This week…The Agreement Frame

How you can disagree elegantly…

Talking with a coaching client the other week I was struck by how many times he used the word "but" and as he was looking for a way to improve his relationship with his colleagues at work I suggested that he start using the Agreement Frame.

As managers, the contribution that NLP gives us is a much greater appreciation of the effect of our language on the internal processing of our teams and our colleagues. We now know that as you talk you are literally affecting the way that people process their experience of the world in their heads.

Now what does that actually mean? Have a go at this simple experiment…

Make a picture in your head of something simple, like say, a box. Now notice what happens to the picture when you say the word "aside" to yourself. Did you notice it move?

Other words have noticeable effects too. Stop. That’s right, stop. The great thing about stop is that it literally interrupts other peoples internal processing so if you are going to use the word "stop" then leave space around it.

(You might have seen Derren Brown make brilliant use of this technique to help people forget their tube stop! - listen closely if you see the repeat).

And there’s loads more - if you are a manager and interested in really getting good at using this stuff then there’s never been a better time to get some NLP training.

And so back to "but". The problem with but is that it is a negation. It negates what went before, at least that is the effect it has in other peoples heads. So that makes it really powerful and when words are really powerful, you need to be wise about how you use them.

Sometimes you will want to negate things. For example "You’re untidy but I love you". Here you negate the message "You’re untidy" to leave the message "I love you".

Most of the time though, you will want to avoid negating things because of the unconscious message it communicates. For example "You’re doing a great job but I want you to be on time for meetings". Here you have negated the message "You’re doing a great job" to leave the more critical message "I want you to be on time for meetings". Internally, you have more or less deleted the message "You’re doing a great job" from your colleagues neurology and installed some criticism instead.

Many of us do this all the time, so if you’d like to improve your relationships with people at work then why not use the NLP Agreement Frame?

The Agreement Frame is a way of framing your communication so that you can elegantly disagree with people and what they are doing while still maintaining good rapport with them AND appearing to be in agreement with them.

At the simplest level, all you do is start replacing your "but" with "and". For example:

"You’re doing a great job and I want you to be on time for meetings". Here you keep both messages intact.

An even better version would be…

"You’re doing a great job and you could be even better by being on time for meetings".
Notice the presupposition implied here by the words "even better" - that you’re good already.

As you can see, this is a far more effective, generative and generous form of communication and will have a great effect on your communication skills. Here’s a reminder of how you might use this:

Replace "but" with "and"

"Yes, and…"

"I agree, and…"

"I appreciate your thinking on this and…"

"I respect that you think that and…"

Do avoid using the phrase "I understand…" because the simple truth is that you don’t. However good you think you are at empathy you have no idea what it is like to be in someone elses head.

Notice how each of these phrases builds up the person you are talking to whilst enabling you to disagree with them. In my experience it takes some practice to be able to master this and you can start by simply noticing how often you use the word BUT and then begin to replace it with AND.