Part of the Humourology series
Season 1, Episode 18
Dr Richard Bandler – The Miracle of Mirth – Part 2
Master hypnotist and co-creator of NLP Dr. Richard Bandler returns to continue his conversation about the value of humour. Listen in as Dr. Bandler shares stories from his decades of experience and shares the importance of leaders learning to listen.
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In this week’s episode of The Humourology Podcast, Dr. Richard Bandler returns to continue his charismatic conversation about laughing, listening, and learning. In this second installment, Dr. Bandler shares anecdotes and lessons in leadership. How do the best leaders in business increase their bottom line? Dr. Bandler says it’s all about creating an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their honest opinions.
Looking to learn how lightness and laughter can improve the workplace? Join us this week on the Humourology podcast for more of Dr. Richard Bandler’s mirthful musings.
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Dr Richard Bandler – The Miracle of Mirth – Part 2
– Human experience can be contagious. And if you’re in a good mood and you’re smiling, it spreads around. And if you’re at ease with yourself it puts other people at ease.
– Welcome to the Humourology Podcast with me, Paul Boross and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment, who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. Now, this is part two of our podcast with Dr. Richard Bandler. And let’s begin by saying Richard, as well as NLP and hypnotism, you are notorious for going against conventional psychiatry.
– Somebody once said that I was out to kill Sigmund Freud and they described me as the man who killed Sigmund Freud. And I said only in the sense that Sigmund Freud believed that our past causes the future so that all of those 160 schools of psychotherapy were an archaeological dig to find out what caused the problems you have now. Some looked in your childhood, some looked at your mother, but they were all going backwards in order to go forwards. Doing that in a car is a really bad idea. And doing that in your life is just as bad of an idea. I only want to know where you want to go. And if I don’t know how to get you there, I’ll find somebody who’s been there before. And if nobody’s been there before then it tells us where not to look.
– Do you find yourself funny, Richard? Do you make yourself laugh?
– Yeah, I try to do too many things at the same time and sometimes I do really dumb stuff, trying to brush my teeth with a pen ’cause I was taking notes and I forgot I was in the middle of brushing my teeth. And then I just went ahead and stuck the pen in my mouth, little faux pas like that. If we don’t find our mistakes humorous we get to repeat them over and over again.
– You’ve got such a sort of a natural way about you. I worked for many years at the Comedy Store and Caroline’s and the Comic Strip and all over America. And I’ve worked with so many comedians who are actually less funny than you. So did you ever consider actually doing the stand-up circuit?
– No, they don’t get paid enough. That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing, isn’t it?
– Well, yeah. That’s why I’ve gone from comedy to do what I do now. Actually it’s very true
– But I used to go to comedy clubs and I met one of the comics that was there and started talking to him and he said, well, he said, it’s a hard life, I go from comedy club to comedy club and I said, well, you know, I said, the pay must be great. And he said, well, he said, sometimes I make two, 300 bucks a night. He said only the guys that are in the arenas make the big bucks, the Steve Martin’s. He said, but I’m hoping to break into the movies. And I thought, well, you know, why do a dirty job to get a good one? I mean, I like comedy clubs, I like listening to comedians. Some are more funny than others. And some are more funny sometimes than other times with the same routine. That’s just the way it works. I use my sense of humour to educate people and I do quite well by it.
– Have you ever been heckled Richard?
– Is that person still alive?
– Well, some more than others. A lot of times I just take advantage of it. I use them as a springboard to get the audience on my side because you know, I did a demonstration once of anchoring where you elicit feelings and you mark it and fire the marker off, and they come back and this guy raises his hand, and it was a long time ago, he had a slide rule in his pocket and he goes, I’m a scientist. And I said, I can tell. And he said, I think this woman is a plant. And she was beautiful young blonde with diamond rings, that’s why I picked her, she was easy on the eyes. And I turned around and looked at her and I said, boy, I said, if this is the kind of plants you grow in this town, I want to go to the greenhouse. And everybody laughs and he got more uptight. He said, well, he said, I just think she did what you told her to. And I said, really? ‘Cause I said, what I told her to do is think of a time she was happy. And I said, and then I touched her on the knee and she was happy again. And I said, remember, this is a class about hypnosis. And you know, so that’s a kind of post-hypnotic suggestion. So what you’re complaining about is that it works, right? And he got all fuzzy and he goes, you’re twisting my words. And I said, yep, yep, I am, I said, and it’s working for me. It’s not working for you. And everybody laughs. And he finally started laughing and then I turned around and said to her, I said, do you know what an anchor is? Because I demonstrated it, I didn’t use the term. And she went and she was a Southern girl, She goes, it’s one of them there things that hangs off of a ship. I had him at that point that, you know, I did have somebody attack me once in an audience. I handled that a little differently. He came running from the back of a room with about 500 people in it, screaming that I was a sexist pig and it was a guy, I violate a lot of social ethics, I’m not terribly politically correct. And he was running up on the stage, and so I just got off of the bar stool I was on and clubbed him into the third row and called security. But those are extremes. That’s only happened once in 50 years. I’m in the training business, and so I want people I train to be able to go and do things. I just don’t want… motivational speakers excite people, they make enormous amounts of money and they’re good at it. And I think it’s a great thing because once people are motivated, they’ll come to my classes and work hard and learn.
