No. 14 – NLP Tools for Common Issues

A question was put to us recently, asking if it would be possible to produce an NLP matrix, showing how all the various NLP tools and formats relate to each other and which is best to use under what circumstances.

It’s a request that has been made before, and indeed we have made valiant attempts to put something together, but it has always proved to be far too complex a thing to do in any meaningful way.

However, it did get me thinking about common issues or scenarios which people have discussed with us over the years, and how some tips for dealing with these recurring themes might be useful.  So here are a few situations which many people seem to be faced with to some degree, or at some time, followed by some ideas on NLP tools which can be helpful…

Scenario 1:

You are trying to motivate someone to action and/or encourage them to consider future options and possibilities.  But they are firmly entrenched in the present (or problem) state – constantly pointing out the glitches in your plan, what won’t work and why.

NLP Options:

  • Match and pace their ‘moving away from’ language before beginning to lead them into ‘future’ thinking.
  •  Covertly test their willingness to do this by first checking the level of rapport that exists between you – for example after matching and pacing their key verbal and non-verbal patterns, check that they then give indications of following you if you attempt to ‘lead’ some aspect of that.
  • If they have a very strong ‘moving away’ from motivation (and if there is sufficient rapport) play that strategy back to them by creating an even worse scenario that may occur if they stay where they are.  The key insight in this instance is that they must be getting something of significant benefit to them out of maintaining what would otherwise seem like an untenable position.
  • Analyse what hidden Value is driving their current behaviour and see if you can create another mechanism for them to get that need met but without the old attitude or behaviour. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Scenario 2:

There is someone in your life that you find particularly challenging.  Perhaps there is a ‘personality clash’ within the team, or a person whose behaviour is ‘difficult’ and constantly causes problems.  Nevertheless, they will continue to be in your life and you have to find a way of working with them in order that the necessary outcomes can be achieved.

NLP Options:

  • Create a chained anchor in yourself to create an alternative response that is positive for you.
  • Apply the idea of ‘unconscious positive intention’ to the situation. In simple language “What learning is available to me in being exposed to this particular characteristic in this way?” Remember that this insight does not have to be true but must fit all the facts. If it does, and you then act as if it is true, you should get a major positive shift in the relationship.
  • The leverage point in this situation is that the only part of the system over which you have total control is you, so …
    • What is the characteristic(s) of the other person you find most ‘difficult’?  Apply the presupposition – “What I experience in others is, in some way, an expression of me”.  Reconcile this inside yourself first to accept (or at least manage) it in others.

Scenario 3:

You (or perhaps a member of your team) often talk about something you would like to achieve or a goal or target that you would like to accomplish.  However, despite seeming to be fully engaged with the idea, time goes by and no steps are taken to make it happen.

NLP Options:

This is potentially the most straightforward example so far. The key is that the benefits of not achieving it are currently felt to be greater than would be gained through achievement of the goal. This is often at an unconscious level, so ..

  • Using the Outcome Thinking model, consider –
    • What are the higher level interests of doing X – i.e. what will achieving this outcome do for you?
    • What are the positive by-products of the present state?  – i.e. what do you get (positively) from not doing X?  These benefits must then be present in the desired state to make it truly compelling

Scenario 4:

You have asked someone to do something – a request that you think is perfectly reasonable, logical and straightforward.  Even when you repeat the request, or ask it a different way, it’s to no avail.  The other person either gives you a direct “no” or an implied no, by finding ways to defer or ignore the issue.

Our usual response is to feel frustration so we need a way of moving beyond that feeling as soon as possible.

NLP Options:

  • People’s odd or unusual behaviour is ‘normal’ for them so there must be something in it that is important to them in what they are doing. This ‘something’ will usually be to do with their values.
  • Before your next encounter with them, use the concept of ‘Perceptual Positions Thinking’ to run a Currently Perceived Choice (CPC)* exercise.  This works in the following way…
    • Identify the question he/she thinks they are being asked (their Currently Perceived Choice) – this will be significantly different from the one you are actually asking
    • Stepping into the other person’s shoes.
      • Define all the consequences of saying “yes” to the question they are hearing
      • Define all the consequences of saying “no” to the question they are hearing
    • Rate the consequences as positive or negative – for them
    • It should then be apparent that saying “no” is the obvious choice from their perspective
    • Identify the values that are likely to drive the “yes” and “no” consequences
    • Create a new question, which will stimulate or meet these values and make it more likely that you will get a “yes”
    • The important thing is not to judge this as being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – it’s about understanding the situation the way it is and dealing with it on that basis

* For those of you not familiar with it, the CPC is a very simple model created at the Harvard Negotiation Project to deal with any situation where you are getting “No” when you believe you should get “Yes”.

These are just a few ideas of situations you may encounter, and some of the NLP formats you could consider in the circumstances. If you have any other challenging situations for which you would like some suggestions, do let us know.

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