Do you value excellence in business? One definition of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is the study and replication of excellence. As such, it has many applications in the business arena.
NLP was originally developed in the 1970s by linguist John Grinder and programmer Richard Bandler. They created a language for decoding the communication skills of masters like Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy. Bandler and Grinder created a syntax to make the formerly mysterious abilities teachable. They and other early leaders of NLP also modelled after peak performers in sports, business, therapy, and science to develop codified patterns of high performance that became NLP . The power and applications of what they created run deep and wide.
Here, we’ll look at five skills from NLP that are especially useful in business. This is an overview to give a sense of how much there is to gain with their application in business.
Great communicators develop rapport before they attempt to persuade. NLP defines rapport on several levels. Matching and pacing another’s physical movements and speech gives the feeling “this person is like me.” If it’s just subtle enough, it can be very effective at creating comfort while going unnoticed on a conscious level. This can be as simple as holding the same posture while speaking in the same loudness and with the same rhythm as your counterpart.
A deeper level of rapport is “criterial rapport”. You create this by feeding back another’s desired outcome with precision. Find out his or her intended result and feed it back to get agreement and the sense of being aligned towards a common goal.
Eliciting and Anchoring Positive States
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call upon your highest level of motivation and focus it exactly where you want it? NLP has processes for eliciting any positive state of mind you have experienced and putting it wherever you find helpful. Anchoring can happen in various different ways, i.e. smell, kinaesthetic or tactile senses, audiological, etc. Give a scenario for instance; you tried a new perfume when you went on your first trip to Europe. You had a pleasant time during that trip. 10 years down the road when you accidentally come across the smell of that perfume; it will remind you of the pleasant memories you have had in Europe back then. This is a scenario where your olfactorial anchor has been fired. Anchoring positive states can happen in various different ways. Anchoring can be done on oneself and it can be done to people around us as well. If this is implemented in teams of different corporate functions; it can drive desired results in a remarkable way. For example, in NLP sales training, measurable improvements in phone sales have been gained by anchoring the expectation of success to answering the phone.
In Systems Thinking, brought to a wider audience by Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, “mental models” are often levers for making positive change in companies. “Mental Models” is another name for “Belief Systems”, or the assumptions we make that underpin our decisions. These are usually unconscious. Being able to uncover, examine, then change a belief system underlying an underperforming business system can be extremely powerful. An example might be finding a belief that “you should always purchase the lowest bid” is at the root of an unreliable product and can be changed to the more appropriate belief (mental model) that “it’s better to choose vendors that add the most value to the end customer”. NLP is rich in systems to discover and change disempowering beliefs.
In NLP, we talk about first, second, and third positions as three different ways to perceive a situation. For example, “first position” might be described as seeing things from the eyes of a service rep serving a customer. “Second position”, conversely, would be seeing things from the customer’s point of view in the same situation (as well as hearing things from the customer’s ears). Things can feel quite a bit different from there! Feeling what a customer feels leads to more empathy, a key principle in customer oriented businesses. Third position is observing the situation as an uninvolved third party, watching from the distance . Different information is gathered from third position, where the interplay can be better observed with detachment.
Being able to see things from the customers’ point of view as well as from the detached observer perspective brings new information that helps gain rapport and understanding. Switching positions is a also a useful skill for negotiation and resolving conflict.
The ability to put a new frame around a situation can add motivational “juice” and put problems in a new perspective. An example of a reframe that changed an entire industry is when certain restaurateurs realized they were in the entertainment business and not simply in the nourishment business. Personal Fitness Training flourished as more people saw helping people get fit through the frame of a coach rather than that of a teacher. Nearly any business situation can be reframed to gather new information from seeing it in a different context.
NLP has proven to be a powerful tool in sales and business leadership, enabling creating more aligned teams with higher motivation, uncovering the source of and solving business problems, and shedding light on new, innovative perspectives.