Get the very best models, strategies and patterns to enhance your career opportunities and your performance at work – without the noise and fluff.

NO CHARGE. NO SPAM. UNSUBSCRIBE ANYTIME.

4

NLP Q&A: A hard time understanding NLP

Chris contacted me yesterday with a series of questions that I’m sure resonates with many other readers. I’ll reprint our email exchange without edits here for everyone’s benefit (with Chris’s authorization, of course). I think you’ll find the raw dialogue much juicier than if I cleaned it up.

To make reading easier, Chris’s questions will all be printed in italics. My answers will be in standard print. Let’s go!

Chris: language constructs and manipulation

Hi Martin,

I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion.  I’m still having a hard time understanding what NLP actually is.

I read about modelling which makes sense on the surface-  identify someone that consistently delivers the results you want and learn the processes that they go through to get the results, filtering the parts that aren’t relevant.  Am I wrong so far?

But then I also see a seemingly unrelated component of using language constructs to some purpose or another.  I’m not really sure what to make of that part or how it is related.  I’ve seen bits about using it to direct the subconscious mind in some way or another, but if done on someone else in day-to-day life, I’m not sure how that doesn’t qualify as manipulation.

Honestly, I started looking into NLP when I saw some mention but some conspiracist that President Obama uses NLP techniques in his speeches to achieve some particular result.  I found this interesting (and/or shocking… and/or hard to believe) but that’s how I got here.

I don’t want to waste your time, but is there anything you might point me to that would help me better understand what NLP is and what it is about?  I’ve read the wikipedia articles but I’m still not clear.

Martin: NLP vs Hypnosis

Hi Chris,

Great to hear from you. No intrusion at all, I’m here to help.

You wouldn’t believe how often readers ask me questions like the ones you ask. The field has been littered with so much garbage that new students find it challenging to navigate.

You wrote: “I read about modelling which makes sense on the surface-  identify someone that consistently delivers the results you want and learn the processes that they go through to get the results, filtering the parts that aren’t relevant.  Am I wrong so far?”

You’re dead on. This is really the heart of NLP. The few who master this are the ones who create amazing lives. Tony Robbins is a perfect example of that (although many practitioners and trainers poo poo him constantly).

You wrote: “But then I also see a seemingly unrelated component of using language constructs to some purpose or another.  I’m not really sure what to make of that part or how it is related.  I’ve seen bits about using it to direct the subconscious mind in some way or another, but if done on someone else in day-to-day life, I’m not sure how that doesn’t qualify as manipulation.”

This is where the confusion sets in. What I’m about to share with you is my own understanding. Many NLPers would disagree with me, but my students generally prefer my approach.

Let’s go back to the first part you brought up — modeling excellence. Basically, at the onset of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder modeled the best therapists in the world: Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and *blink, blink, blink* MILTON ERICKSON, one of the greatest hypnotist who ever lived.

Milton was an ace at using language to induce therapeutic responses from his patients. The legacy of modeling his language patterns is what you write about above. It’s that “seemingly unrelated component of using language constructs.” Students of those modeled patterns decided to apply them to other areas besides therapy. Notably, sales, negotiation and seduction.

Here’s my approach: that’s not NLP. That’s applied hypnosis. These patterns are somewhat like the Force in Star Wars: applied ethically, they transform lives; applied with only selfish interest in mind, they turn into cheap manipulation. So, in my book, that’s a misuse of the term “NLP.”

You wrote: “Honestly, I started looking into NLP when I saw some mention but some conspiracist that President Obama uses NLP techniques in his speeches to achieve some particular result.  I found this interesting (and/or shocking… and/or hard to believe) but that’s how I got here.”

Once again, misuse of the term NLP. Obama probably uses techniques such as anchoring and language patterns. These, of course, are techniques borrowed from Milton Erickson.

So let’s get to your question: what is NLP?

I’ve written extensively about it on my site. If you will, I’ll point you to specific pages so you can dig in a bit more:

What is NLP?
What Is The Difference Between NLP and Hypnosis?
Getting Back To The Roots Of NLP
Can I Solve A Bunch Of Problems By Using NLP On Myself
Do You Think NLP Will Help Me Achieve My Weight Loss Goals

Take a look. If you have any question whatsoever, let me know. NLP transformed my life. I’m committed to helping others understand it accurately so they can obtain the same benefits.

Chris: why LINGUISTIC?

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the clarification.  I’ll read the articles you cited.

The confusing part comes from the LINGUISTIC component of the name.  If NLP is fundamentally about modelling, codifying, and then teaching the model, why is LINGUISTIC so prominently featured in the name?  It seems to suggest the hypnosis/trance elements as being a fundamental rather than just one application.

