My love/hate relationship with NLP

I have been involved with NLP (neurolinguistic programming) for more than ten years, and have been training NLP for almost that long. In that time, I have used NLP as a window into developments in the evolution of coaching and the discoveries of neuroscience. I have developed long-term relationships with clients who return to me for training because they find that my teaching is both powerful and practical. There are many, many things I love about neurolinguistic programming and the gifts it has given me in a decade.

There is a lot I do not love about NLP. I hate having to justify and explain that what I do is different than a lot of bad, hokey, undisciplined practice. I hate having to separate myself from trainers who spout a lot of pseudo-technical terms and teach "information" that is current in NLP circles and nowhere else. I hate that much of NLP has come to be represented by people who do not understand academic disciplines and so do not have any reference point for NLP as an interdisciplinary exploration of how people make choices that support their well-being and intentional development.

I hate any form of NLP that reduces people or behaviour to a list of labels to be learned and applied as a replacement for the beautifully effective, sophisticated responsiveness of its original models. I hate any form of NLP that refers only to other forms of NLP to explain its effectiveness and techniques.

My truth about NLP is that it is a set of practices based on a very few core principles that opens up learning and language in a way that is wonderfully effective and naturally energizing. I love the careful observation of natural learning processes that allowed its founders to suggest ways that people could interact more effectively with others to influence and be influenced in the service of intentional outcomes. Yes, I know. This language is dense and a little hard to read. At its very heart, NLP is smart enough to deserve language that is dense and precise and a little hard to read.

The four core principles I teach (and love to teach):
* people are not minds and bodies or even minds in bodies: identity comes from the engagement of mind and body
* everyone has within themselves what they need to make satisfying choices for their lives
* on the whole, people are most satisfied with their lives when they make intentional choices about how to live them
* influence is always built on common ground

You might be surprised by this list. You might want to argue that you don't find exactly this language on anyone else's NLP page or you might wonder what other people find objectionable or manipulative if NLP comes down to these core principles. But I can trace each of these principles to NLP jargon that you would find in other places. I have learned each of these principles down to the bone by training and practicing NLP.

If I could find another more disciplined, more consistent model that included all four of the core principles, I would probably leave NLP behind and practice that. I could derive the four principles from literature or dance, but I couldn't do the practical, hands on work I do from that basis. I could settle for the middle two and practice Solution Focus Brief Coaching (and teaching) if only I did not believe that the body holds so much of our wisdom. The truth is, I find elements of the four in many models but I have not found all four of them expressed as elegantly and effectively as I have in my development of NLP.

Are you curious about these four core principles and the impact they have on people's well-being? Visit and explore some of the resources posted there. Order a copy of my book, Shiftwork, and allow your curiosity to grow. Begin to ask "what if" I apply these principles to a problem in front of me? Ask: What new information do I notice and how is it already moving me closer to a better outcome?


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