You don’t even need to notice how easy it is for you to read this article now and develop new power and appreciation for words. The power of words! The topic today is language and how words can influence you on an unconscious level, influencing your thoughts, your emotions, and your behavior. Specifically, the topic today is an aspect of language that you experience every day of your life, something with which you are constantly being bombarded: “embedded commands.”
Do you ever wonder why your child pulls on your sleeve at the store and cries vehemently for a particular brand of cereal or candy or toy? If you’ve ever watched a TV commercial, or listened to the radio, or have read an advertisement in a magazine or newspaper or online, or talked to a salesman, you’ve experienced embedded commands. Advertisers and savvy salespeople love these, and know their power to get you to buy, buy, buy, now!! And I’m sure you’ve also experienced them in ordinary, everyday family and friends’ conversations. “Joe, I know you want to help me move, tomorrow!” You use them yourself in your daily life, perhaps on a totally unconscious level! They are a staple in dating and seduction workshops. “You, like me, think this a great party, don’t you?” The embedded command here is “you like me!”
An embedded command is a concept from NLP™. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming™ is a patented change methodology co-created by my teacher and genius, Richard Bandler, originally formulated as a study of human excellence.) An embedded command is a directive, a declarative sentence or phrase, telling you what to do or think, which is “hidden” within other text in a sentence. The structure of the sentence (along with other markers which we will discuss) leads the “secret message” to zip right into your unconscious mind without resistance. Your conscious mind is focusing on the rest of the sentence content and doesn’t hear or filter these messages.
Your unconscious mind is really the seat of your beliefs and behavior, so messages that get in there have incredible power.
Here’s an example, involving negation: “Don’t think of a pink elephant wearing a purple ballet outfit.” What just happened? Your mind did it! The embedded command here is “think of a pink elephant wearing a purple ballet outfit.” Here is another example: “Don’t you agree, John?” The embedded command here is “Agree, John!”
Often, like the example above, the sentence is in the form of a question, so that consciously, you don’t feel that you’re being ordered to do something. “Would you be so kind as to get the door?” The embedded command here is “get the door.” If you said to someone “get the door” directly, they may reply, “Get it yourself, Lazybones!” Another example: “Do you remember how clean the kitchen was when Grandma came over?” The embedded command here is “clean the kitchen.” My mother used a similar one on me all my life: “Just how long would it take to do the dishes? Let’s just see how long it will take.” “Do the dishes!”
Another way that commands are embedded is within quotes, telling what somebody else said. The conscious mind thinks it is just hearing a story, while the unconscious mind takes it as a direct instruction. “And then my friend said to his co-worker, you can take me to lunch today.” The embedded command here is “take me to lunch today.”
There are many sentence structures which puff up the sentence and hide the command. But there are many other ways to influence and give power to the embedded command beyond sentence structure, as well.
In writing, the embedded commands can be marked out using font, spacing, color, italics, all capital letters, underlining, or what have you! Even if ignored consciously, this registers on your unconscious mind: Something is different here, I’d better pay special attention.
You can mark out an embedded command using your voice in a number of different ways. Even if the sentence is in the form of a question, when you deliver the command verbally, give it a command tonality. With a question, your voice goes up at the end. “Right??” With a command, it sounds firm and final, with a downward tone. “Right!!” Give an embedded command with that downward tonality. Do not do this harshly or with undue aggression, but simply as though you 100% expect obedience. “Peel me a grape, slave!”
You could also pause before or after the command to give emphasis. “And then Jane said: ‘ drive me to the store.'” And then Jane said (pause) drive me to the store. You can also tinker with your voice tone and/or volume, and/or speed–just create some change for the command portion only to mark it out to the unconscious mind. The conscious mind may not, and probably won’t, even notice.
You can also incorporate gestures and body language to give emphasis to the commands. A tilt of the head, a raised eyebrow (think Mr. Spock on Star Trek), a hand gesture, all these things are powerful and will be read by the unconscious, which notices EVERYTHING.
It’s good to be aware of embedded commands, those attempts by others and advertising and the world to influence you. It’s also cool and potent as well to work them into your language, to increase your own influence. You use them unconsciously, already. Words ARE power!!
Copyright© Connie Brannan, CHt. & Licensed Trainer of NLP ®, 2008