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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Magic of Neuro Linguistic Programming

#NLP or Neuro linguistic programming, the brainchild of two Americans, Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 70s, studies how we put our thoughts together, how we know what we know and how we construct our experiences. It is a process oriented psychology that concentrates on the “how” of a problem and not the “what” (content) and the “why” (blames and excuses).

Subjective experience’ includes what goes on inside your mind, as well as in the outside world and is a combination what we see, hear and feel and since this cannot be precise with statistical formulae, it can only be in the form of models which is different for everyone. All our thoughts, emotions, memories and imaginings are made from pictures, sounds and sensations. The differences in our subjective experiences come from a myriad of sequences and placing we can make with the sounds, pictures and sensations and in the choice of the subject matter that attracts us and also in the preference of the sense we use to gather information from outside. We each perceive the world in which we live, uniquely and subjectively (our map of the world or internal representations). We see values, which together make up our `mindset’, which may not make sense to other people, in the same way as how some people think and behave, often doesn’t make sense to us. None of us, however, has a monopoly on what scientists might call `objective reality’.

Neuro refers to our neurology i.e. our five senses, through which we are in contact with the outside world e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory.

Linguistic refers to the language, both verbal and non-verbal, used to express our neural representations like thoughts and emotions.  The body language often reflects our thinking, which determines how you influence and communicate with others and yourself. (Imagine the body posture of a depressed person and happy person). 

Programming reflects the highly mechanistic way that we behave in this world expressed as habits, beliefs, and stereotypes.  Everybody is programmed in some way or the other and these patterns you use affect the balance of your life.

It shows that success is the result of specific pattern of thinking and pinpoints the mental program, so that it can be learned by anyone.  It is concerned with what happens when we think, and the effect of our thinking on our behaviour and that of others.  It facilitates ones communication both within and with others in a way that makes a difference between mediocrity and excellence.

The creators of #NLP, Richard Bandler, a computer scientist & mathematician and John Grinder, a linguist, in their attempt to study the structure of excellence, observed leading therapists such as Virginia Satir (family therapy), Fritz Perls (gestalt), and Milton H. Erickson (medical hypnosis) in addition to successes in other fields.

They discovered that their subjects repeated the same sequence of behavior for each desired outcome (purpose) and this behaviour had a noticeable structure.  They made describable models for themselves of the behaviour of the people they were studying and noted that when they adjusted their own behaviour in line with the models, they could get the same results as their subjects time after time.

NLP is the study of human excellence.  To understand this better, take the example of certain specialized sporting activity like skiing which until recently was thought to be a matter of natural talent.  Researchers, who studied frame by frame, the films of important sportsmen and divided the smooth motion into isolates or the smallest units of behaviour, found that although they had very different styles, they were using the same isolates.  When these isolates were taught to the beginners, they improved immediately.

 The key was to identify the essence of their skills (isolates), so that others could learn.  In #NLP this is called modeling and the key movements (isolates) are found in your inner thoughts, like words, pictures, feelings or even beliefs. Take the example of a recipe for making a cake, if you use all the ingredients and follow the steps, the result will be a cake nearly as good as the recipe intended. (An improvement for you in any case)

NLP exercises are like thought experiments, mental exercises or like a game.

  Imagine watching yourself on a giant wheel or a fast carriage from far and then stepping into your seat and experiencing the ride.  These two different perspectives have different mental structures.  Being on the ride is engaging and exciting and is known in NLP terms as being ‘associated’; while watching the ride is calming and detached and is known as being ‘disassociated’.
 Discovering these differences and putting them to use is fundamental to NLP.  If you want to get excited about something you need to get involved physically and mentally (associated) and on the other hand, if you need some mental distance to have a calm and objective view you can step out of the picture i.e., being disassociated. 

Bandler and Grinder noted that people could learn any behaviour so well consciously that they could now let their unconscious mind take over the instigation and running of it, thus freeing up the limited resources of the conscious mind to do other things (programming).  This is aptly illustrated by the attempt to learn to drive, where the programming is taken through four steps.

  At first, watching others drive, it looks so easy, we are therefore unaware of our incompetence (unconscious incompetence).  We then realize how difficult it is to juggle the various controls, watch the traffic, obey the signs and may find it overwhelming (conscious incompetence).  We then learn to perform the tasks but need complete attention (conscious competence).  Later when these common tasks become automatic that they slip out of the conscious mind into the unconscious (subconscious), thereby freeing the conscious mind to listen to the radio, think, plan, talk or simply look around.
 There clearly still remains a link between the conscious and the unconscious mind which is apparent when driving unconsciously especially when effect is required to deviate from the average driving to make conscious decisions i.e. to stop at a traffic light etc.

