Neuro-Lingusitic Programming, or NLP, is a branch of applied psychology that invites you to uncover the secrets of advanced communication and make a lasting commitment to your own personal and professional development. Developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the mid-1970s, NLP has evolved exponentially over the past four decades to become what is now an internationally recognized and widely celebrated science of excellence. Not short of a plaudit or two, a personal favourite of mine comes from Psychology Today Magazine, which wrote:
“NLP may be the Most Powerful Vehicle for Change in Existence”
Big statement hey! But, actually, in my life so far I have to say I’ve not come across anything quite like NLP. I have seen and experienced first-hand the transformational power this wonderful slice of applied psychology has to offer and I am excited to share little glimpses of what it’s all about and how it might contribute to your own personal and professional development in this blog and blogs to follow.
So lets get down to it… Let me introduce you to ‘Six Magical Presuppositions of NLP’. The same Six Magical Presuppositions that evoked my first NLP ‘Aha’ moment. Now I say magical, not because they will bestow you with the ability to make a rabbit suddenly appear out of a hat, but because they are incredibly simple concepts that, when remembered and lived by, WILL make a difference.
Here we go:
1. You Cannot Not Communicate
When people think of how we communicate they will normally think of language or words. And they would be right, except words are just a tiny slice of the communication pie. In fact, according to studies carried out by psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, a mere 7% of human communication is verbal whereas a staggering 91% is non-verbal (55% Body Language/38% Tone of Voice). So if you think you are communicating nothing sitting silently in the corner of a room, think again. How are your arms and legs positioned? Are you slouched or upright? Your facial expression? What about your eyes – which direction are they looking? Is your breathing deep or shallow? How about the tempo of the pulse in your neck? All of these things communicate something to your external environment and are likely to be indicating quite a lot about the way you are thinking or feeling. The same can be said for when we are communicating verbally – does the tone of our voice match up to what we are saying or is it communicating something completely different?
The idea behind this presupposition is that if we are aware that we are always communicating and with so much more than just words, we should be able to make intelligent choices about the way we communicate in the future to ensure we convey the right messages.
** The topic of verbal and non-verbal communication in the world of NLP is both captivating and enormous, so if you’re interested in learning more I would thoroughly recommend indulging in a little bit of your own web- or library- based research, or, better still, get in touch with Mike about the courses he and his company Discover Synergy can offer you or your team on this topic. **
2. We All Live In Our Own Unique Model Of The World
We are all unique [as I read this statement aloud I see my fiancé lift her eyebrow as if to say “Hmmm…yes, some more than others”]. But really we are. Shaped by subjective perceptions, every single one of us creates a unique internal map of the external world and that becomes our reality – which is certainly a celebration of the uniqueness and diversity of mankind, but is also likely to be the reason behind a large portion of the disagreements or arguments you’ve had in your life (many of which probably turned out to be pointless). You see, problems or conflict will very often arise when we believe, in no uncertain terms, that our way of seeing things is the right way of seeing things but are then met with someone else thinking the exact same thing. The real reality is that both of your perceptions are selective and not a complete or necessarily true account of reality or the experiences you think you’ve had, and therefore neither parties are right, or in fact maybe you are both right.
This presupposition is important because it gets you thinking about empathizing with others even if they don’t share the same ideas as you. Is it really worth arguing about or can you just agree that your opinions are different? As a keen ‘debater’ with family and friends I have to say this was a very important presupposition for me to take on board and work on.
3. The Person With The Most Behavioral Flexibility Has The Most Influence On The Outcome
This presupposition is very simple – when you give yourself more options and/or are willing to adapt to change, you are far more likely to reach your desired outcome than if you try the same thing over and over again. Remember it was the great Albert Einstein himself that defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Rigid thinking might mean you get it right sometimes but flexible thinking means you will get it right more often.
This presupposition can actually be observed in evolutionary terms – the animals and plants that were able to adapt most quickly to the changing environment were the ones that survived.
4. The Meaning Of The Communication Is The Response You Get
It is the perception of the receiver that determines the effectiveness of any interaction, not the intention of the initiator. Essentially, if you want to convey a message to someone, it is your responsibility to make sure you communicate it in a way that they can understand. If they fail to understand, we shouldn’t blame but instead look at how we can change the way we communicate to ensure the message is heard.
5. People Are Much More Than Their Behaviour
Behaving ‘badly’ does not necessarily make someone a bad person. It is a core assumption of NLP that people do the best they can given the resources that they have available to them at that time. So if someone is behaving badly it is because they are unable to access the resources that need to behave differently and are instead, making what they believe to be the best choices available to them at that time. If they had more or different tools, a different perspective, or were in a different situation/environment then they may well behave differently.
Being able to separate ‘the behaviour’ from ‘the person’ is an important and admirable personal competency. Being willing and able to do this will enable you to maintain healthier relationships and empathize more readily with those behaving in ways that are considered inappropriate.
6. There Is No Failure, Only Feedback
‘Feedback’ and ‘Failure’ – a clear difference exists between these two ways of thinking. NLP takes the standpoint that there is no such thing as failure, because the word failure has too many negative connotations and can often evoke negative thinking. Feedback on the other hand, tells us what we did well and what we can do even better next time, to ensure we accomplish our goals. Be solution rather than problem focused – it is a far more productive way of thinking!
So there you have it - ball is in your court now! Read them again, absorb their messages and make a plan to employ them in your life. You can start by focusing on just one for a week and see if you notice any shifts in limiting thoughts, feelings or behaviours. As someone who fears failure, presupposition number 6 is a great one for me to continually practice. If you are the same maybe start here and then work your way through the others.
Enjoy the transformation.
Until next time,
Author: Will Noel-Smith (BSc Hons, INLPTA) is a qualified NLP Practitioner and Exercise Science graduate from Exeter University. He currently works as part of the Discover Synergy Ltd Team, aiding in the design and production of course workbooks as well as assisting in program delivery.