Am I missing it?

Martin: operational epistemology

Hi Chris,

You asked: “If NLP is fundamentally about modelling, codifying, and then teaching the model, why is LINGUISTIC so prominently featured in the name?”

The linguistic piece refers to the operational epistemology of the field (I write more about this in the articles). “Neurolinguistic” refers to how we sense the world and encode it in our nervous system (in language). Language is how we encode and manipulate our experiences. “Programming” refers to the syntax of that code.

NLP, or Neurolinguistic Programming, is one of the worst labels I’ve ever come across. Frank Pucelik (the third, unknown founder of NLP) states in interviews that he, Bandler and Grinder used to call it “Meta.” Potentially equally as ambiguous…

I hope this helps.

Calvin - May 19, 2012

Yeah NLP is definatly a ridiculous name, probably was a bit more trendy back i nthe day when silicon vally and computers were coming up fast,

id further like to add that obama a trained speaker and politician actually got trained in communication and persuasion, who wouldve tought right
next people are gonna tell me politicians have an agenda when they speak to potential voters..

I really like the success strategy part of nlp and the presuppositions although i regard them more as reality then presuppositions but
i always tought NLP had way to many ridig fantasies about the linguistics.
i speak in predicates all the time and half the time when i use auditory predicates like i hear ya. understand ya, or i feel ya. and countless other examples it has nothing to do with auditory or kinestetic rep systems.
my language isnt an accurate respresentation of my inner world. in general lines sure.
but not like described above.
But then i might just misunderstand the teaching theres alot of over simplistic magic pill nlp products where they discuss it in this fashion.

later

C

    Martin Messier - May 19, 2012

    John Grinder always offers a most lucid take on these issues.

    Under rapport, you’re able to correctly calibrate and map out how your client or whoever you’re speaking with represents whatever (s)he’s discussing at the time. You test and test until you’re certain you have it right.

    Of course, you can forget about any pop product about NLP.

Calvin - May 21, 2012

yeah, my original exposure to NLP was it blended in with self help , the seduction community
and tony robbins personal power 2, witch is probably more applied NLP in the way he frames all the info and perspectives and stories . then what he actually tells you.

when i actually started looking at pure nlp i was repelled, the endless talk about submodalities and quck fixes that made no sense and bandler pretending like everything was ridiculously easy and simple was just annoying to me.
I realise now alot of the nlp was ‘pop” nlp with those oversimplistic ideas do a quick submodalitie shift and your life is changed.
and i was annoyed because jsut like hypnosis it nevr talked about taking massive action.
having had a big social anxiety when iwas younger i was all about taking massive action changing some submodalities wasnt gonna come close to fixing it, its an intricate web of beliefs and alot of other things
and especially important is taking lots n lots of action gaining ridiculous amounts of new reference experiences shattering old paradigms

Where does Grinder go deep into these things? or on anything really. the short bits of seminar ive seen are really interesting, i cant find any dvd product or long seminar parts of him aywhere tho.
his books are impossible to read for me

    Martin Messier - May 21, 2012

    Hey Calvin,

    You wrote: “when i actually started looking at pure nlp i was repelled, the endless talk about submodalities and quck fixes that made no sense and bandler pretending like everything was ridiculously easy and simple was just annoying to me.”

    Submodalities are part of the epistemological model of NLP. Really important to know! However, most practitioners think they are levers when they are really just indicators. The right way to use submodalities is not to try and shift them around, but check their status.

    When you make changes using other, more effective strategies, you’ll inevitably notice submodality shifts. But you can’t make them happen long term by manipulating them directly.

    You wrote: “I realise now alot of the nlp was ‘pop” nlp with those oversimplistic ideas do a quick submodalitie shift and your life is changed. and i was annoyed because jsut like hypnosis it nevr talked about taking massive action.”

    Darn, you’re out of luck… “Turtles All The Way Down” and “Whispering In The Wind” are great, portable ways to get a feel for him — short of going to a seminar.

    Here, I don’t think you’re addressing the field fairly. When you say that nlp never talked about taking massive action, it’s like saying that C++ or Java doesn’t talk about programming Facebook.

    NLP is not a religion. It’s got no conversation. It’s just a set of models you can use to map out how outstanding people do what they do.

    You wrote: “it’s an intricate web of beliefs and alot of other things and especially important is taking lots n lots of action gaining ridiculous amounts of new reference experiences shattering old paradigms”

    Yes. That’s called living, not NLP.

    You asked: “Where does Grinder go deep into these things? or on anything really. the short bits of seminar ive seen are really interesting, i cant find any dvd product or long seminar parts of him aywhere tho. his books are impossible to read for me”

Comments are closed