– There are some people who can get people just sort of all gussied up and excited to go. And then three weeks later they haven’t actually done anything to do it. Well, the one thing that I’ve learned, having known you for very very many years and attended lots of seminars with you is that you actually deliver rather than promise. And you’re not there just to make people feel good. You’re also there to actually have a state shift in their lives. And so that’s why I always, and as you know, I always advise everybody to check out your work, whether that’s your books or, when we can see you live again, to go, because the experience is amazing.
– I had somebody come in to my seminar and show me a Polaroid of her sitting on my knee when her father went and then she said to me, she goes, yeah, my granddad sent him and now I’m here. And I went, well, if you wanted to make me feel older, you did a great job. I want people to go out and succeed. That’s what pleases me is when the come back and brag about it. Younger people when they see something happen in front of their eyes are much more thoroughly convinced than people who are measuring, whether this fits what they know. A lot of people are going well, you know, is this the same as that? A lot of people try to match everything together. When you’re really young you don’t have enough to match things with, you’ve been told something is not possible. And then you see it happen, you go, wow. And if they can do it, I should be able to do it. And when you give people basic skills, like how to ask questions, how to use their intonation, you know, all of the practise groups that we do inside the trainings, prepare people. So when they get on the outside it’s actually easier than what they face in the group. We don’t make it easy for them, we challenge them. That’s why I have a tournament at the end and not a test.
– Do people laugh enough in the workplace, do you think?
– Well, they either laugh too much but it’s the wrong kind of laughing. I was in an office the other day and all the help were giggling about something behind the doctor’s back. And I asked the doctor, I said, what are they giggling about? And he says, I don’t know. He said, they do that on their break to relieve stress. And I thought, if they were laughing on the inside, they wouldn’t have all this stress. And your ability, sometimes I’m laughing on the inside, I’m very serious on the outside just because you’re acting serious, doesn’t mean you have to feel serious. I know method actors think that’s the case, but life doesn’t mean you have to be a method actor. You don’t have to suffer along with people and to be empathetic, sometimes you’re better off cheering up people. There’s a special kind of humour called chiding, and chiding is where people say something, very seriously and you kind of exaggerate it until they start not being so serious. And in some cultures there isn’t much of it at all. But certainly the English and Americans, we chide a lot, and in the workplace, it’s the perfect way to get people to perform better. So that instead of scolding people, you could come up and chide them. If they’re not doing something they’re supposed to, you can come up and chide them and go I guess it’s just too hard for you, maybe you should just quit and go live on unemployment. And they’ll go, no, no, I can do it. And I go, nah, you can’t. They know I’m chiding them, they know you’re teasing them, but it’s a better way than coming in and getting irate. By the time you want to get irate, you should have already said you’re fired. I had to teach a lot of bosses to say those two words and enjoy them. Because sometimes you’re not only setting yourself free, you’re setting somebody else free. If they’re not the person for that job, they shouldn’t be doing it. In corporations, we just promote those people.
– To get them out from under our umbrella. So we move them on. You’re quite right, and I know you’ve talked about this before and that thing of not wanting to do the deed, which ends up where you keep the person, rather than doing the deed. And then everyone in the office thinks that their behaviour works. So you end up cutting your own throat essentially.
– You have to give people something to move towards and something to move away from. And it shouldn’t be you, it should be their behaviour. Do the behaviours that work and the ones that don’t. And sometimes people just need cheering up. Offices are no different, factories are no different, than life, that some days are just better than others. You know, my dog has bad days, and I can tell when they’ve got a mood going on and that’s when I use the phrase ‘outside’.
– Well, that’s interesting that you talk about that people need to be cheered up. If I asked you to write a business case for humour, what would you include in it?
