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As-If Frame

This is “acting as if” something were true, such as pretending that you are competent at something that you are not.

Technically this is often called a “frame” or context reframe). It which draws upon Hans Vaihinger’s 1911 paper Philosophie des Als Ob (‘Philosophy of As If’).

The intent of this frame is to make it easier for a person to explore possibilities and ideas internally, which would usually not be as available to them due to their limiting beliefs about themselves or others. The specific effect sought is to allow a person’s limiting beliefs to be temporarily set aside for the purpose of exploring alternate possibilities, without having to threaten or challenge their existing conceptual world-view in the process.
Thus “as-if” is a commonly-used facilitator in NLP, to allow more rapid work and information gathering, without loss of quality, and a technique that may be used to reduce or avoid internal resistance. The limiting beliefs thus avoided can be returned to later if useful. Often the “as-if” frame alone is enough to encourage a person to start to imagine ways they could move beyond their present limits.


I can’t tell my partner how I feel
But if you could, what would you want them to know?
The client will typically at this point move away from “I can’t”, towards either discussing the heart of the problem (rather than just a blanket denial of their ability to solve it), or – more commonly – they will start to identify what they would wish to say and spontaneously begin to consider ways that it could be said. Either would be seen as a positive step towards the client learning to solve their own problem.

Other ways of using the ‘as-if’ frame:

  • For an outcome, act as if you have already achieved your outcome. Live your dreams now and allow reality to catch up!
  • When negotiating or problem solving, you can explore other possibilities by saying, “Let’s proceed as if I agree to this demand or take your proposed course of action. What would you do for me, or what would happen as a result?”
  • If a key person is missing from a meeting, you may say, “Let’s act as if Sue is present. What would she suggest?”
  • For project planning, you may wish act as if the project has been successfully completed and then ask what steps were necessary to reach this outcome. This approach may highlight some important information that is not obvious when planning from the present.

·For modeling an expert – an important part of NLP, you may choose to act as if you are that person (put yourself into second position) to gain further insights as to their thoughts and behaviors.

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