NLP and the ‘Shaky Markets’

‘The markets have lost confidence’

Yesterday the UK financial market briefly lost confidence in HBOS, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender. And HBOS shares dropped by 17% at one stage.

It’s been a tough time for The Markets recently, according to the media, and they’ve been variously feeling uneasy, running scared, feeling more confident, getting excited, and panicking.

In reality “The Market” is simply groups of traders in different countries guessing how shares are likely to move and then buying or selling these shares in order to make profit. And it appears that yesterday’s crisis for HBOS was caused by rogues traders spreading unfounded rumours to drive the shares down so they could then profit from the shares price.

The NLP view

The NLP Meta Model enables us to identify from a person’s comments how they are thinking and, properly used, it one of the most powerful and widely applicable NLP models. One of the categories in the NLP Meta Model is called Nominalisations.

A Nominalisation is an activity viewed and described as a thing and following the news is a great way of Nominalisation-spotting! For example:

The Market

‘The Market’ is not a thing nor a person. The term is used to describe the activity of financial traders buying and selling shares in order to make profits. But this activity is turned into a thing – it is nominalised. Using the Nominalisation cloaks, or deflects our attention from, the reality of what is happening i.e. that a group of people are buying and selling stocks and shares based on how much profit they believe they can make based on their guess on how the price will change.

The Government

The government is not a thing. It is a group of politicians, with differing interests and motivations, deciding things – or, sometimes, not deciding things based on their estimation of what is ‘good’ i.e. what will be favourably received by the Press, what will impress the electorate, what will undermine the opposition, etc.  Making this activity by a group of people into a thing called ‘The Government’ (by making it a Nominalisation) deflects our attention from the personal actions and motivations or these individuals.

The Papers have said

As in The Times said this or The Washington Post said that. But a newspaper doesn’t write or speak. It can’t – it’s just a pile of paper with words and photographs. And these words and photographs convey the selected views of the newspaper editors and, especially, the newspaper owners. By making this selecting and writing activity of a group of individuals a thing – by Nominalising it – our attention is deflected from the reality that the content simply reflects the views of these individuals.

Other examples of Nominalising or turning activities into things

Then there are the more every-day Nominalisations

  • There’s no communication in this team = we are not talking effectively with one another
  • This relationship isn’t working = we are not relating satisfactorily with one another
  • Friendship is hard to find = how I have been making friends up to now hasn’t worked
  • He has an attitude problem = I don’t like his behaviour
  • We need more motivation = we need to motivate ourselves

The list can go on and on – just like this article could – but you’ve likely got the idea …

In all cases Nominalisations deflect our attention from what is really going on. And, critically, deflects our attention from possible solutions.

Related articles (March 2006) (March 2008) (August 2008) (November 2008)  (January 2009)  (September 2009) (January 2011)