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You may have heard about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). While NLP is not a therapy per se, it has gained wide recognition. Many coaches and therapists have learned its framework to help people overcome limiting beliefs, improve communication skills and optimize performance. This article explores the set of techniques behind NLP as well as its history and applications.
What is NLP?
Neuro-linguistic programming is a set of methods leveraging how language and thought patterns shape our experiences and behaviors. The most significant premise behind NLP is the belief that our perception and interpretation of the information from our environment affects our behavior and decision-making.
In other words, NLP looks at how we communicate, think, behave and use language to create meaning. It also examines how words, body language, images and other aspects of communication can promote change in individuals. Typically during neuro-linguistic programming sessions, an NLP practitioner will help people become more aware of their own thought processes and behaviors to make better life choices.
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What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming Used For?
Gaining self-awareness can be a tremendous asset. A better understanding of one’s thought patterns and behaviors will likely trigger growth and positive changes. Neuro-Linguistic Programming has become synonymous with personal development. Naturally, NLP has found its ways in fields such as business, therapy, and sports coaching to help individuals achieve goals such as:
- becoming a better communicator
- developing healthier habits
- boost confidence
- gaining more motivation.
History of NLP
Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the 1970s. Today NLP incorporates many influences from hypnotherapists, psychotherapists, philosophers and psychiatrists.
Alfred Korzybski and Fritz Perls
Richard Bandler and John Grinder allegedly studied with mathematician and philosopher Alfred Korzybski and psychiatrist Fritz Perls, two pioneers in the field of communication.
Korzybski’s work focused on understanding how humans make sense of their world through language, while Perls’ work explored how people can use their conscious thoughts to influence unconscious behavior. By integrated insights gathered by these two pioneers, Bandler and Grinder developed the foundations of NLP, which is widely used today to help people overcome limiting beliefs, improve communication skills and optimize performance.
Milton Erickson’s Influence
Richard Bandler and John Grinder were heavily influenced by the work of psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson, who pioneered the use of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool. For many, Erickson has reignited an interest in modern hypnotherapy, and his influence extends to many hypnotic techniques used to this day.
Bandler and Grinder, the co-founders of NLP, studied extensively under Erickson and incorporated many of his ideas into their work. These include indirect hypnosis, reframing, and psychotherapeutic use of metaphor – all concepts that form part of the foundation of NLP. Erickson’s approach to therapy influenced Bandler and Grinder on a deeper level, inspiring them to focus on the individual full of resources rather than seeing them as an object needing to be fixed.
Virginia Satir’s influence
Virginia Satir also greatly influenced the two founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Satir was an American Psychotherapist who developed a family therapy system focused on communication, problem-solving and behaviour modification. Through her work, she identified specific patterns of communication which can be applied to help facilitate change in a person. Her four main concepts – congruence, respect for another’s model of the world, joining and pacing – form the basis of NLP. Additionally, Satir’s Change Model – comprised of “sequences” that occur when individuals attempt to initiate and guide change – underlies many NLP techniques such as reframing and anchoring.
The primary focus of neuro-linguistic programming is on understanding how humans process information, both consciously and unconsciously, to enhance communication and self-development.
Neuro-linguistic programming emphasizes the importance of language, behavior and subjective experience when achieving desired outcomes. NLP techniques have been used to help people overcome fears, phobias and stress while also aiding in improving goal setting, motivation and academic performance.
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How Does Language Shape Experiences and Behaviour?
Language conveys more than a meaning. The words we use can profoundly affect how we perceive and interpret our environment. They can evoke strong emotional responses, shape our view of reality, and even change our behavior.
When we use positive language, it can have a powerful effect on influencing our experiences and behavior. For example, using more positive language when communicating with others can increase positivity and cooperation.
Conversely, using negative language can create stress and anxiety, which can influence how we behave. Therefore, NLP seeks to understand the role of language in shaping our experiences so that individuals can make more conscious decisions about their thoughts and actions.
Core principles of NLP
The founders of NLP condensed their knowledge of the language’s influence on behaviours as well as the techniques used by some of the most effective therapists into neuro-linguistic programming is based on three core principles: the use of effective language patterns to maximize communication, reframing negative thoughts to create a positive outcome and anchoring positive emotions.
The first principle focuses on the use of effective language patterns. It encourages people to look at language from different perspectives to understand better how communication works and affects our behavior. Second, reframing negative thoughts helps us identify unhelpful thought patterns or beliefs to make more conscious decisions to achieve our desired outcomes. Finally, anchoring positive emotions allows us to associate certain feelings with particular words or images to use them when needed.
By mastering these three NLP core principles, individuals are able to create more effective outcomes for themselves both personally and professionally.
NLP is rising in popularity
Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been gaining popularity in recent years, and the practice has many supporters. Some notable individuals who have expressed their support for NLP include Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield and the co-creators of NLP. Additionally, organizations like the American Psychological Association have recognized NLP’s potential to help individuals achieve personal goals. NLP is also widely used in businesses and health services because it promotes change and improves communication.
7 most effective Neuro Linguistic Programming Techniques
Neuro-Linguistic Programming includes a range of techniques and strategies to help individuals think, communicate, and behave more effectively. Here are six of the most powerful NLP techniques:
- Reframing: This NLP technique helps people change how they perceive and interpret their experiences by altering the context in which they experience them.
