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HOT BUTTON EFFECT: Understanding Complex Equivalence

HOT BUTTON EFFECT: Understanding Complex Equivalence and Behavioral Complex Equivalence by Rachel Hott, Ph.D. Source: Anchor Point Magazine

Why read this article? Well if you are new to NLP this article is directed to you, the newcomer. If you are old to NLP then this article is the equivalent to Monarch notes. In 1000 words or so I explain a NLP concept that in a practitioner training may take three to six hours or even more. Thus the power of words.

This article is an explanation of the concepts, Complex Equivalences (C.E.) and Behavioral Complex Equivalences (B.C.E.). These terms make everything complex and gives those who don’t understand a complex. When I learned these terms I emphasized the word eqivalence. When asked what my C.E. was for, support, independence, aggression or hunger, I was able to explain easily because I knew what C.E. meant. Several practitioners have been confused because they tried to learn the label instead of understanding its meaning.

As was stated in the “Models of The World” article (Anchor Point June 1989), each person represents experiences through their five senses. When working with therapy and business clients it is critical to determine how they represent their experiences so that as a NLP practitioner you can best understand their subjective reality. One of my recent consulting jobs was with a group of directors. One of the directors had be told that she was not assertive enough. I directed the group to describe what each person meant by assertive. One director said it was showing that you can’t be stopped even if you are told “no.” Another said it was the way you enter a room and if you have something important to say you let everyone know. Another said it was forcefully putting out your viewpoints. The director who received the feedback felt that assertive was stepping over other people’s toes and therefore was not respectful. Since respect is her highly valued criteria (we will cover criteria in a future article) it prevented her from being assertive. However when she heard each person’s equivalences for the same word, she was able to reexamine her own model of the world and question her C.E. This group process was valuable for everyone because it brought to light the that each person is an unique individual. As each person listened to the other they could have made several choices: To listen and say that the other people were wrong, to listen and be curious about the other definitions or to listen and continue to think they understood the other person.

Thinking thay you understand the other person relates specifically to C.E. Every time a person makes an utterance they are coming from their model of the world. Rarely do we have the same pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes or smells as another person. Unless they are a NLP junkie I recommend asking them what do they mean by “commitment” or what’s your perception of “commitment” or how do you represent “commitment” (represent may not be meaningful to someone outside the NLP circuit). If they are a NLP junkie then go right ahead and say, “So what is your C.E. for commitment?”

The difference between Complex Equivalence and Behavioral Complex Equivalence is the word BEHAVIORAL. When you are exploring the C.E. of a word you may get an example, several examples or a simple definition. In the examples you are listening for the sensory based descriptions. For example, A client of mine wanted to be more confident in front of his peers. His C.E. of confidence was to look, sound and act like Sir Galahad. He recalled a time when at a professional meeting he was able to make some comments that were opposing many other viewpoints. He labeled this expe