NLP Well Formed Outcomes
by Rachel Hott, Ph.D.
Source: Anchor Point Magazine
What will demonstrating flexibility or being sensory specific get you? It should get you what you want. Firstly, an effective communicator has an outcome, result, response that they want. In a goal directed society it is common to hear phrases such as , ” State your objectives,” or “what are you goals?” Outcomes are similar to objectives and goals however within the steps for a well-formed outcome there are more specific steps to insure that your outcome will be achieved. The steps for a well-formed outcome are:
1. State in Positive and Be Specific. Remember when you were deciding what you wanted to be when you “grew up.” Many of us were able to say, “Well I don’t want to be a cabby, window washer or D.J.” However what did we want! Sometimes it is easier to begin by stating what you don’t want and then ask yourself again, “Well if I don’t want that what do I want?” Many times I catch myself about to yell at my son to stop throwing toys. Instead I ask myself what do I want him to do instead. I then say, “please keep the toys on the floor.” Now he knows what to do. In addition, if you state your outcomes in the negative you are offering the unconscious a message to do what you actually have said not to do……”stop throwing toys” is computed as throw toys.
2. Be Sensory Based. Perhaps your outcome statement is, “I want to improve my relationship with my children. In this second step you would then identify what will you have to see, hear and/or feel to know that you have achieved this outcome. Your outcome becomes measureable when you clearly identify these features. If you don’t have this evidence then you know you haven’t achieved your outcome. For example I will see myself playing with the kids, we will have intimate discussions and my stomach will feel relaxed.
3. Context. To continue with the statement I want to improve my relationship with my children, you then would say, when, where and with who specifically. I want to improve my relationship with my children when we are at home. This takes care of the when and where and the who is already stated in the outcome statement. Many times people’s statements are not that clear. For example I want to improve my communication skills. When you ask context questions you will get valuable specific information.
4. Within Your Control. Many times our outcomes are really for other people. For example I want my boss to be more understanding. This is not within your control. What is within your control is your own behavior, internal pictures, thoughts and feelings. If your statement is not within your control restate it. If you can’t restate it then be prepared to work on an outcome that may not be met due to the fact that you can not control another person’s will.
5. Ecological. Is this outcome really best for you and the balance of your life. If you achieve your outcome how will your life be effected? When I improve my relationship with my children will I be giving anything up? If there is something unecological about your outcome statement this step provides an opportunity for you to change your outcome. Several managers with whom I work want to get promotions. When they ask themselves how will this effect their lives they realize that they will have less leisure time because their jobs will be more demanding. They then have to decide if they are ready to give up their leisure time.
6. Present State/Next Step. After #5 you are ready for the final step. Where are you now and what is your first step to achieving this outcome. Identifying the present state can offer some valuable information which will help you help strategize for the final outcome. Taking the next step or the first step is essential to putting the outcome into action.
These steps are guidelines for a well-formed outcome that you have time to plan. What about when you are in an interaction how do you utilize outcomes there? Although our interpersonal interactions are not pre-planned you can still utilize the outcome format. Firstly become familiar with the six steps. You can do this by creating an outcome statement and going through the six steps. Secondly when you are in an interaction ask yourself internally , “What do I want?” You can tell the other person what it is that you want which will also allow the interaction to be specific. Remember the other person also has outcomes. (They may not be conscious of them). You can ask, “What do you want?” Many times your outcome and the other person’s outcomes becomes compromised. This means that you demonstrate flexibility with your outcomes. For example, my partner, Steven Leeds, told me this story. There was a couple who came to him because they were arguing about their work. Together they led trips to Machu Picchu. When they were designing their ads they were having a lot of disagreements. Steven asked them what they wanted. George said he wanted it to look simple, not cluttered. Joyce wanted to list all the dates of their trip so it would be informative. Once their outcomes were stated they began working together to design an ad that was simple as well as informative. They came up with idea “treks monthly” which satisfied each of their outcomes.
In order to integrate outcomes, flexibility and sensory specificity into your behavior I offer you this brief exercise. Imagine a future situation where you will be interrelating with another person. As you step into this situation ask yourself, these internal questions. “What do I want? ” (This includes all the six steps if you have time to go through them). “Am I being flexible?” or “Is there anything I could do differently?” and “How do I know.” After you answer these questions allow the situation to unfold from start to finish. When you have completed the scenario come back to the here and now. Review what occurred. If you want to change, add or delete something go through the scenario until you are pleasantly satisfied.
Originally appeared in Anchor Point Magazine. Used by permission.