I’m not trying to say that you too, could have the charisma of Bill Clinton if you come on our three day NLP course. But I find it interesting how successful people use, or have used, the skills we teach and reckon that we can all learn from them. Actually, Bill Clinton is a good place to start. Even people who dislike his politics admit that he has tremendous charisma.
NLP ‘big name’ Tony Robbins advised Clinton on many occasions. The most famous incident was in 1998, when Robbins apparently got a call from the President that said: “I am being impeached tomorrow – what should I do?”
Naturally Robbins does not disclose what he told the President, but it seems that a key point of the discussion was about legacy, with him (Robbins) helping the embattled politician rise about his difficulties at that moment and see his whole time in office in a bigger, historical context.
This is classic NLP, moving the issue from Behaviour (what should I do?) up the Logical Levels to Values and Mission. Clinton also later said that Robbins reminded him that, in any situation, he still had choices.
Flexibility and choice are key values in NLP
The Meta Model constantly reminds us how we limit our perceptions of our own choices with faulty thinking – especially under stress (which was no doubt a problem for Clinton at that moment).
Coaching skills and mindfulness are part of how we teach NLP. At the heart of these lies the ability to truly listen to other people, to direct our attention to them. Here are George Bush Senior and Clinton answering a question from an audience member in a debate during the presidential election of 1992. (Bush was the incumbent, Clinton the challenger).
Bush’s attention is all over the place (including looking at his watch just at 0.03, as the question comes in). Having consulted his watch, he begins by speaking in generalizations (politicians often make in NLP speak ‘Meta Model violations’, meaning huge unsubstantiated generalisations and other types of ‘fuzzy’languge ).
Bush seems more interested in himself than the questioner. He finally makes some kind of contact with her at 0.54, but clearly can’t wait to break any attentive link. When he finally feels he’s said enough, at 2.30, he’s already turning away as he ends the conversation.
Clinton, by contrast, locks his attention onto the lady from the moment it’s his turn, even before he starts speaking (he keeps it there throughout his ‘piece’, though adds occasional glances away to stop it being too creepy).
His first words are questions to her. He gets a ‘yes’ in reply, before he turns attention to himself, immediately anchoring his authority (at 2.40) with a hand gesture as he says he is Governor of a small state. A tiny little bit of spatial anchoring comes from another, dismissive hand gesture towards Bush (then President) at 2.46, which implies ‘those guys in that space over there are the cause of all the problems.’
Later, he too goes into a ‘big-chunk’ generalisation about the causes of economic stagnation, but he gets away with this because he has both established a personal link and his authority before he does it, and because he clearly keeps his attention on the woman as he does so.
The video is probably unfair to Bush: he was not on good form that evening. But that is in a way the point, the deep communication skills from NLP, coaching and mindfulness put Clinton above ‘being on good form’.
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