Submodalities as weapons of our own destruction

If you already understand modalities and submodalities, then forgive me. In order to offer an amusing example of submodalities used badly, I must make sure that we all agree upon some shared definitions, that we understand these concepts the same way.

If you are new to modalities and submodalities, then you are in luck – this is a great time to learn about these simple, yet ubiquitous distinctions. They manipulate and influence us all the time – and by learning to leverage them instead of being leveraged by them, we learn to take control of very powerful unconscious forces. Moreover, these are influencing and manipulating everyone, so as you learn to use these to your own, one might say “unfair”, advantage, you begin to exert tremendous influence over the world around you — whereas previously it likely exerted such influence over you.

Modalities refer to our senses, the modes through which we perceive events, experiences, everything around us. There are then five such modalities, visual, kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory. The former three are most commonly used in communicating unconsciously, though all have their place. Submodalities then are the components that differentiate our sensory experience. For example, if the modality in question is visual, the submodalities we discuss might include brightness/darkness, proximity/size, color, and so forth. There are submodalities that are quite a bit more subtle, and don’t explicity define a sense. However their purpose is the same, to differentiate our modal experiences. Consider for instance newness, innovation, and other such words. They often are used when speaking of technology, as we all know by now that the “newest” technology is faster, more capable, robust, and also generally less expensive than its predecessor, in keeping with Moore’s Law. For instance, look at cellular telephones, computers, televisions, and music players.

The challenge is that by playing with the submodalities we use to describe something, we radically impact how others, even ourselves, perceive it.

I worked with an amusingly bad salesperson once (who shall remain nameless, but man, you know who you are!) He and I were meeting with the same customer about different things, so we attended together (often called a “four-legged meeting” – how’s that for an image? I always picture two guys in a horse costume! As you will soon see, he would have served as the posterior of said horse…)

The customer was very impressed with an innovative little computer our company had just announced and was thinking about a purchase. My naive colleague did not really like the computer and wasn’t too enthusiastic about selling it. It didn’t contain as much profit as some of the other machines in his toolbag, so he wanted to downplay its impact and appeal. Though it actually was a very cool little machine and was one of the few offerings from that company I considered buying myself that year. The customer apparently agreed and said to us, “Wow, that things is really great! I can see putting one in each of my employees’ hands! If the demo goes well, I can see buying 300 of them this week!” That would have been a pilot, and his company would very likely have bought out our entire stock that quarter – likely driving the product to be labeled a success.

My unaware colleague winced and agreed, “Yeah, it is a cool device. But you know what I want?” He even leaned forward for effect, as though he was letting the customer in on a secret, an insider’s bit of information that no one else should hear.

Suspense properly established, he aimed the proverbial gun at his foot and fired… “I want the one that comes next.

(Think about what we’re discussing – submodalities. What does the “next” model imply in the technology world? Would you rather buy this year’s model, which of course in a few months will be “old”, or the “next” one?)

The customer, confused, asked, “Oh? That’s true, it will probably be faster, right? And have more memory? And a bigger hard drive? And just be better overall? Plus, it will probably cost less, right?”

My colleauge didn’t even look down at the proverbial bullet hole in his shoe as he nodded, “It’s always like that. Yeah, I’ll wait till the second generation, when it’s much better.”

Guess what? The device didn’t sell as many units as the company hoped, so it was discontinued and there never was a second generation. Though to this day I regret myself not buying one – it was that cool. And truly that customer would have gotten great use out of those devices. They were perfectly suited to his company’s environment.

Though consider that for a moment – while yes, my former colleague killed his chances of making a substantial sale that day, there was a greater victim – the customer. He had to try using tablets instead, which weren’t as flexible as this device. The naive salesperson hurt everyone in the discussion, and if we are not aware of how we are using submodalities when we communicate with others (as well as with ourselves), we harm everyone.

What if instead of rising in the morning and saying “Carpe Diem!” as you hit the door, you made pictures of everything going wrong, and then said to yourself something comparable to the above experience. Something like, “Success will still be there tomorrow, in FACT, today is almost certainly NOT going to be as great as tomorrow. So maybe I should just go back inside, blow off work today, and try to make a successful day of it tomorrow instead.” Think about the irony of that – all we actually HAVE is “today”. Tomorrow never does come, so we either charge ahead with excitement, enthusiasm, and purpose right now, or we commit to mediocrity, to always putting opportunities off until tomorrow, hoping they will still be there.

That’s the secret – while they may have all new opportunities, Today’s opportunities will never return. Carpe diem!

Oh and why didn’t I buy that great new piece of technology when it came out? Well…I figured that the “next” version would be far better of course!