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NLP basics 3

What's the difference between a good NLP Practitioner and someone who just knows about NLP?

I love delivering the NLP Practitioner course because it is full of magical moments. You find that you can read about NLP but so much of it is experiential learning, that unless you get yourself along to a good face to face training course, you miss the real essence of it. Sometimes students want the certificate more than they want to learn and understand, and occasionally at the end of the course, they have learned everything they need to, and yet have still missed the essence of the course. In part that is because the standard curriculum (yes there is a recognised standard curriculum!) at Practitioner level is primarily about the 'trail of techniques' developed from the original models of excellence. It is only at Master Practitioner level that more attention is turned to the modelling process itself (amongst many other things).

I've met a lot people who have told me they know all about NLP, and when you ask them what specifically they know, it will be one small aspect. Eye accessing cues are very popular and interesting, but sadly often misunderstood. Strategies and influential language are commonly taught in sales techniques leaving people feeling that NLP is manipulative. As a dog owner, I can tell you my dog is infinitely more manipulative when he wants treats!

I had a great trainer when I first learned about NLP who explained that there are some presuppositions of NLP, some convenient beliefs, that a good practitioner will always hold to be true whilst they are working with a client. In my experience one of the big differences between good and not, are the presuppositions. I suspect that when researchers were looking to replicate the results practitioners were achieving with clients, in the lab, one of the key differences will have been choosing to accept the presuppositions.

So what do you mean by a convenient belief? Well if we consider the huge plethora of everyday beliefs that we hold, they are essentially the rules we live our lives by. The thing about beliefs that is often forgotten is that they are not necessarily true. Sometimes they are, and even more of the time they are subjective and don't always stand up to scrutiny. How many times have you said to yourself you can't lose weight, get promoted, or change your life in some way? Can't is simply expressing a limiting belief, something that stops you achieving a result in life that you want. Whilst you believe it you will find all the evidence that proves it is true. Simultaneously you will fail to notice options you have not yet tried, because they are being filtered out.

Beliefs can also be empowering. Think about when new medicines are being developed and they finally reach the point of being tested on people. There is invariably a control group, a set of people who are not given the new drug at all. They are given a placebo, something with no medical benefit. The reason for a control group is that the simple belief that you are receiving a treatment can be enough for people to show signs of improvement. Sometimes quite dramatically so.

Well, if beliefs are not necessarily true, they are simply something you believe, then it follows that you could choose to hold a convenient belief. When I was first introduced to them I was told that they were being presented as neither true nor untrue, although there is plenty of evidence to suggest they are true, and it was for me to choose whether to accept them or not. And I offer them to you in the same way.

Let's start with something we mentioned earlier, that we all have a unique map of the world. Having understood how are filters work, then it is easy for most people to accept that they each have their own unique interpretation of events. If we then take the next step, we have the presupposition that the map is not the territory. If the territory is the whole event, and our map is only a part of that, then our 'map', our Internal Representation of the event is only partially complete. Lets consider for a moment, someone asking for directions. Someone might grab a piece of paper and a pen, and draw a quick sketch of some roads, and landmarks. Its a map that serves the purpose for directions, but contains only limited information. If we were to pick up an A-Z that would have more information. An ordinance survey map might offer us more, with contour lines showing where the road goes uphill. We might use a satellite image showing buildings, trees, and hedges. None of them truly represent the reality of being in that place, with the noises, smells and activity going on all around. If our map is that pen and paper sketch, and we accept that it is not complete, then when we encounter someone else's map, instead of rejecting it as being 'wrong' we might instead add the information to our own, and gradually build a richer picture of the world. To do that we must accept another presupposition, and that is to respect each other's map of the world. We don't have to agree with them, but instead respect that it is simply different.

Our behaviour in the world stems from our map of the world and so people are not their behaviour. Their behaviour is a thing they do, not who they are, and by changing their map of the world, they can choose to change their behaviour. All behaviour has a positive intention for the person displaying the behaviour. There is something they are seeking to achieve for themselves, and their behaviour in the moment represents their best response to achieve it. So it follows that the meaning of that behaviour is dependent on the context in which it appears. Someone who is angry at an injustice is not an angry person, just a person displaying anger at a particular situation. And so the most important information about a person is how they are behaving. Their behaviour is their external representation of what is going on inside.

Many of the following presuppositions are about the Practitioner adopting the right mindset to work successfully with a client. As a coach is I am unable to hold the belief that my client is able to find their own best answer, then I will never successfully coach them. My best answer to a situation is based on my skillset and personality, it isn't THE best answer, only the best one for me, and so as a coach I must work with my client to help them identify their best answer, based on who they are. I must also accept responsibility for my part in the coaching relationship. Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of rapport. As a coach it is my responsibility to create a trusted safe space in which to work, and so must constantly be aware of the need to maintain rapport. The meaning of communication is the response you get. If someone takes your compliment as an insult, then you insulted them. If you consider the purpose of communication is to convey meaning to another person, then whatever they receive, is the meaning, whatever you meant it to be. One of the most common miscommunications is when someone's distortion filter misinterprets a facial expression. You cannot not communicate!

Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. I do find this a really helpful if you are a manager. Sometimes we can be inclined to think someone isn't trying, but if instead you assume they are doing their best, it leads you to wonder whether they have all the resources they need, or perhaps if they do have the training and the skills, what it is about their emotional state that is getting in their way. Most people have had an 'off day', a day when something you can usually do fairly easily just seems to keep going wrong, a day when the resources you have seem 'unavailable'. The person with the most flexibility of behaviour has the greatest influence. In NLP training you learn how to become more flexible in your use of language, and how to live your life 'at cause' rather than effect. It opens up your awareness of your choices. Often that is exactly what a coach is seeking to do with a client, help them to recognise a wider range of options they can choose from.

As a good practitioner working with a client I am also going to choose to believe there are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states. Often our state of mind, and our emotions, get in the way of us accessing our internal resources, our creativity, and problem solving ability. The practitioner's job is to work with the client to enable them to access their own resources, not to do things for them, or to them. And finally there is no failure, only feedback. When something doesn't work, you simply learned something, that you need to try something different next time.

In essence you can tell a good NLP Practitioner from someone who knows about NLP, because the good practitioner has learned to live their life being aware of their choices and knowing the influence they have over their own lives, rather than constantly feeling that they are at the 'effect' side of life. Would you rather choose where to drop the pebble in the pond, or be rocked by the ripples that result?

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