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E-Prime in Negotiation and Therapy

E-Prime in Negotiation

Challenging Dogmatic Viewpoints and Defusing Conflict:
Using E-Prime in Negotiation and Therapy

1.0 General Notes

1.1 Foreword
The material presented in this article concerns the use of English Prime (E-Prime) language patterns and their application in defusing conflict, ending arguments and clarifying confusion in everyday life.
English Prime represents a form of English which
dissallows any form in any tense of the verb 'to be'.
The principles presented here also lend themselves to mediation in formal negotiation type and individual/group and/or family therapy environments where either or both parties have occupied an intransigent position.
For more information on the benefits of using E-Prime/and an E-Prime tutorial follow the links.

1.2 Introduction/Description of the Problem
The principal language patterns underlying dogmatic views and conflict take the fundamental abbreviated assertive English form of:
"'something' 'IS' 'something else'"
The word 'is' gets deployed in the previous abbreviation as a representatiuon of any form of the verb: 'to be'.
Put more precisely, the assertive form arrangement exists as:
'noun group/"to be" phrase/noun or adjective group', or more formally: NP1(TO BE)NP2 and NP(TO BE)AP - where NP signifies a Noun Phrase, AP signifies an Adjective phrase and TO BE signifies the English verb 'to be' in any tense or manifestation (is, was, are, has been, will be, etc).
The first of these patterns, which usually appears in the assertive objectifying form: 'something' IS 'something else' reflects the 'identity' form of the TO BE statement: writing this in mathematical form yields:
'something' = 'something else'.
The second pattern takes the assertive properties form:
'something' IS 'description'
and represents the TO BE form known as 'predication'. Of the two forms the identity type - in terms of both quality and quantity of statements made - presents the greatest stumbling block in that it operates as a vehicle for the ideological fixation of the strongest dogma and hard line views in word pattern. The second form, although not as widespread, presents particular problems in that it tenaciously fixates supposed permanent states or properties of objects, states that - in reality - have no existence apart from in a speaker's mind.
(Note: in this article, the term 'speaker' refers to the agent that originates a statement. The terms 'reader/user/facilitator' refer to the reader/user of the paper.)

First, some examples of the two types of statements covered in this section:

Some NP1(TO BE)NP2 {=Identity} Statements:
'Joe Bloggs is a pig'
'Dr Znongof's men are butchers'
'An electron is a particle'
'The Byubis will always be a bunch of savages'

Examples of NP(TO BE)AP {=Predicative} Statements:
'The Dr Z movie is superb'
'Daytime TV is rubbish'
'Van Gogh's paintings are terrible'
'The Beatles were great'
'I am sad'

2.0 Step by Step Procedures for Reappraising Dogmatic Statements2.1 Undelete the Speaker
When someone comes along and makes a non-attributable statement, for example: 'Dr Znogof is a butcher', or 'Daytime TV is rubbish', the person states a point of view, an opinion - nothing more, nothing less - using his/her words to enunciate/describe the opinion. Opinions do not equal facts and any speaker who tries to divorce themselves from their opinions attempts to delude both themselves and others about the nature of reality. When this occurs the reader should simply issue a reminder of the actual nature of the ongoing process by PARAPHRASING what the speaker has said and feeding it back in the form, for example: 'So you say, that in your opinion... ...Dr Znogof is a butcher.' (Putting such questions as if in the manner of seeking clarification makes them appear non-confrontational.) Tagging a phrase on the end of the speaker's sentence such as: ' your opinion' has the same effect - but can make for a slightly more confrontational form. See below for some phrases suitable for use in undeleting a speaker.

