How emphasis can Change your meaning

“His enemy was dust”

As I read this on the train from Gravesend to Durham the other day, I had to   re-read this sentence several times. Was it saying that the character was beset by dust and as a result considered it his enemy or was it that his enemy had been destroyed and was now dust and that he didn’t need to worry about them any more?

Putting aside the fact that there could well be some poor punctuation in the sentence, much like the classic description of a Panda “Panda: Eats, shoots and leaves”, it got me thinking about the importance of emphasis on our words and how that emphasis can   completely change the meaning of what we’re communicating.

In hypnosis and NLP, this is called “marking” where we deliberately embed suggestions in what we say and write by using things like pauses, punctuation and putting emphasis on specific words of phrases within an otherwise normal piece of speach or text.

In IEMT (see the glossary), one of the sentences I use regularly to help a client elicit a certain feeling is “When is the first time you can remember that feeling?” What I do is “mark” some of the words with emphasis in order to embed a command and what I actually end up saying looks more like “When is the first time you can remember that feeling?”.

Can you   see the difference? In asking a question, I am actually delivering a suggestion or embedded command that the client’s unconscious mind will pick up and act on (in order to make it truly effective I combine this with other subtle communications but that’s the art and science of psychology and one of the reasons I love it).

Returning to my example at the start of the post: “his enemy was dust.”

Now say the sentence out loud with the emphasis on each word in turn:
– HIS enemy was dust
– His ENEMY was dust
– His enemy WAS dust
– His enemy was DUST

Doesn’t the emphasis on the different words completely change the meaning of the sentence!

How much does the emphasis, be it pronunciation, punctuation, tempo, pitch, spelling, font etc. make on the interpretation of YOUR communication? Next time you’re in a public place and you can overhear people talking, why not listen out for those markers and see how you could have changed the meaning of the communication simply by stressing the same words in a different way or in a different place.

The fear of the unknown

Recently a friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that there is not much in the way of social groups where he lived. Not one to take “can’t” for an answer I used some Clean Language questioning to explore that “can’t”. It turned out that there was in fact at least one group but because he had no idea what they did, had done nothing about it.

Now of course it’s easy for me, as an outside observer, to help my friend discover the problem and allow him to come up with a solution (phone them up and ask!), but I know we all have things in our lives that we want to do but don’t purely because we don’t know what’s involved.

“Hypnosis in Gravesend”

I’d always wanted to learn hypnosis but had never done anything about it because I’d no idea what was involved. One day I just happened to be in the right frame of mind and I casually Googled hypnosis training in Gravesend and guess what: There was a course running not far away and at a price and time I could afford. It didn’t take much thinking to sign up after that.

Fear holds us back from so many things, but so seldom do we realize that the “fear” is not in the doing or becoming whatever it is: it is the fear of the unknown process of getting there!

Think of something that you really want to do but haven’t. Get a new job? Go on a trans-European holiday? Learn a new language?

Now ask yourself what is it that is holding you back from that and what you would like to have happen.

Could it be that you don’t know what is available, how to organize it, where to go that is the problem? In other words; could be the mystery, the lack of knowledge, which is what you’re afraid of? It’s not the holiday or the job or the language that is scary is it, so it must be the organising of the holiday, the “finding” of the job and the fact that you don’t even know if there is somewhere nearby that even teaches languages.

Diminish the power of the unknown with knowledge

This year, why not choose one of those things that you always promise yourself you’d do and rather than promise yourself that you’ll do it, simply find out what is involved. Choose a starting point and go from there. I bet you’ll find it’s not as difficult as you imagine.

Being specific for tangible results

Well only two weeks to go before I have to work my way to the open door of an aeroplane travelling at 100 miles an hour at 10,000 feet, lean out… and let go…

I’m not sure if you saw my previous post asking for a donation towards a charity called Catch22 so I thought I’d write again and maybe remind you that I’m doing this to raise £1000 to provide dedicated attention and education for a young person for a whole year through the Catch22 organisation.

I’m sure you get asked to give money to charity for all sorts of good causes by all sorts of people all the time, so I appreciate that you might not be overwhelmed by yet another call to give to charity. In my defence this is the first time I’ve done anything for charity and as you can see I’ve set myself a fairly steep target for a first go, but I have an actual aim and I know exactly where the money is going and exactly what it is going to do.

I too don’t really like the idea of simply filling the generic coffers of a “good cause” which is why I was so psyched to find Catch22 and actually go down and meet the people running the Gravesend branch where the money is going to go and actually see with my own eyes what they do and achieve there.

