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Neuro-linguistic programming.

[check] This checklist provides an introduction to the key concepts and modelling techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Originally developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 1970s as an offshoot of the American personal development scene, the techniques of NLP have been used increasingly in recent years by businesses wanting to enable change, by achieving a better understanding of the different ways people communicate. NLP is all about communication, learning and change and it has a role to play on both a business and an individual basis. NLP has been found to be particularly useful in helping firms with culture change, improving management skills, learning and development and specifically in helping to train trainers in better communication techniques.


"The study, application and implementation of excellence in thinking and communication." (Atkinson).

The techniques of NLP have evolved from the study of how people excel and what they actually do to achieve success. NLP attempts to make the unconscious conscious, with an analysis of behaviour patterns, thinking habits, skills and beliefs. Once there is better understanding of what makes top achievers reach their level of success, it is then possible to code or model these patterns and reproduce them. NLP provides a repertoire of techniques to interpret clues about how people learn, and recognises that different people learn in different ways. The term 'neuro-linguistic programming' gives more clues to what the technique is about. 'Neuro' refers to the neurological system through which experiences are translated into conscious or unconscious thought. 'Linguistic' refers to how people communicate and how language is used to make sense of experiences. 'Programming' refers to the fundamental NLP concept that behaviour and thinking can be coded and consequently reproduced.

Advantages of Neuro-Linguistic Programming


* helps drive the process of effective change and therefore has a role to play in business situations

* increases effectiveness in communicating with and influencing others

* improves levels of interpersonal competency and helps you to grow as an individual

Disadvantages of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

* The mechanical nature of some of the techniques has been criticised, but it depends on how skilfully the techniques are applied in practice.

* Lack of evidence of the effectiveness of NLP has led to crticism of the technique.

Action checklist

(NLP terminology is indicated in brackets)

1. Identify your goals (Well-formed outcomes)

Make choices to establish well-formed outcomes. Focus on outcomes or goals that you do want to achieve, not on those you do not want.

2. Consider your own beliefs

Examine the personal and working beliefs that drive your thoughts, feelings and actions. You may be able to identify empowering and supportive beliefs that you are happy to keep, or limiting and restrictive beliefs that are better discarded.

3. Consider others' views (Perceptual positions)

Try to understand as many views as possible of any situation. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. How do things look now? Imagine what it would be like looking at the situation from an observer's point of view.

4. Try to talk the same language (Accessing cues and representational systems)

Attempt to pick up on clues and cues that help you to recognise how other people process information and how they use language to represent experiences. People use their senses to represent experiences described through words, so you might prefer to 'hear' what has happened at a recent meeting or 'see' a report. Different thinking styles or representational systems can be identified. Good communicators will use the three main representational systems (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) to ensure that their audiences have a chance of seeing, hearing or making sense of their presentation. Do you have a preferred thinking style? Do you tend to use words in visual mode, such as you 'see eye to eye' with someone or 'that looks good'? Take note of other people's words and try to identify their thinking style.

5. Try to establish rapport

If you observe instinctive rapport in action, people often match each other's words, eye movements and body language. It is possible to learn to do this and therefore be in a better position to influence a situation. Interestingly, you will also be more open to influence.

6. Avoid misunderstandings (Meta model)

Be aware of lines of questioning that can help you clarify what someone is trying to tell you. People often use patterns of language that are rather vague. This may be done deliberately or sometimes just by assuming too much. NLP suggests using who, what or how questions to tease out the full story. For example, in response to the complaint 'they don't tell you anything', you might like to ask 'who exactly?' Similarly, 'I just can't manage' may be followed by 'what would you need to be able to manage?'

7. Consider your focus of interest (Metaprogrammes)

Begin to understand how you respond to information you are given, and how you filter information. Do you tend to notice some experiences and screen out others? NLP identifies 12 metaprogrammes, each of which has its own language, work role and response. For example, if you are a 'towards' person you tend to move towards your goals, talk about benefits and know what you want. An 'away-from' person focuses on what to avoid and has problems uppermost in their mind.

8. Consider the way you relate to time

Do you live in the past or are you always planning and thinking of the future? Perhaps you live for the here and now. If you recognise how others relate to time then you will have a better understanding of them.

9. Consider the different levels of experience that influence us (Neurological levels of change)

NLP recognises six levels of learning, communication and change, ranging from the highest level involving understanding your purpose in whatever you do, to your identity, your beliefs, your skills, your behaviour and your surroundings. The key factor for implementing effective change is to recognise which of those levels you are positioned in, in any particular situation. You may then have a hope of matching other people's levels.

10. Consider reframing an issue in a way that works for you (Reframing)

If a behaviour or thought seems to be stuck, try considering it from a different perspective. Context reframing involves finding a context in which a certain behaviour is appropriate. For example, if you find yourself being seemingly too sensitive about a situation which you might feel is rather negative, try using reframing questions, such as, "When would it be beneficial to be sensitive?", the answer might be "When I notice someone in the office who is nervous or unsure". You have now reframed the behaviour and can hopefully feel more positive about it.

11. Change the way you think about difficult situations (Submodalities)

Feel confident and motivated to tackle tricky jobs by associating them with desirable pictures, sounds or feelings. For example, look on the 'bright' side. NLP recognises how experiences can be coded and helps you to recognise the language and associations that are used to describe negative or positive situations. For example, if you can identify an aspect in your life that has been successful in the past, you can notice whether you recall that experience in pictures or associate it with particular words or sounds or perhaps feelings. This exercise will help you to notice the type of words you use to describe your motivated state. A similar exercise recalling an undesirable event can help you notice the kinds of words you use to describe your unmotivated state. Once you are aware of these differences you have the power to change the associations you make and the language you use.

12. Transfer what you do well in one aspect of your life to another (Anchors)

Make links or anchors between a trigger and a response to help you access at will the positive feelings that you want. Be aware of detrimental anchors and try to change them.

13. Consider the modelling process

Try to identify what you would have to do to think and behave like a person you would use as your role model. Try to understand their map of the world. Attempt to test the model by identifying essential parts. Explore ways of teaching the 'excellent' skills and strategies to others.

14. Practise to succeed

Try different NLP techniques and behaviours and do not be afraid to keep changing them until you achieve the responses you want.

Dos and don'ts of NLP


* Have a clear idea of your goals. Set well-formed outcomes. What do you really want to happen?

* Cultivate a positive outlook, and therefore influence your own perception of the world.

* Challenge your limiting behaviours. Try to look at things in a different light.

* Be flexible, so that you can keep on changing what you do until you get what you want.


* Try to become someone else. Aim to find out what makes people succeed and then apply this learning to improve yourself.

* Focus on what you cannot do or do not want.

* Let bad memories that cannot be changed influence the way you run your life.

Useful reading

NLP at work: the difference that makes the difference in business, 2nd ed, Sue Knight London: Nicholas Brealey, 2002

Neuro linguistic programming in a week, 2nd ed., Mo Shapiro London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002

NLP in 21 days: a complete introduction and training programme Harry Alder and Beryl Heather London: Piatkus, 1999

Useful addresses

Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (ANLP)

PO Box 3357, Barnet, EN5 9AJ

Tel: 0870 9903881

International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA Ltd)

PO Box 187. Gosport, PO12 9AE

Tel: 023 9258 8887

Thought starters

* If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.

* What you think is what you get.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 167
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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