Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a lucrative industry with many varieties of the practice found in seminars, workshops, books and audio programs. The basic exercises and principles are intended to influence behavioral and emotional change in yourself and others.
NLP techniques are purported to help people improve their personal and professional effectiveness. Although there are many different practitioners and techniques out there, three techniques seem to be widely used by most NLP programs: setting anchors, acting "as if" and modeling successful people.
Defintion of NLP
Although there is still no definitive answer as to exactly what NLP is, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: "a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them" and "a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour".
Basically, neuro-linguistic programming is the study and practice of techniques that use the mind-body connection and language to alter human behavior.
Who is Using NLP Techniques
NLP techniques have been used for years. Among the many who practice NLP are athletes who apply it in their physical and mental preparation, horse riders and trainers (horse whisperers), martial artists who enhance their skills by modeling Eastern Masters of their discipline and physical therapists who apply it in addition to their professional skills.
Setting anchors is a technique in which the user can access a particular peak state of mind by associating it with a physical action, like snapping your fingers or touching your forehead.
Two methods of anchoring are setting the anchor during the actual peak experience by associating it with the physical movement of your choice, or visualizing the experience and setting it from there. Peak states of mind include winning a competition, happy memories, successful conflict resolution, conquering a fear and performing your best in any task.
Whenever you want to bring back that peak state of mind all you need to do is repeat the physical action you chose as your anchor, and your mind will immediately go into that state.
Acting "As If"
Shakti Gawain, pioneering author and teacher in the field of personal growth, wrote Creative Visualization in 1978. In it Gawain explains how to use mental imagery and affirmations to produce positive changes in one’s life by acting "as if" the end result you desire has already happened.
The idea behind acting as if (or creative visualization) is that if you can envision it, you can do it. Anyone watching world-class athletes in competitions like the Olympic games has seen this technique in action. Before a major performance, many athletes are seen with their eyes closed "going through the motions" of their performance, visualizing a successful outcome.
Modeling a Successful Person
Modeling is a popular NLP technique used in business and sports. It involves closely observing a person exhibiting the kind of behavior desired. Then, using the same "blueprint," you imitate the actions of the successful person.
In business this can be as simple as modeling someone who always communicates with confidence and tact. You listen to the words and tone used by this person, as well as observe his or her body language. Then you "model" the techniques you observed until they become a natural habit in your own life.
These common NLP techniques, when practiced daily, can result in dramatic changes to what are sometimes ineffective and destructive patterns of behavior.
- The Big Book Of NLP Techniques: 200+ Patterns & Strategies of Neuro Linguistic Programming; Shlomo Vaknin
- Creative Visualization, 25th Anniversary Edition; Shakti Gawain; 2002
- Oxford English Dictionary; 2003