Below is a video about Auto22 which is a social enterprise and how I found Catch22. Watch the section about Boo: a graduate of the programme whom I have been to meet personally. Boo is exactly the kind of person whom the money raised will be helping: taking a young “hoodie”, with no prospects other than a life of crime, intimidation and benefits and giving them the time and attention to put them back on the path to a productive future as a fully signed up member of the local community.

If you, like me, want to actually see tangible changes as a result of your donation, then please support me in this and have a look at my Just Giving page and watch my video and see a bit more about why I’m doing this and the kind of results Catch22 give.

Thank you so much,


P.S. I’m jumping from 10,000 feet on the 28th August over an airfield near Maidstone, Kent.

P.P.S All the money raised is going to Catch22. None of this “sponsored” jumping nonsense: I’ve paid for the jump myself, so your contribution (plus Gift Aid if you’re a UK tax payer) is going to be used to help someone like Boo.

Going crazy for what you believe in

I’m going to do something crazy!

I write a lot about how the stuff we believe or don’t believe influences the way we think and the way we act and its about time I shared something with you that I believe in.

I believe in our ability to change: it’s why my blog is called “Believe in…” and my strap line is “constant change”. I believe in our abilities to make decisions based on the information that we have at our disposal at the time. I believe that, given different information and a different time and place, what we believe can and does change.

I remember starting A-level chemistry and one of the first things the lecturer said was “everything you learned at GCSE is not actually true.” And he proceeded to demonstrate just how our beliefs (based on three years of education) in how and why the world of chemistry worked were indeed inaccurate. Science has other examples with the classic “world is flat” scenario.

I’d like explain to you about another recent change in belief that I’ve had about how we can actually make a tangible difference to someone’s life. In the video below I talk about this and the lengths I will go to to demonstrate just what it is worth to me by putting my life in danger for the sake of someone else’s

I know that we all believe that we can make a difference to the world no matter how insignificant we might be and this is your chance to make a real difference to someone’s life. I’ve never done any kind of fund raising before, so please support me and show me you too believe people can change for the better by clicking here and donating something, anything; as I know that not everyone has £83 spare but even just £10 will make a difference.

Thank You!

Gravesend garage with a charitable heart

I had an unexpected yet excellent experience this week: The alternator in my car packed up leaving me without car transport ahead of my sister’s wedding this weekend (the wedding is in Hampshire and I live in Gravesend, Kent over 100 miles away!), not to mention needing to get out to my hypnosis clients – Obviously, that was not the excellent experience – read on… So after swearing profusely at the blasted machine , I was straight onto Google maps looking for a local garage to recover and fix it.

Phoning the nearest garage resulted in me having to deal with a grumpy and reluctant mechanic who clearly didn’t really want my business or know anything about customer service. honestly, it amazes me that they can get away with the sort of surly and unpleasant demeanour and still be in business!

So widening the search slightly, I selected a company called Auto22 who had their company logo and web site address on their Google maps presence (always a good sign in my book). Despite being after closing, they took my call and were very helpful and understanding about the situation I found myself in and arranged for someone to come out first thing to collect the offending vehicle.

All fixed, they came and collected me and en-route to their garage I got chatting to the service advisor (Mark) who explained that they are actually a social enterprise, able to invest all their profits in supporting young people in gaining work experience opportunities, work placements, apprenticeships and eventually getting their first job.

Catch22: a charity for young people

The parent charity is: Catch22 and their website says:

Catch22 is a national charity that works with young people who find themselves in difficult situations. Whatever the reason for their situation, we help them out. We work with their families and their communities wherever and whenever young people need us most; in schools, on the streets, in the home, at community centres, shopping centres, in police stations, and in custody

Auto22: a social enterprise

It turns out that Auto22 is one of the mechanisms that the charity use to enable young people to gain education (they have a classroom in the next door Catch22 building where they are taught maths, English and more practical things) and provide hands on mechanics training with the aim of placing their graduates into apprenticeships and actual work placements.

I could not have been happier to be handing over money for the work on my car and the whole experience was easy and honest and I feel good that I’ve been able to contribute to a charity that directly benefits the local Gravesend community. Plus I’ve got a working car to get to my sister’s wedding AND a reliable garage to get the car serviced and MOT’d later in the year so I am more than happy to recommend their services here, plus its such an unusual and yet fantastic idea that its worth reading about anyway.

Doing something to support Catch22 and Auto22

I’m jumping out of a plane on the 28th of August, so please read my post about it and then contribute a little something to help. Thanks:

Recommended: happy, smart, efficient and good for the community

Auto22 offers: servicing and repair on all makes of cars and light vans, MOTs, and tyre and exhaust replacements.   All work is carried out by professionally qualified and experienced technicians using the latest diagnostic equipment, and they offer a free customer drop off and pick up service within a three mile radius.


Call them: 01474 362 413