Subjects that Bandler and Grinder studied were unable to describe how and why they behaved the ways that they did (unconscious competence level). They noticed slight differences in the body and verbal language of their subjects depending on the tasks undertaken, which varied with the different ways the information was processed in each individual.
 They noted that each individual, experienced differently not because the world is different, but because each individual processed the experience in a different way. The example can be of two people standing side by side with a dog running towards them, one person may run away while the other stays to pat the dog.  They both had different subjective experience (reality), their map of the world, which guided their behaviour.

People make maps by gathering information externally through the five senses e.g., sight (visual), sound (auditory), touch or feeling (kinesthetic), taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory), and then process them internally to re-present a representation (map) of the external experience.  This process is done by passing the information through their mental filters of beliefs and values, memories, habits and so the eventual map (internal representation) is an edited version of what really happens.    In NLP the five senses are known as representational systems or modalities.

Moreover, each individual has his or her own method (preference) to gather, process and re-present the information (predicates).  For e.g., a person might describe a situation in visual terms i.e., ‘Oh I see it now’, ‘things are looking bright’ (visual) etc.  Another would use sound terms like ‘it is loud and clear’, ‘that rings a bell’ (auditory), and someone else would say, ‘smooth as silk’ (kinesthetic).  These preferred channels are known as predicates. Most of the difficulties in communication are usually due to the participants using different predicates in their conversation and so if you keep using auditory words to a visual person, i.e. use a representational system different to that of the receiver, they will unconsciously have to translate internally to their own system, i.e. translate your auditory words to his visual format. 

 The five senses (modalities) can be further subdivided into the subdivisions of what they can do (submodalities).  This concept greatly increases the degree of accuracy of how each individual represents information.  For e.g., sight (visual) can be bright, dim, different size, shape, sharps, fuzzy coloured or lack of it, far, near etc. Sound can be loud or quiet different pitch, tempo, tone, etc.  (E.g., fine tuning your TV).

Each individual is unique in the way he/she represents experience into subjectivity, both in modalities and sub-modalities.  It is therefore important to direct all your attention to the outside while communicating, so that you can detect the predicates in others and modify your language to suit those predicates to make the communication more effective.

Bandler and Grinder also discovered that individuals seem to communicate using consistent structures of language, which over time can be recognized through repeating patterns. They also realized that people who used similar language patterns quickly developed a deep rapport and when not aligned, they got confused, or they argued, or found difficult to understand each other.

It has been noticed that it is possible to self manipulate and be manipulated by others into changing the structure of internal patterns, in order to change what any experience means to an individual or self E.g., by changing the way you see a thing, you can change the effect of the subjective experience of the sight.  E.g., making a picture coloured, or black and white-seeing it from far, -making it small or bog, -changing the sound or the voice.
Eye accessing cues
External behaviors that indicate what kind of internal mental processing a person is doing are called ‘accessing cues’.  The most easily noticed accessing cues are eye movements.  You have seen people look up, down, away, and through you countless times when they were thinking i.e. searching their brain for the information.  These eye movements can be an important source of information about the structure of a person’s inner world i.e. how they process and store information as memories.

We all store the information that we have learnt from birth as pictures, sounds and feelings.  Pictures are stored in the top part of our brains.  Sounds are stored in the middle and feelings are stored in the bottom. When a person is looking up and to their right they are accessing  ‘constructed images’.  Looking up and to the left accesses ‘remembered images’.    Accessing for a new sound ‘auditory constructed’ the eyes move to the right. Eye level and over to the left is the accessing cue for remembered sound.  When you look down and to your right may be a way to access certain sensations.  Down left indicates internal auditory processing (self-talk). 


The methodology of #NLP is based on some basic assumptions and beliefs known as presuppositions.

1.      NLP is a model of generation: It generates new behaviour and not repairs old ones.  If what you are doing is not working, do something else.  IF WE ALWAYS DO WHAT WE ALWAYS DID, WE WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT WE ALWAYS GOT. 

2.      The map is not the territory: Our internal experience is our map of the world and is reflected by our external behaviour. Every communication a person makes has validity in his or her map of the world. .  Reality is what you make of it.  We do not see the world as it really is, but construct a model of it.  Our perceptions are filtered through our senses and we interpret our experiences in the light of our beliefs, interests, upbringing, preoccupation and state of mind.

3.      Respect the other person’s map of the world: Accept that we are all different with different maps of reality (experiences).  This makes rapport easy and thereby making change possible. We all travel through the same territory but with different maps.  Throughout history, people have fought and died in arguments over whose map was right.

4.      There are no failures but feedback: Failure is an unprecedented opportunity to learn, no matter what happens.  If you look at your mistakes in relation to your goal (outcome) and other successes, then they are feedback.  But if you see them as failures, then it is a dead end. All results and behaviors are achievements (have positive intentions). They are the desired outcome for a given task/context and if not they provide valuable information for change.

