Today we are going to finish our Crash Course on Linguistic Presuppositions. To this point we have covered what Presuppositions are, where they come from and the different areas in which they are categorized. In this last post we are going to talk about some of the ways in which Presuppositions can be used and I will give you a few examples to illustrate that.
Now although Presuppositions are mainly considered a quantum linguistic, it really is their hypnotic capacity that gives them their “effective communication” strength. Presuppositions, when used will do major things to the recipient’s mind when they are put into play:
- They draw the recipient’s “critical thinking radar” in a predetermined, particular direction. From an evolutionary standpoint, our mind has a natural drive to search for and register pattern and predictability in its surroundings. This includes speech… So whenever there is something that breaks “pattern” or “predictability” such as tonal inflections, sarcasm (incongruence), descriptors (adjectives), etc… [amprotect=2, 3] These things can and usually are picked up by our critical thinking radar and paid extra attention to. Presuppositions take advantage of this and you will see this more clearly as we tackle some examples below.
- They IMPLANT information into the subconscious of the recipient in an “unbeknownst” fashion that will lead their mind is a specific direction. From a neurological/neurolinguistical stand point, we function in a way that renders presuppositions impossible to ignore. Our mind incessantly and automatically references mental categorizations of memory and experiences and the mental lexicon during communication. These, among other things are necessary in order to make sense out of what a communicator is saying. This very function of mental referencing is what forces the mind to reference and there by “experience” the underpinning, directionalizing information that is inherent when presuppositions are used.
This is the equivalent of a team of burglars sending a beautiful woman in to keep the security guards attention while they slip in through the back door and take care of their business…
From a pure functional communication standpoint, presuppositions are very flexible. Although the following list is not exhaustive, this is a fairly comprehensive guide to what Presuppositions can be used for in your daily communication:
- To build rapport – Presuppositions can help you to work within a person’s subconscious field of comfort to build and hold rapport during communication. Presuppositions such as Generic Nouns or certain question classes can help to achieve this.
- As a softener – When it is necessary to extend bad or disheartening news/information to someone presuppositions will soften the impact. Change of place verbs, change of state verbs, complex adjectives and pseudo cleft sentences are just some of the Presuppositions that can achieve this.
- To create credibility – When statements are being made that need their credibility bolstered for one reason or another, Presuppositions can achieve this. Definite descriptions, factive verbs, factive adjectives and ordinal numbers are a few Presuppositions that can achieve this.
- To create particular emotional states OR directionalize/lead the person – If you need to change the emotional state of your communication recipient, negative questions, cleft sentences, commentary adjectives and commentary adverbs are a few Presuppositions that can do this.
- To avoid resistance or simply implant information – Sometimes you are in need of simply imparting specific information onto someone without getting resistance while doing it. Presuppositions such as counterfactual conditional clauses, relative clauses and rhetorical questions are great for doing this.
- To gain compliance / persuasion – When you need to gain someone’s compliance, Presuppositions such as cleft sentences, contrary to expectation and “spurious not” are great presuppositions for accomplishing this.
The list of presuppositions is very long and really is impossible to tackle in a blog post. I will however be addressing these in detail in my book. For now, I will gloss over just a few and give some examples for you to see how they work.
A. Change of State Verbs – CHANGE, TRANSFORM, TURN INTO, BECOME, etc… These are for the purpose of indirectly stating that a person, place or thing IS a particular “thing” now by default because they NO LONGER are another “thing”. If you have “transformed” into a man, it MUST be that you were something other than a man before… A boy, possibly even a women?
These are a great buffer if you are attempting to suggest something, gently. Two great areas are if you want to compliment someone indirectly or if you want to tell someone that they are in some negative “class” or “state”.
Ex. Let’s say I am looking to inadvertently compliment a woman:
- Without presupposition – You are hot. (Caveman style…)
- With presupposition – It would take some serious effort for you to BECOME an undesirable woman…
- She needs to be desirable in the first place for her to turn into undesirable.
Ex. Let’s say I want to let my girlfriend know that maybe the dress doesn’t fit quite as well as she would like…
- Without presupposition – That dress fits like the OJ glove…
- With presupposition – I think with just a few changes we can TRANSFORM that into an amazing fit…
- The dress needs to NOT fit for it to TRANSFORM into an actual fit.
B. Change of Place Verbs – COME, GO, LEAVE, ARRIVE, DEPART, ENTER. These presuppose that some place exists (otherwise how could someone have left it? Or how could someone arrive somewhere if it isn’t there?) They can also presuppose that someone or something was AT a certain place at one time or another.
These are really great if you don’t want to look like you are trying to hammer something home or really show that you are attached to the something. These can also make you look innocent in your knowledge of something. If you are negotiating or persuading, it can be helpful to you if you don’t show all of your cards per se.
Ex. Let’s say I am asked by a colleague to meet them for drinks this Friday evening but don’t really want to go.
- Without presupposition – “No, I really am too busy…”
- With presupposition – “I’ll be LEAVING JFK right around that time… sorry.”
- If I am just LEAVING JFK at that time, I have to NOT be here in order for that to happen.
Ex. Let’s say that I want to tell my friend that his guitar playing is terrible.
- Without presupposition – “Your guitar playing is terrible”.
- With presupposition – “With more practice I think you will finally ARRIVE at the level of playing you want…”
- For him to ARRIVE at that level, he must not be there in the first place.
C. Change of Time Verbs – BEGIN, END, STOP, START, CONTINUE, PROCEED, ALREADY, YET, STILL, ANYMORE. These presuppositions imply that something already happened, is ongoing or hasn’t started yet without stating it directly. Like the two above these can be used as softeners or to implant information below the critical thinking radar.
- “Begin, start” can be used to imply that something isn’t happening, that I want something to happen, or that I don’t want to happen without drawing strong attention to my desire for it.
- “Stop, end” can be used to imply that something is happening that I want or that I don’t want to be happening without drawing strong attention to my desire for it.
- “Proceed, already, yet, still” can be used to imply that there is something ongoing…
- “Yet, still, going to,” can be used to imply that some thing hasn’t happening yet but may/will in the future or that I want something to happen in the future without drawing strong attention to my desire for it.
Ex. Let’s say that I have been lazy in my work and haven’t been using my NLP skill set during my own communication.
- Without Presupposition – “I am not using my NLP skill set.”
- With Presupposition – When I begin to really use my NLP skills I will continue my growth as a business person… Instead of “I am not using my NLP skills…
- I can’t BEGIN using it if I have already been employing it; therefore I HAVEN’T been using it.
Ex. Your best friend is acting like an idiot and his relationship is going to eventually come to an end. You need him to understand this or he will be single soon.
- Without Presupposition – “She is going to break up with you.”
- With Presupposition – “She hasn’t broken up with you YET, so let’s work on some strategies to PREVENT it from happening, doesn’t that sound good?”
- “Yet” and “prevent” implies that it WILL happen in the future without directly stating it and possibly invoking his cognitive biases from his psychological immune system.
As I stated earlier in the post, there are many presuppositions that can be helpful in your every day discourse. I have only mentioned a few here for you own information. If you want the entire set you will have to wait for my book that will be in print in the very near future. For more information please contact me directly via the information in my “About” page.
To learn more about Presuppositions and other information that can help you refine your own effective communication, please visit my site The Communication Expert.