- Anchoring: This technique helps people quickly access helpful mental states and emotions by associating bodily sensations with positive thoughts or memories.
- Submodalities: This technique allows individuals to break down their thoughts into smaller components (submodalities) and manipulate them to create desired outcomes.
- Pattern Interrupts: Used as a form of self-intervention, this NLP technique interrupts automatic patterns of behavior by introducing an unexpected stimulus which can redirect thoughts onto a different course.
- Modelling Success: By observing successful people, this technique enables individuals to identify useful behaviors that can be implemented in their own lives.
- Parts Integration: This technique helps people resolve emotional conflicts between different parts of themselves to become more unified and operate from within a single frame of reference instead of two opposing ones.
Visualization and NLP
Visualization techniques are a vital component of neuro-linguistic Programming. By visualizing their goals and desired outcomes, individuals can increase their focus and clarity around achieving them. Visualization can be used to relieve stress, attract desired experiences into one’s life and help individuals create positive changes. NLP practitioners believe that the more vivid the visualization, the more successful an individual will be in achieving their goals.
The visualization process involves creating a mental image of what you want to achieve or having a physical representation, such as a drawing or map, that symbolizes your goal. Additionally, affirmations and self-talk are often used with visualization to reinforce positive beliefs and habits.
NLP Modelling Excellence
Neuro-Linguistic Programming modelling is a technique used to understand and replicate human behavior. It involves studying experts’ beliefs, language patterns, behaviors, and strategies to understand better how they achieve their results. NLP modelling involves observing and collecting data about what someone does or says to model the outcomes. This data can then be used to create new strategies for dealing with similar situations or improving performance. By observing successful results within specific contexts, NLP practitioners can apply the same principles to improve their own success rates.
The steps involved in NLP modelling include:
- Selecting the target behavior or skill to be modelled.
- Observing the subject and collecting data about their language patterns, beliefs, and strategies.
- Analyzing the data and creating a model for replicating the subject’s success.
- Applying the model to real-life situations to improve performance or results.
- Evaluating the model’s effectiveness by observing behavioral changes or improvements in performance or results.
Is NLP an Evidence-Based Therapy?
Whenever you choose a therapy or a set of methods to achieve greater well-being, you must check the evidence behind it. But unfortunately, measuring the efficacy of treatment takes work and requires funding. Sometimes more funds are needed to finance a large enough study. And studies may have biases.
But there is some hope. A 2009 study concluded that NLP effectively reduced clinical symptoms and placed this framework on par with other therapies. Another study conducted in 2014 sought to examine the effectiveness of NLP on PTSD, anxiety and depression. Again, the researchers concluded that NLP yielded significant results and held its ground compared to other techniques.
These studies are not enough in themselves to support the use of NLP techniques as therapy. And other studies refuted the health-related claims of NLP. For example, a 2012 study published in the British Journal of General Practice conducted a systematic review of previous studies on NLP. Some of these studies included randomized controlled trials and focused on outcomes such as anxiety, morning sickness, fear of confined spaces, substance abuse and weight maintenance. The researchers concluded that there was little evidence of effectiveness for neuro-linguistic programming while noting that the limited number of studies could introduce a bias.
Given the limited body of evidence for health-related issues, the most common applications are related to peak performance and thought reframing. Here are a few examples of NLP benefits.
- Stress management
- Cognitive restructuring to identify and reframe negative thoughts and beliefs
- Increasing self-confidence and self-esteem
- Improved communication skills
- Improving confidence in decision making
- Enhancing performance and productivity
- Resolving fears and phobias
- Motivation enhancement
The best NLP training involves a structured course from experienced and qualified NLP practitioners. During these courses, participants learn to identify and apply the core principles of neuro-linguistic programming to create positive change in their lives.
Participants should choose a course that offers the most comprehensive content, with topics such as communication techniques, sensorimotor skills, persuasion strategies, problem-solving techniques, rapid personal change processes and language patterns.
Upon completing the course, the NLP practitioners should have developed new skills and confidence in their ability to make lasting changes.
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Risks associated with NLP?
There are potential risks associated with the use of neuro-linguistic programming. NLP can be a helpful tool, but it cannot become a substitute for medical care or evidence-based therapy. Therefore, it would be best to talk to your doctor or mental health specialist before using it. Additionally, individuals who use NLP must be aware that this modality can sometimes bring up uncomfortable memories, thoughts and feelings.
Choosing a practitioner with good credentials and who has built a good rapport with you is always the first step on a successful transformative journey. So remember to do your research.
Natural Language Programming: Should you Learn it?
Should you study NLP?
Well, the answer to this question depends on your needs and goals. If you are looking for methods to manage health issues, there may be better options than NLP. However, if you are interested in enhancing your personal development and communication skills, such training provides benefits. Many mental health professionals, doctors and coaches studied NLP to improve communication with clients, gain greater insight into their own issues and promote self-confidence. Ultimately, the decision of whether to learn NLP is up to you.
At Renewed Edge, we love bringing you the best methods for peak performance. Book today with our coaches and therapists. Trained in evidence-based techniques, they are ready to help.