A while ago I completed a Certification in NLP which took a full academic year. It was tough with having a family and running the business during the week. But I have to say it was one of the most insightful and game-changing courses I’ve ever done.

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming which is described as “a psychological approach that involves analysing strategies used by successful individuals and applying them to reach a personal goal. It relates thoughts, language, and patterns of behaviour learned through experience to specific outcomes.” (goodtherapy.org) Ultimately NLP techniques are used to improve your level of communication by assessing a response and adapting to meet a preferred style to achieve a greater outcome. One of the common beliefs behind NLP, there are lots, is that the meaning of communication is the response you get. I’ll leave you to ponder that one for a while!

I found the course essentially like getting a manual for my brain, it really changed the way I think. I also realised why, in my early days of management, I had made it so hard for myself!

Essentially there are 4 pillars to NLP. These are often represented in a different order, however, the way I like to think about them is in this order:

  1. Rapport

  2. Outcome Thinking

  3. Sensory Awareness

  4. Behavioural Flexibility

Let me explain these in a little more detail:

Rapport is about how you connect with the person you are talking to or who you are trying to ethically influence, like a team member for example. How can you build a connection with them as early as possible? How can you build a connection with an audience if you’re delivering an important business update? Ideally, you want to get to the point where the other person or the audience feels you’re speaking specifically to them and that you understand them.

Outcome Thinking is where you have a clear outcome in mind. What are you trying to achieve with that team member? Are you trying to coach the person to perform better or approach something differently? Are you trying to influence the whole team of the new direction you want the business to focus on? You should always have an outcome in mind. For more information on Outcome Thinking, we wrote a blog entitled Are you learning to reach your goals

Sensory Awareness is all about judging whether what you are saying is being well received. Is the person you’re talking to listening intently? Are you aware that they understand what you’re trying to share? Thinking about your home life, have you ever walked through the door and realised that you’ve forgotten something important, such as your anniversary, without your life partner even saying a word? If you have, that’s your sensory awareness, you can develop this further in a business context.

Lastly, Behavioural Flexibility is vital. This applies at an individual level or with an audience, if what you are doing or saying is simply not working, you need to be able to think there and then, and adapt your style to improve this. In the past, I have been a bit one dimensional in my communication style, having one-way communication limited my ability to lead my team. When I learned to be flexible and adapt to others, I found I was more effective with my communication.

This 4th pillar then loops back to the first which is to keep in rapport to achieve your outcome and so on. One of the assessment methods I use is to consider language style - how a person speaks, words they use and their pace. Are they visual, expressing comments like “looks great” or “we’ll have to see how that goes”? Or are they auditory, using comments like “sounds exciting” or “that sounds like it would work”? Finally, are they kinaesthetic, expressing feedback such as “this feels like the right way forward”? If you can take a mental note of which of these categories someone falls into, you can then mirror their communication style which will improve rapport and help you get closer to achieving your desired outcome.

NLP has been widely applied commercially to achieve goals, such as improved productivity or professional progression. Visit our blog focusing on 10 goal setting tips, including Warren Buffett’s key to success here. Now more than ever we need to communicate more succinctly, and often with teams that are working remotely as businesses become more distributed. Thinking about these 4 pillars of NLP could help you become a more effective communicator and improve how you engage your teams and cascade your key priorities throughout the business to drive results.

If you want to understand more about NLP then look up some of the registered quality trainers in your area, you may find it’s one of the best courses you do! For further information on changing habits and working practices, we wrote a blog on how to drive positive change in your business so check that out.