Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is the ‘art and science of excellence, derived from studying how top people in different fields obtain their outstanding results’. Developed during the early seventies by Richard Bandler (with a background in psychology) and John Grinder (with a background in linguistics), they studied in precise detail the language and behaviour patterns of three successful therapists:
• Fritz Perls – Gestalt therapy
• Virginia Satir – family therapy
• Milton Erickson – hypnotherapy
They were also heavily influenced by the ideas of Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist who helped to found the sciences of cybernetics and systems theory.
Bandler and Grinder modelled the therapists’ behaviour patterns, then refined and developed them through experimentation and insight. In 1976 they gave a name to their new discipline: Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It is worthwhile to break down the name’s three components:
• Neuro Refers to the nervous system, including the brain. This is the physical means by which we process sensory experience, whether visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory.
• Linguistic Refers to language and non-verbal communication systems. These govern the way we encode, order and give meaning to our experiences. They include pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells and words.
• Programming Refers to the pattern of ways in which the other two components interact. People’s communication with themselves and others can be seen in terms of predictable neuro-linguistic programs. These can be discovered, used and altered in order to achieve specific outcomes.
One of the tenets of NLP is that we can build models of successful people’s behavioural, mental, and languages patterns and use them to achieve excellence ourselves. NLP pays a lot of attention to the way people’s thought patterns involve the use of mental pictures, self-talk, and physical feelings and sensations.
For example, people who are anxious about the future frequently create mental pictures of failure accompanied by negative internal dialogue. They tend to focus on negative feelings and magnify them. But they can change dramatically if they adopt the mental processes and habits of well-motivated and successful individuals.
NLP has many applications, including:
Therapy : NLP is successful in therapy – on its own and in conjunction with hypnosis, which may enhance its effectiveness.
Education: Rather than assuming that the same learning strategies are used by all, NLP focuses on an individual’s personal strategies. Learners may have a preference for the visual, auditory or kinaesthetic senses, and teaching can be designed to appeal to these different styles.
Business Management Training: often involves using NLP strategies to improve rapport and communication skills. Sales training makes use of the hypnotic language patterns in normal conversation.
Health: NLP is used in the NHS and in private medicine. It has been successful with physical and psychological conditions.
Law: Lawyers, like salesmen, use NLP to develop more persuasive language patterns. In addition, well-developed sensory acuity is an exceptionally useful tool for noticing the responses of participants in trials, such as witnesses, judge and jury.
Mirroring, Pacing and Leading
Mirroring, pacing and leading are techniques taken from Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which you can use to enhance rapport while encouraging the patient towards more positive patterns of behaviour and thought.
Refers to the copying of various characteristics used by another (words, tonality, behaviours, etc.) as a means of enhancing rapport.
Refers to the gaining and maintenance of rapport with another by matching their language, beliefs, values, current experience, etc.
Refers to changing your own characteristics after having obtained rapport so that another follows and adopts these characteristics. Being able to lead is indicative of good rapport.
I am often asked, what is NLP then?
Unfortunately NLP can seem rather complicated. The use of terms like Meta Model, Milton Model, Linguistic distinctions and Anchoring. These are all terms understood by someone who has completed some level of training but unfortunately can be a little intimidating to someone just starting out on the NLP journey.
I believe the basic objective of NLP is
Firstly, know what you want. Have a clear idea of your outcome in any situation.
Secondly, to be aware and to keep all your senses open so that you notice what you are getting.
Thirdly, have the flexibility to keep changing what you are doing until you get what you want.
The skill of knowing what you want is vitally important. This is your outcome. If you don’t know where you’re going it makes it very hard to get there.
A very important aspect of NLP training is developing your sensory acuity. Where to place your attention and how to notice things that you had not noticed previously.
When communicating with others this means being able to notice small but important signals and differences that let you know how they are responding.
When one is communicating with one self we recognise this as thinking, therefore becoming increasingly aware of your internal images, sounds and feelings becomes ever useful.
You need the acuity or sensitivity to notice if what you are doing is getting you what you want. If what you are doing is not working then do something else, anything else. You need to see, hear and feel what is happening and develop choices of response.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
If what you’re doing is not working then do something else.
The more choices you have the more chance of success.