– I got hired once and a guy told me that they had an assembly line and they were building something. And most of the line moved really fast but there was one place where even though he doubled the number of people, it kept getting jammed up. He asked me, he said, should I rotate the people that are doing well into that position? And it was like the easiest part of things. And so I got a boombox, it was back in those days, and I wrote a little song and put a tape in and I taught everybody to make a movement together, sing a little song, so that they would keep the rhythm. And it turned it from being monotonous into being something where they were having fun with each other. And it sort of spread through the assembly line. And pretty soon, instead of trying to get to a certain pace, they tripled the output of the factory. So, I mean, to me, that would be a good case but it’s not necessarily just humour. Humour comes in a lot of forms. It’s about enjoyment, humour is the expression of enjoyment. It’s not just telling jokes. You can tell jokes and not be funny. A lot of people use jokes to be cruel and some people are quite good at it. To me, humour is when you’re enjoying yourself and you get other people to join you. Human experience can be contagious. And if you’re in a good mood and you’re smiling, it spreads around. And if you’re at ease with yourself, it puts other people at ease. I know that I’m a hypnotist, 50 years I’ve been doing it.
– I think what you’re saying is so true because the whole Humourology Project is not about telling better gags and jokes. It’s actually about a lightness of touch. It’s a sensibility. It’s listening to people on that level whereby you can get into a complete rapport with them and therefore perhaps influence and persuade them to do things in a way they feel that they’re having fun. If you had to measure the return on investment for somebody, why would you bring Richard Bandler or Paul Boross into your company to introduce levity rather than gravity? What would the return on investment be?
– If you can do things easier, quicker, and faster, you make more money and the quality of experience goes up. I can’t tell you how many times I’d been hired because a CEO or a vice president or the head of a division of a corporation has started drinking and their marriage is falling apart and all of these things, because the level of stress where they work, and they don’t know how to relieve stress. And so they start doing their job badly. And it’s incredibly expensive to replace somebody with five, 10, 15 years of experience and teaching them how to look at the things they had to do and to have a sense of humour about it, instead of making it tedious and always trying to make people feel less than instead of being a part of something. I met Conrad Hilton once in a hotel, under circumstances where I had a giant conference and I got there and everything was fine, except they didn’t have my room. And my plane was delayed and they sold my room, and they finally got me some crappy room. And I got in the elevator and it was a brand new hotel that was just opening up in New Orleans. It was their flagship new hotel. And I got in the elevator and Conrad Hilton steps in with two other people. And I literally said to him, I want to talk to you, I’m very upset. And he didn’t hesitate, he went, about what? And I said, well, I’m putting on one of the first conferences here, a big conference and they don’t have my room when I got here, that’s ridiculous. And he went to the guy at the hotel, over to the desk, got a big suite for me and then said, you owe me something. He said, I want you to come up and tell me about Hilton Hotels. So I went up to his suite, when I went in, there were all these little pieces of paper crunched up on the floor, those evaluations that are in your room, he read them all. This wasn’t something where somebody was just, filing away them somewhere, he was looking for things. And he went through and asked me, he said, how many of my hotels that you stayed in? And I went a lot. And he said, what other horrible things have happened? I was in Ann Arbor once and somebody walked into my room in the middle of the night. The guy walked in the middle of the room, the lights were off and I could see the reflection in the window, he’s taking his pants off. So I turned on the light and I said, what the hell are you doing? The guy goes, this is my room. And I said, it’s not your room. And turns out he was 322, I was 222. And his key opened my door. That’s back when they had keys, not plastic cards. And so I went out of my room. I started trying every lock and it opened every single lock. People were walking off with the keys and they didn’t want to have to replace them. So they made them all the same. When I told him that he went ballistic. He called on the phone and he called somebody at headquarters and sent them out to the hotel. And didn’t mess around, take care of business. You know, your customers are going to tell you how to run your business, the people at the front desk are going to tell you, if they’re not afraid of you. So you have to be able to be cordial enough that they feel they can tell you things. And part of that is, is your ability to go in and go, what are you not telling me? What are you afraid if you tell me you’ll get fired? If you say it just right, you put people at ease enough, and they’ll tell you stuff that will save you tonnes of money, tonnes of time. The real currency of a job is how much of that time do you spend from the time you walk in, enjoying yourself to the moment you go home? And then the currency of living is how much do you enjoy being home and the people you’re with? When you walk out of your business, you shouldn’t be thinking about it anymore, you should be thinking about where you’re going, how you’re going to enjoy your kids, your wife, your house, all those lovely things that you bought.
– How do leaders actually learn this lesson do you think? Because I work with a lot of leaders all over the world. And one of the last things it seems that they’re doing is listening and connecting with their customers, like Conrad Hilton or with their staff. What’s a tactic, a strategy that they can do in order to become better at listening and lightness?
