You could think of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as an owner’s manual for the human brain. It’s the study of how we think, feel and act, marked by an intense curiosity about how (rather than why) human beings get the results they do.

NLP is a fairly recent development, originating at the University of Santa Cruz in the mid-seventies when a group of talented people led by Richard Bandler and John Grinder came together to share information and insights across disciplinary boundaries. It incorporates insights from behavioural and Gestalt psychology, family therapy, hypnotherapy, linguistics, information theory and anthropology, among many other disciplines.

Modelling Excellence

Unlike some other schools of psychotherapeutic thought, which concentrate on how problems arise, NLP started from studying people who are exceptionally good at what they do, and finding out how they do it so that anyone can get similar results by doing the same things. It aims to move beyond remedial change (fixing specific problems) to ‘generative’ change, which empowers you to achieve more in every area of your life. Often people find that when they learn a new skill or make a breakthrough in one area of their life, problems in other areas seem to disappear or seem less important.

By studying how ‘star performers’ in every field achieve their results, the developers of NLP have built up a vast reservoir of knowledge about what works in every field of human endeavour. You can apply the knowledge resulting from this curiosity to help others, to become more successful in your work, or even to tap into your own hidden resources.

NLP is “Content Free”

Another difference between NLP and other schools of psychotherapy is that NLP concentrates on the structure of experience, rather than the content. How you think about something is at least as important as what you are thinking about. So, for example, if you remember a pleasant experience as a big, bright, moving picture, it will probably give you a much more powerful pleasant feeling than the same experience viewed as a small, dark, monochrome snapshot.

One of the things that often surprises people about NLP is the speed with which many problems can be resolved. Solving one’s problems is all about learning – at the unconscious level, which is where it counts – and learning can happen very quickly.

Some principles of NLP:

  • People have their own model of the world, and what they do makes sense within that model
  • Mind and body are one system
  • People have all the inner resources they need to succeed
    (there are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states)
  • There is no failure, only results
  • I am in charge of my mind, and therefore my results

How does this relate to emotional intelligence? Although the ideas and concepts of emotional intelligence as currently understood have developed in large part independently of NLP, when we put the two fields together we see that NLP provides an unrivalled set of ‘how-to’ techniques for developing emotional intelligence. If you’re already familiar with NLP, here are some ideas about how NLP fits with the ‘competences’ of emotional intelligence.

Find out more about NLP at the Practical NLP Podcast site, where you can also download a free introductory course

© Coaching Leaders Ltd 2007

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