5.      The part of the system with the most flexibility controls the system: Flexibility means having more choices in the communication interaction.  (If you have only one choice you are a robot; if you have two choices, then you have a dilemma; if you have more than two choices then you have flexibility).  The entire point of being flexible in behaviour is that you can change your behaviour till you get the response you want.

6.      A person cannot communicate: One always gets an answer if one has the capacity to direct his attention to the outside. Nonverbal responses usually are more significant than the words in the communication process.  The meaning of the communication is the response it gets and not what is said and so it is not what you say but how you say it that matters.

7.      Behaviour is geared to adaptation and present behaviour is the best choice available at that time, (which may not be the best choice).  Underlying every behaviour is a positive intention.  E.g., if you are engaged to clean a tiger cage and suddenly the faulty door lets the tiger in – the last thing in your mind is that you were engaged to clean the place – you run for your life!  Alcoholism, smoking, fears, all have some positive intention.  The idea is to incorporate these intentions in the behavior that replaces these habits I.E. Can you get what you want without these unwanted behaviors.

8.      People have an infinite amount of resources: they might need help to access the resources at the appropriate time and place.  If it is possible for one then it is possible for anyone; it is just a matter of time.

9.      Behaviour and change should be evaluated in terms of context and ecology.  There may be times and places when they may not be appropriate.


These are the basic principles, which help to guide us through the workings of #NLP.

1.      Get into a resourceful frame of mind.  If you are not in the proper mood, nothing you do is going to be effective.  Anchoring a past success helps you to get into a resourceful state.

2.       Know your outcome.  Make clear positive mental pictures of the things you wish to achieve before you undertake any task and anchor it.  If we don’t know what we want then we won’t know when we get it.

3.      Rapport is one of the most important.  It is a way of creating an oneness with the other person by matching their body language, breathing or tone of voice. Rapport is a state one enters by continuing to match and mirror.  It means that the other person has a sense of ease and comfort and familiarity when communicating with you and also that the other person is being responsive, and is receptive to your ideas.

4.      Sensory Acuity is having your senses tuned to what is happening around you.  I.e., watching the response to know if what you are doing is working and if not to change what you are doing to get the effect required by your deed or communication. This would mean opening all or most of your receptive doors (senses) to the outside.

5.      Have behavioural flexibility.  The part of the system with the most flexibility ends up controlling the system.

6.      Take action.  Vision without action is just a dream; action without vision passes time; action and vision can change the world.

    Unfortunately, unlike external phenomena, we cannot examine our unique, subjective experience in a laboratory. NLP is only a model – a model of the way minds work that is straight forward and practical – the start of a user manual. It is not `right’ or `wrong’, it’s only as useful as it is useful. 

Minds are very complex, each of them is different and as a result we all have different ways or relating to the world.  Coming back to the cake, when you bake a cake you require several things- a list of ingredients, a recipe, some physical skills. Most of these are available to everyone yet some people consistently make better cakes than others. NLP is the study of what make the difference between world-class cake bakers and us, who are just competent. Most of the time the difference depends on what happens in our heads.

NLP can also be described as an attitude and a methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques.  The attitude is one of curiosity about success and willingness to experiment and to consider each experience, especially failure, as an opportunity to learn. Great ideas remain dreams unless they help you to change your life and success is not only a matter of practice.

 The methodology is based on the overall supposition that every successful process has a structure – which can be modeled, learned, taught and changed (reprogrammed) by others to effect a change in them.  NLP is like a sieve and it provides the means for isolating skills, capabilities and behavior from their usual contexts, and enables their study, description and transfer to others.

Learning NLP is not so much discovering a new way of doing things but how we are doing it. We all know what it is like to want something and commit ourselves to it and then be undone by our habits. Many people are being told WHAT is wrong in their lives. NLP is about HOW to change unwanted behaviors, which have been serving you in some ways and HOW more choices can be added so that ecological change can take place.

NLP gives us the tools to notice ourselves. We are conditioned to notice things outside of ourselves and to mould and shape ourselves accordingly. We easily notice what someone else has said or done or worse what they haven’t, and particularly whose fault it is. NLP gives us the methodology to notice ourselves for a change. Given that, the only thing that we have any control over is ourselves, which may be the only practical or even the only place to start.

Rapport is the skill of matching a person’s body language, tone, breathing rate etc to that of the recipient. Mutual respect therefore becomes easier and so facilitates easily flow of communication

In communication NLP facilitates good rapport by proper calibration (sensory acuity) i.e. what and how to observe in the receiver’s behavior like body language, words, tone and most of all the eye movements, to prepare and lead the conversation to the goals of both.
As far as #NLP is concerned the meaning of a communication is the response we get irrespective of what we say. Emphasis therefore shifts from the speaker to the listener.
Proper communication is really making the other person understand.

