When I introduce myself as a Life Coach many people know what that is. When I say I use N.L.P. quite a lot of people don't know what that is and when I explain it stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming, some take quite an alarmed step backwards! It's the neuro and the programming part in the same sentence; the idea that this is some kind of weird brain control.
The linguistic part - language
So a little demystification here. One of the things that does N.L.P. is look at how language can affect our behaviour and thoughts. In truth is is more than that but it's a good place to start!
By using certain language we can start to influence our thoughts. It is important to say this works both positively and negatively.
Here's an example. You're faced with a challenging task at work. You keep saying to yourself:
'This is so hard and I will never do it. I'm rubbish at this kind of thing. I'm going to lose my job or promotion if I don't do it...'
It's very destructive and does not help you move forward. Saying it on a loop in your head (or out loud) may just convince you it's true.
Conversely, imagine this dialogue:
'This is tough, it's going to take me a bit more time to do it and I may even need some help. But I can do difficult things! I done them before loads of times and got through it.
This approach may well get the task done! Some of us are naturally like this, we like a challenge, we re-frame all the hard stuff in a way that allows us to do it. Others don't find this comes so naturally. They are not pessimists by any means, but shifting their thinking on their own is not so easy and that's where I can help! Someone objective looking in, with no judgement, can be such a powerful aid to shifting negative thinking patterns.
Here's another example of how language can affect us:
Let's say you are having difficulty thinking about a new role or career. You feel fed up and stuck where you are but don't seem to make much progress in moving things forward. Your thoughts (and internal language) could be like this:
'I've not done anything new for so long I wouldn't know where to start.'
I'm rubbish at learning. I was rubbish at school, always at the bottom and behind everyone else.'
'So many other people out there are better than me, it's not even worth having a go.'
(The brackets show the types of patterns of thinking and language. There are 13 in total!)
How are you doing what you are doing and is it working - the programming part:
This part deals with the process or program you follow to do something. Here's an example:
Eva is a great swimmer and wins many races. Before she goes to a race, she spends time warming up and reminding herself of all the races she has won and determines she is going to do her best. She breathes fully and slowly. She paces up and down and imagines winning.
Taron has a maths test. That morning he convinces himself he feels sick and doesn't eat breakfast. He looks at his maths book and despairs, sighs heavily and pulls at his hair. He starts to cry. The last time was so awful, he couldn't remember anything and he knows this time is no different. He tells himself, on a loop, in his head, he is rubbish.
Both Taron and Eva are doing something stressful. Both of them have a very different approach. Eva thinks about the positive times. She prepares herself physically and mentally. On the other hand Taron has a brilliant process for getting himself in a complete state.
N.L.P. is also...
A collection of tools and resources that that allow you to re-frame situations and get rid of negative and limiting beliefs about yourself.
It helps with communication by making a conscious effort to understand others' perspectives on the world. Walk a mile in another person's shoes before you judge them.
Forward thinking and solution focused but with a respect for where you've come from. No need to dig about in unhappy or unpleasant memories - Once was enough thanks!
You can read about it, but as one of my fellow trainees said:
'I've read so many books on it and it still hasn't come to life yet. The only way to really learn about it is to do it.'
I'll add to this too - it is quite difficult (in my opinion) to do N.L.P. to yourself having read a book. It works better if you can be free to talk and allow someone else to manage the process.
So for me as an N.L.P. coach my job is to listen out for those language patterns and see how they can be challenged and changed. Or perhaps it is noticing some 'programs' you follow which are not serving you well, respectfully. Always respectfully. Sometimes even with a lightness, that doesn't feel heavy and burdensome.
Interested in finding out more? Do get in touch
Oh and finally it is absolutely nothing like this. But I do love Gary Larson!
Oh and here's an official definition as described in goodtherapy.org.
'Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a psychological approach that involves analyzing strategies used by successful individuals and applying them to reach a personal goal. It relates thoughts, language, and patterns of behavior learned through experience to specific outcomes...Modeling, action, and effective communication are key elements of neuro-linguistic programming. The belief is that if an individual can understand how another person accomplishes a task, the process may be copied and communicated to others so they too can accomplish the task.'