In a nutshell

1. What is NLP?

NLP is the study of how we create our experiences of being alive. It is the study of excellence, and teaches us how our minds operate. It gives us insights and from these come skills which we can use to start making improvements that will lead to a happier and more satisfying life.

  • Neuro refers to the mind and body and how they interact, and to our neurology, which processes all the information from our five senses.
  • Linguistic refers to the words we choose to describe and catalogue our world and give it meaning.
  • Programming refers to the way we habitually use repeated sequences of thought patterns to do things.


2. Why bother?

If, like most of us, you have settled for less than your dreams, then NLP tools can be useful in improving your life and getting what you really want.

  • NLP provides tools and techniques that will enable you to deal with life’s events in a much more empowering way.
  • With NLP, you can ‘clean up’ past events by dealing with them in a more empowering way.
  • NLP breaks down mental barriers to success and promotes a winning synergy between mind and body.
  • Throughout this topic you will find exercises. Our advice is to use them, because the only way to achieve the beneficial changes in your life offered by NLP is to get out there in the real world and have a go.


3. NLP: a more useful way of thinking

The results we get in life are based on how we behave and what we do. The way we behave and what we do is based on what we believe about the world and about our place in it. So this means our results – what we get in life – are based on our beliefs. NLP has identified a set of beliefs, called presuppositions; these are not claimed to be ‘ultimate truths’, but if you behave as if they are true, you will have a richer, more fulfilling and more enjoyable life than if you behave as though the reverse were true. Among these presuppositions are

  • The mind and body affect each other
  • Every behaviour has a positive intention
  • If someone else can do it, I can do it
  • There is no failure, only feedback
  • If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.


4. Filters – what do you see, hear and feel?

How does your mind filter the massive amount of information available to it in order to create your model of the world? And can you improve your filtering system?

  • We are subjected to around 2,000,000 bits of data per second, yet are only aware of around 0.01 per cent of this.
  • Each of us has an individual set of information filters, composed of such things as our beliefs, memories, attitudes, mental and emotional state, interests and preferences.
  • Our filters delete and distort information, and generalise in order to find consistent patterns.
  • Once the filtering has taken place, we then re-run the information in an internal movie, filling in the gaps from memory.
  • The movie we run – happy, sad or whatever – and how we behave as a result is hugely affected by our mental and emotional state.
  • The easiest way to change your filters is to manage your state.


5. Representational systems

We use our five senses to interact with the world and gather information from it. In NLP shorthand, the senses are often reduced to initial letters:

Our internal representations are made up of the five listed above, plus another called Auditory Digital (Ad), which is our running commentary of the movie or our self-talk.

  • Most of us favour one system over the others when it comes to internal processing.
  • This comes out in our language in the form of clues – marker words or phrases known as predicates – that indicate the thinking going on internally.
  • If you know about these clues, you know something about how a person is thinking; not what, but how.
  • In general, if you communicate with a person using their preferred system, they will understand you more easily and respond more readily.
  • A skill shared by outstanding performers is the ability to move between the systems with ease, using the one most appropriate to the task in hand.


6. Submodalities – a key for change

The representational systems – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory, gustatory and auditory digital –are sometimes referred to as the major modalities. If we break each one down (NLP calls this chunking down) with finer distinctions, we get submodalities.

  • An internal picture may be bright or dim, moving or still, black and white or in colour.
  • A sound may be loud of soft, shrill or melodious.
  • A feeling may be warm or cold, hard or soft and so on.
  • These submodalities affect how you feel about something and how you will act and react in relation to it.
  • If you change the submodalities, your thoughts, feelings and reactions will change.


7. Using submodalities

Any time you make a change in the way you think, the submodalities must change to encode the new way of thinking. Changing submodalities is a matter of personal experience and is difficult to convey in words. You just have to experiment – with a sense of play – to find out how it works for you. The rewards are well worth the time spent finding out.

  • To make a goal more compelling, change the submodalities around the outcome and the pathway.
  • Practise associating and dissociating from memories and notice the difference.
  • Make good memories bright, colourful and close, and bad ones small, dark and far away.
  • Find someone intimidating? Now you can change this!
  • Change the kinaesthetic submodalities of an emotion and the emotion will change.
  • Play around with your internal voice.
  • Help other people to change their submodalities.


8. Sharpen your senses

We all constantly give lots of physical signals that indicate how we feel about things. These signals include voice tonality, facial expressions and body posture, and we all observe them and react to them, but usually without being aware of this.