     NLP uses anchoring, which is a user-friendly version of conditioned reflex to enhance the moods and make one more productive, to remove fears and limiting beliefs. An example of auditory anchor: hearing a favorite song when depressed, improving your mood. So one can have such anchors at hand by imagining a fantastic occasion (what one sees, feels and hears) and connect the good feeling to a physical touch. With practice, repetition of this touch should bring back the good feelings.

NLP is process-oriented psychology and not content and therefore is non- traumatic, as the person does not have to re-experience the event, if it is traumatic. People do not experience reality as such, but their interpretation and perception of reality. Hence it is possible to change the effect of reality by fine tuning the perception and therefore change the effect that the reality has on the person.

N. L. P can be presented as;
Having a clear idea of the outcome in any given situation;
Being alert and keeping the senses open so that one notices what one is getting;
Having the flexibility to keep changing what one is doing till one gets what wants.


Applications of NLP.

Meta-programs are habitual behavioral pattern depending on the thinking and processing style of people  - valuable in job interviews, placements and motivation.


The well-organized outcome enables us to have a realistic idea of what we want and the process to get them with the resources we have.


Neuro-Logical Levels helps us to analyze situations by thinking in terms of Environment, Behavior, Capability, Beliefs and Values and Identity. For e.g. A boy who misbehaves in school is not necessarily a bad person (identity), but needs to improve his behavior. It is just like the difference in saying, “I am an alcoholic” (identity) and saying “I have problems controlling my drinking Habits” (capability).


Other applications

      NLP explains the importance of using perceptual positions as a methodology of communication, negotiation and problem solving. I.e., looking at a problem from ones own point of view (associated), the opponents’ point of view and the neutral or dissociated point of view – gives a different perception.

NLP is useful in all walks of life. It is valuable in personal development, enabling one to discover his inner talent, to be creative, learn more effectively, to be effective communicator, help in motivation and stress management.

Curative applications.

Phobias (Fears): It is possible to cure phobias by exercises, which enables the person to substitute the phobic state with the desired state.
Stress Management: NLP is especially effective in stress management by exercises involving disassociation and changing the strategy of stress.
Trauma cure: NLP offers techniques to enable people to successfully cope with mental trauma; to cope with bereavement (death); serious illness like cancer.

Addictions:  #NLP can help people in drug addiction, alcoholism and smoking.
In Business it is effective in negotiations, sales, problem solving and esp. in HRD by using the thinking styles and habitual filters (meta-programs) to find the suitable candidates in an interview and place the employees in the right job and after the right incentives.
The art of salesmanship is selling fantasy.  You do not sell a product; you sell the fantasy of what it will do for its owner’s dreams.  Here comes the advantage of knowing the clients preferred system (predicates), having the flexibility and adapting till one gets the outcome desired.

In teaching it is valuable to know the thinking style and preferred modality of the students and increases the teacher-student rapport. There are effective techniques to help the students to study, recollect information (visual learning), to remove fear of exams and to motivate them for bigger things.
The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.

It is also useful in domestic circumstances in building rapport within the family unit, problem solving, and help to teach and motivate children.

Counseling has been given a quantum leap in its effectiveness by avoiding content and concentrating on the process and how to change it.

Medical practice has been made more patient- friendly by paying more attention to the person in the patient and by facilitating rapport between the doctor and the patient.

It helps to remove limiting beliefs of people and resolve stressful memory of the past, using the time line therapy. It is also effective in removing phobias, in trauma cure, addiction and promotes health and wellbeing.

What is fascinating about NLP, is that, being a process-oriented psychology, it concentrates on the methodology, hence the self improvement will be through your own effort, developed in your own way, tailored to your own special circumstances and therefore permanent. There are no bulky manuals, as it is believed that the brain is the best manual and only needs proper process oriented tools. The Brain is like a one billion-gigabyte neck-top PC, manufactured by unskilled labour, but without an instruction manual (software). NLP provides just that! The cutting edge driver software for the brain.

In short the magic of NLP helps in:

Stress management, Personality development and communication skills.
To improve the art of learning and discover your hidden talents that you thought only others had.
Improve your rapport skills and so become an effective communicator and negotiator.
To become more creative and to discover your hidden resources.
To treat you failures as opportunities and to make them work for you.
Feel the difference using the tools of change, which teach you to see, hear, feel the effect when it is achieved.
To learn how to motivate and to discover subtle techniques to get onto the proper frame of mind and to know what you really want and to do anything that you want.

The magic of N L P is based on the idea that excellence has a structure that can be studied and learned by others and;
It reaches parts of you that other therapies don't.
It enables you to achieve things when others can't.
It makes it possible for you to create what others can't.
It shows you techniques to avoid stress, which others haven't.
It shows you ways to learn so that you can recollect easily, takes test and interviews with confidence.
It shows you how to change from a non-productive mood to a productive one whenever needed.

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