Good Lies and Soft Landings

Here’s another fun story embodying the principles of NLP by one of our favorite writers, Tom Hoobyar.

Tom’s in the process of completing a book deal with a major publisher based largely on the articles he’s written for you here – so look forward to a big announcement next year!

Soft Landing by Tom Hoobyar
Article word count, 2075 Approximate reading time 10 minutes

This is a story about when it’s useful to lie. Not only useful, but in the case below it was necessary and even moral. There’s a major secret here that can come in handy in many ways – all ethically upright, trust me.

You can use this secret principal to speed up healing of an injury, and I will show you how it can – and should – be used to improve the satisfaction of your customers and the profitability of your business. And it may even improve your personal life. It will be easier to understand if I just tell you what happened to me.

Most People Would Rather Die Than Speak In Public

I was in a Baltimore hotel ballroom, seated at one of a dozen round tables, each holding ten people, who were taking turns at a microphone.

That made about 100 of us, waiting to do an “elevator speech” that would introduce us and our businesses to the others in the room.

I was hoping my speech would be so memorable that there would be lots of people asking for my business cards during the next coffee break.

I was supposed to be listening to the woman standing with the microphone, introducing herself, but instead I was listening to the steadily increasing drumbeat of my pulse in my eardrums as I waited.

“Is it hot, here, or is it just me?” The little voice in my mind was making me nervous. I was having trouble remembering my own speech because of my growing tension as my turn came near.

Then someone handed me the microphone and I stood up in a blur, and headed to the front of the room as I repeated my opening phrase to myself.

I was trying not to let my limp show as I favored my bad knee, which had picked the wrong time to act up. I looked ahead at the open spot where I would stop, turn and start speaking.

I began coaching myself. “Now, don’t start talking nervously as soon as you get there. Wait a moment and smile. Make eye contact with at least three people in the room.”

My self-coaching voice was still murmuring into my ear as I made the final step towards the open space where I would give my talk, and…

My foot wasn’t there! I was moving forward and down, but my foot was caught behind the leg of someone’s chair and wasn’t under my weight — and I was falling, straight down onto my sore knee.

It was all in slow motion. As I fell, I tried to turn my fall into a judo roll to cushion the impact on my knee.

Two problems with that plan.

First, the last time I did a judo roll was thirty-five years (and about as many pounds) ago.

Second – bigger — problem. My right foot was still entangled with the chair leg, and I couldn’t roll in the direction I had chosen.

Thud! I landed like a sack of bricks hitting the floor.

So I rocked onto my back, retrieved my foot from the chair leg, and got up and regained my stance at the front of the room, surrounded by sympathetic laughter.

There was a voice in my mind, but instead of reminding me of my carefully crafted speech, it kept saying, “This is a golden opportunity! They’ll sure remember you now! Say something witty! Say something funny!”

But my mind was frozen. I looked out at the crowd and realized that I was having trouble breathing. Something felt broken under my right arm. I tried to stretch it out and take a slow deep breath.

My vision started to close down, with the edges turning gray. I tried to steady myself and get on with it. I might have been swaying a bit.

The moderator asked me if I was all right from her microphone. I assured her I was, and then plunged into my introductory speech.

I have no idea what it was that I said. I was primarily focused on maintaining my breathing, not falling down, and not passing out.

I remember closing with, “Thanks for your sympathy” which drew a laugh, and then I went to my seat. People leaned over to me to ask if I was all right and to reassure me that my talk went well.

Okay, here’s a little personal sharing. I don’t know how much experience you have with broken ribs, but here’s what happens. Unfortunately, I’ve had this experience more than once before in my misspent youth.

The Disadvantages Of A Rib Fracture

It’s impossible to lie down or sit up without using your trunk muscles. And whenever you do use those muscles the fractured rib sends a message, “Don’t do that!”

Then ALL your trunk muscles spasm and contract. Which empties your lungs. The muscles don’t relax immediately, so you have to wait for them to relax so you can inhale.

While your brain uses up all your oxygen.

And you can’t force yourself to inhale or the ribs will scold you and the muscles contract even harder, so you just have to wait for the spasm to pass. Wondering if you will pass out from lack of oxygen first.

It’s quite uncomfortable. I recommend that you skip this experience if possible.

By the end of that first night I knew that I was going to have to cancel several other flights and meetings and return home.

The day after the endless trip across country I saw my orthopedic surgeon. Yeah, another reflection on my early adventures. I’m best friends with an orthopedic surgeon.

The X-rays showed a break in the seventh rib, under my arm. Bad spot. My friend the doc told me that normal rib fractures heal in four to six weeks, but this one would probably take longer.

They don’t strap you up anymore – too much risk of pneumonia. So he gave me a prescription for pain medication and told me to “take it easy.”

