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An Introduction to NLP Skills

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


One of the commonest acronyms and buzz-phrases a manager will encounter is NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming.  What is it?

First off, ignore the name: we’ll come back to that later.  Focus on what it does.  NLP is a toolkit of resources that help us with improving our performance and general communication-related tasks like:

  • being better understood
  • influencing others
  • making decisions
  • understanding other people
  • reading between the lines
  • improving aspects of performance
  • setting goals
  • uncovering issues
  • resolving problems and issues
  • negotiation

The toolkit was developed using the fundamental philosophy behind NLP, that:

‘Excellence can be modelled and reproduced’

Put simply, if you do something well, then if I do it exactly the way you do it, I will do it as well as you.  Clearly, this approach has applications in all areas of business, public service, management, sport… the list goes on.

A lot of the tools were therefore originally developed by observing excellent communicators and therapists, documenting what they did, testing and codifying the lessons and distillig their techniques down into a set of rules.  These form the body of NLP.  They include things like:

The Meta Model
A set of language constructions that we can recognise in other people’s speech, which give clues to the faults in their thinking (modelled from family therapist, Virginia Satir)

The Logical Levels Model
This model (described in an earlier Pocketblog, ‘I can’t do that now’) sets out different levels at which we perceive aspects of ourselves and the world.  It is useful in diagnosing problems and stimulating change.

Change Processes
NLP has its roots in Therapy.  So a lot of the tools are helpful in personal change and personal decision making.

The Modelling Process
How to elicit how excellence arises.  Use it to observe a great sales person, for example, to distil what they do and codify it into a sales process other team members can apply.

The meaning of your communication is the response you get

At its core, NLP offers a very simple model of communication.  If you want to take responsibility for your own communication with others, NLP offers a four step process.

  1. Decide on your outcome: what do you want the other person to do or think?
  2. Communicate: put out your ideas as effectively as you can.
  3. Notice how they respond: do they get it? What are they doing in response?
  4. Be flexible: if you didn’t get the response you wanted, try a different approach.

NLP Communication

Why ‘Neuro Linguistic Programming’?

I suspect the name is as much an attempt to shroud the new (in the 1970s) methodology in a mystique and in academic language, as anything else.  Neuro, because it works with our best understanding of how the brain works.  Linguistic because language is the medium through which it operates and Programming, because it seeks to create new, more useful habits.

Further Reading

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