So what exactly is this “NLP” thing?
Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP is based on modelling excellence. Breaking down how people who are brilliant at certain things do that skill. Then, just as importantly, teaching the skill to others so that they too can get excellent results. Perhaps not quite as excellent of course. But it certainly gives a huge insight and head start into achieving the same results.
The difference that makes the difference
You might think that that sounds straightforward. And you would be right. But it’s not just the physical things people do; it’s the attitudes and beliefs that they have when they are “performing” their skill that can be even more key.
We can probably all think back to our school days and recall a few of examples of different types of teachers. There was the teacher who came into the room, filled it with fear and instantly everyone was quiet and on their best behavior. There was also the one who had absolutely no control of the classroom. And then there are the teachers whose students behave well not out of fear, but out of respect and affection. These are often the ones who just seem to know how to get the best out of the diverse individuals in front of them.
All these teachers may have gone through the same training, but it’s the way that they are, their attitudes and personal beliefs that make the difference.
I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some great hypnotists – and also I’ve learnt what not to do from a couple of really dreadful ones. My observation is that the great ones have an absolutely unshakeable belief that they are going to succeed in hypnotising their volunteer. There is no shadow of doubt in their minds. Once they’ve picked their subject, everything else is a foregone conclusion and they truly are The Hypnotist. The mediocre ones simply don’t have that presence, attitude or belief.
So Is NLP Therapy?
The early pioneers of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, modeled the very best psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and family therapists they could find. Then to see if they had identified “the difference that makes the difference” they tested out their observations by treating real patients themselves. They wanted to find out if they too could achieve the same positive outcomes for their patients as the therapists they had studied.
NLP is often thought of as “therapy lite” but it actually is not, in itself, therapy. In the course of their therapeutic modelling, Bandler and Grinder had documented their discoveries and turned them into systematic techniques which anyone can use to help individuals change. These techniques can help to reduce anxiety, cure phobias and really encourage people to see their problems or challenges in new and different ways.
So how is it relevant to me?
Of course, just because two people modeled therapists doesn’t mean that therapy is the only area of interest. Charles Faulkner modelled Chicago bond traders and market wizards, and as he explains, he always starts by testing out what he’s learned on himself. So you can imagine he’s done quite well out of that!
Colleagues who would never think of speaking in front of a group of people have modelled great public speakers and now can hold forth confidently in front of even large audiences.
And of course for something a little more fun, friends have modelled how to flirt (believe that that the other person wants to talk to you, but accept rejection as nothing personal and move on). How to wrap beautiful Christmas presents, and how to successfully train for a marathon (OK not so much fun, but it was hugely helpful).
So what would you like to be better at?
So if I want to learn something new I usually just buy a book on it. And then I can muddle through and develop a basic level of competence. But for things which we want to excel at, there’s something we can all do which the instruction books rarely mention.
Find someone who can already do it and find out how exactly they do it so well. Ask them not just how they do physically do it, but also what the critical things that they pay attention to. Find out what they believe about themselves while they are doing it. What attitudes are important for them to perform the skill at such a high level. Who are they when they are doing it well. What is the difference that makes the difference?