Martin Messier

October 9, 2023

The 5 Critical Areas Of NLP

Do you have a daughter or a niece with long hair? Ever try to comb through it?

My daughter does.

She is, literally, Goldilocks.

Anytime I comb through her hair, I'm amazed at how entangled the threads can become. Needless to say, she's not too fond of this combing process. And yet, it's necessary in order to keep her hair healthy and looking good.

When I started learning NLP close to 15 years ago, it felt like a mane of threads to comb through. I had so much material coming at me that I struggled to make sense of it.

No matter where I looked, no one seemed to have organized the field in a manageable way.

You won't have to go through that.

I've combed through NLP for you so you won't have to do it. It takes long. Really long.

What will surprise you is how easily you will be able to organize and sort through the material as you pursue your learning.

Literally, the distinctions you learn today will allow you to map out all your areas of learning in NLP.

Keep in mind that this is just a model. As with anything in NLP, I have no interest in claiming "truth" or "right way of doing things" here. Remember: the criteria by which you evaluate a model is its usefulness. If you don't find it useful, find another one or build your own.

Let's get on with carving NLP in a way that makes it crystal-clear to you.

5 distinct areas of activity

I divide the field of NLP into 5 areas of activity:

  1. Epistemology
  2. Basic and advanced skills
  3. Patterning (Modeling and design)
  4. Application
  5. Training

Let's run through them one by one.

1. NLP Epistemology

NLP offers to its users an operational epistemology. According to Wikipedia, epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. In layman's terms, epistemology studies how we know what we know. The field addresses:

  • What is knowledge?
  • How do we acquire it?
  • To what extent can we know a particular object or entity?
  • How do we know what we know?

NLP offers answers to these questions through particular models, with no claim to truth. The only purpose of those models is their usefulness in codifying human thought and behavior.

You're focusing on NLP Epistemology anytime you're studying or working directly on the "code:"

  • Representational systems
  • Submodalities
  • Strategies
  • 4-tuple
  • First Acess
  • F2 transforms
  • Eye accessing cues
  • The Meta Model of language (imported from transformational grammar)
  • Meta-states

These models offer a map as to how human beings know what they know. Practitioners leverage them when they code patterns acquired through modeling. They also use them when designing patterns, such as the compulsion blowout, frequently used in therapeutic settings.

Mastering NLP Epistemology allows you to create and design patterns on the fly at an unconscious level.

2. Basic and advanced NLP skills

The most basic skills of NLP have to do with modeling. They are the skills you must sharpen in order to become an effective practitioner. Among them, you'll find:

  • Observation (sensory acuity in general)
  • Calibration
  • Rapport
  • Anchoring
  • Questioning
  • Giving suggestions
  • Trance
  • Visualization
  • Framing
  • Reframing
  • Sleight of Mouth

These are not models or maps. They form a skillset you can develop over time. They allow you to produce results.

Now, these are not necessarily techniques or methods. Any of these skills can involve various techniques or methods to produce results.

Anytime you come across one of them, be aware that you need to put them on your practice schedule in order to improve. While epistemology provides the map, skills enable you to navigate that map effectively.

3. NLP Patterning (modeling and design)

NLP Modeling constitutes THE main activity of NLP. You’re modeling any time you’re acquiring and coding behavioral patterns into explicit models and instruction sets.

You can also be said to be modeling when you craft useful descriptions or maps of phenomena that you observe (for instance, eye movements tied to the use of a specific representational system).

Our core focus in modeling is, of course, the behavior of geniuses who produce outstanding results in a specific field.

When modeling, you'll of course be leveraging epistemology and the fundamental skills of observation, calibration, rapport, trance and so on. You need both the code and the skills to model effectively.

As you become more proficient in modeling, you will inevitably be drawn to design.

You are designing any time you’re using NLP code to create new patterns with the intent of producing a specific result. For example, you might design a specific sequence of sentences that trigger specific sensory representations in order to persuade a client to buy a house.

4. NLP application

In NLP patterning, you model and design patterns. NLP application consists in using them in the world.
Nowadays, you can find therapeutic patterns that were modeled by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in various other fields, such as education, training and development, sales, leadership, and management, among others.

In common language, people say they are "doing NLP" on others.

NLP, per se, is a meta-field like physics. Saying you are "doing NLP" when communicating with someone would be similar to saying that you are "doing physics" when building a house. In a sense, you are, but it's not a useful way to describe what you're doing.

Using the Milton Model isn't doing NLP, it's doing hypnosis. Applying Tiger Woods's golf swing isn't doing NLP, it's doing golf. The "NLP" prefix only serves to identify that we have a codified pattern at play.

Application also involves the installation of patterns. This has to do with the actual “Programming” of NLP. You’re installing whenever you’re transferring, conditioning or programming a pattern in yourself or another person using anchoring, hypnotic language, chaining states or any combination of the former.

5. NLP Training

NLP training deals directly with teaching the other 4 areas of activity to a student or group of students. Training involves explaining, describing and exemplifying specific patterns or models for a student to learn how apply that specific pattern or model. While writing or reading this blog can’t exactly be considered training, it would fall in this generic category. This is what we’ve been doing together all along.

These are the fundamentals. Learn them. Practice them. Stick to them.

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