Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is hard to define because the founders wanted to make NLP an open source discipline. In many disciplines a set of guiding principles are established. Often one of the principles is “This is the best and only way to accomplish a particular task.” This principle often blocks that discipline from evolving. Participants discount or ridicule other options because "Our way is best.”
The founders of NLP thought that NLP is the best technology for change in existence for the time being. But there is always a better way and when we find it we will add it to the knowledge base known as NLP.
The notion of there’s always a better way allowed NLP to evolve in different directions simultaneously. This is the strength of NLP because it’s always getting better. But since it is a moving target it is difficult to define. The definition of NLP differs among the thought leaders in the field.
What is NLP?
To me NLP is what happens in your mind and body at the moment of change. Armed with this knowledge anyone can use it to create change in a fraction of time of traditional therapy.
A more traditional definition of NLP begin with the name. Neuro – represents neurology meaning how our brain connects with every part of our body. Linguistic – represents the language we use to communicate with others and to ourselves. Programming – the mental processes that determine one’s behaviors in any situation. Put simply NLP is the way we use our minds to get spectacular results.
NLP’s guiding principles
The map is not the territory. In English, what this means is there is no such thing as reality only our interpretation of it. We experience reality through our senses but before we can make meaning of our experience it goes through a set of filters (our life’s experiences). A good example of this in action is a salesperson and a customer remembering their meeting quite differently. For the salesperson the customer is super ready to buy, “This is in the bag!” For the customer the salesperson did not address my concerns so I am not going to buy. But I will be polite. Both parties are certain this is what really happened.
We are part of the system. We have to take the system into account when we are trying to create change. Our environment and the people in it shape our experience of reality and the lessons we take away from it. For example, a sales manager could give constructive criticism to a salesperson in a crowded sales meeting. Or the sales manager could meet privately with the salesperson, lets say over lunch and say the exact same words. For the salesperson the two experiences would be radically different. The same would be true for the sales manager. Meeting at a different restaurant would have changed the experience as well.
NLP is all about studying excellence. Excellence in the traditional sense could be how a leader gets his or her people to deliver exceptional results. Or how the world’s best basketball player throws three-pointers. Excellence in the NLP sense could also mean how someone becomes instantly depressed. In all cases NLP looks at what process was used by the person to deliver these exceptional results. Since 90% of the process is happening at a deep unconscious level outside most people’s awareness they can’t articulate how they get exceptional results. NLP has the tool to go deeper inside one’s psyche to uncover the entire process. Once captured it can be taught to others so they deliver exceptional results as well.
Let’s say a salesperson who has trouble speaking to large groups wants to get help. They go to a psychiatrist for six months. Then one Thursday afternoon the psychiatrists says something meaningful and the salesperson has a breakthrough. Now the salesperson can talk to large groups comfortably and easily.
NLP is not concerned about the six months of therapy but is keenly interested in what happened that Thursday afternoon. Think about it, a moment before the salesperson was stuck. A moment later and the salesperson had a breakthrough and could speak with ease. A miracle!
If you asked the salesperson how the change happened they wont be able to tell you. NLP uncovers what happened and how to repeat that breakthrough in other situations for other people.
These are just some of the guiding principles of NLP - there are more!
NLP is the fastest and most powerful technology for change!
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