What is NLP?

Phil Birch

Phil Birch : Birch Business IQ

We hear a lot about NLP. But what is NLP? We asked Business Editor Phil Birch to look at NLP for you and this is his very personal view.

When I started to investigate NLP for the3rdi, what immediately struck me was the immense amount of information, coaches, training courses, “experts” and applications promoting the material and benefits of NLP.

So, swamped by this incredible amount of data I decided to keep the article as simple and concise as possible in order to provide some insight and context. I have deliberately left in some of the incorporated links to the sites/sources for this summary in order that you yourself will have a place to start should you feel that NLP is something that you yourself may benefit from.

But beware, there is an immense amount of information out there and “overload” is more probable than possible !!!
Definitions are varied but essentially these two encapture what appears to be the essence of the system (if indeed “system” is the most appropriate word to use); equally, method, procedure, behaviour and techniques may have as much pertinence;

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to psychotherapy and organisational change based on “a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them” and “a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour”[1].

The co-founders, Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder, claimed it would be instrumental in “finding ways to help people have better, fuller and richer lives”.[2] They coined the title to denote their belief in a connection between neurological processes (‘neuro’), language (‘linguistic’) and behavioural patterns that have been learned through experience (‘programming’) and that can be organised to achieve specific goals in life.[3][4][5]

NLP was originally promoted by founders Bandler and Grinder in the 1970s as an effective and rapid form of psychological therapy,[6][7][8] capable of addressing the full range of problems which psychologists are likely to encounter, such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, learning disorders.[9] It also espoused the potential for self-determination through overcoming learned limitations[10] and emphasized well-being and healthy functioning. Later, it was promoted as a ‘science of excellence’, derived from the study or ‘modelling'[11] of how successful or outstanding people in different fields obtain their results. It was claimed that these skills could be learned by anyone to improve their effectiveness both personally and professionally[12]

Despite its popularity[13], NLP has been largely ignored by conventional social science because of issues of professional credibility[13] and insufficient empirical evidence to substantiate its models and claimed efficacy.[14] It appears to have little impact on academic psychology, and limited impact on mainstream psychotherapy and counselling.[14] However, it had some influence among private psychotherapists, including hypnotherapists, to the extent that some claim to be trained in NLP and apply it to their practice. NLP had greater influence in management training, life coaching,[15] and the self-help industry.[16]

What is clear, and IS something that I can absolutely agree with is that you are already the lucky owner of the most powerful and limitless tool known to humankind – your mind. Unfortunately, when you were growing up, developing and learning, nobody necessarily showed you how to use your mind to its full potential, probably because nobody had a working set of instructions themselves on how to use it. Working over many years to develop and prove his highly powerful techniques of transformation and self mastery, Richard Bandler alleges that he has devised NLP to allow you to unlock the ‘secret code’ of your mind’s potential, and give you a degree of command over your feelings and control over your thoughts you never believed possible.

A bold, if not necessarily proven statement so to clear some of the mystique then maybe this simpler definition is easier to assimilate; “The development of an attitude and a methodology that leads to a series of tools and techniques aimed for a more effective and efficient use of your mind, concentrating primarily on your language and behaviour” I do not suggest that this is necessarily the best nor absolutely definitive and herein lies one of the major difficulties in understanding the methods, and more importantly, the results of undertaking some form of NLP.

Another NLP definition from Bandler is:
“The study of the structure of our subjective experience and what can be calculated from it.”

So, NLP is based on a strong belief in the possibility of change. You will encouraged to investigate, learn, and possibly discover that:

* People are not their behaviour. When you accept the person, you are free to change behaviour
* People already possess all the resources they need to succeed and achieve their desired outcomes – they just need to learn how to unlock them.
* The meaning of your communication is found in the response you get. When you learn how to communicate better, the world will respond to you better than ever before.
* You are in charge of your mind – and therefore your life.
* When things get difficult, remember: there is never failure, only feedback.

Digging a little deeper the approach seems to be about curiosity and experimentation. The methodology is about modelling, extracting the thoughts and behaviours that create success that, theoretically leads to a trail of techniques that ultimately help you to succeed in whatever endeavour you are looking at. Essentially, however, the issue is not just about techniques but also about developing the attitude. Only then may you suddenly find yourself developing your own techniques and it is here again that comes the rub – it is down to YOU and YOUR attitudes and YOUR behaviour. In this, I am comfortable to provide support.

I am personally a great believer in the power of your mind. It IS a wonderful, miraculous and immensely powerful tool at your total disposal. I believe that anything that can be done must first be done in the mind. Whatever your circumstances or perceived “abilities”, your mind will be there as and when you want it. If NLP works as the catalyst or the method that allows you to access more effectively this wonderful organic machine, then so be it but I cannot stress enough my recommendation to complete more research yourself. If you “master” NLP, so the sources allege, you will change into the person you have always wanted to be, and you will be empowered and inspired to help others to change, too. Once again, strong and unambiguous claims to make.

Finally, for the moment, there are certain presuppositions underlying NLP. I have taken these from a myriad of sources and attempted to “clean” them for your ease – I make no apologies if some of these “presuppositions” are somewhat abstract – it appears to be the nature of the topic.

These are some of the things that are “presupposed” in effective communication.

1. The effectiveness of a communication can be measured by the response you receive from it.
2. Language is a representation of experience.
3. Mind and body are parts of the same “system” and affect each other.
4. Behaviour is geared towards survival, adaptation and growth.
5. Present behaviour represents the very best choice available to a person at that moment.
6. People have all the resources they need to make the changes they want.
7. Being ‘possible in the world’ or ‘possible for me’ is only a matter of approach and method.
8. The highest quality information about other people is behavioural.
9. It is useful to make a distinction between your behaviour and your “self”.
10. There is no such thing as failure; there is only feedback.

NLP is a growing “industry”. There are training courses and coaches that offer services combined with corporate training programs, hypno-therapy, persuasion techniques, poker skills, writing, music and many, many more aspects of work and life. Essentially they offer support, skills and techniques to enable you to address how you communicate, how you react and how you “behave”.

I have experienced several of these services the delivery of which, ironically, gave me a wide range of satisfaction and results and because of this I cannot provide you with a definitive conclusion nor recommend the perfect course or trainer. There is one thing though that I can and will recommend; namely that you ARE the owner of the greatest tool in the world; your mind. If personal development and improvement is something that you are pursuing the NLP is very much a part of the scene.

There ARE good courses and trainers out there but start slowly. Buy a CD, DVD or book first. Talk to someone who has actually been on dedicated training AND who can prove the benefits and outline any drawbacks. There are benefits to be had. The coaches who write for the3rdi DO have such experience – ask them. That’s what we are here for. Contact them via the magazine. This is part of our service to you.
Good luck.

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