Sleight of Mouth is a kind of verbal Aikido – a method to confront and change arguments and beliefs that was developed by Robert Dilts modeling Richard Bandler – I learned it from Doug O’Brien – a skilled hypnotherapist from New York and author of Sleight of Mouth. The map below is my personal adaptation, Doug uses a different one originally.


Together with Fredrik Praesto I invited Doug O’Brien over to do a workshop in Sleight of Mouth for members of the International Hypnotists Guild. The method is systematic and relatively easy to apply – and Doug is a great teacher – it is based on 16 ways to meet an argument or fundamental belief. This article is a short introduction.

Just like in Aikido, the underlying principle is to turn your opponents energi back on them, in a non-aggressive search for a way out of deadlock, opening the door to a new perspective or solution.

The framework it builds on is saying “yes” in different ways, followed by a “and” or “but” and one of the 16 possible categories of counterarguments  (intention, consequence, hierarchy etc). The structure is more or less this:

“I understand/respect/appreciate the intensity of your belief, AND/OR…”

Just like in Aikido you don’t know which of the 16 counterarguments will do the job in a give situation, the aim is to have as many pre-trained options as possible.

Here are some examples of applying Sleight of Mouth on an argument/belief/statement

The examples are from the course – credit goes to Doug and those involved. 

Argument/belief:  “Cancer causes death” 

1. Meet the intention of the argument
I know your intention is to prevent false hope, but you are preventing any hope at all. Let’s find some alternative choices…”

2. Point at the consequence of the argument
Beliefs like this tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies because people stop exploring their choices and options…”

3. Redefine the argument
It’s not cancer that causes death, it’s the breakdown of the immune system, so lets explore ways to boost that…”

4. Focus on a new outcome
The real issue isn’t what causes death, but rather what causes life and health. Let’s focus on that…”

5. Apply the argument to the argument
That’s a pretty deadly belief to hold onto – it can only lead to a dead end street…”

6. Give a counter example
There are many documented examples of people that have survived cancer. Actually, more people die of other causes – have you heard of anyone who had cancer and lived?”

Doug O’Brien has written The Users Guide to Sleight of Mouth >>
Check his website

If you are interested in knowing more about Sleight of Mouth, let me know!