Achieving Excellence in Communication
Do you want to improve your relationships and engage with others more elegantly? Or, use language to influence, motivate and generate creative ideas?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can help you to achieve this – and more. This article gives you a flavor of what NLP is about, and a few different examples of how you can use it.
What Is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
NLP is a set of advanced communication skills, which have been identified through the study of top performers – those who are excellent at what they do. By understanding and replicating (or modeling) their thinking and behavioral patterns, this approach argues that you can achieve the same positive results.
The tools, techniques and strategies derived from these studies help you to understand yourself and others; how you act and react in the world; how you and others communicate; and how you can easily gain rapport with others to realize positive outcomes.
To better understand NLP, remember the last time your boss called you into his office after you finished a difficult project. Or, recall how you felt when you stepped onto a stage or delivered a presentation. Or think about how a child reacts to a parent's angry or frustrated tone of voice.
In such situations, reactions are often automatic and can occur without conscious thought. These instinctive reactions may be positive and useful, but they can also be negative and unhelpful. Through NLP, you become more aware of your reactions, and learn to change them – including what you say – in a positive and useful way.
John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the fathers of NLP, called their model 'neuro' because the patterns that they discovered were at the level of our neurological processes. "Linguistic" to represent the ways our language reflects our neurology, and "programming" to reflect our ability to break free from our programmed behavior, and choose to organize our ideas and actions in the way that we want.
You use NLP to enhance your ability to behave positively and constructively. NLP techniques help you develop rapport, connect with others, and communicate and understand others. With it, you can use language skills and patterns to ask powerful questions and to achieve positive outcomes.
NLP helps you to understand the outcome that you want in a given situation, and to develop sufficient awareness to know whether you're moving toward or away from that outcome. It teaches you to be flexible about changing your behavior, so that you can achieve the desirable goal.
For example, you may want to negotiate a business contract successfully. NLP can help you become more aware of what you are saying, how you are saying it, and whether or not the other person is engaged in your presentation. Through this awareness, you can shift your behavior or your speech to re-engage them, if necessary, and to achieve your goal successfully.
Here's another example: while in a difficult discussion, you can use NLP to help you shift your perception and imagine yourself standing in the other person's shoes. This can help you to better appreciate where they are coming from. Similarly, to wrap up the discussion, you might take a "helicopter view" of things to get a sense of the bigger picture, before zooming back down into the detail and agreeing the final outcome.
NLP can also help you to increase your confidence levels in public speaking. By exploring your internal state when you are feeling confident, you can map these images and sensations across to situations in which you are less confident. Your unconscious mind picks up on these subtle shifts and increases your confidence.
Create Rapport for Excellent Outcomes
Although most of us are probably very good at creating rapport and connecting with others, we all experience times when things do not go as well as we would like. For example, if you're having a difficult meeting with an unhappy client or asking your boss for a pay raise, NLP can help you to foster a positive rapport with the other person, which can ease the flow of the discussion and improve the likelihood of a good outcome.
Mirroring someone's body language, tone of voice, or even rate of speech can help strengthen your rapport with the other person. Unconsciously, the other person picks up that you are like them – and we all tend to like people who are like us.
You can also connect with others by speaking the same language. We take in our experiences through our sight, hearing, feelings, and even our senses of smell and taste. Our speech reveals our preferred sensory language in a particular context.
Have you every heard someone say, "I see what you mean," "I get the picture," "I hear what you are saying," "That rings a bell," "I've just got a gut feeling about something," or "I'll be in touch"? Developing the skill to pick up on this sensory language will help you to modify your use of words.
Additionally, by developing an awareness of the subtle shifts of body language, you get an insight into what may be going on with the other person. What do shifts in posture (tall or slumped) tell you? Have you seen someone's face turn red while they get nervous, or go deathly pale after hearing upsetting news?
By delving further into the mechanics of language and how people communicate, you can identify patterns that help you to understand human behavior. Are they distorting, deleting or generalizing? Do they like options, or prefer to follow procedures? Knowing what motivates people can help you deal with them.
Some people believe that NLP involves manipulating others into doing what you want them to do. For example, a pushy salesperson persuading you to buy something you really did not want.
However, it's the use of the tool that determines manipulation, not the tool itself. If the tool is used to disadvantage someone else, then this is manipulation. If it's used for his or her advantage, then the tool is being used in a positive way.
Another misconception is that NLP is used to detect whether someone is lying by watching their eye movements. Part of developing your sensory acuity is about picking up subtle eye movements, and understanding that different movements have different meanings. However, since the meanings associated with every individual's eye movements are unique, you need to understand what they mean before you can even begin to use NLP for this purpose. It is far from being a quick and simple lie detector.
Where Do You Go From Here?
A good source of information on NLP is the website for the ANLP (www.anlp.org), an independent organization with an established public reputation for promoting standards, professionalism and good practices in NLP.
If you are interested in taking NLP courses, the International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA) website (http://www.inlpta.org) is an excellent starting point. INLPTA sets international standards for NLP training courses and INLPTA members follow these standards of quality, professionalism and ethics. Certified INLPTA trainers will clearly indicate their affiliation and accreditation with INLPTA. Training providers offer courses at the Diploma, Practitioner and Master Practitioner levels. The Diploma level provides excellent insight into NLP and can be a good foundation from which you can enhance your communication skills.
NLP can enhance your existing communication skills to help you have a greater impact, create effortless change and further enhance your ability to connect with people. NLP helps you improve your ability to speak persuasively, and listen to others to make them feel they are understood.
By using NLP techniques, you can speak the language of your audience so that your words have a greater impact; and create effortless change by identifying behavior that may be preventing you from achieving your goals. In short, NLP can help you to communicate excellently.