2.2 Speaker 'Undeleting' Phrases
So in your view, You think, You think that, According to you, You say that, In your view, From your point of view, In your opinion, The way you see it, You think that, You say, You feel, According to your conditioning, The way you see it, You feel that, The way you think, You hold that, You assume that, You say that, So you say, From your perspective, According to your map of the world, By your reckoning, You figure that, In your observation, By your measure, You hold, You claim that, You allege that, You reckon, You hold that, You assert that, In your mind, You suggest that, You imagine that, You assume that, In your judgement, You suppose that, From your frame of reference, From your outlook, You believe,You hold the idea that, You believe that, You have the conviction that, You postulate that,
The design of these phrases is such that:
a) the speaker gets re-attached to his/her statement/thoughts
b) the hitherto hidden thought process becomes partially revealed
c) they all exclude dogmatic 'to be' words
The list is not exhaustive. Think of your own phrases that will fit - and, since they represent your personal 'natural' language forms - use them preferentially.

2.3 Change the Verb
Execute this step in tandem with step 2 - if possible - whilst examining the {lazy and inexact general forms which cause deletion} 'TO BE' verb(s) in the sentence supplied by the speaker and considering the possibility of a replacement with an ACTION verb (see elsewhere for a brief list of these) in the active tense. As given above, insert the replacement verb - if one exists - directly during the paraphrase stage given in step 2. If the existing verb defies replacement then reword the speaker's statement to make a replacement fit. (Note that forms of the general verbs: 'seems', 'looks', 'appears', 'acts', and 'feels' can come in handy if other verbs won't fit - but only use these as a last resort).
Irrespective of whether this overall process takes place in the paraphrase phase or not, the user/facilitator should challenge the speaker on the use of the 'TO BE' form in a manner such as: 'When you said 'TO BE' did you really mean 'replacement verb/verb phrase'? Naive/obtuse challenges deployed here open up the door for further stages in the overall process. Some various examples of this follow:
'Joe Bloggs is a pig' - Do you mean that, in your view, Joe sometimes BEHAVES LIKE a pig?
'Joe Bloggs is a nice man' - In your opinion, you say Joe HAS some good qualities?
'Dr Znongof is a butcher' - Does this mean that you think Znongof OWNS a butcher's shop?
'Followers of the red flag were evil' - In your perception, red flag followers REPRESENTED evil.
'The British are sophisticated' - 'When you say "are sophisticated", do you mean they BEHAVE in what you consider a sophisticated manner?
'I am sad' - Do you mean that you FEEL sad?

Note also that changing verbs breaks repetitious patterning, itself a factor that breeds dogma: in like manner, the use of cliche (or preformed repeat structure) in language pattern tends to fixation and dogma and should be disrupted by the facilitator if at all possible by means of the injection of alternative vocabulary.

2.4 General Undeletion: Establish What Words Lie Behind the Generalisations Used

'When you use the word(s) V//NP2 (or AP), what do you mean precisely?'

Note how the focus here is on the verb and the noun/adjectival phrase used by the speaker to DESCRIBE the initial noun group - these represent the essence of his/her mental mapping.
That question, and variants - make up your own - should prise the lid off the barrel of deletions hiding behind the generalisations. Several hidden levels may exist behind the top layer & the user may have to probe, and possibly ask some naive questions, to get at them. Note that until this point in proceedings the speaker will (usually) exclusively own the knowledge deleted.
Q. You agreed with me that, in your perception, Joe Bloggs sometimes behaves like a pig. When you use the words 'behaves' and 'pig' what do you actually mean? Do you mean you have a pig called 'Joe Bloggs' who lives in a sty and eats from a trough - or do you mean something else.
A. No, not an actual pig. Joe is a man: I meant that he behaves like a pig.
Q. He eats from a trough?
A. No: but he eats like a pig, noisily and spilling all over.
Q. In what other ways does he behave like a pig?
A. He breaks wind and belches in front of my friends.

2.5 Determine the Type of Phrase/Sentence
For 'identity' forms - of the form NP1(TO BE)NP2, proceed to subsection 2.6. For 'predicate' forms - NP1(TO BE)AP, jump to subsection 2.7.