Well, I was too sore to do much else for the first week or so, then during week two I realized that I was spending more time napping during the day than I was working. Take another pill. Then go back to sleep.

I didn’t like this program very much. Then I remembered a mental trick I’d learned years ago, and I want to share it with you.

It worked for my rib, and it can work in dozens of other situations too.

Here’s where the part about lying comes in.

Here’s a little secret about how we work: if you repeat a statement, any statement, TRUE or FALSE, your mind eventually believes it.

Don’t buy it? I’ll prove it. Here are two statements from the political arena, which aren’t true, but many people believe they are true because they were repeated so often during political campaigns. This is completely bipartisan. They’re just examples of this principle, okay?

1) George Bush is a dummy. This is actually not so. I’ve read enough about him to know he’s a pretty smart guy, regardless of what anyone may think about his performance. He plays the role so his adversaries will underestimate him. It works.

Here’s another one:

2) Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. Actually, he never made such a statement. What he did say was that he was the earliest congressional supporter of funding the Internet. Which is true, but many people continue to think he claimed to invent the Internet because it was repeated over and over.

So the point is, you can convince people of almost ANYTHING if you repeat it often enough.

Even yourself.

Here’s how it worked in the case of my rib: I went into my memory of my fall in the hotel ballroom and ran through it like videotape.

Only I made this minor change. I reduced my memory of the impact when I landed on the floor. Each time I went through the memory I imagined that I hit the floor a little less hard. And when I got to the part where I got up, I imagined it as if the pain in my chest was less. That was all.

After a few repetitions of redoing the event in my head that way, I lessened the memory of my injury even more. Finally I imagined that I only had the wind knocked out a little bit, and ended up with only a minor muscle pull at the side of my chest.

I repeated this little “lying” process twice each day, morning and afternoon, for the next two weeks.

As I said, if you repeat something often enough your mind accepts it as true. And that’s what happened to me. My mind gradually accepted the “falsified record” of my fall in the Baltimore hotel and it accelerated my healing.

Bottom line – by the end of the third week I was pretty functional if not fully comfortable. By end of week four I could do everything I did before. I could exercise, lift the water bottle into the kitchen cooler, and even sleep on my side with the dinged rib. And no pain meds after the second week.

How You Can Use This Technique

Keep this in mind if you or someone you know has an injury and would like to speed up the healing process.

You can guide them back into the memory of how they got hurt, and with each repetition you can encourage them to reduce the impression of the hurt and pain.

The memory of the original event will permanently change, and they’ll experience a quicker recovery. The mind affects the immune system, and that influences inflammation and healing mechanisms.

Now for another application of this principle. Remember, I promised that you would learn when a lie could get you more customer satisfaction and more business.

To use this principle in business you need to repeat, over and over again in as many ways as you can develop, how dedicated you and your employees are to customer satisfaction.

Tell your story of how you are specially organized and focused on the experience of your customer, and you’ll find that your customers will notice that service.

It might even be that your claims are for a higher standard of customer service than you now deliver. If that’s so, make sure that your employees are the ones who experience this repeated statement over and over for a while BEFORE you start making the statement to your public. They will raise their standards to match the stories you tell them.

Employees are people too. And any repeated statement slips beneath the censors in people’s minds, and becomes part of their reality.

The principle applies to colleagues, friends and family too.

Maybe it would be useful to you to take a moment to consider how you can enrich your relationships with those around you by using this principle.

Start with yourself, as an experiment. You can try this for seven days and notice what changes happen in your life:

When you wake in the morning and before you begin work, take a few minutes and list things that you are grateful to have in your life.

Then, tell your spouse and kids you love them – more often.

Tell your colleagues and associates you enjoy working with them – more often.

Tell your customers you appreciate them and appreciate serving them – more often.

Easy, huh? It’s just a matter of where you place your attention.

Attitudes emerge from all of us. They influence our creativity, our health, even our motivation.

Why leave that process to chance? There’s plenty of research on which attitudes are the most successful and rewarding to have – so why not choose them?

And then, why not install them in your organization, and the people you work with? And yourself?

The easiest way to do that is to insist that things are becoming the way they ought to be, instead of the way you’ve learned to endure.

Influence is a funny thing. The world gives us as much as we insist that we need. The more influence you try to exert on your life and those around you, the more influence you will develop.

I invite you to give it a shot.


Tom Hoobyar

0 thoughts on “Good Lies and Soft Landings”

  1. Pingback: Good Lies and Soft Landings | NLP Patterns

  2. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Tom, I have always valued the down-to-earth practicality and deep wisdowm of your articles. I can see the value of the good lie in every area of my life.

  3. This is a little different from the constant repetition of affirmations (“I am completely healed and fee wonderful.”) and I can see where changing your memory of a particular event may change the outcome. Interesting stuff. Food for thought.

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