1 Red alert!
The NLP concept of ‘state’ is one I find useful in many situations. By ‘state’ we mean the emotional, intellectual imaginative and physical condition we are in at any given time. NLP teaches us both that states can be changed, and how to change them, this giving us power areas of life that traditional ‘common sense’ says we have little power over.
For example, for many people, ‘getting angry’ is just something that happens to them. Some annoying stimulus occurs, the ‘angry’ button is pushed and, like Pavlov’s dog, off they go. NLP taught me to monitor my internal states, to stand back and notice them. If I feel anger rising, I can choose if I want to use it or not. Usually the best answer is to back off. States can be ‘broken’ by choosing to act or think in a new way (a simple physical action will often do the trick), after which a new, calmer state can be got to and whatever has caused the anger can be sorted.
You can create a culture around you that uses this: I expect people to be able to manage their own states; if they have their own ‘red alert’ moment, it is OK for them to tell me, then disappear till they have calmed down.
2 As others see us
The above process is essentially about objectivity: being able to stand outside our emotions and old patterns of reaction. NLP also taught me how to stand outside situations and see others’ point of view – something we are often told we ‘should’ do but rarely told how to do.
NLP uses simple physical space to achieve this. When considering a situation in which you are involved, you make a physical map of the matter, with different people taking up different spaces in the room where you are situated. You then simply move to the space that you have allocated to each participant, tell yourself that you are that person and let your subconscious tell you how that person is experiencing matters. You can have a dialogue with other people (or at least your mental model of them) in other spaces.
Keep some space free to be a ‘fly on the wall’, a total outsider who is watching the interaction. How do things look from this place?
This may all sound spooky, but it often reveals remarkable insights. It is based on the work of therapist Fritz Perls, who used it to bring about startling changes in people’s lives.
3 A seasonal one: how to avoid a cold!
Sometimes when I wake up feeling a bit shivery but have a busy day ahead, I use a simplified version of an NLP process called ‘six step reframing’ to keep the cold at bay. The underlying insight is that when you start feeling ‘coldy’, this is because there is a part of you eager to rest, and which will ensure you get a cold if you don’t do as it wants (as that will finally make you slow down). This part can be very insistent – but you can negotiate with it. Try making your right hand the part and your left the rest of you, then set up a dialogue between these two. Agree things like an early night or a few days’ healthy eating and drinking until you sense the rest-seeking part is satisfied. Then go to work, do what you have to do, then fulfill your side of the bargain.
Again, this may sound strange, but I have used this many times and it nearly always works.
NLP has acquired a mixed reputation; it can be seen as the tool of dodgy salespeople or of stage hypnotists. I am very concerned to right this balance, to show that it is actually a set of simple techniques that everyone can use to make their lives better, often in quite ordinary ways.
Robbie Steinhouse is Director and Master Trainer at NLP School in London, and in the past has taught people with every job title imaginable. All have a common goal of using NLP to enhance their work life, professional and personal relationships.