The multiple outputs of NLP

May 19, 2011

Breaking the dualism present in who knows more the trainer or the change agent?

An interesting topic has been discussed in NLP circles lately arguing that people who spend most of their time working on a one to one basis with local clients are more effective when it comes to doing NLP change work than NLP trainers who teach the skills and do change work in the public setting. This argument by the nature of its dualistic perspective is limiting. Either/or dichotomies tend to be reductionist. If the presupposition within the dichotomy is accepted, then you are limited to one side of the coin. If you take the proposal I made in the opening paragraph, the different facets of NLP are surface structures and representations of the deep structure of your NLP knowledge, there is no dichotomy and you can develop multiple surface structures. In other words the skills for conducting private NLP practice and the skills for conducting NLP training and all the other elements of NLP are part of the same system, are thus complementary, there is no dualism.

When I first learned NLP, a fire was lit within me. That fire was my passion which is as strong today as it was 16 years after studying my first practitioner course. My first set of activities after my early courses, was practice, practice and practice. I formed a small group with people who were at the same level as me and we really explored what we had learned on our courses. This is akin to learning a language fluently; the language class teaches you how to formulate the constructs within that language, speaking the language and getting feedback gives you fluency. From the practice, I knew what I wanted, to make NLP my business. I soon became a change agent, working with people with all sorts of issues from addictions, extreme fears, health issues, stutterers and what ever else came my way. I would sometimes spend up to ten hours a day working with different clients and I loved it. When you work this way in a private practice you benefit from direct client verbal and non verbal feedback. The most important feedback of all is the results of the work and learning from the key leverage points in the session. In one to one work you will soon learn the contraindications of NLP patterning and the weaknesses of what I call ‘Readers Digest NLP’. NLP was never meant to be read from manuals and scripts, NLP is client led.

The most important thing about being a change agent and doing coaching is to continually develop your skills. Right from the beginning I wanted to gain as many different skills as I could. By learning and practising you are developing your deep structure. I learned different forms of hypnosis, direct style and Ericksonian. Trance work is superb for some clients, and like any system has its limitations. I learned New Code NLP and really tested this patterning. I used the New Code for working with people who had cancer, fertility problems, dissociation problems and a myriad of other health related problems. The more you output the more you develop your deep knowledge of a subject.

Parallel to the activities above, I began running NLP public sessions. I began with evening workshops focussing on NLP for personal development. The workshops soon evolved to weekends. I designed courses new courses for personal change and attracted some great people to my fledgling business. This was the beginning of a new output for me – using the patterning I had been working with on individuals in group settings. I loved group work, it’s different from one to one work, not better or worse, just different. The relationships in the different types of outputs strengthen your deeper connections of NLP.

I have a background in sales and when I learned NLP, so much of what I had been doing naturally made sense to me. Through integrating my NLP knowledge, my ability to sell changed significantly, and I was very good before NLP. This is what happens when you fully assimilate through practice of NLP skills. Your outputs in all areas of your life are influenced. It seemed natural to me to design an NLP sales system and sell it to companies. It was great fun selling the course and then delivering it in different companies to somewhat resistant groups that are a feature in corporate work. . That’s one of the delights of corporate training, you often have a closed group to start with and your job is to use NLP to open them up. This is an example of working on multiple levels, for example you may be teaching resistant sales people how deal with resistant clients. You use your NLP skills to break-through the resistance present in the in the sales person (without them being aware), they have an unconscious experience of the patterning they are about to learn. You then teach them how to deal with resistance. They will be eating out of the palm of your hand hungry for more information. The added bonus is that you get paid nicely!

I remember the first practitioner course I taught in 1997, I had a group of 6 people and ran the course in friend’s living room. He had a great living room and was also a participant. I prepared thoroughly for this course. I was moving into a different output (surface structure) of my skills and naturally I wanted to be on top form. My style was different back then, but my attitude was the same, to go beyond what’s expected and give the participants the very best value I could. Doing the demonstrations close up in front of 6 people was a great new challenge and because the group was so small the feedback and discussion on the effectiveness of the demos was transparent. This was great stuff because I love learning and the best way to learn is from feedback. I soon learned that when you teach NLP and conduct demonstrations the group unconsciously models so much. The participants are working from four descriptions (i) the digital description in the manual, (ii) the analogue external and visual – auditory description inherent in the demonstration itself (iii)  the internalised kinesethic description that comes from micro muscle mirroring the trainer and or the participant a nd (iv) the verbal presentation and discussion post demo. You will note ii and iii are unconscious and how people learn naturally, so as trainer it is important that you are a model of excellence.

