NLP Storytelling Essentials

Stories and storytelling have always been one the best ways to entertain, share knowledge and be a catalyst for creativity and change. They tend to engage our unconscious thinking and sidestep our critical reasoning. They are a marvellous delivery system for embedded commands.

NLP Storytelling

There are at least six basis storytelling approaches that are worth exploring. Real stories are likely to be a combination of more than one, however someone using just one has a significant impact on our communication.

Simple state change

Tell a story where the state of the characters in your your story match your audience.  Then in your story describe ‘something’ that results in your characters moving to a more positive state. If your audience has built rapport with your characters, they too will move into that more positive state.

Provided you keep it plausible you do not need to explain the reason for state change, its much effective to simply describe the states.

Teaching Tale

Use a story to explain the details of a successful and or unsuccessful strategy. It’s sometimes much easier to tell a story about someone  exhibiting a series of useful behaviours than telling them what to do.

For example at the beginning of a workshop you can tell the story of two delegates, one who exhibits useful behaviours and attitude and gets great results and one who exhibits destructive behaviours and fails.


Sometimes you can be much more direct by explaining the situation as a metaphor. When talking to a group of directors who aren’t being helpful to each other, you tell a story about a band of outlaws who lost everything because they didn’t agree take the right difficult decisions.

As mentioned you can often be much more direct when you’re giving messages inside a story.

State Strategy

This is particularly effective for therapeutic change, but may have a place in business. Sometimes moving someone from for example, a depressed state to a contented state in one move is too much of a jump. You therefore break down the interaction  into a number of smaller changes for example from depressed to frustrated to determined to excited to action to feeling good to a contented state.

You tell a story of an individual in a context where they experienced all the states in this sequence. If the listener is in rapport with the individual in the story they will experience the states in the right sequence, and have an unconscious strategy from moving to contentment from depression.

Classic Case Study (Soara)

There are a number of versions of this approach. The interesting point is that it’s possible for someone who has limited experience to  come over as exceptionally experienced and competent by giving case studies in this format. Follow this sequence:

Situation and problem (and possibly the implication of the problem)
Your Objective
Action. What you actually did
The Result
The positive implication of the result Over time

 Nested Loops

This again is particularly effective for therapeutic change, and is specifically for delivering embedded commands. (Although any character in a story can deliver embedded commands.)

Open story one
Open story two
Open story three
Add commands
Close story three
Close story two
Close story one

The idea is that when a story is opened and left opened without closure and another story is started a part of our consciousness is waiting for that story to be closed. If we’re holding three open stories we have very little consciousness free to evaluate any statements made. Embedded commands will therefore be accepted easily.

When the stories are closed we’re likely to remember the stories consciously, but consciously forgotten the commands. However the commands are in our unconscious waiting, like seeds, to grow.
All these approaches have the potential to be exceptionally effective in the right context. However they often need practice.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s journey may be more than a metaphor, it may be the strategy of how we grow and develop. It is and always has been an effective structure for effective stories. The journey involves three stages: 1) Departure 2) Initiation 3) Return.

There a number of versions. This is loosely based on Joseph Campbell’s version:


1. A call to adventure (e.g. responding to a crisis) 2. Refusing the call, but then accepting 3. Once accepting the call the hero finds previously undiscovered internal of external resources to help 4. Crossing the threshold. The hero enters unknown territory leading to 5. The hero has to let go of previous approaches.


6. The road of trials, a number of tests that the hero may fail. 7. Meeting with the Goddess, meeting someone who cares about you. 8. Meeting the Temptress, the hero faces temptation of a physical or sensual nature. 9. Atonement with the father. The hero must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. This might be the ultimate challenge. 10. Recovery. Rest, peace and reflection 11. Achievement of challenge


12. Refusal to return. The hero may not want to return. 13. Escape. The hero may find escaping as much of a challenge as leaving his or home in the first place. 14. Master of two worlds. When home the hero now has two world-views. 15. Freedom to live. Having survived the ordeal and return the hero gains signifiant freedom to live  how he or she chooses.


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NLP Storytelling

NLP Storytelling