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Pace and Lead


Techniques General persuasion > Sequential Requests > Pace and Lead

Description | Example | Discussion | See also




Start by pacing the person, connecting and bonding with them in order to gain rapport. This can be done with methods such as:

  • Mirroring: Direct copying of their actions.
  • Matching: Indirect copying of actions.
  • Paraphrasing: Rephrasing in your own words.
  • Parroting: Simple repetition of what they say.
  • Agreeing: Showing you think similarly.
  • Similarity: Showing how you are alike in some way.
  • Truth: Stating what is unarguably true now.

Then, when they feel you are aligned with them, lead them to where you want them to go. This can be physical, but is often simply a verbal and mental process, where they listen your words and eventually change their minds.


You're right. We should move to the country. Now how far out of town is practical? I think we need to be within 20 minutes drive.

Like you, I feel surprised by this. Let's look at it together. It seems we've not spent time here before. It's a good idea if we do it more regularly. What are you doing on Tuesday?

Thanks for asking me here tonight and I'm sure you've a lot of questions. I've been in the same situation, so believe me, I'm with you. So let's sit down and look at the situation.


The idea of pacing before leading is that if you try to persuade without them feeling alignment with you, you will likely cause resistance or objection. While pacing is not necessarily enough to ensure persuasion, without it the chance of success may be reduced. While pacing may be achieved by copying the target person in some way, this should be done carefully as it is easy for this approach to seem obvious and hence create even more resistance. Sometimes just finding agreement is a good way of pacing the person.

One of the traps here is to try to lead them before they feel aligned with you. Pacing may require a significant effort before they feel they can trust you sufficiently to follow you. Even if they like you, they may still be cautious about you taking the lead. Preferences around this may vary with the person and with how big a change you want them to make.

Once they feel connected to you, and that their sense of identity is expanded to include you, subsequent words from you are almost as if they are talking to themselves. For this to work, the connection needs to be maintained throughout. Breaking of this connection can happen by factors such as external interruption or suggestions that are too alien for the subject to accept.

If you want to lead a person somewhere, it is a good idea to know where they are now. This can be a part of pacing, where you put yourself at their side. Only then can you move towards your desired future. Note that in moving them, a single leap may not be feasible and a number of smaller steps in the right direction may be more successful.

'Future pacing' is the practice of showing alignment into the future. It uses a similar principle and can be an extension from 'present pacing' as described here.

The principle of pacing and leading has be popularized through the general field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which derived it from Eriksonian hypnosis techniques.

See also

Alignment principle, Similarity principle, Agree and Amplify, Bond and Bend


Grinder, J. and Bander, R. (1976). Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H Erikson, Volume 1, CA: Captita

Gilligan, S. (ed) (2002). The Legacy of Milton H. Erikson: Selected Papers of Stephen Gilligan, Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker and Theisen, Inc.

Eriksonian Approaches to Clinical Hypnosis


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