2.6 Identity Forms Only - i.e. NP1(TO BE)NP2: Establish Points of Comparison
You may have already accomplished this - at least in part - in step 4. If not, reveal points of comparison now with a question/series of questions similar to that given below. At root, all NP1(TO BE)NP2 'identity' constructions correspond to metaphors of the form NP1(models)NP2: the TO BE form represents a lazy, shorthand, blanket metaphor that attempts to equate all features of NP1 entirely with all features of NP2 - a fact which demonstrates the inadequacy of the speech form as concise description. Revealing the 'accuracy', extent and points of similarity/difference perceived by the speaker in the NP1(maps)NP2 model requires that the speaker, who after all created the metaphor, discloses his/her cross mapping - and often an underlying prejudicial intent. Since most speakers will tend to hold onto their original models, they will usually need prompting at this stage to make sure they haven't omitted anything and that they have mentioned possible exceptions. The word form 'what specifically' and variants will provide a useful tool in this context and, since no model or behaviour endures forever, a time prompt can often assist in breaking some hard moulds.
Typical question: 'What specifically about NP1 and NP2 makes you think that their behaviour compares?'
Q. What specifically about Joe Bloggs and a pig makes you think that their behaviour compares?'
A. Joe eats like a pig.
Q. In what other ways does he behave like a pig?
A. He breaks wind and belches in front of my friends.
Q. Anything else?
A. He's untidy. That's it.
Q. Does he do this all the time?
A. No. Only at weekends.
Q. So, when you said: 'Joe Bloggs is a pig', you really meant: 'I think that Joe Bloggs sometimes behaves like a pig because he acts in an untidy manner, eats like a pig, breaks wind and belches in front of my friends.' That it?
A. Yes. Can you make it any shorter?
Q. Not without deleting things - you did that first time around.
That concludes the process for an 'identity' form. Note that, as in the example above, the new form of the speaker's statement should:
a) exclude any form of the TO BE verb
b) contain an ACTION verb or verbs
c) include some reference to the speaker and that the views expressed exist between the ears of the speaker and not 'out there' as hard attributes of some entity..
d) demonstrate specific cross mapping between NP1 and NP2
e) indicate appropriate time constraints
Note that since a significant amount of deletion will have existed in the original TO BE form statements - deletion represents a property of the shorthand TO BE form - the restructured E-Prime statement will almost inevitably contain more words: if you only tell half the tale, you only need half the words - and you only get half of the meaning.

