Embedded Command (I) Method

As in the analogical marking pattern above, embedded commands are communications that are inserted into a larger communication frame. They are typically marked out with analogical marking. This technique and the next give more opportunity to practice this aspect of communication. 

One way to insert an embedded command is as a quote or a question. Here are some examples, with the embedded command marked with single quotes. 

“Somebody once said to me, ‘your hand is beginning to lift without you noticing.’” 

“I knew a man once who really understood that ‘you can really be happy’ if you ‘put your mind to it.’” 

“I told the last person who was sitting in that chair to ‘take a deep breath and fall asleep’.” 

With analogical marking, you can highlight an embedded command that appears in a sentence that appears to say the opposite of the command. For example, “There’s really no need to ‘close your eyes and take a deep breath’.”

Select a situation for using embedded commands.

Choose what you will communicate with this approach.

Prepare the communications.

Practice the approach.

Apply the approach.

Assess the results.

Continue to refine and practice this method.

Select a situation for using embedded commands.

Select a typical situation in which you want to communicate more effectively, and in which embedded messages or priming could be helpful.

Choose what you will communicate with this approach.

Write down a number of things that you would like to communicate, but that might arouse inappropriate defenses. 

Continue accumulating these until you have several that you feel can be converted into embedded messages. 

Make sure that your approach is ethical. 

You must not attempt to manipulate a person in a manner that is not in their best interest.

Prepare the communications.

Create sentences that could be normal-sounding parts of your communication with this person, and that include your embedded commands. 

Remember, embedded commands are usually very short sentences or sentence fragments with the meaning that you want. 

If necessary, review other materials on Milton Erickson’s use of embedded commands.

Practice the approach.

Before using this approach, practice delivering these communications. 

Try them with several different embedded commands. 

Add analogical marking (see the pattern above) such as including changing your inflection, tempo, body language, and volume.

Apply the approach.

Once you feel that this can be done in a way that is very natural, use this approach in the actual situation.

Assess the results.

Notice how the person responds. Were there any awkward moments or looks? Did the person respond in any way that suggests your approach was helpful?

Continue to refine and practice this method.

Continue to refine and practice your use of analogical marking until you are able to do it without preparing in advance. Many people discover that they do it without even realizing it.

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