Coaching With NLP
What is NLP?
NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming seeks to describe how the brain (neuro) uses the language of the mind (linguistic) to develop automatic patterns of perception, thinking and acting (programming).
It can be helpful to consider two overlapping strands of NLP:
1) NLP Modelling – the process (methodology) of “unconsciously assimilating” and thereby absorbing the behaviours and through patterns of “genius” or “high performing” people, codifying them (writing them down) and using this information to replicate the same level of results in a shorter time than the model did. It also makes explicit what a “model” automatically does without thinking about it. “Genius” here refers to anyone who stands out in what they do – exceptional parents, doctors, therapist, and teachers for example. NLP presupposes that if someone else can do it, you can learn to do it too. Hence it is sometimes described as the “study of excellence”.
Many of the classic patterns of NLP came from observing therapists who stood out in their fields (Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir, for example), and then finding out what they were doing unconsciously to get those results.
2) Therapeutic and Communication Techniques. NLP has variously been defined as “the structure of subjective experience,” “a technology of excellence” and “a set of techniques that leaves a trail behind it.”
One of the products of modelling was a set of highly effective NLP patterns that can be used to assist people in overcoming phobias, for example, in a matter of minutes.
NLP helps a client get a specific outcome (always stated in the positive) e.g. “I want to give a presentation on 1st December with confidence and a varied and interesting voice, which entertains people, and has positive written feedback.” In this respect NLP has been called “goal-oriented” and “content-free” therapy to the degree that a practitioner does not need specifics about a person’s history to facilitate deep lasting changes.
Processing Information Differently
Schools are now realising that people of all ages process information differently. Some primarily like to absorb information presented in either kinaesthetic (feeling), visual (seeing) or auditory (sound) format. That means some people prefer to see pictures, writing on the blackboard and drawings to learn. Others like to move their bodies to process their feelings on a topic. Yet others like a varied and resonant voice to absorb new information easily. It will be no surprise that there is a reason why some people become great athletes, potters and mechanics whereas others tend to prefer drawing or singing.
When we receive any information from the world via our five senses, it is processed by a number of “linguistic transforms” and represented internally by sounds, pictures and feelings. The process of acquiring information is made easier for some people who prefer to process pictures and like visual words such as “bright spark”, “dazzling” and “stunning.” Those people at school who were a bit slower processing information, in the classroom, but excelled on the rugby pitch or sports field were highly kinaesthetic (feeling). Kinaesthetic people use words and phrases like “tough” “smooth” and “scratch the surface.” Auditory people know the “ring of truth” when they “hear” it. They offer a “ringing” endorsement to products and people they “click” with.
Case Study: NLP And Dyslexia
NLP has made a contribution to helping kids with dyslexia. Dyslexia or the inability to read and recall certain letters or words is usually the result of using the kinaesthetic (feeling) system of processing information, which based on past bad feelings around learning. When the NLP Practitioner helps the child to use a visual strategy to learn to read and remember words, it is not unusual for the child to be able to learn to spell perfectly in one session of an hour. When the child learns to see the words, in different colours, they can easily read words in their mind both backwards and forwards. This gives them greater confidence at school and socially.
In light of the above, it is interesting to note the story of a young school kid who was restless in the classroom. Teachers and advisors wanted to give him Ritalin (a form of cocaine) and labelled him ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). His parents wisely ignored this and encouraged their son in sports realising that he was more kinaesthetic and needed movement to process his information and feelings. He went on to become the decathlon champion of the 1980s, winning the Olympic decathlon in both 1980 and 1984 and setting a new world record. His name: Daley Thompson.
Ecology: The Study Of Consequences
Because Practitioners frequently support clients to make rapid and instant changes, it is important to consider how these profound changes could affect others. NLP calls this “ecology,” the study of consequences. NLP helps a person to consider the full ramifications of changing and how that will impacts friends, family and the wide environment.
It is also important to realise that we all use visual, auditory and kinaesthetic ways of processing information – all the time. Sometimes we tend to lean on one or two learning styles more than others. We also use an additional one called “Auditory digital” (Ad). This is so-called logical thinking “self talk”. When you talk to yourself, you are using Ad. Technical authors use this way of interpreting the world, though it is not a “pure” sensory experience like the other three mentioned above.
