May 5, 2017

Sleight Of Mouth: 14 Language Patterns For Conversational Belief Change


Sleight Of Mouth is one of the classic NLP Language Patterns originally formulated by Robert Dilts.

In a book titled "Sleight Of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change" Robert outlines 14 Language Patterns that he discovered during a training held by Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP.

During this training, Richard pretends to have a "paranoid" belief system and challenged the group to change it. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to do so. 

Dilts would later realize that the same language patterns that Robert was using were also used by people like Lincoln, Gandhi, Jesus and others, to "promote positive and powerful social change".

By mastering these patterns, you can easily establish, shift or transform beliefs through the power of language.

With that being said, let's jump right into learning these Sleight Of Mouth language patterns.

Note: For each example, the limiting belief we will be changing is "I have had this belief for such a long time that it will be difficult to change.


This patterns directs attention to the purpose or intention behind the belief.


I very much admire and support your desire to be honest with yourself.
Positive Intention = "honesty"


To substitute a new word for one of the words used in the belief statement that means something similar but has different implications.

Example 1

"Yes, something that you've held onto so tenaciously can be quite challenging to let go of."

"had a long time" => "held onto tenaciously"

"difficult to change" => "quite challenging to let go of"

Example 2

"I agree that it can initially feel pretty strange to go beyond familiar territory."

"belief" => "familiar territory"

"difficult to change" => "initially feel pretty strange"


To direct attention to an effect (either positive or negative) of the belief, or the generalization defined by the belief, which changes (or reinforces) the belief.


When you expect something will be difficult, it will seem that much easier when you finally do it.

Genuinely acknowledging our concerns allows us to set them aside so we can focus on what matters.

Chunk Down

Breaking the elements of the belief into smaller pieces that changes (or reinforces) the generalization defined by the belief.


"Since having this belief only a short time would make it easier to change, perhaps you can remember  what it was like back at the time when you had just formed the belief and imagine having changed it at that time."
"long time" => "short time"

Perhaps if, instead of trying to change the whole belief at once, if you just altered it in small increments, it would seem easy and fun.
"changing a belief" => "altering it in increments"

Chunk Up

Generalizing an element of the belief to a larger classification that changes (or reinforces) the relationship defined by the belief.


"The past does not always accurately  predict the future. Knowledge can evolve rapidly when it is reconnected with the processes which naturally update it.
"had for a long time" => "past"
"belief" => "a form of knowledge"
"change" => "connected with the natural processes which naturally update it"


Finding a relationship analogous to that defined by the belief which challenges (or reinforces) the generlization defined by the belief.


A belief is like a law. Even very old laws can be changed quickly if enough people vote for something new.

A belief is like a computer program. The issue is not how old the program is, it's whether or not you know the programming language.

Change Frame Size

Re-evaluating (or reinforcing) the implication of the belief in the context of a longer (or shorter) time frame, a larger number of people (or from an individual point of view) or a bigger or smaller perspective.


In a couple of years from now, you will probably have difficulty remembering that you ever had this belief.

I'm sure that your future kids will appreciate the fact that you made the effort to change this belief, rather than passing it on to them.

Note: If you want to learn about even more language patterns, then you should check out milton model  language patterns.

Another Outcome

Switching to a different goal other than the one addressed or implied by the belief, in order to challenge (or reinforce) the relevancy of the belief.


It's not necessary to change the belief. It just needs to be updated.

The problem isn't so much about changing beliefs. It's about making your map of the world congruent with who you are now.

Model Of The World

Re-evaluating (or reinforcing) the belief from the framework of a different model of the world.


You're lucky. Most people don't even recognize that their limitations are a function of their beliefs that can be changed at all. You're doing a lot better than the average person.

Artists are known to use their inner struggles as a source of inspiration for creativity. I wonder what type of creativity your efforts to change your belief might bring out in you.

Reality Strategy

Re-evaluating (or reinforcing) the belief accounting for the fact that people operate from their cognitive perceptions of the world in order to build their beliefs.


"How, specifically do you know that you have had this belief for a 'long time'?"

"What particular qualities off what you see or hear when you think about changing this belief make it seem 'difficult'?"


Finding an example that challenges or enriches the generalization defined by the belief.


I have seen many beliefs established and changed instantaneously when people are provided with the appropriate experiences and support.

Note: If you want to learn about even more language patterns, then you should check out milton model language patterns.

Hierarchy of Criteria

Re-evaluating (or reinforcing) the belief according to a criterion that is addressed that is more important than any addressed by the belief.


The degree to which a belief fits with and supports one's vision and mission is more important than how long one has had the belief

Personal congruence and integrity are worth whatever effort it takes to achieve them.

Apply to Self

Evaluating the belief statement itself according to the relationship or criteria defined by the belief.


How long have you held the opinion that the difficulty in changing beliefs is primarily a matter of time?

How difficult do you think it would be to change your belief that long held generalizations are difficult to change?

Meta Frame

Evaluating the belief from the frame of an ongoing, personally oriented context. In other words, establishing a belief about the belief.


"Perhaps you have the belief that beliefs are difficult to change, because you have previously lacked the tools and understanding necessary to change them easily."


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Victor Haven
Victor Haven
2 years ago

Thanks for this. It is very valuable.

Jacob Laguerre
Reply to  Victor Haven
2 years ago

Glad you enjoyed it!

Bambang RE Martojo
Bambang RE Martojo
3 years ago

great summary. thanks

Jacob Laguerre
Reply to  Bambang RE Martojo
3 years ago

No problem! Glad you got value from it

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