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There is an NLP technique or approach where a person's specific pattern of behavior is paced or matched in order to influence the person's response, The technique is called utilization .

It takes advantage of everything in the listener's experience (both internal and external environments) to support the intention of the speaker. In simple and brief words, it means that you take whatever is there and you make the most of it, in any way that you can.

For instance,

Client: “I don’t understand.”

Response: “That’s right…you don’t understand yet. That is because you’ve not taken that one deep breath that will allow the information to fall easily and comfortably into place.” Or, perhaps while working with a client, one of your colleagues mistakenly opens a door. Instead of getting frustrated and annoyed with your colleague, you could tell your client, “You may have heard a door opening and let this be an opportunity to invite new ideas and thoughts into your life.”


How to apply utilization

Utilization can be applied very simply by copying the words of the other person, but not just without reason because we have to use the other person’s word for practical use or for the progress of the conversation.

Few examples can be :-

  1. To ask a follow-up question to “I study history”, one can ask “ What do you like about history?"

  2. To make a remark when you are meeting someone on “I operate Boeing 767s and 777s.” one can say, “Ah, fascinating!”

  3. To compliment a person on “Today it seems like the sun!” one can say, “That’s right, it shines for you!”

  4. To encourage someone after they have said, “I look like a tiger trapped in a cage ” one can say, “You dig a hole to get out on the other side of the cage wall and then you’ll be a tiger out of its cage.”

  5. People try to find their seat where they sat before. “Sometimes finding your place in the world can be simple, isn't it?”

  6. To statements like “I study philosophy but there are no jobs in philosophy.”, one can say “So then you philosophize about the fact that you don’t have a job.”

  7. To joke about a question like “Would you pay 660,000 euros for that house?” one can say “Not in 660,000 years.”

How do you arrive at these hunches for utilization?

Consider this: “Everything is an example of something Whatever happens, use it! So use whatever happens in the here and now.

this is the sign you've been looking for

Things in the here and now are often unexpected things and that’s what makes this skill so valuable to have. You could also define utilization as follows: “The art of not being surprised about anything.” Because we anyway use several things as an example to make your point. If you want to make a point, give examples, or make a joke, just pick up something that happened before or what someone had said before. Use that as a powerful tool instead of coming up with something completely new yourself.

Milton Erickson

Milton Erickson was a fantastic linguist and out of his work comes something called the Milton Model.

Milton Erickson was generally regarded as the foremost hypnotherapist of his time. He worked with trance and cleverly structured sentences full of vague meanings to help his clients discover how to address their problems and the resources that they already had available to them. Erickson’s success was based on his ability to read non-verbal behaviour (sensory acuity), his ability to establish rapport with his clients, his skill with language patterns and his beliefs about his clients.

Read the image below to know what is milton model -

milton model

Utilization is much more than a simple language pattern. It may be the central principle of Erickson’s approach to therapy; that a client’s unique patterns of self-expression are recognized and utilized as the basis of therapeutic trance development.

There are scores of examples all over the literature. A famous example is when Erickson approached a man in the state hospital who claimed to be Jesus Christ and told him he understood he had had some experience as a carpenter. The man agreed that that was true. Erickson asked if it was also true that he liked to be of service to his fellowmen and the man again agreed. So Erickson asked him to help the hospital build some much-needed bookshelves. The patient did so and was able to start participating in constructive behavior rather than continuing his symptomatic behavior. (“Uncommon Therapy” by Jay Haley)

Another example is when he had a patient who was stubbornly refusing medical advice given to her for her peptic ulcer. In trance, Erickson utilized her talent for being stubborn by telling her that she should take charge and dominate her therapy. He said that she should do this by stubbornly following the medical advice and by having a happy attitude throughout, no matter what. Her ulcer cleared up soon after. (“Collected Papers,” vol IV.)

