Dean here… I spoke to a guy called Tim Brownson a couple of months ago, I told him of my HUGE fear of public speaking, and said: “Tim, if you can help me with this, I will let you guest post on my blog, and I will name my first born child Tim (let’s hope it is not a girl).
The fact that you are reading this post, should be a clue that I went on stage, and rocked the house.
So without further a do, I bring to you, Tim Brownson, and the weird and wonderful world of NLP:
When I tell people I’m an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner I usually get one of two responses. It’s either the thousand yard stare usually reserved for when a fat guy plops down in the seat next to them on a long haul flight and mutters something about hoping his snoring, body odor and anger management issues aren’t going to be a problem.
Or it’s a look of sheer terror as though I have just announced I am Lucifer Prince of Darkness and one glance into my eyes will render their soul unto me in perpetuity. Which of course is absolutely ridiculous, because soul stealing is severely frowned upon in NLP circles and I could get into a lot of trouble with my peers for partaking.
NLP suffers because it’s a huge umbrella term that consists of many different techniques and processes. Some, like the fast phobia cures and the removal of fears can seem weird to people that don’t understand how they work.
Imagine you’ve been in therapy for years with issues around intense fears and I bound into the room and declare “Worry not kind sir/lady, I can have you hugging snakes and kissing spiders within the hour. Once that is, I’ve remembered where I put my magic wand, black cloak and top hat”
You’re likely to be suspicious at best, and at worst, downright terrified of the loon stood grinning in front of you. And quite honestly I wouldn’t blame you.
I have received nervous laughs and the strange sideways look many times after making bold claims of what I could achieve. I’ve even had the ‘crying with laughter as somebody rolls around on the floor pointing at me whilst I shuffle away trying to look cool, calm and collected as a crowd forms to check out the hilarity’, response.
However, if I can get past the initial stage of disbelief and actually explain what I do and more importantly how and why it works, people are usually a lot more amenable and open to discussion.
NLP was co-developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the mid 70’s when the two met at Santa Cruz University in California. Grinder was an assistant professor in linguistics and Bandler was studying for his Masters in computer science. I must stress at this point a lot of the early days of NLP are hazy at best and it’s difficult to pin down exactly what was going on, although I’m not even sure that matters at this stage in its evolution.
However, what isn’t in dispute is that Bandler and Grinder modeled the leading players of the time in their various therapeutic fields. World renowned gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, brilliant family therapist Virginia Satir and world leading psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, Milton H Erickson.
Bandler and Grinder spent thousands of hours studying and working closely with these three in an attempt to unpick exactly what it was that made them great. They then set off to show that their success could be modeled and thus replicated. Whether they reached those heights is debatable (especially with Satir and Erickson), but they got very, very close and achieved some remarkable results.
In the early days NLP got pilloried and accused of everything from witchcraft to being a pseudo-religion. Even as recently as ten years ago you’d have been more likely to bump into a computer programmer that was taking the Y2K holiday period off work, than found a psychiatrist admitting he or she used NLP.
And therein lies some of the problems with NLP. A reluctance and/or fear of change by the establishment and an unwillingness to accept that there may be better ideas out there which to this day still plagues the therapeutic and mental health fields.
Not that I’m suggesting NLP can cure everything, of course it can’t. But it’s brilliant at achieving certain things such as removal of fears and phobias very quickly and very effectively. Conditions that traditional counseling and therapy had previously taken months and in some cases years to achieve (or not), can now be eased or even removed entirely in one session.
I once had a lady come to me who had been in Counseling for 20 years. I was tempted to ask her when she realized it wasn’t working? Maybe when her therapist invited her round to the opening of the new wing of his house she’d so kindly paid for.
We made more progress in 6 sessions than she had in the last 6 years. That’s not because I’m some weird concoction of magician, soothsayer and alchemist, but because I took a different approach. I also explained what I was doing and why I was doing it so she could move into a position of understanding the process and see why it would help.
As well as really cool stuff that can invoke rapid change like anchoring, submodalities, swish pattern, core transformation work etc (I encourage you to check them out because time permits me from explaining them all here) NLP uses other more mundane, but nonetheless powerful stuff, round the use of language.
This is probably the most valuable part of NLP to me because I can use it on a daily basis with clients and not have to worry about having garlic thrown at me and crosses waved in my face. You may find it a tad suspicious that a man who butchers the English language with the kind of gay abandon you’d normally associate with a bunch of very drunk lemmings off on a hang gliding expedition, studies the English language, but it’s true.
The starting point for NLP was the rather dry but nevertheless brilliant book ‘The Structure of Magic Vol 1’ by Bandler and Grinder. In it Bandler and Grinder introduced the world to the Meta Model of language.
The Meta Model requires total specificity so in a client session I am always aware of what he or she means, especially early on in the process. In other words somebody may comment after this post
“The guys a complete idiot and he’s full of it”
The natural presumption would be the commenter means the author of the post (me) is a complete idiot and arrogant too. But it’s possible (although highly unlikely in this rather weak example) the person could have been talking about Richard Bandler. Also there is no definition of what “full of it’ actually means, it’s completely subjective.
Yes we probably know what that person meant, but we can’t be absolutely sure without further questioning. 95% of the time in real life it’s ok (and probably necessary to avoid insanity) to presume, but sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusions and in coaching that can be a crucial error.
Note: If a loved one trains in NLP. Plan to be on vacation without them when they are taught the Meta Model. Otherwise somewhere around the fifteenth time they ask “What do you mean when you say ‘Everybody knows that?’ Who is ‘everybody’ and what is ‘that’?” you’ll be on your hands and knees sobbing like a baby and cursing the day you were born.
The flip side of the Meta Model is the Milton Model. This was named after the greatest hypnotherapist that ever lived, Milton H Erickson. Another name for the Milton Model is artfully vague language and it’s a close relative of cold reading so beloved by wannabe psychics. It’s also a skill adopted by people that write horoscopes.
Erickson developed artfully vague language as a tool for hypnosis. The direct form of hypnosis that most people think of e.g. “You are under my spell, now stop smoking you damn fool idiot. Oh and give me you’re your money and the title to your house on the way out of my office” isn’t very effective for most people.
To make change at an unconscious level you have to get past the interfering conscious mind first. Artfully vague language allows you to do this by talking abstractly and in metaphor. It allows the unconscious to fill in the gaps created by the hypnotherapist so the story makes sense to them and their circumstances.
It is also beloved of politicians that want to talk for hours on end without actually saying anything. They will often leave huge gaps knowing that the listener will fill them in with what’s relevant to them.
That’s why two people can come away from listening to the same speech with wildly different opinions about what was said and/or meant. Both believe firmly they were right and even if you showed them the speech again would see the bits they wanted to see that supported their currently held belief.
That latter part involves something called deletion, distortion and generalization, which we all do, but often fail to realize and is covered in great detail by good NLP instructors.
I hope I have given you enough a taster to read up a bit more on NLP with an open-mind. I haven’t even touched on whole areas like the incredibly powerful and useful reframing (also used by politicians, although they call it spinning), anchoring, rapid rapport building, submodalities and model operators of necessity (more language stuff).
If you have any questions please feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. It maybe a tad tricky and time consuming to describe entire processes though, so please bear that in mind.