NLP can therefore help give useful information in a given context about what person’s desired learning style is.
If you wondered why you found it easier to learn with some teachers than others at school, remember the teaching styles which the ones you learned well with used. Visual people notice that the teachers who used visual aids helped them. Students with an auditory preference find the teachers with resonant voices most appealing. And kinaesthetic students may prefer slower speaking teachers.
What this means is that a teacher will be much more effective in using words, phrases and exercises that appeal to a range of learning styles:
- Some students/learners prefer to learn visually and need flip charts, and images.
- Some prefer the auditory route to learning. These students need to hear the explanation and will tend to prefer a resonant voice,
- Other students prefer to learn kinaesthetically. These kids have traditionally fared poorly in the education system. They need to move to process information. They can’t sit still because when they move their bodies, the can feel the answer.
Most of us combine a variety of learning styles e.g. I prefer visual and kinaesthetic. If need to have the visual and learn best (process ideas) when I am moving. You will see me with pen and paper and moving (pacing) when I am preparing lessons because I have learned that works well for me. Recently, I finished a live video course (28 Days to Hypnosis Success) with over 47 hours of video content and over hundred flipcharts.
One of my friends, Steve, contacted me to say he had converted this into 47 hours of audio.
Because he likes to learn and listen when he is in the garden. He learns best by listening, and that’s what he needs for best results!
Educators have traditionally had an unconscious bias towards students who appear to “sit still” and respond quickly and accurately – whereas kinaesthetic learners have tended to be labelled “disruptive” or “slow”. Visual learners have tended to process information faster and do better at school because of this. For example, Park (1997) found that among high, middle, and low achievers, high achievers were the most visual and low achievers were the least visual.
The Relationship Between NLP And Hypnosis
NLP modelled some pretty sophisticated conversational and covert hypnotic patterns from Milton Erickson, MD, one of the greatest hypnotherapists this century. This Milton Model is one part of NLP. The modelling process also allows practitioners to gain experience of other more direct hypnosis processes. Many practitioners choose to model successful therapists in a variety of fields, including direct hypnosis and indirect hypnosis.
With sufficient skills, the NLP language patterns (especially Milton Model and linguistic presuppositions) can help a personal master “conversational hypnosis”. More modern techniques of revivification (bringing memories to life) and can make this a very elegant way to work without a need for a formal hypnotic induction.
Is NLP Therapy?
NLP can be used therapeutically, though it is really the “epistemology of structuralism” (that means – a way of “knowing how we know,” which recognises that we distort and change all information that we receive from the world via the five senses – by automatic and unconscious filtering processes). At its core NLP is all about modelling people of excellence and replicating that excellence oneself.
NLP has become synonymous with therapy in some circles because it offers a fast content-free way to clear up many common problems, such as nail biting, blushing and the fear of public speaking. If that has a familiar feel about it, then it is because it has some close parallels with hypnosis in this respect.
Benefits Of NLP
NLP skills can enhance the effects of other therapies and healing approaches because it allows you to tailor your communication to the needs of the individuals or groups. It also gives you precision tools for “calibrating” (paying acute information with the five senses) to the responses people are having. You would get to notice changes in posture, breathing, lower lip size and more to ascertain what is going on for the person you are working with.
NLP also has a series of tools for accelerated learning – to help you learn words, languages and new skills faster and with better results. This is partly because it helps you enter the appropriate state (feeling/emotion) that supports your being “in the flow.”
NLP As Conversational Hypnosis
NLP can be considered a conversational form of hypnosis to the degree it helps develop observation of clients (calibration), communication with the unconscious mind and the opportunity to ask the right questions, and notice the right distinctions to be able to learn faster.
NLP is useful and highly accurate for allowing you to pick up on non-verbal communication, which some studies show to be as much as 93% (Birdwhistell, 1970) – i.e. your tonality and physiology (body posture and movements) is much more important that the actual words you use. This allows the practitioner of NLP to collect a lot of useful information and locate the real cause and solution to a client’s issues by paying close attention to them (“calibrating”).
What Is Life Coaching?
Coaching is series of agreements between a coach and client to assist a client in gaining clarity of their objectives, how to achieve them by breaking it down into manageable bite-sized chunks and then maintaining the relationship till the client achieves their goal.
