An Introduction To NLP
Let me make one thing very clear from the get-go.
This post is very much an introduction to Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP from here on in) . My main objective is to let you take a peak behind the shroud and show you enough to entice you to delve a little deeper into the aspect, or aspects, of NLP that you believe can most be of benefit.
NLP is very much a hands on experience. Reading about it is great to give you a taster, but you cannot truly learn it or get a deep understanding without practicing it and using it on a regular basis, in the same way that you can’t learn to drive a car from reading a book, even a really cool pop-up book with sound effects.
I’m going to cover a lot of ground, but I’m very much going to concentrate on the parts of NLP that can be grasped realtively easily and used to good effect by most people. So please don’t write to me saying I didn’t cover this technique or I didn’t cover that process.
It won’t be because I forgot, but because it’s either something I see little value in sharing, I don’t have a deep enough understanding of it, or it would require a book in its own right.
I have one NLP book on my shelf that runs to 699 pages and still doesn’t cover everything NLP has to offer. I have another book that only looks at the tiny field of submodalities and yet another that devotes a huge chunk to a process (that I wont be going into) called the compulsion blowout.
One technique called the Core Transformation Process developed by Tamara and Connierae Andreas has its own training certification as does Time Line Therapy which was developed by Tad James from an idea by Richard Bandler. And both have books written about them.
I have done courses on both of the latter, but still don’t feel qualified enough to explain the Core Transformation Process with any authority. The reason being I don’t use it with clients (and that isn’t because I don’t think it works, but because it’s more of a therapeutic intervention than a Life Coaching tool) and as such I haven’t had enough hands on experience to do it justice.
So you can see NLP is a huge field and that’s why when people dismiss it out of hand as pseudoscience they purely demonstrate their own ignorance.
The reality is, there is no ‘thing’ you can call NLP, so by definition you cannot dismiss it.
NLP is still in its infancy and as such it’s evolving, changing and finding its feet and there are certainly areas where I doubt its efficacy. It’s also very much ‘open-source’ with thousands of practitioners all tweaking and improving on it on a daily basis, which can be a blessing and a curse.
I think the growth of NLP has been somewhat stunted for 3 main reasons.
NLP Is An Umbrella Term
Firstly, as I’ve explained, it’s a huge umbrella term that consists of a great many different techniques and processes. Some, like the fast phobia cure and anchoring (more later on both) can seem weird to people that don’t understand how they work.
Imagine you’ve been in therapy for years with issues centered around intense phobias and I bound into the room and declare:
“Worry not kind sir/lady, I can have you hugging snakes and kissing spiders within the hour. Once that is, I’ve remembered where I put my magic wand, black cloak and top hat”
You’re likely to be suspicious at best, and at worst, downright terrified of the loon stood grinning in front of you. And quite honestly, I wouldn’t blame you.
However, if I can get past the initial stage of disbelief and actually explain what I do and more importantly how and why it works, you’re likely to be a lot more amenable and open to discussion.
Fortunately though, fMRI imaging, Pet Scans and research on brain plasticity has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade. So we now know not only that some of these processes work, but just as importantly for the more skeptical amongst us, why they work and what is happening in the brain.
NLP Is Not The Cure To All Ills
Secondly, I don’t think the attitude and skill level of some NLP Practitioners or NLPers (pronounced nelpers) as they are often known, helps matters.
There’s a tendency by a vocal few to suggest NLP is the cure to all ills and that anybody who thinks to the contrary is a heretic and stake burning is too good for ‘em.
This kind of evangelical thinking can, quite rightly, be a real turn off to a lot of people whether it be NLP, religion or politics. It’s takes an arrogant “I am right and you are wrong’ approach that rubs people up the wrong way.
But, whereas religion and politics are largely subjective, some of the claims by Nlpers are not even that, they’re just flat out scientifically and ethically wrong, and often idiotic to boot.
I recently had somebody follow me on Twitter that was talking about using NLP to cure cancer.
In my opinion that’s delusional and damages not only the credibility of the person saying it, but that of professional practitioners that use NLP responsibly.
It’s not just some of the outrageous claims that damage NLP either. For example, if you have a relative with a serious psychiatric disorder and asked me for advice, I would not encourage you to take them to an NLP Practitioner. Unless that is, the practitioner also had a background in mental health.
I know there are a few brilliant NLP/hypnotherapy people that possibly could help in such circumstances (and I do emphasize possibly, because it is a long way from being certain), but they are statistical outliers, and I could probably count them on both hands.
These days, most NLP Practitioners do 8 days of training or less and that’s it!
There are still a few companies that offer longer courses, but the number is declining, primarily because most people want to get ‘qualified’ as quickly and cheaply as possible.
My original NLP training was 15 days and then a further 2 tacked on for Time Line Therapy. I then did 18 days at Master Practitioner level, 10 days of hypnotherapy training and a bunch of workshops.
Even that doesn’t leave me feeling like I have come even close to mastering NLP, and I would never take a client on that needed serious therapeutic intervention.
I’m a Life Coach that borrows a few therapeutic techniques to occasionally speed up the process, not vice versa.
The Hi-Jacking of NLP
The third reason that NLP suffers is because, along with hypnotherapy, it’s been hi-jacked by some nefarious types who spotted the chance to make a fast buck.
They realized after reading The Game by Neil Strauss (a brilliant and highly recommended book that takes a look behind the scenes of the LA pick up scene and how a group of people used NLP to be more successful with women,) that language patterns can be used to persuade people to part with their cash.
As such, there has been a proliferation of websites with ninja-type backgrounds springing up claiming to be able to sell you the secrets of NLP that will result in instant world domination and have babes/dudes (delete where applicable) dripping off your arm by the end of the week.
The real secret behind being good at the language side of NLP is hidden in plain site. It’s called practice.
Anybody can become great at language patterns if they read books like Sleight of Mouth by Robert Dilts or watch DVD’s by fantastic trainers like Jamie Smart and then spend the time practicing what they learn.
Handing over $97 for an ebook will not help you get a date, unless you’re trying to pull the sad 15 year old geek who now has your money.
NLP Is More Established Than You Think
Fortunately though NLP has managed to keep its head above water. No doubt helped by the fact that some of the planets most successful companies including Mercedes Benz and American Express have embraced it for everything from sales to customer support and executive training.
My own first exposure to NLP was when my then employer, ADP (Automatic Data Processing), the worlds largest payroll outsourcing company, brought in trainers to teach NLP to the sales team.
Companies like the ones I mentioned are not built on throwing their money and weight behind woo-woo processes that may or may not work, they succeed because they know what will and will not give them the edge.
Political speech writers (Spin Doctors) know all too well the power of NLP and are trained in advanced language patterns and artfully vague language (more later). And experts in fields as diverse as teaching, athletics and the arts employ NLP to give them an edge. As do trial attorneys that employ NLP techniques to help sway jurors.
Oh, and one other area uses NLP and hypnotherapy to massive effect that I almost forgot about.
Some of the more well known TV celebrity Preachers and Ministers are ‘helping‘ their flock give generously by using some very cunning and manipulative techniques.
But maybe that’s another post for another day.