recommend “product name” water for all your drinking needs.

Structure language:

I don’t know what it’s like for you, when you feel that wonderful feeling, of cool water hitting the back of your throat, and as you easily quench your thirst with every delicious gulp, and as you feel the weight of this water in your hands (show picture of water you’re selling), you know that your thirst will be gone in a matter of moments, and you get that sense of safety and satisfaction knowing that you are in full control of your desires, and have the capability to satisfy those desires (emphasize bottle of water) anytime you want, you know that “product name” will be waiting to serve you whenever you need it.


To master both content and structure language and take full charge of your life and your intentions, click on the link below:

Success with NLP

Success with NLP