2.7 Predicate Forms Only - i.e. NP(TO BE)AP: Establish Projected Properties
NP1(TO BE)AP constructions correspond with metaphors of the form NP(has intrinsic properties)AP. As in the identity form, the TO BE connection represents a lazy, shorthand, statement that attempts to say that NP intrinsically possesses certain properties 'out there'. The properties specified often represent vague generalisations - and the speaker illustrates them by the words of AP. In the real world, the 'properties' actually exist as a word group residing inside the speaker's skull - as does the cross map specifying how those properties cross map to the noun phrase. Revealing the content, accuracy, extent and extent of the AP mapping - the 'how and why' the given phrase becomes attached to the noun phrase - demands that the speaker, whose perception has created the model, discloses how it functions and the reasoning behind it.
As with identity forms, but even moreso, some speakers will require prompting at this stage to ensure they haven't left anything out and that they mention all exceptions. As before, the language pattern 'what specifically' and variants will provide a useful tool in this context and 'time'- and in this case 'universality' - prompts can often assist in disrupting some hardened views.
Note that in the process of unravelling, the predicate version of the TO BE form can often present more difficulties than the identity form. The latter, in the ultimate analysis, boils down to a relatively direct metaphor or cross map: the former depends - in the speaker's eyes at least - upon perceived, and apparently INTRINSIC, qualities. Indeed, if the user can persuade the speaker to change from predicate statements to identity statements the unravelling becomes easier. Having said that, handling the predicate form does not present an insuperable problem, but it does need more work and sporadic paraphrase on the part of the user/facilitator. Typical questions of the type...
'You said that NP possesses the quality AP. Why specifically do you think that?'
'Can you give me some examples?'
'What exactly do you mean by AP?'
'How does your meaning of AP relate to NP? How does AP attach to NP?'
'Is this true for everyone, or just for you?'
'Does this appear true to you at all times? Tell me about any exceptions you can think of?'
...will open the door and shift the speaker's perception from one of dogmatic universal 'out there fact' to one of opinion. Ultimately, the speaker's views do represent his/her opinion - the user must prove this to the speaker and get him/her to take responsibility for it.
Full Example:
A. Van Gogh's paintings are terrible
Q. In your view Van Gogh's paintings look terrible? [Insert speaker's POV, change verb]
A. Yes, terrible.
Q. What exactly do you mean by terrible? Do you mean they make you feel terrified?'
A. No, not terrified. They don't look nice to me. [speaker has accepted verb and qualified it]
Q. What precisely about their looks don't you like? [asking for specifics]
A. The colours are gaudy - and in my view the compositions are unbalanced. [specific details offered]
Q. Unbalanced?
A. Yes. Out of order, the works of a madman.[opinion of Van Gogh]
Q. So you, personally, think Van Gogh's paintings appear gaudy and unbalanced? [Paraphrase - which almost represents the final form - with another changed verb] Does everyone else feel the same about these paintings? [check universality]
A. No. Most of my friends like them - but a few don't.
Q About all the paintings? Do you think this about all of them? [check universality]
A. I like the 'Sunflowers' one.
Q. So, to sum up, you personally think that Van Gogh was a madman and that most of his paintings appear gaudy and unbalanced - but you accept that not everyone holds that view?
A. Yes.
That concludes the process for an 'predicate' form. Note that, as in the example above, the new form of the speaker's statement should:
a) exclude any form of the TO BE verb
b) contain an ACTION verb or verbs
c) include some reference to the speaker and that the views expressed exist between the ears of the speaker and not 'out there' as hard attributes of some object(s) of abstraction(s).
d) indicate the speaker's deeper evaluation of how the AP applies to the NP

2.8 Use E-Prime
The use of E-Prime forms in conflict situations will generally produce non-confrontational, non-dogmatic, qualified language patterns that will themselves assist in defusing confrontational situations: accordingly, the user should learn E-Prime (in the written form that won't present too many difficulties) and deploy it wherever possible during discussions. Having said that the author realises that: 'Easy to say, not easy to do' applies with regard to the spoken word. With practice it becomes easier - especially when using a crib sheet.

2.9 Abbreviated Forms
The English language has developed a number of abbreviations for various forms of TO BE thus:
'S, 'RE, 'M
Insignificant as these may seem, they play a major role - especially in speech - in the constant habitual reiteration of the TO BE mechanism in everyday life. Habitual TO BE behaviour, which represents an easy to use - albeit confusing in the final analysis - shorthand has existed a long time and will persist until we learn (and teach - see Appendix 3) better language hygiene. In the meantime, users of this paper - and users of E-Prime in general - should remain alert to use of the abbreviations 's (as in it's or 'it/that is', etc.), 're (as in we're or 'we/they are', etc.) and 'm (as in I'm or I am) forms and not allow them to pass unchallenged in negotiating situations.

