Blog » How to Guides » Neuro-Linguistic Programming Techniques: The Definitive Guide
Neuro-Linguistic Programming Techniques
The Definitive Guide
Welcome to the definitive guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
My one-stop guide compiles everything you need to know to understand and then successfully apply the techniques of NLP into your coaching practice.
So if you wish to:
- Become an expert in using NLP techniques.
- Find out the individual benefits of different NLP methods and tailor them to your clients’ needs.
- Communicate with your clients effectively and enable them to respond to situations in a positive manner.
- Know where to find the best courses on NLP techniques.
Then you will thoroughly enjoy this guide and find it super useful.
Let’s dive right in.
Don’t have time to read the whole guide right now?
In this chapter, I will cover some fundamentals which will help you gain a deeper understanding of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
I will not only decode NLP as a concept, but also explain the main guiding principles behind it, and those which can benefit from it the most.
Let’s get started
What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a practical skill that helps coaches understand the most important part of communication: the way their client’s mind interprets signals, and how those interpretations impact them.
The definition of NLP can be best understood by breaking up the words.
WhaNeuro, Linguistic, Programming
‘Neuro’ relates to the nervous system
By teaching us to be more accurate with the way we observe and take in information, Neuro-Linguistic Programming helps our brains make more informed decisions.
‘Linguistic’ refers to languages
Language isn’t just an arrangement of words, it can reveal much more about the condition of our bodies and minds. NLP techniques will make you access unconscious information that would have remained unknown otherwise.
‘Programming’ here means habits and behaviors
NLP trains us to get rid of habits that are of little or no use to us.
The Principle Behind Neuro-Linguistic Programming
As the name suggests, Neuro-Linguistic Programming combines neuroscience with linguistics to set one up for success. It lets one take control of their behavior and psychological reflexes.
A big advantage of NLP methods and techniques is that they are highly actionable. Instead of focusing on the “why”, they ask you to think about the “how”. I will talk about it in more detail later.
So — if you have clients who want to know ‘how’ to create their own path to success, keeping in mind their strengths and limitations, this guide is for you.
Who benefits from Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
Whether it’s individuals, corporations, parents, or married couples, there is always space to improve communication.
Improving communication makes us reassess perceptions while strengthening our interpersonal relationships. Think about it — who wouldn’t benefit from that?
Another reason why it’s a good idea to incorporate Neuro-Linguistic Programming in your coaching approach is because of how varied the target groups are.
Each individual, be it a professional or a parent, has their own set of challenges. NLP simplifies those challenges by bringing in clarity of thought and boosting confidence, which always leads to greater output.
Here is another guide I published recently which talks about NLP as a concept.
However, NLP techniques are a whole new ball game. Let’s start with decoding the timeline of NLP.
NLP — A Timeline
Your clients want to become great performers.
Interestingly, it is that very thought that led to the creation of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, over 40 years ago. It has been the rage among coaches ever since.
In this chapter, I explore its origin, initial conceptualization, as well as the reason it is still relevant today.
The Origin of Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques were first conceptualized by Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1970.
The duo presented their foremost NLP models in Structure of Magic: A Book about Language of Therapy, published in 1975.
Largely based on the works of leading therapists such as Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson, the book highlighted the patterns of communication found in excellent communications.
Apart from Bandler and Grinder, several other experts such as Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, and David Gordon helped co-develop the field of NLP.
Both Bandler and Grinder wanted to bring about quantifiable changes such as discovering what achievers think like, and what we can learn from their strategies.
Why is Neuro-Linguistic Programming gaining popularity today?
Simply put, those who want to be successful are always chasing self-improvement.
That’s also why Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Carr, and Russell Brand use Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques. The fact is — nerves can get the better of anyone, and NLP helps fight exactly that!
Getting a message across, avoiding and resolving conflicts, and sometimes overcoming inhibitions and fears drive your clients’ success.
NLP helps your client achieve just that and for that reason, it continues to be a favorite among achievers across professions.