Utilization/Adoption of Metaphors – Use this powerful NLP tip

In utilization, you are working with metaphors and in particular with metaphors of other people. You adopt the metaphor that already belongs to someone else. One of the most elegant things you can do is use the concept of utilization in conjunction with metaphors.

Use metaphors that are in tune with your audience. For example, you can base them on their identity, interests or metaphors. You ‘utilize’ these things. So make sure you somehow find out what they are before you also adopt the metaphors used by the client in a therapy session.

You can also use the syntax of someone’s phrase or metaphor. Use the same structure as the structure of the problem or limiting thought:

“Life is …”

“I once heard a poet say: Life is …”

First, divert to other random topics in an indirect way then you can offer the solution as a metaphor. Even after that, you immediately divert attention again. Should the other ask, “What was that just now?” Then you say,

“Oh yes that, what did I say about that again?” Then the client will explain it themselves and you confirm them in this.

Example : Utilization of Personal Metaphors:

  • A says something that is quite important to him/her/them. “I love soccer.”

  • B chooses a different context, such as a business meeting.

  • C makes a metaphor for that business context, using what is important to person A (football). “A business meeting is like football. All players must be attuned to each other.”

Utilization : Leading by Following

There is no resistance if you ‘utilize’ all reactions. For example:

“Left or right?” The client is a bit bothered and answers: “Purple, indeed, that’s right. Purple.” (in the same tonality). We take this meaningful message and connect to the desired result.”

For utilization, you do the same as for “follow and lead” and you now also include unexpected events such as resistance or unexpected disruptions in your pacing and leading. Moreover, in some cases you add your own wisdom you possibly use the natural properties, reactions or other components of what happens or is said and you build on that to lead to a desired situation. Utilization, therefore, requires just a little more thinking and sharpness and it is, therefore, just a bit more ingenious than simply reflecting back what the client tells you.

More examples:

  1. The client suddenly talks about an imaginary person. You accept the reality of the client and build on it with a simple question “And what does he say?” or “And how old is he?”

  2. One asks “How are you feeling?” and you say “Tense” and further they say, “I wonder what that tension wants to teach you about NLP.”

  3. A client who wants more mindfulness mentions at one point, “I actually saw immediately that everyone was calmer.” and then you can say, “That’s very good because a good leader sees things before they happen, so that they can solve the problem easily. ” By saying that, you help the client to realize that she’s actually already very alert and focused.

  4. In the middle of a trance, the client’s eyes open: ‘Very well, and your eyes close again’

Utilization in combination with reframing

A nice combination of utilization and reframing (rethinking) is creating a context in which the natural reactions of the clients are actually good and lead them to where they want to go. The great thing about utilization is that the client often does not realize that what they say is actually the solution. You just need to notice that information and use it in a smart and subtle way.

  1. One says, “I believe I keep doubting myself.” You say, “You believe you keep doubting. It is good to believe as long as you still believe that you will achieve your goal, that will happen. ”

  2. “I can’t because I’m a control freak.” “The secret is, Debbie, you’re a control freak so you have control over your imagination (imagine a blue parakeet sitting on my hand)”.

  3. A client’s statement, “I am not convinced.” can be replied with “It is true that you are not convinced, not yet, because you have not yet asked the question that makes you completely convinced.”

If you stumble, make it part of the dance.

– American saying

Utilization as a cure for disturbing noises

Another form of utilization is to utilize sounds of the environment and use them as a metaphor. For example, do this for disturbing noises:

  1. Someone is sneezing. “The sound of a sneeze goes through you, leaving you with even more relaxation.”

  2. When there are disturbing noises on the beach, that’s where the visualization took place.

  3. That loud door you just heard will allow you to go even deeper into a trance.

“That’s all part of it.”

Utilization as a solution to resistance

Utilization can be particularly useful when the client is resisting. Acceptance comes first with resistance: “I accept you as you are.” You use that acceptance by means of utilization to lead the client back to the result.

