I was asked to comment on the statement, “NLP is dangerous as it pigeon holes people and their behaviour.” The author of the statement feels as NLP is based on models and assumptions and a certain set of conditions then the user of that model cannot understand its limitations and the assumptions made.
It is a truism that people fear what they don’t understand and the statement show little or no knowledge of Neurolinguistic Programming or NLP for short.
NLP is Language
NLP evolved as a model of language. The conditions of that modeling were the observation of effective therapists such as Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson. These therapists were able to create transformations in the thinking, feeling and behaviours of their patients through just conversation. Richard Bandler (a student of computer science) and John Grinder ( a linguistics professor) were curious about how changing language creates change and came to the conclusion that language is the software of the mind.
The first model of NLP is the Meta Model, which is a series of challenging questions to ill-formed sentences. For example, if someone says, “She makes me angry!” we can ask, “Who is she?” “What is it that she does that causes you to choose to feel angry?” “Does this always happen?” “What if it didn’t always happen?” “What might you choose to do instead?”
Through the use of the Meta Model we are able to bring awareness to the individual about how they have re-presented reality and then languaged that representation. This last sentence highlights a principle of NLP that pre-dates its founders and goes back to Alfred Korzybski , who said “The map is not the territory.” More simply put we respond not to reality (the physical world) but to our mental map of reality or how we perceive the physical world. This is demonstrated when you interview two or more witnesses to an event such as a car crash, each witness represents the event through their own perception and creates their own representation of the event.
Building on this principle the founders of NLP discovered that different people had different preferences as to how they pay attention to the physical world. Some people pay more attention to visual information, some to auditory information, some to Kinethetic (sensation) information and some people emphasise their thinking about the information and so respond only rationally or logically (Auditory Digital response).
NLP builds rapport and communication
This information is useful in building rapport and increasing communication effectiveness. If someone prefers visual information and you spend your time telling them about your idea, you will be less effective than if you show them some pictures or charts.
How we filter and then respond to information is known as a Meta Program. The representational Meta Program I have just described is the first of sixty such cognitive filters that advanced students of NLP and its newest development, Neuro Semantics, have available to understand how people operate.
It has been my experience that when people are first introduced to NLP and the representation system, they may over generalise and make pidgeon holing statements such as, “oh he is a kinesthetic so that’s why he behaves like that.” I can fully appreciate how such a statement might lead to some incredulity on the validity of NLP, but to label NLP ineffective base on such a novice expression is akin to labelling Einstein Theory of relativity invalid on a high school student’s inability to explain a physics experiment.
In my last paragraph I just demonstrated two techniques of NLP, pacing and metaphor. Pacing is used to establish rapport by agreeing with some element of a person’s representation of the world and metaphor is used carry over meaning from one context to another to create a new meaning.
So is NLP dangerous and does it pidgeon hole people?
“Dangerous to who and how? ”
NLP is a Model
NLP is a model of human thinking and communication; it is based on several principles that include: the map is not the territory, people are not broken – they work perfectly well (according to their maps) and that behind every behaviour is a positive intention.
Is it dangerous to want to understand how people are representing their reality, to acknowledge that they are not broken and therefore have the resources to see the world anew, or to want to understand intention so that behaviours create the result required?
I don’t think so.
Can NLP be misused and misrepresented by novices or by those bent on doing evil? Then the answer is yes. This is also true of money and power which can be forces for good and evil. My personal belief is that ignorance breeds evil, ignorance of the outcome of our behaviours. In NLP we have a safeguard for such ignorance; it is known as the ecology frame. The ecology frame asks the question, “will this thought/action be useful, safe and beneficial for self and others, in the short and long term?”
What if our politicians were to ask such ecology questions? Now then the world would be a safer place 🙂
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