  • The signals are part of a BMIR, an acronym for a Behavioural Manifestation of an Internal Representation.
  • In order to notice change, we need to contrast two states, or two BMIRs. This means taking a ‘snapshot’ of the first BMIR and then noticing when it changes, indicating that a different internal representation is now taking place. This ‘snapshot’ is called calibration in NLP jargon.
  • It’s tempting to mind read, but this can lead to mistakes. However, we can greatly improve our abilities by becoming aware of what is going on and practising to increase that awareness.
  • Practise noticing changes in skin colour, minute facial muscles, the lower lip and people’s breathing.


9. What the eyes can tell you

When we think in a specific representational system, our eyes move to reflect this. For example, we look horizontally to the left to access auditory memories. It also works the other way, so that where we look influences which system we use. We can use this in a number of ways.

  • If you want someone to visualise something, point upwards. As their eyes track up, they will start to make pictures in their mind.
  • If you want to help someone out of a bad feeling, have them look up so they visualise rather than feel.
  • If you want someone to concentrate on a list of data, put it in their auditory digital quadrant, which is (with 95 per cent probability) down to your right (their left).
  • If you want to remember something you saw last week, put your eyes up into visual remembered mode (your left).

10. Rapport

Rapport is that form of connection that establishes an atmosphere of trust, confidence and participation, and although it is something we already do instinctively, we can always improve it.

The way we establish rapport is based on the fundamental premise that we like people who are like us. So, if you actively want to promote rapport, you need to either consciously match the other person in some way or find some kind of common ground.

Once you have rapport established, you will be able to lead the other person in terms of their thinking and their mood.


11. Using a different point of view

NLP uses three main perceptual positions

  • Position 1. Standing in your own shoes, looking out of your own eyes, feeling what you feel and hearing what you hear.
  • Position 2. Imagine standing in someone else’s shoes and experiencing the world from their point of view.
  • Position 3. Take a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective as a detached observer.

Successful people swap between these perspectives to use the one most suited to the task in hand.


12. Goal setting with NLP

Setting an outcome (or goal) is a fundamental part of NLP, and the way you do this has an impact on the likelihood of achieving the outcome. An outcome should be well formed. That is, it should satisfy certain conditions.

  • Stated in the positive
  • Reasonably within your control
  • Stated specifically
  • Set in a defined context
  • Evidence based
  • Worth what it takes
  • Ecological


13. Managing your state

Our state is the sum of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical and mental energies. The state we are in affects our capabilities and interpretation of experience, and thus the results we get.

Our thoughts which make the internal movie in our mind, and the way we use our bodies affect our state. By managing these, we can manage our state.

Much of our life is spent in a ‘baseline state’, so improving this default state will greatly improve our lives.


14. What is anchoring?

Any time a person is in an intense state and a stimulus is applied, then the state and the stimulus will be linked neurologically. It is a form of associative learning. The associations we make through this kind of learning have a huge impact on the quality of our lives and how successful we are, and NLP has developed several tools and techniques to create and change these associations.

  • The response when an anchor, such as a particular tune or the sight of a spider, is triggered could be good or bad, useful or not.
  • An anchor will change your state. Your state will govern the kinds of behaviours you choose and thus your results.
  • An understanding of anchoring is vital if you want to make significant improvements in your life.
  • Any time someone is an intense and associated state, whether it is a pleasant state or an unpleasant one, anchors are being created.
  • Repetition will also condition a stimulus so that it becomes an anchor, even if the state is not intense.
  • Repetition coupled with an intense state will create an incredibly strong and durable anchor.


15. Creating an anchor on purpose

This is the basic process used to ‘set an anchor’ on a person.

  1. Choose the state you want to anchor.
  2. Have the person recall a past vivid experience in order to access the chosen state.
  3. Apply a specific and repeatable stimulus while the person is in the state.
  4. Break state.
  5. Test the anchor.

But there’s much more you can do with anchoring:

  • You can ‘stack’ an anchor by setting it several times to improve its durability and the strength of the response
  • You can stack several resourceful states onto the same anchor
  • You can use a spatial anchor to create a circle of excellence
  • You can eliminate annoying, unwanted anchors by collapsing anchors.


16. Logical levels

The logical levels model gives us a way of looking at an individual, group or organisation as a series of levels of processes and information. The levels are

  • Environment – Answers the questions ‘Where?’, ‘When?’ and ‘With whom?’
  • Behaviour – Answers the question ‘What’s happening?’
  • Capability – Answers the question ‘How?’
  • Beliefs – Answers the question ‘Is it possible?’
  • Values – Answers the question ‘Why bother?’
  • Identity – Answers the question ‘Who?’
  • Spiritual – Answers the questions ‘For what purpose?’, ‘For whom?’


17. Taking NLP further

People who find out a bit about NLP often have a nagging thought that there is mush more that is worth exploring. This can be done by further reading, but ultimately, NLP is a behavioural process and is best learnt in a hands on type training course.