Unlike therapy, the relationship between coach and client is one of equals. There is no “one upmanship,” which a therapist might get in order to help “force a change.”
Life Coaching is really about breaking down a major objective into its component parts and the client feeling positive enough to take the action which will move them closer in the direction of their dreams.
Life Coaching is relatively new as a field. You could track its emergence in the early 1980s. It used to be used exclusively in the sports arena – where people instinctively knew that staying focused and having the support of another person – aligned with their higher good – was invaluable.
Tony Robbins popularised both coaching and NLP in his seminars and infomercials. These days, it is not only used in sport, but businessmen and even students are finding that having the support of someone who can connect them to their latent inner abilities and skills is richly rewarding.
What Does NLP Have To Offer Life Coaching?
A number of years ago, some enterprising NLPers did a modelling project on good coaches. They made explicit some things that are generally not taught in coaching but which are part of the fundamentals of NLP:
- State Elicitation (helping the client feel exactly the way they need by accessing existing feeling stored in the unconscious mind)
- Calibration (using the senses to see what states the client is in)
- Conversational Therapeutic Techniques that help a person overcome unresourceful feelings on the spot (NLP calls this “collapsing anchors”)
- Auditory Sensory Acuity – this means that all the usual NLP techniques can in theory be done over the phone by a seasoned Practitioner, who can listen for changes in tempo and tonality that signal unconscious communication.
Choosing An NLP Practitioner Or NLP Trainer
It depends on your personality, interests and how comfortable you feel with the person you are with. There are many good coaches and NLP Practitioners. Look for the ones who match your values, what is important to you. Make sure you feel 100% comfortable in their presence.
Good coaches will often offer a consultation that so both parties can openly see if there is any synergy to take things further. When things click with the right person, and you feel like you will get on well, you create a context in which changes can happen and frequently do.
The Future Of NLP And Life Coaching
NLP, like hypnosis, can access the resources of the unconscious mind. Unlike hypnosis, the person can have their eyes open and be more present. There are times when it is useful. E.g. when giving public talks and you want to entertain and entrance your audience but not “in trance” them.
The continued relevance of NLP is determined – to some degree – by more diverse “modelling” projects being carried out. The focus has been to use the tools for sales and therapy and many people feel that modelling a wider range of areas e.g. good parenting, is just as valuable.
However, there is no doubt that when taught within a coaching and hypnotherapy context, NLP gives some massive advantages to the practitioner:
- How to observe if what you are doing therapeutically with a client is working
- How to “program your mind” to move towards goal
- How to deal with conflicts that block you from achieving an outcome
- How to have greater flexibility to change behaviour fast once you recognise something isn’t working
- Understand the principles behind any pattern, so you can build new patterns
- Know the right questions to ask to elicit what is really going on
- Understand how to get inside your client or customer’s mind and really empathise with them
- Understand what drives behaviour and work with that
- Appreciate the model of reality that is different inside every person’s mind
- How to tap into a person’s values so they are naturally motivated to get things done and go for it
- Develop greater care, love and respect for fellow human beings
Life Coaching is likely to continue to expand in business and education as the benefits of having external support to break down a goal into manageable chunks and achieve it are increasingly recognised.
Beyond Where You Were: New Perspectives
Since a large part of coaching and therapy is helping sell a client on themselves – helping them to have doubt in the problem, and certainly in their ability to develop solution – therapists need tools to enable this . NLP integrates a number of reframing patterns and technologies that help shift a person’s perspective. These alone can transform a person’ reality and help them gain access to inner resources. This also means that there is no need for long detailed personal history; instead, clients can transform simply and easily. It also means that Sessions can be conducted over the telephone or by Skype, which means it is a wonderful way for therapist to work internationally and help more people in their areas of speciality.
In my practice, I integrate hypnosis (both Ericksonian and direct), coaching, NLP and conversational hypnosis. NLP has given me an ability to work within a structure and not get bogged down in content; instead, I can see how a client’s internal map of reality is creating results, and help them to change quickly and with great precision. Formal hypnosis then helps to integrate these changes across other areas.
As more studies show the benefits of mental preparation and having clear goals imbued with meaning, it is likely that NLP and coaching will increasingly be used, developed and combined with other effective approaches like hypnosis and executive coaching.
Certified NLP Practitioner and Trainer
Certified Life Coach
Certified Master Hypnotherapist