I know what’s on your mind now. How do you, as a coach, go about using NLP techniques with your clients?
Levels of NLP Training
There are six levels to Neuro-Linguistic Programming training. These levels can support your coaching based on what you want to achieve with your client.
The amount of time you wish to invest in these dynamic programs is up to you, as they range from one day to one year.
Here are the levels at a glance:
Level 1: Introduction
If you want to become familiar with NLP before committing to a more comprehensive course, a short introduction program would be a good place to start.
These elementary courses can be taken in the span of an evening, or stretched across a couple of days. You will also get to learn from the trainer’s style during this period, and decide if you want to move further.
Level 2: Diploma Or Foundation
This basic-level runs across two to four days and starts with recognizing how the human mind works.
You will gain insights into basic NLP methodologies like building rapport, understanding language patterns, and managing your emotional state.
This level may include a certificate as proof that you have understood the course content and have demonstrated the ability to build rapport with other participants.
Level 3: Practitioner
This level is all about understanding the core skills of NLP. Practitioner courses are typically offered in a number of formats, and can run anywhere across 7 to 20 days.
As you move ahead in this course, you might also be introduced to other useful mind techniques such as hypnosis. After completing this level, you can help clients understand how they hold on to, or filter, information.
Let me also say that while it is important to keep practicing NLP with clients over time to master the techniques, these courses can also be taken as a standalone program.
The idea is to set the pace for yourself.
Level 4: Master Practitioner
Conducted in a group smaller than the levels discussed above, this program requires certification at the Practitioner level.
This level can last for up to 20 days and is offered in a number of formats. While some programs will be classroom-centered, others might combine both classroom and home study.
While, at the Practitioner level, you learn the foundational skills of NLP, in this program, you go one step further and learn about advanced techniques.
These can include modeling, meta programs, and other language-based tools, which I will explain in detail in Chapter 5.
When you put your key takeaways from this level to use in your coaching practice, you will be able to solve deep-rooted issues that your client might be struggling with.
Level 5: Trainer
This level is for those who would like to train others, at both the Practitioner and Master Practitioner levels. It typically lasts up to 20 days.
It is widely acknowledged in the NLP field that a Trainer should have a relevant NLP Trainer certificate. Therefore, you can enroll in a Trainers Training program if you want to help others get into the field as well.
Now, it’s one thing to learn NLP techniques yourself, but it’s another to teach them to other potential practitioners. At this level, you will learn the specific presentation skills needed to make other people experience NLP.
Level 6: Master Trainer
With the third level, we reach the most comprehensive stage of NLP training. The Master Trainer level usually entails 3-5 years of training.
After this period, you will be eligible to train other trainers of NLP, with an existing Master Trainer supervising your work and progress.
Once you finish this level, you will be a certified NLP practitioner and will have acquired a total of four certifications.
So that’s it for the different levels of NLP training you can attain as a coach. Let’s move on to decoding NLP as a modeling technology next.
NLP as a Modeling Technology
While each Neuro-Linguistic Programming skill has its advantages, modeling is certainly more popular among practitioners. You’ll learn why it is so, in this chapter.
We often get inspired by people around us and want to emulate the success of people known for achieving great results in a short amount of time. But that requires patience — and something else.
The important question here is if it is possible to transfer the excellence of a person with an impeccable track record, to your client. The answer is yes.
NLP modeling makes this sharing possible.
Why choose Neuro-Linguistic Programming modeling?
Before you dive into the steps involved in Neuro-Linguistic Programming modeling, think about the goal you and your client want to achieve.
Modeling is considered the heart and soul of NLP, and one would choose to practice it for the following reasons:
- Developing techniques in order to achieve better output
- Modeling unhelpful behavior patterns so that your client knows which responses to actively avoid or alter
- Speaking your client’s language to optimize communication and problem-solving
Regaining Access to Behavioral Learning Skills Through Modeling
Even though the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming modeling was first created by Bandler and Grinder, there have been many advancements over the years in its practice.
