A week doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t ask me with a serious look on their face if embedded commands work or if they are real.
Short answer: yes, embedded commands work. Conversational hypnosis is a powerful tool in any persuader, therapist, or hypnotist’s toolbox and embedded commands are a large part of that. How you make them work, how often they work, what their point really is, and how to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by them is another thing…
If you’d like to know more about this, then keep reading!
What Is The Point Of An Embedded Command?
This is one of those questions that separates people of higher and lower skill levels in hypnosis. So many people think that the point of an embedded command is to get someone to take a specific action.
Generally, it’s not. [And frankly, traditional authoritative hypnosis often works better for giving direct commands–contrary to popular belief, most good conversational hypnotists use a blend of traditional and conversational hypnosis. As Bandler often says–at least in his older programs–if you can’t do traditional hypnosis, you’re probably not going to be that great at the more nuanced conversational models.]
Think about it. If you said to your spouse, children, or roommate(s), “Don’t you think it’s about time to do the dishes?” Would that work more than a few times, if that? [I tried this kind of stuff when I first started in hypnosis and got some effects sometimes, but mostly just bred resentment…]
It’s the same with sales. Do you think it’s likely you could go out and in a sales meeting say, “Now, I know you want to buy this product?” Would you sell it?
Probably not unless they were already feeling like they were going to buy it.
I’ll cut to the chase because I’ve covered this point in a video: the point of an embedded command depends on a few variables. Mostly, when in the conversation you’re using it, what your purpose is, and what emotion they’d need to feel in order to accomplish said purpose. And of course, knowing who they are and what motivates them makes all of conversational hypnosis so much more effective.
These are all key to dictating the point. Roughly, at the beginning of the conversation, the point of an embedded command is to control the frame of the conversation, to get rapport, and to get someone used to accepting your commands.
As you get into the conversation and head to the end, the embedded commands will be more directed toward the goal specifically.
Embedded Commands Have A Few Purposes:
- redirect the mind to specific point
- give someone an idea
- push the frame in a certain direction
- encourage emotional states that would encourage action
Of course, there are other ways to use embedded commands, but these are very powerful ways to look at them and after you do, it will help you to discover and master the other ways to use them. The basic meta idea is that embedded commands create a mental frame that preconditions (i.e. controls) someone’s model of the world.
Many people think embedded commands are about getting someone to do something specific with language patterns that allow them to tell someone what to do without saying it directly. And sadly, there are many people who see this technology as a way to avoid asking for what they actually want and hoping they’ll just do it because you used some NLP woo woo power phrase. This is why they don’t see much success with it.
Embedded Commands Redirect The Mind
Embedded commands can point the mind to focus on something specific. By using words like look, think, feel, you can encourage a mind to fixate on something.
For instance, if I’m selling a car and I say, “Just so I make sure we’re on the same page… Do you ever [switch to an up tonality] feel like something is right for you and just say to yourself, “This is the car for me? Or [switch to a dismissive tonality] do you need time to think about it?”
That would be a little aggressive for many salespeople, but I hope you can see what I’m getting at with that example. If you direct what someone looks at and thinks, it gets easier to make sure that they see exactly what it is that I’m saying with this example. If you’re hoping to master conversational hypnosis, then directing the mind is something you really want to master and by now it’s something I hope you know that you should know more about. [See what I did there much more subtlety?]
You’re not trying to get someone to just instantly agree with you or to follow you 100%. Rather, you’re directing their mind to follow a certain direction and line of thought so they head in a certain direction.
Focus the mind, focus the frame, control the discussion.
You can also use embedded commands to give someone an idea. This is a pretty common, but often overlooked way to approach embedding commands.
For instance, you could say, “We really should do the dishes today. Maybe whoever finds themselves not very busy could just do them, you know what I mean.”
This one isn’t a perfect example because it’s generally a little more complicated than that, but you could definitely plant a seed with a suggestion just like that one.
Push The Frame With Embedded Commands
We discussed this above a little bit, but you can control the frame with embedded commands. How you use your words can frame things in a certain way.
Dr. Milton Erickson would do this with his early learning sets because therapeutically, getting a client to regress or feel like they’re a small child learning again has many benefits (compliance, interest, attention, giving authority to the hypnotist, ready to learn, eager to learn, and of course, learning itself is a very open state for therapy–incidentally, Erickson believed that people weren’t broken, they just learned a way to act that doesn’t serve their current needs, thus, therapy is a process of reeducation).
He’d say things like (paraphrasing), “Remember back to when you were a small child just learning how to write. You learned a b was a straight line and a circle to the right, a d was a straight line and a circle to the left. As you remember, let yourself really feel the pencil in your hand…”
Encourage Emotional States That Encourage Action
Another use of embedded commands is to encourage emotional states that would encourage a specific action. For instance, in order to buy something, if someone feels a desire to buy the sale is easy.
For instance, you could say, “I wonder if you’ve ever bought something you were really happy with. What was it that made you so happy with this purchase?” Or if you know someone want to buy a car with a droptop you could say, “I bet as you look at this car, you can feel the wind in your hair and just how great it feels to drive this thing everyday.”
Obviously, all four of these are simple examples for the sake of examples. How you’d use these things would depend a lot on the people you’re working with, but I hope this helps you to conceptualize what I’m saying here.
How You Make Embedded Commands Work
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering: how do you make embedded commands work?
You have to know the purpose you’re using an embedded command for. And keep in mind that the point of embedded commands is to filter the possible possibilities of the listener such that they go into a certain frame of reference. In other words, you’re using language to control someone’s sense of reality. [To learn more about this, check out my video How Do Embedded Commands Affect The Mind?]
