This was an assignment at the Strategic NLP and Hypnotic Patterns for Learning Seminar. We were told to work in pairs. Simple. Ask your partner what is it that he or she wants to have. Put them into a deep trance. Find out what they are not seeing.
I pair up with a Russian man, who came to Dr. Bandler’s seminar all the way from Moscow, Russia. He speaks English slowly, picking words, but well enough, so there is no need for us to speak Russian. I go first with my problem.
“I want to speak better English. I still get upset when somebody does not understand me. But I don’t believe I can get rid of my accent at my age.”
My partner looks genuinely puzzled.
“Really? Why do you care?”
Now it is my turn to look puzzled – my problem seems so serious to me.
“Well, of course I care. If they cannot understand me, this means my English is still bad.”
“How does it mean your English is still bad. I often do not understand THEM. Does it mean their English is bad.”
I am an NLP practitioner myself, I understand exactly what he is doing. He is challenging my model of reality. Yet, my brain cannot help it but starts turning things around and looking at them from a different perspective. Still, I grasp for straws trying to defend my limiting belief. I am not giving up something that makes me feel bad so easily.
“They do not have accent. The reason you do not understand them is because you don’t know English well enough.”
“They don’t have an accent? There are a couple of folks from Australia, I have very hard time understanding what they are saying.”
I nod. “I know what you mean. I have to listen very hard in order to understand them.”
“Well, isn’t it always so that when you are speaking to someone whose speech is different, you just listen better?”
Suddenly I can see what I am not seeing. Yes, of course. Since the beginning of the seminar I have been talking to people from Germany, Japan, India, Australia, Switzerland and other countries. Some spoke English so well, I wouldn’t guess they were from another country. And yet some spoke English with a thick accent and had difficulties finding the right word. Still their accents didn’t matter. Their appearance didn’t matter. What mattered was that we all came here to learn, to improve ourselves and become better at what we do. If we didn’t have a common language to speak, we would talk to each other with smiles and hand gestures and friendly noises. Since we all could speak English, it made connection and communication so much easier. And often all we had to do to understand each other better was to listen really well and give each other space to express our thoughts.
I emerged from a deep trance with a smile.
“How do you feel about not being able to speak English without an accent?”
I smiled. “I guess people just have to listen a bit harder when they speak to me. I guess we all can benefit from learning how to listen. And I guess if I stop worrying what people think and start listen to what they are saying with more precision my English would improve by leaps and bounds.”
There is nothing like that light-hearted feeling when you realize how easy it is to let go of another limiting belief. The human mind is a marvelous thing.