Here’s a look at the advantages that will demonstrate this:
- Since NLP is a behavioral modeling technology, it helps your client to revive some of the natural skills they had as children, but lost over time. How do you think our first abilities came into existence?
- NLP has been building models since the technique was first discovered. These models can help your client spot things that might have skipped their eye otherwise.
- By giving them access to a practical structure, modeling can enable your clients to benefit from conversations and alternative mentoring.
The 6 Steps Required to Master Neuro-Linguistic Programming Modeling
You’ve now reached the heart of this chapter i.e. the practical way to adopt Neuro-Linguistic Programming modeling and introduce it to your clients.
Here’s a lowdown on how you can do that:
Find someone whose behavior or achievements are worth modeling. This can be someone your client looks up to.
This is where the client comes in: they must imagine themselves in the achiever’s shoes.
Analyze them, get a sense of their performance. Once they have developed a film of the performance in their mind, they should try to copy them, but be sure not to caricaturize them.
The client is copying an ‘expert’ to emulate their behaviour in Step 2.
In Step 3, you — as the coach — will be able to tell whether the emulation has occurred successfully when the client begins to produce positive results — similar to what the person that is being modeled/mirrored has achieved in the chosen field.
At this stage, you will help them get rid of behavioral patterns which are not serving them and do not directly influence the result.
For example, while following a taekwondo expert, you might notice that they touch the floor before training. While modeling, the step might or might not be of value to your client. This is the stage to make those decisions on what to keep, and discard.
After you have figured out the pattern that needs to be followed to acquire the particular skill in question, you need to describe the overall design so that anybody can apply it to themselves.
After you have figured out the pattern that needs to be followed to acquire the particular skill in question, you need to describe the overall design so that anybody can apply it to themselves.
In the final step, you take the model you designed in the previous step and pass it on to other clients who are looking for similar results.
While the above steps will set you up to begin using NLP modeling, there are other techniques as well which are used by athletes, actors, entrepreneurs, and stage performers.
I am going to introduce you to those techniques in the next chapter.
Effective NLP Techniques
I’m going to start this chapter by asking you what change means to you. How do you know which changes are valuable for your clients?
We see positive changes happening when we can feel them taking place
Your clients want to constantly observe good changes within them. Neuro-Linguistic Programming helps them catalyze these changes by focusing on their cognitive patterns. How does this happen?
There are dedicated NLP techniques that have unique uses. The good news is that they have worked for several people in the past.
Read on to find out how they might work for your clients.
A good place to start would be with a classic technique meant for beginners, that is a direct, no-fluff exercise in which you’re the hero.
Here, you ask your client to visualize a detailed scene wherein they perform a task successfully. The task could be simple or complex, based on individual needs and goals.
Visualization techniques like moving images are a great, straightforward way to build your client’s confidence in their abilities.
The idea of meta models can be a powerful tool in coaching. It can make you a good listener and help you get to the bottom of your client’s dilemma.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming meta models help y
ou pay attention to deletions, distortions, and generalizations that are part of your client’s everyday language. Sometimes, they can internalize things that they actively say or think about themselves. These may not seem important initially, but can have a role in their psychosocial wellbeing. Sample this:
Phrases like ‘nobody likes me’ or ‘I can’t get anything done’ can negatively impact your client’s state of mind, and subsequently, performance
With meta models, you learn to ask your clients important questions which can bring you closer to understanding their thought processes.
One of my clients recently told me that she was dropped by a client of hers due to frequent scheduling conflicts. She was really bogged down by this and had started doubting herself.
However, with one less client, she had more time to focus on herself. It took a while for her to see this, but she began doing things she could not previously make time for, such as reconnecting with her old clients.
When she realized that her old clients had been recommending her to those looking for a coach, her perspective changed. Her disappointment about being dropped by one of her clients had been reset.
This is essentially what Neuro-Linguistic Programming reframing does, it gives your client a different perspective on their problems, leading them to focus on what the outcome would be if the circumstances were different.