There are more ways to use embedded commands than the four approaches I detailed above, but again, I think these four approaches are very powerful and make a lot of sense. In fact, there are people who teach conversational hypnosis who will tell you that just one of these approaches is key.
But if you’re going to focus on just one, think about using embedded commands to encourage emotional states that encourage action. Emotions are the major driver of human action. If you can push the emotional states that would encourage people to act in a certain way, then you can encourage them to act that way…
Are Embedded Commands Manipulative?
While we could have a debate about manipulation and the merits (or lack thereof) of it, this is actually much less ominous than it sounds. We must always keep in mind that people can change their minds and pop out of these states. At least at lower levels of hypnotic influence skills, you can’t just full on control someone. [I know some master hypnotists that claim that they can, but I haven’t seen enough evidence to be convinced that they can regularly do this. I’ve worked with a wide variety of clients and have seen a wide variety of reactions…] I think everyone can pop out of hypnosis if they work at it hard enough.
Likewise, the best way to influence people is to discover what they want and help them to see how your product or a specific change meets their needs better than any other option. So, looking at it this way, conversational hypnosis is not really that manipulative, it’s more about discovering what someone really wants and helping them to get it–particularly on a therapeutic or coaching level. In that way, hypnotic influence is often less manipulative than forcing someone to fit a preconceived notion of personhood (e.g. many types of therapy) or traditional sales using things like hard closes, resistance busters, and pressure. I don’t know about you, but I hate being told who I am and being pressured into a corner to buy things I’d much rather be heard and helped to discover something that will truly work for me.
So, as long as you believe the products you’re selling or hypnotherapy are/is helpful and will actually meet the needs of the client or prospect and make sure only to encourage them to work with or buy from you when you’re congruent with that and their needs, I have full faith that these methods are ethical and powerfully helpful. If you, like me, believe that hypnosis is one of the most powerful personal development tools known, then you need to help as many people as possible with it!
To Get Embedded Commands To “Work”…
To get an embedded command to “work”, then, is as much about understanding the person you’re talking to as it is about understanding how to control language. You really need to have an understanding of both language and them. To get conversational hypnosis in general to work, this is very important. As you learn more, you can start to understand more universal truths about situations and sum people up quickly, but at first, asking questions to get the right answers will change everything. I cover this in my video How To Hypnotize Someone To Do What You Want (An In-Depth Tutorial). And as Bandler said when I trained with him (paraphrasing), “95% of our job is asking questions, 4% is doing the work, 1% is collecting fees.”
Learning To Read People
If you really want to learn how to get embedded commands to work, you’ll eventually need to get better at reading people.
Milton Erickson, the godfather of conversational hypnosis, was a masterful people reader. And the better you are, the easier this will be. If you’re not yet adept at people reading, you need to master the art of asking questions and reading different facets of people’s behavior. For instance, metamodel violations like suggesting, “everyone hates me” *often* is paired with low self-valuation, mind readeing/thinks they know what others truly think, thinks often, ponders other people, a people watcher, cares a lot about other’s feelings, may think of themselves as an empath, probably a people pleaser or someone who craves attention, someone who generalizes from a few cases to everyone, they may be introspective, but they are somewhat lacking in depth with their introspection. This is why you’d pop this by pointing out cases in which this isn’t the case or that they’re wrong. My favorite is “even newborns in China hate you?” I ask this because I’m in the US and China is pretty far away so they likely don’t know any Chinese babies. Plus, you can’t really read the mind of a baby though many people try!
This is why hypnosis and particularly NLP require a skilled and knowledgable operator to effectively pull it off. The patterns themselves are not enough to get the effect by themselves. They are part of the effect. When skillfully used in the right situation, embedded commands can move mountains. When haphazardly used, they have haphazard results. [To learn more about the mistakes people make with embedded commands, check out my video Three Command Embedded Command Mistakes.]
Luckily, there are sort of universal things you can do to get to know people like asking people questions…
Embedded Commands Are My Favorite Hypnotic Tool
If you watch my hypnosis videos (just do a Google video search for “Joshua Howard hypnosis” or look on YouTube for my hypnosis practice 180 Theory), you’ll see that I use embedded commands frequently. [And if you reread this article or watch my videos on the channel I have for Master Hypnosis Now, you’ll see them throughout.] I love embedded commands.
I learned this love from my hypnosis teachers, but particularly Kenrick Cleveland and Richard Bandler. Both of them use them so often I’m not sure they even notice anymore, but particularly Bandler. If you watch some of his videos and maybe transcribe the words he’s saying or just pay careful, close attention, you’ll see how many of them he uses in an hour. His method of teaching is to tell stories in bits and pieces to engage your conscious mind while he uses embedded commands and the emotional movements in the story to link together concepts (he calls it nested looping). Though, an incredible resource is his book Richard Bandler’s Guide To Tranceformation (not to be confused with the book he wrote with John Grinder Trance-Formations, which is also a great book, but in a different way). The former ends with a series of transcriptions from client sessions that’s just incredible to read through to see what he’s doing. I cherish my autographed copy. It’s like an NLP practitioner training in a few hundred pages!
So, I hope in this article I was able to help you to answer the question “Do embedded commands work?” and to discover more about how embedded commands work. I know this information was a bit technical, not what most people tell you, and encouraged you to stretch and grow as a hypnotist, but that’s why it’s an interesting perspective worth reading. I hope you find yourself looking around my site learning all you can about how to become a better hypnotist.