• Posted in June 2014
  • Article written by Michael Carroll

NLP in the Street - Spotting the Unconscious Leader

On a train journey to London today, I thought I would play with NLP patterning in a non-explicit way. My motivation here is to provide some interesting ideas for people who are interested in NLP applications for everyday use.  So many NLP courses do not provide practical experiences for people to really test the patterning I am writing this article in present tense, the events will be occurring as I write.

I am at ‘Café Rizzale’ at Victoria Station.  ‘On the table adjacent to mine are four Italians (students I think). I don’t understand what they are saying, which is good thing, because I want to pay attention to the unconscious processes that are non-verbal. I am positioning myself so I can type while I observe.  The communication is flowing in this group of friends. One is saying a lot more than the other and is more animated, one is much quieter and his contribution is significantly less in verbal terms. This guy can show presence without words, he is obviously a good listener. The other two in terms of contributing through verbal communication are in the mid-range of the talkative one and the quite one. I notice every time the quite one nods, the guys in the mid range nods and they frequently turn their heads to in him as well, the talkative one shows no awareness and the quieter guy has more of the attention of the other two, than he does. I then notice the quiet guy leaning in and all three of the others lean in immediately. I thought this is interesting. The quiet one looks like the unconscious leader, sometimes known as the informal leader.

I ask myself, what would happen if I micro muscle mirror the unconscious leader? Can I create responsiveness in him and then the rest of the group? In NLP, responsiveness is where you create an unconscious hook up with another and take the lead in the non-verbal relationship. I adjust my spine and legs, change my breathing rhythm, and breathe at the same speed as him, I loosen my shoulders, my body feels very different now. I am at the micro muscle level in his posture and rhythm. I feel very different and feel the connection building with him.  I am observing through peripheral vision and not have eye contact and alert anyone in the group what is occurring. 

I decide to cough to test what happens when the breathing and blinking rhythm are synchronised. Now I decide to explicitly change the rhythm to see what happens. On what would usually be our exhale, cough taking a sharp inhale first as you do when you cough (coughing is a different breathing rhythm). I watch him as I do this and as I expected his breathing rhythm was interrupted, the exhale ends sooner than usual and breathes in quickly at the breath level mirroring my cough. He looks up at me, I am not looking back I am looking ahead like a guy in a trance in café taking a break from his laptop.  Peripheral vision is great for this type of exploration, you can see so much with directly looking.

I am pleased at the result and want to take it one step further, and reconnect, get back into the breathing rhythm, the quiet guy is listening to the talkative one, and leading the other 2 as well. This time I will move and see if he moves and if the others follow him. He is leaning forward and nodding slowly as he listens to his friend.  I am leaning forward now and typing on my key board, I once again feel the connection. The feeling is my unconscious giving me a signal I have the hook up with his unconscious, this feeling is very reliable and a very important part of my overall work. So now on out in breath I extend the length by factor and at the same time I move from a leaning forward position in my chair to a lean back fully into the chair. The move is not as abrupt as the cough; it is in the same sequence of breathing.  Extending the in breath and changing spine tilt is quite a normal manoeuvre for some sitting at a table. What’s key here is the guy I was mirroring did the same manoeuvre just after, he leant back and extended his in breath. The really interesting thing is all three in his group followed him. After a short period, less than a minute, I changed the breathing rhythm again and leant back into my computer, and hopefully you can predict what happened next.

I have been doing NLP for 18 years and always enjoy exploring how the patterning works and I am always practising to develop my skills and NLP on the street is a great way to really test the patterns. It also helps you to develop your skills in way that simply does not happen in the classroom with willing practice mates. The best practice mates are either really cynical people or people who do know there are being exposed to NLP patterning.

If you are new to NLP you may be thinking that this type of behaviour outside of other peoples’ conscious awareness is manipulative, and to be totally honesty you are correct to think that. The key aspect of all NLP is your intention in each interaction.  What is important when you practice NLP either covertly or overtly is one that the people you practice with, are left in better or equivalent state to how they were when you began the practice.  When you have a positive intention and you seek to ensure the people you meet have a better state or at least an equivalent state, the world is your laboratory.
In the professional world of NLP, there are many applications of detecting the unconscious leader in a group, mirroring that person and leading them. The unconscious leader is influential in that group, it short circuits rapport in the group setting. In my courses, I seek to detect the unconscious leader, create a rapport with them as they are the key influencers in the group.

I am now back at the office putting together this article.  When I went to the till to pay for my drink, I settled the bill for the people who had unwittingly been my practice subjects. As I was walking away, about to go through the gate at platform 12, I turned to see them looking at me, they were indeed surprised. The quiet one waved, I was not subtle this time, I smiled and waved back and boarded the train, thankful of the brief but effective interaction with the Italians, who I will probably never meet again.

About The Author

Michael Carroll is the founder and course director of the NLP Academy and co-founder with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair of the International Trainers Academy of NLP.

He is the only NLP Master Trainer in the world certified by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair and he works closely with them in developing and delivering high quality NLP training.



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