This is session number 11 of the NLP in actions podcast and today’s show is all about the Pattern Interrupt. So much of NLP is flexible and not a one-trick pony. Its tools, techniques, and principles are readily transferable and can integrate with others, creating fantastic flexibility and profound changes. The pattern interrupt follows this same pattern of flexibility in its applications, but its uses can seem so different.

What is a Pattern Interrupt

As we discover in NLP, so much of what we do is pattern-based. We follow specific methods, models and procedures whenever we do specific tasks or things. These models are patterns, and they allow us to generate and create specific outcomes and states. Some of these are beneficial, and others aren’t. Let me give you an example of a not so good pattern.

Your alarm goes off at 6 AM you reach over with your right arm and hit snooze, three minutes later the alarm goes off again and so does your arm, ready to hit the snooze button. This repeats several times until you finally decide it’s time to get out of bed. You eventually get out of bed, you’re not feeling too good, but you plod on as you do every single morning…….Because, this is your pattern. This also ties in nicely to the saying “if you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.”  Our patterns allow us to run on autopilot which is a massive advantage most of the time. If our patterns are not helpful and create states, we wish we weren’t in, the patterns need to be interrupted. Interruption allows for change.

An interruption in a pattern can dramatically transform a persons state or outcome, and there are so many ways to do this, so I’ll explain a few here. Once you understand this principle, you can find new means that you can use this and if you have any questions regarding these please do get in touch, and I can go over some with you.

To go back to the example I gave above about lying in bed in the morning and snoozing eight times before deciding to get up. A change in pattern or change in strategy could be to move your phone or alarm to the other side of the room. The following morning your alarm goes off at 6 AM. You have no choice but to get out of bed to turn the alarm off. Also decide before that, once the alarm goes off and you switch it off, that you stand at the other end of your bedroom, open the curtains and do a big stretch and take three deep breaths. This is a new pattern for you that you can decide upon, but whatever you do, it will create a dramatic change from what you were doing. And you can most definitely expect a difference in your state and how your morning runs typically.

Linguistic Patterns Interrupt

A pattern interrupts can also be used verbally or linguistically in many ways. Let’s have a look at this within a sales setting.

You are the salesman, and you’re making a cold call into a company to try and gain their trust and ultimately their business. Bearing in mind that when you’re making this call, there will have been hundreds before you making a very similar call. Therefore, a pattern by the person who answers the phone has already been created. They’ll be hardwired to a response when the salesperson calls and says “Hi my name is Joe, and I’m calling from the XYZ company, can you tell me who deals with X?” Now the person who answered the phone will have heard this script or something similar to it 1000 times over. And perhaps only one in the thousand had ever got an answer that they had wanted. Again a further pattern is ingrained, and it would be helpful if you could bypass this.

So, what you do? Do something that others don’t that will create an interrupt in that person’s pattern when they pick up the phone. Another great thing about breaking this type of patter is that they will associate the pattern they know with someone who is unsuccessful and doesn’t offer value. So much more goes on when you break a pattern.

To give you an example it could be something like:

“Hi Joe, this is Mike Sweet. Does that name sounds familiar to you?” Or “Hi Joe, can I ask you? Would you eat a bowl of worms for £200?” Or “I’ll ask this person….  Hi Joe, can you tell me what you think the best film in the 80’s was?” Or “I bet this isn’t a good time to call?”

The above examples are entirely different from what a person is used to, but they will cause a person to stop and think. You’ll definitely need to add a little bit of charisma and chuckle to allow these to not smash into the face of the person picking up the phone, but you will create different state than they have had up until that point.

Remember, you can always have the desired outcome with any interaction. Even if the person you’re talking to has a clear set intention. They’ll have a plan perhaps of what they are going to say to you, how they would like the conversation to go, and more importantly the outcome that they would like.

So, if you feel that the interaction or communication isn’t to your desired outcome, you can keep interrupting a person’s pattern while they are talking to you. This follows the same example that no doubt you will have experienced many times. Remember back to a time when a person is on a roll is telling you all about their holiday and they are thoroughly engrossed and infused. Then, you make a flippant comment like “my auntie Jude lost her flip-flops when she went to Majorca,” and all of a sudden, the person is off-track and they have forgotten what they were saying. This pattern interrupt allows you to regain control if that’s what you desire. But also remember, sometimes you’d like a person to carry on telling you about their holiday, so be very careful about interrupting patterns because it can have a massive state altering effect. This is a clear case of mismatching which you can hear and watch about on the matching and mirroring page.

Richard Bandler one of the founders of NLP uses pattern interrupts all of the time. There are many examples of him using a pattern interrupt while treating a client because it can be effective. He could simply be asking the client about their depression, OCD, ailment or something and as they’re explaining it and trying to describe it, he would make them laugh. He’d then repeat this pattern several times to anchor in the interrupted pattern. This then makes it extremely difficult for the person to tell or should I say re-live their problem. Any chance that person now tries to engage with the old unhelpful state or issue, they find that they’re anchored to the pattern interrupt which was conducive to them overcoming their problem by laughing or forgetting. Remember, a memory is only a memory of the last time you remembered it.