Defining Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a set of techniques makes sense in spite of being inaccurate.
The field of NLP may even deserve to be seen as a technique-oriented approach to personal change. NLP trainers walked right into that one. After all, we commonly teach the techniques as if these methods were what makes NLP special. Yet, the heart of neuro-linguistic programming is anything but techniques, methods, and steps to effective communication.
What is NLP?
John Grinder would say modeling.
By modeling, Grinder refers to the process through which neuro-linguistic programming methods were designed; the system responsible for creating all the cool techniques. Given this, it would be more accurate to say step-by-step techniques are the result of NLP, which consists of modeling.
When practicing the popular methods of neuro-linguistic programming, we all like to think we are doing NLP. In reality, this is like browsing the produce aisle at the grocery store under the impression we’re practicing agriculture. Neatly arranged fruits and veggies are agricultural products, yep. But reaching for a bag of sliced and peeled carrots is a far cry from farming.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
Because modelers discovered the core patterns of gifted communicators, formulations of their methods are accessible to the rest of us. Preformulated techniques, wrapped in step-by-step packaging, produce results worth getting and you don’t have to be Milton Erickson in order to use them, just like you don’t need to be a farmer to enjoy fruit and vegetables.
And this is where the agriculture metaphor starts to break down. Being a skilled NLP practitioner is different than someone picking up grapes at Costco. It’s apples and oranges:)
The intended takeaway is this:
The central component of neuro-linguistic programming are not techniques like submodality map across, kinesthetic anchoring, or outcome specification. Modeling, or the process used to create these and other techniques, is the heart of NLP.
Modeling involves observing someone or something exceptional in order to isolate the core patterns which work together to produce the desired result. If you’re a NLP’er in the purest sense, you’re a modeler.
Here it’s worth noting for those interested in becoming world-class NLP’ers that learning the basic techniques are the right place to start. Simple, clear, step-by-step processes that are the result of NLP modeling are appropriate introductions to modeling.
For the record…
I’ve done more than my fair share of calling NLP a ‘set of techniques’…an easy way to avoid a more complicated explanation. I’m sure it’s a mistake to be so lazy. For those of you who remember module one of the iNLP Center practitioner training, feel free to chastise me. I’m sure I deserve it.
Modeling in Action
NLP-style modeling comes in different shapes and sizes and most modelers have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, I haven’t had much interest in modeling excellent performance. If you’ve got a great golf swing and a shockingly consistent game, good for you.
There are NLP’ers who can mirror every micro-movement in your swing, decipher the rate and timing and depth of each breath you take, break down your inner VAK sequence, then extract your empowering beliefs and meta programs that drive your ability.
Then, NLP performance modelers will transform their own inner and outer state to match yours until they can duplicate your performance with stunning efficacy. They may also turn around and teach this new ‘mind/body golfing success system’ to others who might not have a clue how to improve otherwise. And it works! A success system birthed on the spot.
Can you imagine the value of this?
One of my first 1-1 NLP practitioner students at the iNLP Center is a former AAA baseball player and now owns a youth training facility. Serious baseball parents take their kids to him for additional coaching. During his second NLP training session over Skype, where we learned the VAK model, he caught a modeling vision.
Returning to work, he began pairing up his players; a strong batter with a weak one. The weak batters had only one job – relax, listen and watch as the strong batters practiced their swing.
This brilliant coach then taught the strong batters to become aware and describe what they saw, heard and felt (VAK) on the inside as they prepared to swing the bat. After 30 minutes of this unconventional drill, the weaker batters practiced their swings as the stronger batters coached them, not how to swing the bat, but to see, hear and feel similar experiences on the inside.
By module nine of his practitioner training, this man’s business had doubled. Weak batters were transforming into stronger batters through modeling strong batters! Imagine that.
If you ever need to develop a unique success system, there is one inside every person on the planet. They key is learning what they’re good at and knowing how to map it out.
Modeling the NLP Models
You could call my preferred modeling method modeling the NLP models. It goes like this: We look at an NLP model and break it down to its essential pattern or core principle. Then, we can apply that principle or pattern to everyday life in ways that compound the value.
With anchoring, for example, the essential pattern is stimulus >>> response.
This is the core of anchoring in my view, what makes it work. Human beings come pre-wired for stimulus-response. With NLP anchoring, we isolate this simple pattern and use it to our advantage. Forget the kinesthetic anchoring technique in module four for now. Let’s figure out what we can do with the core pattern that NLP anchoring techniques rely upon.