  1. For resistance where the client does not go along with the exercise but instead stiffens: “And you are aware that you know how to stiffen your body, and you can feel it completely wondering what is next you will feel.

  2. Don’t go into a trance, don’t fall asleep, don’t do anything I say. Don’t accept these suggestions as you sit here listening to the sounds of my voice.

  3. If the client keeps his eyes open: “That’s right, you are sitting here and your eyes are open and you think it is not working. And you REALLY believe it doesn’t work, and that’s okay, and I’m glad because the more you think it doesn’t work, the more the subconscious gets the chance. Keep your eyes wide open. Be completely alert. Everything you do ensures that you are present. ” The client resists you right in a trance because he doesn’t expect it. The pattern has been broken and he is checking inside what is going on in all kinds of ways.

  4. If the client says, “I am not ready,” you are not going to find out why that is, but rather ask how that feeling was created. You can then interrupt that and lead you back to what you want.

Is the other saying something unexpected out of resistance? Then immediately say “That’s right” as if you expected it, without being affected by it, and reframe/utilize it further to your desired outcome.

Utilization for trance: Anything can be used to get into a trance …hypnosis

One of the prime elements in modern hypnosis is utilization or trance utilization. Utilization is the hypnotist's state to readily respond to whatever is in the environment.

Eventually practitioners like Dr. Milton Erickson learned by doing many sessions to directly suggest trance less and less. Instead, he would allow what was about to happen. This is called trance utilization.

Also using utilization to put the client into a trance. When you notice that he is about to do something, tell him to do it. For example blinking or coughing. Pay close attention to things and tell them before they happen! Then you can predict them and tell them to do it. This will give you extra momentum for your suggestions to follow.

  1. (Client coughs) ” Very well, coughing means that you relax more and more and that you are ready to go into a trance …”

  2. (The clock starts to strike five times) ” And with each stroke you go deeper and deeper into trance … 1, 2, …

Utilization as agreement and respect for the world model of the other

Always accept the reality of the person in front of you and then act on it. When you go along with the reality of a schizophrenic, it is no longer schizophrenic. When someone thinks they are a teacher or a leader, you can show that you accept that position, after which you can lead to your desired situation, for example, by means of a reframing.

In the ‘agreement framework’ you make use of the answer by first respecting it and then simply re-introducing the desired topic, in a slightly different way. “I don’t want to eat Chinese.”, “I agree with you and I respect that. We must indeed try something new, shall we go to the new Chinese in town? ”

Utilization can also be used in normal conversations to connect additionally with the other person:

  1. A teacher asks a question in the group: “We do it according to the popcorn method, so in random order.” “I pop first.”

  2. Utilization can be used to prevent unnecessary input from other people. If you ask for suggestions and get two suggestions, see if you can combine them both: “Can anyone name a profession?” “A cleaner.” ‘A caterer’: a cleaner of a caterer!


Utilization is a *fantastic* skill.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going ..." - yeah, with utilization.

This is a very simple, but very funny and ‘smart’ technique in all kinds of social situations, also in coaching situations and even in situations where you have to deal with resistance .

The extra awareness that you have while working with your clients by paying attention to even the tiniest of the movements, adjustments, noises or feelings is really important. Utilization is a very powerful tool in NLP if continually practiced well for it to be effective effortlessly.


Utilization : Ericksonian

Utilization - NLP Notes

How To Make Metaphors: Tips & Best Examples [Complete Guide]

Using The Utilization Technique To Deal With Resistance & More

NLP Practitioner Milton Model

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This article on 'Utilization' has been contributed by Priya Pandey who is a student of Psychology, from St.Mira's College and peer reviewed by Ishita Vashisht who is a psychology student from Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Delhi University

Priya and Ishita are both part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.

Priya's future plan is to practice as a professional Counseling Psychologist and work in mental health sector. Further she would like to complete the PhD course for the same.

Ishita hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology and understand human behaviour, their attachment styles and clinical disorders through her own lens.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.

Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification


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