About NLP

You can look this up on the Internet and get a wealth of answers. Here’s my version.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was created in the 1970ís by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Bandler was then a mathematician and computer programmer and Grinder specialised in linguistics. They were fascinated by the way a group of people could be trained in the exact same way, but some would be better at what they did than others. In particular they observed Milton Erikson (father of modern hypnotherapy), Virginia Satia (a specialist in resolving family issues) and Gregory Bateson (anthropologist).

These and others had particularly good track records in gaining successful outcomes for their patients and this led Grinder and Bandler to ask two questions:

  1. What was it these people did that was different to their peers and led to their greater success?
  2. Could the skills these experts applied be taught to others to increase their success rate?

Through observation, testing and refinement they identified the techniques and found that yes, indeed they could be taught to others. They then realised that many of the techniques used by these specialists in psychotherapy were also used by people who were successful in other fields. This allowed Bandler and Grinder to identify key abilities that would be useful in every walk of life from psychotherapy to salesmen, managing directors to municipal work teams. Anywhere you have to interact with other people, these skills are useful to ensure you get the results you want in as short a time as possible. They also realised that the approach they’d taken to identify those skills (modelling) could also be taught.

This would allow anyone trained to notice the nuances of communication (verbal and non-verbal), who was also able to observe honestly without allowing their own internal map of the world to colour their observations, to learn from others how to succeed in whatever field they chose. In the process of trying out these skills that they modelled from the experts, Bandler and Grinder also learned the amazing capacity of an alert and willing mind to take on new challenges and succeed. They quickly discovered the biggest limitation of the human mind is the one it places on itself and the biggest thing that stops us from learning isn’t simple inability (after all, a child can learn a language very quickly, including those that are not their own) but derives from a problem adults have making new knowledge fit with what we already know.

Observing dispassionately without allowing preconceptions or beliefs to influence our observations becomes harder the older we get because the picture we have of the world is so deeply ingrained. Anything that cannot be easily accommodated within our preconceptions is often ignored or manipulated until it does fit, but that means we can miss the vital piece that makes the person we’re observing stand out from the crowd. Nothing they realised was really new. Much of it had been recognised by everyone from the pre-Socratic philosophers hundreds of years before Christ to Martin Luther King. What Bandler and Grinder did was codify, explain and draw together all the different realisations about how brains learn and programme themselves, added how others could do the same thing, put it all into one neat package and called it Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It’s the language the brain uses to programme itself.

Today you will see branches of NLP used in a wealth of situations. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is used by the NHS and has been proved to be effective in many cases. Tony Robbins, the American motivational guru uses what he calls Strategic Interventions that apply a great many NLP principles. Business and personal coaching also uses many of the ideas NLP brought together. These methodologies are used by successful Olympic athletes, CEO’s of multi-billion dollar companies, politicians, actors and just about any successful person you can think of (even if they don’t realise it’s the modern name for what they’ve been doing). These same skills can be used by anyone who wants to take the time to learn them.

They’re not a great secret and you can find out a lot of it for free in your library or on-line (www.businessballs.com has an excellent section on the subject), but have you ever noticed that even when something is worthwhile and (frankly) easy to get to grips with (albeit mastery can take years), we’re often reluctant to take advantage of it? You’d think we’d all go rushing to find out how we can be better at what we do, find out how successful people get that way and do the sensible thing and copy it, and yet we don’t. We don’t, Bandler and Grinder would say, because our internal representation of the world doesn’t accept that we could have what others have so easily. It can’t be easy because if it was, everyone would be doing it. Yet the difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person can be one moment, one attitude, one approach. If you can spot it, you can use it.

They can help people realise what’s getting in the way of their own success and help them find ways of breaking the pattern so they can achieve. They can help with relationships of all kinds, motivation, help businesses realise their strengths and apply them to better effect. They can help you learn better, faster and more accurately, face exams or tests of any kind without fear and reach your potential. They can help you become a better communicator in whatever area you specialise in so the results of your communications are more effective. They are not magicians nor are they fraudsters. Ask people who’ve been helped by an NLP practitioner about the effect and the commonest answers are amazing really put things into focus ‘I can no longer see why I was having a problem in the first place’, ‘wish I’d done it years ago’ and so on. I’m one of them. I’ve helped people with phobias, exam fears, doubts about their ability to learn, interview fears and motivation. I’ve also helped train teams and provided new and easily used approaches to management.

I’ve trained staff in the worlds of academia and the back to work sector, groups and individuals, and I, too, have experienced on several occasions the look of stunned amazement on someone’s face as they realised they were more than they ever imagined. I’ve heard the ‘how the **** did you DO that?!’ and seen people change in under an hour. I can do that for you, too!

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