– Smile, that’s the big secret. If you don’t have good tonality and you’re not smiling, it scares your employees. What’s the difference between when somebody tells you something and you do it and somebody tells you something and you put it off? And if you ask them in the right tonality, and they’ll go, well, I don’t know why I put things off. And I go, I don’t care why, I said, how do you know which ones are which? And they’ll start telling you, you go, well, it looks like it’s going to be endless, really big, if I can see exactly what I’m supposed to do, then I’ll do it. And sometimes it’s based on time, sometimes it’s the size of the pictures, sometimes it’s which voice they use in their head. And if you know what it is, then you know where to stand when you’re talking to them. ‘Cause sometimes people talk to themselves this way, sometimes this way, front, back, you know? And if you know what it is, a lot of people come up and they only talk to people to their face and to some people, the only time people did that when they were growing up, is when they were being yelled at. So sometimes you want to stand behind somebody and put your hand on their back and go, look, I want to tell you this or I want to ask you this. Learning to communicate makes everything go faster. And the amount of time and energy, because it doesn’t just improve the quality of your business, it improves the quality of your life. And when we do things where we teach CEOs and business management people, we teach people how to listen enough that they know how people are understanding. And it makes sense so that when people are talking to them, they can pick up subtle cues and know how to adjust themselves so that their time becomes more efficient. It actually makes the whole thing more interesting too.
– Have you ever taken a joke too far Richard or crossed the line? I think I know the answer to this but I’d like to hear your answer anyway.
– Almost daily. Never seen a sacred cow that didn’t make me want to make hamburger.
– Do you think that’s an attitude that helps you learn is by crossing line because most comedians, obviously having worked with comedians most of my life, you have to push the boundaries to an extent in order to find where the funny is, is that true of life and neuro-psychology as well?
– You could tell the same joke in a different club. And nobody laughs, even though you didn’t do anything profoundly different. You have to test and get feedback with an audience to know where funny is and where outrageous is. I was hired years ago, they did something called the Laughter and Play Tour. They had all of these people that were quite serious and in-between they had comedians. And there were different subjects and they did it in different cities. So like I would go to Dallas and do two hours and then fly to St. Louis and do two hours. And they had like 30 of us rotating through these things. And they hired me to teach a thing on how to be systematically outrageous.
– I can’t think of anyone better to do that.
– Well, it wasn’t even my idea, I would’ve never done that on my own but this woman who had been to seminars came in and she said, we’re doing this. And that’s what I want you to do. It’s where you find out what’s politically incorrect and you keep nudging it. A psychiatrist asked me a question once, I was at Northwestern University and this psychiatrist says to me, he goes, I just saw you do one of these quick change things, you got this guy over a phobia. He goes, that kind of thing is all well and nice, but isn’t the real core of therapy building a relationship of trust that’s stronger than anything they’ve ever known in their life so that they can tell you things they wouldn’t tell anyone? And I looked at him and I said that sounds like prostitution. And you could hear the gasp in the audience. I said, getting somebody to trust you more than they trust their wife and their children and their relatives and you know, their employees, I said, isn’t helping them, you have to teach them how to trust other people more and how to trust themselves more so that they know when they should trust people and when they shouldn’t, they have to make better decisions, good decisions, bad decisions, we all make them. Bad decisions, don’t repeat, good decisions, repeat. It’s not a hard formula. But that gasp in the audience allowed me to say, look, this guy’s been in therapy for five years, ’cause he’s afraid of heights, somebody fell in the river and their whole life, they’d been afraid of water. I said, if they can get over it in 20 minutes, we don’t need to know where it came from. Now they can swim. Terrible, horrible things happened to you in your childhood. That’s bad. But thinking about them and reliving them, you know, once wasn’t enough? To me, getting that idea across to the psychiatric community that it’s not about what caused a problem, it’s about what sets you free of it. I had a woman come to me from a psychiatry centre. She was dressed in black and her husband had died. And she had said, I’m so in mourning, I can’t talk to anyone, I can’t do anything. And I said, when did he die? And it turned out it was before I was born. I was 25 at the time. And I thought, Jiminy Crickets. You know, I said, if you spend all day, every day, mourning somebody that’s not here, I said, you must have really loved him, you must’ve really liked him. When you think about the best memory you ever had, and she goes, oh, I can see myself being so happy, I said, oops, that’s backwards. You got to see what you saw at the time. And then when you think about the fact that you don’t have it now, you should ask yourself the question, if you were a good enough picker to pick a guy that you loved that much, even at your present age, he was good for this many years, I think it was 30 years. And I said, now you can pick a guy for another 30, I said, you’ll be 90. Go out and pick somebody else. Can you see yourself enjoying someone else? And instead of looking at what you don’t have, look at what you can get because one is possible, and the other is not.
