The Unconventional Secrets of Successful NLP

Newly qualified NLP Practitioners want to know “How do I get really good at NLP?”

It’s clear that high-quality practice is a large part of the solution. However, I know that many people struggle to practice NLP as thoroughly or as often as they would like.

Part of the reason they struggle is because of the definition of NLP they have been given or have accepted. This isn’t a criticism of the teaching or of the student either.

There are many ways to define NLP and any definition carries with it a set of assumptions. Some of those assumptions can lead to faulty thinking, or to limitations which are not useful.

Faulty Thinking

To me, faulty thinking is like faulty wiring – sometimes it appears to work well, other times it doesn’t work at all. The overall result is unreliable – and only a fraction of what you could achieve. Let’s look at some examples:

  • NLP is about techniques
  • NLP involves big change
  • NLP is therapy
  • NLP is something I only do within a specific context

“NLP is about Techniques”

Many people think that NLP is a set of techniques. How is this limiting? Think about this: how many times a day do you get the opportunity to do a ‘swish’? I’m guessing that for most of you this doesn’t happen very often and that’s part of the problem.

NLP is made up of skills, such as anchoring, rapport and a whole host of awareness skills too. How many opportunities do you get every day to subtly anchor someone? Or get into rapport? Or be aware of changes in their physiology/state/language/tonality etc? Or your own?

Even if you live alone in a cave, there are many opportunities every day to practice and master your NLP. But only if you think about NLP skills. The techniques are just examples of effective ways to apply those skills to achieve specific outcomes.

“NLP involves Big Change”

I know that the promise of NLP is great – you can transform your life and do many things you had previously considered impossible. True.

However, the idea of Big Change can be an obstacle. Not everything you do with NLP needs to be earth-shattering. It doesn’t need to turn the world upside-down. Often, the best changes are subtle and take place over a period of time. The hallmark of a good piece of NLP is to create the minimum upheaval in reaching the outcome.

Consider: If you thoroughly shake up the lives of all your practice partners, you may quickly run out of people to practice on. And do you really need to have a massive impact? It can be like blowing out a candle with a nuclear explosion – the degree of force is unnecessary and there’s plenty of fallout to deal with.

It’s also a mistake to focus on an ecological outcome, while forgetting to include an ecological process for change.

To summarise: If you’re looking to set the world on fire every time you practice NLP, this will seriously limit your opportunities.

“NLP is Therapy”

For various reasons, some NLP students get the idea that NLP is a kind of therapy. Even those who aren’t therapists can form this opinion. How, then to practice?

Those who are therapists will have existing clients and can add NLP to their existing skill-set. Those who wish to use NLP as a stand-alone therapy face a different quandary: how do they get good enough to begin working on clients? How much experience is necessary before they can ‘go it alone’?

The non-therapists are left with a bigger problem – how do they practice NLP if they’re not interested in doing therapeutic change?

If you think you need to do complete pieces of therapeutic work to practice your NLP, you’re missing all of the other opportunities around you to sharpen your skills.

NLP isn’t therapy. It does have therapeutic applications. It has other applications too. Look for them in your existing areas of interest and practice sharpening your NLP skills in those areas instead.

Additionally, therapy is a remedial mindset in which all activity is focused on fixing areas that are judged to be deficient or broken in some way. The highest goal available within that mindset is to be ‘okay’ or ‘normal’. A different mindset allows us to achieve ‘excellence’ and far beyond.

“NLP is something I only do within a specific context”

As I explained in the previous section, sometimes NLP can become rooted within a specific context. Where do you use NLP?

If your answer is that “NLP is something I only do in a (business / coaching / sales / sport / therapeutic / self-help) context” then you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to practice.

This is a learned limitation – usually related to the focus you first brought to the course, or it may be due to learning NLP within a narrow context, such as ‘NLP for Therapists’ or ‘NLP for Business’. The best way for you to broaden your opportunities to practice NLP is to broaden the range of contexts in which you apply it. And you will have a variety of mindsets to draw upon that will guide applications.

The true strength of NLP comes from its freedom of application and the intermix of ideas between those contexts. For example, hypnotic language can be used to entertain people through storytelling – and storytelling has therapeutic and business applications too.

How can you use your NLP skills to:

  • help your kids learn more easily
  • master a new skill
  • improve an existing skill
  • coach others to higher achievement
  • settle disputes at work or at home
  • set and achieve better personal goals
  • design a better business plan
  • understand your spouse or partner better
  • help your spouse or partner understand you better
  • negotiate a raise
  • negotiate a better price in a shop
  • cheer up a friend, colleague, family member

Some of these examples may not apply to you and that’s okay. They are only there to whet your appetite – to start you thinking of ways your NLP skills can be applied usefully in unexplored contexts.

And explore the small pieces first – they have power. For example, all it takes to cheer someone up is eliciting a state, using a funny reframe, or firing an anchor. It’s a mistake to apply only the big pieces, applying or reproducing a set technique – or even putting someone through a process and “turning the handle”.

I know that most NLP learning involves things you ‘do’ to completion:

  • a whole therapeutic change
  • a ‘formal’ coaching session
  • a ‘formal’ hypnotic trance
  • a polished marketing piece
  • a complete presentation
  • a successful sale

This is another limitation of learning in a narrow context. Not every change is ‘formal’ or takes an hour to achieve. You have learned these things because it’s good to have examples of how to apply the skills of NLP in combination and achieve something useful.

Instead, remember that outcomes can be big and small. And the big outcomes are all made up of smaller ones – so it’s best to practice the smaller pieces too.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. More tomorrow.

The Unconventional Secrets of Successful NLP by

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