3.0 Appendices

3.1 Appendix 1 - The Thinker and the Thought
Potential users of the scheme presented here should realise that the words in any statement presented represent that speaker's opinion and nothing else. Normally, to avoid ambiguity and prevent the speaker from attempting to create the impression that what he/she says exists 'out there' fact, the speaker's involvement in the process requires establishing by reattachment of him/her to their words. The FACT exists that statements of any form do not conjure themselves out of thin air and an agent - usually human - is involved. In the realm of the 'to be' world, the actual process taking place when a NP1 (TO BE) NP2 assertion comes into existence involves a 'speaker' who chooses NP1, NP2 and also asserts the 'to be' relationship between them. The speaker then makes his assertion and promptly deletes himself - leaving the rest of us to consider the statement as if it had just 'appeared' in mid air as some irrefutable, cast in stone matter of fact, whereas in actuality the words merely represent a point of view. Since that, fairly, describes the ACTUAL process that takes place, the author of this paper recommends the inclusion of reference to the originator of any assertion along with the assertion SINCE THE SPEAKER COMPRISES AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE PROCESS.
As an example of what happens when speaker manages to delete himself, the statements: 'The moon is made of green cheese' ('to be' form) and 'The moon resembles green cheese' (non-attributed E-Prime) appear equally as meaningless. The latter form lacks the dogmatic nature of the first, yes, since the form represents valid E-prime - but it remains incomplete. To state the 'real' case, additional information needs adding to correct the deletion that has occurred and qualify the E-Prime statement. When one adds the words '...according to romantic poet Joe Bloggs' to the E-Prime sentence everything falls into place: the thinker becomes re-attached to the thought - restoring the proper, factual order of things.

3.2 Appendix 2 - Short List of Action Verbs
appears, seems, looks, behaves, walks, smells, tastes, sounds, feels, works, dreams, hurts, farts, walks, contains, follows, seeks, stands, sits, gives, takes, runs, bubbles, drags, warms, grows, listens, loves, cleans, heats, cools, brings, leaves, believes, represents, causes, creates, makes, resembles, duplicates, provides, seems similar to, moves, accords with, acts like, acts as if, represents, resembles, seems like, simulates, apes, approaches, approximates, approximates to, behaves like, smells like, sounds like, symbolises, takes after, tallies with, tastes like, typifies, caricatures, coincides with, compares with, conforms with, copies, correlates with, corresponds to, corresponds with, cross maps to, depicts, duplicates, emulates, epitomises, equals, equates to, illustrates, imitates, impersonates, likens to, looks like, matches, means, echoes, mirrors, models, moves like, paraphrases, passes for, performs like, portrays, poses like, reflects

3.3 Appendix 3 - Are We Caught?
It seems that English speakers persist in using the TO BE form, despite its obvious root illogicalities, since it comprises a set of simple language patterns learned at early age - taught by people who were taught the same way ad infinitum - that are simple and habituated. The reader might consider at this point how often 'to be' forms attach themselves to pronouns - and then think back to learning the verb form: 'I am, you are, it is, she/he is, we are, they are, it was, etc.' as one of their fundamental language patterns. Any change that we (adults) might wish to make depends upon rehabituation such as to supplant the old patterns - but then again, perhaps we are caught in our own conditioning.
A start on dehabituation could come in primary schools ( I say a start, because primary education won't shift the language patterns that already exist in billions of English Speakers - patterns that every English speaker gets exposed to whether they like it or not). Unfortunately at present, these schools still persist in teaching that 2x2 IS 4 (not 2x2=4, which represents the correct identity), they also, in many cases, persist in teaching the verb TO BE as one of the first ones in a language.
Schools might also teach some E-Prime - perhaps as an adjunct to science at first - after all, it did settle the 'The electron is a particle', 'The electron is a wave debate', although having said that, a lot of science speak contains speaker deletion in the name of so called 'objectivity' (it certainly hides the names of guilty parties..!)

As an aside, the use of the form would eliminate a lot of irrelevant questions along the lines of 'What is...?' which automatically presuppose that something somehow has some kind of separate, inherent 'isness' fathomable in a form of words.

Associated Pages

Dan Scorpio Home
Speaking in E-Prime
E-Prime! - The Fundamentals
Reduced English
Towards Understanding E-Prime
What is E-Prime? (sic)
Why Aristotelian Logic Does Not Work
Holomovement and the Implicate Order
E-Prime Tutorial and Guide
Prince and Magician Index
Patterning and Consciousness
Therapeutic Chant
Neologism and Cliche
Language Patterning: Pome and Lyrical
The Union of Mind and Body
The Castle: A Fairy Tale for Children of All Ages