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Neuro-linguistic programming.


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. It can be used by individuals to develop self-awareness and improve interpersonal skills and by organisations to improve the effectiveness of communication. NLP is being used in an increasing number of organisational contexts:

* implementing culture change programmes

* improving management skills such as coaching, influencing, negotiating and conflict resolution

* facilitating learning and development-specifically in helping trainers to improve their communication skills.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance for the following standards: D: Working with People, units 1, 2


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, through 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 recognises that different people learn in different ways and provides a repertoire of techniques for interpreting clues about how people learn. The term 'neuro-linguistic programming' gives more clues as 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.

Action checklist

This checklist provides an introduction to the main concepts and techniques of NLP. (NLP terminology is indicated in brackets)

1. Identify your goals (Well-formed outcomes)

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

2. Examine your own beliefs

Examine the personal and working beliefs that drive your thoughts, feelings and actions. Where do these beliefs come from? What are they based on? Which will help or hinder you in reaching your objectives? Try to identify empowering and supportive beliefs that are worth keeping, and limiting the restrictive beliefs that it would be better to discard.

3. Consider the perspectives of others (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. 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 in 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. Establish rapport

If you observe instinctive rapport in action, you will see that people often match each other's words, eye movements and body language. It is possible to learn to do this deliberately 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. Understand your focus of interest (Metaprogrammes)

Begin to understand how you respond to the 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. Explore 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 which involves 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, in any particular situation, which of those levels you are positioned in. You may then be able to match the levels of other people.

10. Take a new perspective towards an issue, situation or behaviour (Reframing)

If you find yourself stuck in a negative behaviour or frame of mind, 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 over-sensitive in a particular situation and see this as 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)

Help yourself to 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: think of a positive experience in the past and identify whether you recall that experience in pictures or associate it with particular words, sounds or 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 will be able to change the associations you make and the language you use.

12. Transfer positive triggers from one aspect of your life to another (Anchors)

Stimuli related to a positive past experience will provoke a positive emotional or behavioural response. In the same way, stimuli related to a negative experience will provoke a negative response. These triggers or anchors may be visual, auditory or kinaesthetic and they can be used to make new links which will enable you to access positive feelings at will. Similarly, be aware of detrimental anchors and try to change them.

13. Make use of the modelling process

Try to identify what you would have to do to think and behave like a person you would choose as your role model. Try to understand their map of the world. Attempt to test the model to identify which elements are essential. Once you have established the model, you may wish to explore ways of teaching the 'excellent' skills and strategies you have identified to others.

14. Practise to succeed

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

NLP techniques have been criticised as being overly mechanistic but much depends on how skilfully they are applied. It is important to experiment and develop your skills. Don't try to become someone else, but find out what helps others to succeed and apply this learning to yourself. You should avoid:

* focusing on negatives-what you are unable to do or do not want to do

* allowing bad memories that cannot be changed, to continue to influence the way you run your life

* trying to change other people or manipulate them-focus on your own personal responses and behaviour.

Additional resources


Change management excellence: putting NLP to work, Martin Roberts

Bancyfelin: Crown House, 2005

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

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Internet resources

Honest Abe's NLP Emporium

A glossary of NLP terms, FAQs, book reviews and links provided by Andy Bradbury.


Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (ANLP), PO Box 3357, Barnet, EN5

9AJ, Tel: 0870 4440790 Web:

International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA Ltd), PO Box 187. Gosport, PO12

9AE, Tel: 023 9258 8887 Web:
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Title Annotation:Checklist 167
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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