This summer I will teach my 48th Practitioner course and I am proud to say every one of them has been different. At the forthcoming course,  I will once again share the platform with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair, the venue is the Old Ship Hotel on Brighton Seafront and people will travel from all over the world to take the course. I am as excited about my 48th course as I was my 1st. As I said in the previous paragraph my style has changed since my early days. The training courses are much more inductive, where I create contexts for people to have their own discoveries. On the last Practitioner courses, we had people from 24 different countries. Every session I deliver has eight essential elements offering parallel descriptions for the content being delivered. Demonstrations are a bigger feature of my work now than when I started. I pretty much demonstrate every pattern I teach. The demonstration provides contexts for discovery and the opportunity for the participants to model what that have seen and heard in the demonstration.

The trainer’s level of attention is very different when doing NLP demonstrations in front of an audience than when doing one to one work in the office. In public demonstrations, the trainer’s attention is on the person who has volunteered AND the audience. The intention is help the volunteer experience the change and teach the audience how to be able to work with the pattern. It is important to emphasise that weak or fake demos destroy the audience’s confidence in pattern. A weak demo is poorly executed piece of work where the subject experiences little but the trainer talks as if something special has happened. A fake demo is where the trainer uses a stooge and sadly nowadays I hear of this more and more. Another version of a weak demo is where the trainer picks the same subject throughout the course because they are easy to work with. It’s important to point out here, that a trainer can conduct a piece of patterning very well and the client not get the result. Not all patterns work for all people, and some patterns are better deployed with certain challenges. If a demo does not work as planned it presents an excellent context for discovery on the premise the trainer can point out the key areas of incompatibility of the pattern with the demo subject and the issue they are exploring if relevant. This happened to me once when I was demonstrating collapsing anchors, I anchored 2 very strong states (one positive the other negative) on a subject, one on the left hand the other the right. It was amazing to see the strength of the individual anchors, so far so good. Then I fired both anchors at the same time to do the collapse. What the group saw was one state represented on one side of the body mostly visible in the face and the other state on the other side of the body again mostly visible in the face. The problem was there was no integration and the 2 states were present in the woman’s system simultaneously but somehow separately, I continued to hold the anchors waiting for integration and the woman physically collapsed to the floor. It’s fair to say this is an extreme case. Given how different the client’s physiology was on either side of the body, I suspect the activity in the left and right hemispheres of the brain was intense but separate. It‘s likely that the high level of activity in both hemispheres at the same with minimal overlap was a primary variable in her collapsing. The audience had a vivid experience of the power of anchors; these 2 states were independently anchored so well. They also had an experience of the limitations of classic code, when we smash one piece of experience into another without taking into account the ecology of the unconscious mind. I cleaned the process up with a New Code game and the audience saw a powerful change, again with a high level of activity in both hemispheres but in a generative form and this time integration occurred.

In my courses I like to bring in people who are not on the course to be the demonstration subjects. This is a different type of output. It’s like a client session in the public arena. The advantage of this style of output is the subject comes with a specific issue or set of issues and I will then in the session select the most appropriate patterns. In the traditional training setting the trainer has a pattern to demonstrate, loosely explains the criteria of the pattern and then asks for volunteers. When a trainer brings in a person , the class will experience a more realistic demonstration of NLP patterning because the work is client led.  Again, this is a nice challenge for the trainer, his/her work will be validated through the long term results as the participants want to know what the long term effects of the work were, particularly if a serious issue was present. I have worked this way with bulimia, cancer, lupus, lymes disease, chronic fatigue and whole range of allergies and phobias.

So we can output our NLP skills in many ways. I have included just 3 outputs here, one to one work, business training and NLP certification (there are more) I used the metaphor of deep and surface structure to make a distinction between internalised knowledge and skills and the expression and output of those skills. These outputs complement each other and I believe by developing your outputs you will deepen your internal knowledge. So yesterday I was working with a lady who has a disassociation problem, today I am working with a GP2 racing driver in the morning and delivering a course in the afternoon in top legal firm in London. I will work with coma patient tomorrow, next week the NLP Academy Master Practitioner begins. I will learn and develop all these different outputs and most importantly there is no dichotomy; you can have it all. Enjoy!

Latest insights from our experts


Blog Derren Brown, placebo, pills and psychology April 22, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024