It then becomes an effective tool in managing your client’s disappointment in personal or professional spheres.
Mirroring, Matching, Leading, Anchoring
We can agree that good coaching begins with empathy; it is an essential tool in our interaction with our clients.
So, the first four techniques of mirroring, matching, leading, and anchoring will help you understand your clients and build a rapport with them that’s rooted in empathy.
Your clients, too, will be able to build meaningful connections with the help of these techniques as they’ll learn to make themselves more approachable and trustworthy in different situations.
While a huge part of being successful and leaving the correct impression on people is showing them that they matter, there is both verbal and non-verbal communication to do that. Mirroring, matching, and leading are those techniques. So how, then,does anchoring come into the picture?
Anchoring, as the name suggests, will help your clients be anchored to their most confident selves
How is this achieved?
You ask your client to form a mental image of things that they wish to disrupt about their behavior, and to make that image as big and colorful as they can. Then you ask them to imagine the psychological and emotional attributes that they wish to see in themselves, and paint a dull picture of them.
At this stage, you ask your client to flip the two images, telling the mind to center the desirable picture while slowly getting rid of the negatives.
Through NLP Swish, your clients will be able to flip negative thoughts, images, and behaviors that they hold on to. Interestingly, these habits could be as trivial as biting nails or as harmful as smoking.
The idea behind visual/kinesthetic dissociation is to make individuals revisit traumatic situations but in a less challenging environment.
How’s that achieved?
The client is made to take on the role of a viewer and observe a given situation from a distance.
This method is also known as the Rewind technique, as it allows clients to not only relive their trauma but also view it from a different perspective, and ultimately grow from it.
Visual/kinesthetic dissociation is an excellent way to get your clients to open up about their phobias, and even confront them in the most comfortable way possible.
Now that you’ve learned the different techniques your clients could benefit from, let’s focus on the ‘why’.
Why should your coaching practice include NLP techniques? What’s so special about them?
In the next chapter, I’m going to be decoding the advantages of NLP.
advantages of NLP Techniques?
Think self-awareness, leadership skills, and increased business. As you may have surmised, the benefits of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques are far-reaching, and are not just limited to one field.
If you looked at the advantages that NLP has from a coaching perspective, you’d see why it’s important for all coaches to learn this skill.
Let me take you through four reasons to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming and its benefits for your clients:
- You can enable clients to reprogram their brain
Coaches trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming can help their clients break behavior that no longer benefits them. By doing this, you enable your client to reprogram their brain and the way it responds in personal and professional situations.
- You can bring about sustainable improvements in clients’ lives
As coaches, we all strive to form empathetic rapports with our clients and coach them to make better changes to their life. NLP techniques are one way to show them that these changes are not a quick fix, but that they are sustainable steps.
- You can help clients align their purpose, approach, and outcomes
Apart from the skill of persuasion, NLP will teach your clients to discover what motivates other people. How can they encourage themselves and the people around them? As a coach, you will find that NLP is an effective way to help your clients combine their direction, values, and objectives.
- You can enable clients to learn from past experiences
NLP will help your clients pinpoint things from the past that continue to impact their current decision-making process.
Some people might indeed be able to reprogram self-sabotaging habits through means that are not exclusive to NLP techniques. But most clients will need assistance in tackling ideas and perceptions that have kept them from putting their best foot forward.
NLP, simply put, will facilitate that process.
The Cost of Poor Communication
You have probably understood by now that great communication is always an asset, and using Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques can help your clients to get their message across effectively.
However, have you wondered about the hidden costs of poor communication?
Let me give you a data-backed example to show just how important it is to be able to communicate effectively.
Companies that have good communicators for leaders saw 47% higher returns over a five-year period (2004 – 2009), according to a survey
It also comes as a surprise that the overall cost of misinformation about policies, functions, or job processes of 400 organizations, surveyed in the US and UK, came out to a whopping $37 billion.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Good communication is a skill that’s needed not just in big corporations, but in every aspect of life.