– Have you ever gotten yourself out of real trouble by using humour, Richard?
– I’ve survived real trouble by having a sense of humour about it. I’ve had some horrible things happen. You know, when my first wife died, it was really terrible. We were like peas in a pod all the time, we painted together, we read to each other, we travelled together. And so I was a little lost and people kept coming up to me saying, oh, I’m so sorry you lost your wife. And actually I had her cremated, I knew exactly where she was. And I would say, you know, I know where my wife is, she’s on the mantlepiece. So I escaped having to have long conversations about how bad I felt, because I didn’t need help making it bad, I was doing a good enough job myself. Fortunately, I took my own advice and moved on and now I’m actually married to the woman I went out with before I got married the first time.
– The lovely Glenda, yes.
– The lovely Glenda, yes.
– In business is it survival of the fittest or survival of the funniest?
– I wouldn’t say it’s either to tell you the truth. It’s when you combine being fit, which means you’re determined with having a sense of humour and enjoying it. That’s the strongest combination. So that either or stuff doesn’t work for me. When people say it’s a glass half full or half empty, I’m going, where are the other glasses?
– We’re now going into the final section, Richard, which is called quickfire questions. I don’t believe you can do quickfire questions. So I think they might go on for-
– Maybe you’re right, but I’ll give it a go.
– Who’s the funniest business person that you’ve met?
– John La Valle hands down.
– I couldn’t agree more, having worked with John as well, he is hilarious and that was quick. What book makes you laugh?
– “Breakfast of Champions.”
– Okay, who wrote that, I can’t even remember that one. Oh, Kurt Vonnegut, okay.
– Every time I read that book I laugh from the beginning to the end.
– What film makes you laugh?
– “The Exorcist.”
– Oh my goodness. Do you know what?
– That’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in my life
– It scared the wits out of me as a 14 year old.
– When it first came out, I went to one of those theatres where they have humongous screens, they were brand new, they didn’t have those, but they had just built one, with the curved screen that goes halfway around the theatre and everybody else in the theatre was scared to death. And I mean, that line, “Nice day for an exorcism.” That’s funny stuff.
– The head going around in a circle and my Jewish background, I know a lot about demonology, you know, that’s part of the tradition, binding demons and stuff. The four people that went to the theatre with me, when we got in the car, they all looked at me. They said, there’s something seriously wrong with you. I said, that was just the funniest movie.
– Well, I do remember that a friend of mine came and knocked on the window after we’d been seen it. And I jumped out of my skin. And from that moment on, I never understood why people wanted to go to see horror films to frighten themselves. But you’ve just changed my whole attitude to horror films now. I think that you go in and see the funny side, you can enjoy it in a whole new way. It’s the best funny line in any movie, “Nice day for an exorcism.”
– What word makes you laugh Richard?
– Persnickety, yeah.
– That’s a funny word.
– It’s a great word. And I’m going to look it up later on, what does persnickety mean?
– Really, really, really, picky, persnickety. Somebody who is a persnickety eater, won’t eat hardly anything and complains about the way it’s cooked. It almost sounds like what it means. You know, he’s really persnickety.
– Would you rather be considered clever or funny Richard?
– I’d rather be considered smart which includes both of those.
– I think that’s very interesting because I have a theory that I don’t think you can be smart without being funny. I think the smartest people have that comedic edge, have that ability.
– Otherwise they’re only smart about one thing. I met a guy who was an absolute genius when it came to the technology of hard drives, but he wasn’t smart about anything else. The rest of his life was… and there are a lot of people that are experts in one thing, but the rest, you know, they try to use the way they think about one thing for everything. And that doesn’t work very well.
– And finally, desert island gags, if you could only take one joke with you to a desert island, what would that joke be?
– Well, could a joke be like a whoopee cushion?
– Yeah, absolutely.
– Okay, then what I would get is a power boat so that I could get on it and laugh at the people that were considering this question and staying on the island.
– Yeah, you see the way you did that, you are the best hypnotist in the world. You’ve made me give you a power boat to get off the island. Richard Bandler it’s as always a great pleasure. Thank you so much for appearing on the Humourology Podcast.
– Well, it’s been a pleasure. It’s nice to talk about something other than human suffering.
– [Paul] The Humourology Podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks. Music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like, and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.