This is precisely where NLP techniques come in, and provide us with detailed models and techniques to weed out perceptions and habits that might be detrimental to a client’s communication skills.
Does NLProgramming work?
While it’s helpful to look at Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a constant work-in-progress, there are enough examples from the real world to consider its power and influence.
Former world number 1 tennis player Andre Agassi is known to have turned to NLP techniques during a low career phase in 1993. Agassi had just had a wrist injury and he was having trouble focusing on the future before he sought out NLP techniques to help him cope.
Apart from Agassi, there are many accomplished individuals like Oprah Winfrey, who have gone from practicing NLP to using its techniques to connect with their audience more deeply.
Having said that, there is also scientific data that points towards the success rate of NLP.
Let’s take a look at that in this section.
There have been several studies on the effectiveness of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques.
One such inquiry by Counselling and Psychotherapy Research found that a group of psychotherapy patients who practiced NLP showed an increased quality of life than those who did not.
As mentioned earlier, NLP isn’t just limited to a particular group of people with similar goals. One specific study shows that some NLP techniques can aid learning and reduce anxiety in people who suffer from learning difficulties.
The same study found that using certain NLP techniques made individuals in the sample group “feel and perform better”.
Another case study found that using NLP to “develop a positive self-identity” led to the realization of a clinically depressed individual’s functional goals
Apart from that, the said individual’s depression and anxiety levels also reduced substantially after undergoing Visual/Kinesthetic Dissociation.
More recently, a 2015 research review concluded that NLP has positive effects on people with psycho-social issues. The observational and randomized trials conducted as part of the study showed that the results achieved through NLP held their own in comparison to other behavioral technologies.
Limitations of Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Despite being in existence for nearly four decades, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and its techniques have been a subject of debate. I’m going to address some of the concerns that have been raised around the practice in this section.
There have been some studies, like the one conducted by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health, which claims that there is no clinical evidence to suggest that NLP helps patients with PTSD, GAD, or depression.
Another paper published in 2009 noted that the theories proposed by NLP experts did not have much credibility, and were mostly anecdotal in nature.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
The debate around Neuro-Linguistic Programming is ever-growing. But it is important to keep in mind that there is still not enough research on NLP. Moreover, most studies that exist on the subject take a therapy-centric approach.
Because NLP has such diverse methods and techniques, as we have learned, it is not possible to compare the different studies that have been done on them individually.
Therefore, although we could do with some more clarity on the clinical benefits of NLP, there are records to show that it has helped individuals in building their skills and confidence.
Now that you have learned the most important features of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques, it’s time to go one step further.
You don’t have to look elsewhere to do that, as I’m going to list out some resources across formats which will help you explore NLP techniques more thoroughly.
Text and Audio
For starters, you can tune into this Andy Smith podcast on how to apply Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques in the real world.
If you prefer reading to listening, and want to learn more about NLP techniques such as reframing, take a look at Reframing: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning by Bandler and Grinder.
Do I need certification to practice NLP techniques?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming certifications are always beneficial.
But it’s also equally important to remember that it’s ultimately your skill and willingness to learn that will help you master the various techniques that we delved into in Chapter 5.
If you are ready to earn NLP certifications, here are some options to choose from:
- NLP Center’s internationally accredited, fully virtual course
- Kain Ramsay’s NLP Practitioner Certification Course (Beginner to Advanced)
- The 2.5-hour course offered by New Skills Academy (Bonus: This course can be accessed for as long as you need)
- Become a licensed NLP practitioner and also member of the Society of NLP.
With this, you have reached the end of my definitive guide on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which means that you’ve now gained solid knowledge of NLP, NLP training, and NLP techniques.
Putting into use the knowledge you acquired from the chapters above will do wonders for your coaching business. So get right down to it.
Maybe you can start by asking yourself some basic questions.
How has this guide added value to what you already knew about NLP?
Are there any questions that you need me to answer, about NLP, or even otherwise?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. You’ll also be able to gain access to a free program of mine.