Today we’re talking about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Now, if you’re not familiar with the phrase, NLP probably sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel- but, don’t let that scare you off. In actuality, NLP is a unique discipline that combines psychology, neurology, and linguistics to provide practitioners with important skills needed to manage the connection between a person’s mind and body.
In simpler terms, mastering NLP allows individuals to live more successfully, communicate more efficiently, and to ultimately take control of their thoughts and feelings.
Now, what does NLP have to do with business? We’re so glad you asked! Let’s dive into today’s blog post where we’ll cover the basics of NLP, how the practice applies in business, and a few simple tips and tricks to be more effective in your current role!
What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is just what it sounds like- the process of using language and physical mannerisms to manage human thoughts and feelings. But, beyond that, the core of NLP lies in being able to understand, interpret, and react to human behavior on a deeper level than the average human typically does.
Proponents of NLP often refer to the practice as the “user manual” of the mind- and, for good reason. Founded on the belief that all humans learn, communicate, and process information differently, NLP provides a list of behavioral and linguistic indicators that to identify and leverage throughout daily interactions for a more positive, successful experience.
Let’s look at a simple example: According to scientific research, a person’s eye movement can provide critical information about how they are processing information. This is an important part of business communication for the following reason: Eye movement indicates a person is processing information and therefore, unable to take in and process new information until they’re done.
Although NLP delves deeper into eye movements- or Eye Accessing Cues- the most simple takeaway here is this: While you’re having a conversation or explaining something, wait until the other person’s eyes stop moving before you continue on. That way, they’ll have time to process what you’re saying and respond. This small tip will also ensure the other person is open and available to listen to the next thing you have to say.
The Basics of Neuro-Linguistic Programming
NLP is a complex science that people often spend years studying- so, we don’t expect our readers to go out and become certified NLP practitioners. But, the good news is this: There are many small but influential concepts readers can take from NLP and use immediately to improve their professional lives.
Before we get into specific tips and tricks, lets quickly go over some important NLP terms and phrases:
Subjectivity is a core component of NLP. In fact, NLP is sometimes referred to as the study of the structure of subjective experience. In simpler terms, all humans experience the world subjectively through the use of language and the five senses.
To demonstrate, we ask you to remember the last party or professional event you attended. Perhaps you remember the loud music, a specific interaction with a friend, or how you felt yourself overheating in your dress clothes- thus using your five senses and language to recreate the original sensations in your mind.
Those who subscribe to NLP ideals believe that each subjective representation of experience has a noticeable structure or pattern. Therefore, these patterns can be used to modify human behavior- in ourselves and others.
Consciousness is made up of the conscious and subconscious mind- conscious being something you’re immediately aware of and subconscious being the things that occur outside of your awareness. In humans, most thought processes happen in the subconscious mind. NLP works to reprogram this part of the human brain to better control emotion and behavior.
Learning and Learning Preferences:
In NLP, practitioners focus on learning styles and behaviors to duplicate the success of others. Those who subscribe to NLP believe new skills are learned through modeling- a process through which practitioners observe and mimic the tactics other individuals use to achieve success.
NLP also focuses heavily on learning modalities- or, the way a person prefers to process information or learn new skills. There are three main learning modalities. These include visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. In developed countries, studies show that 60% of people process information in a visual way, 20% in an auditory way, and 20% percent kinesthetically (source).
When you understand how someone processes information, there are concrete steps you can take to make your communication with that person more efficient and effective. Let’s look at these three specific learning styles:
- Visual: Visual learners tend to process information quickly and use phrases like, “It appears to be…” and, “I can see that…” Visual learners tend to be great at map reading and often need diagrams or charts to learn new processes and concepts.
Recommended reading: How to Use Visuals to Enhance the B2B Buyer’s Journey.
- Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic learners rely on touch and feel to learn. People who learn kinesthetically are often very active and prefer hands-on learning. Someone might be a kinesthetic learner if they use phrases like, “I feel…” and, “This weighs heavily on me.”
- Auditory: Auditory learners process information through listening and speaking. Someone might be an auditory learner if they prefer to read out loud, talk to themselves, or gravitate toward others with whom they can bounce ideas off of and talk things through. Auditory learners might use phrases like, “I hear what you’re saying,” or start their sentences with, “Listen…”
Of course, no two people are the same. There are a variety of common learning styles which can often be combined and modified. But, these three common modalities are a great place to start.
In the NLP world, rapport refers to the ability to build relationships and connect with others. Through the analysis of behavioral cues, learning preferences, and the use of language, NLP enables practitioners to build trust in interpersonal relationships quickly.
NLP is based on the idea that humans receive sensory input and translate it into various thought processes- both consciously and subconsciously. In an effort to maintain better control over your own thought processes and the thought processes of those around you, you must first develop a keen awareness of your surroundings.
In NLP, an outcome is a person’s reason or goal for doing something. The thought process is this: Setting a goal at the outset of a project facilitates a success-driven mindset and leads to better decision-making.
A core component of NLP is behavioral flexibility. This means, being able to quickly change your approach to a task if your current approach isn’t working. This level of flexibility facilitates more efficient problem-solving and a wider, more diverse skill set.
NLP involves many different complex theories and studies, and the list above is by no means comprehensive. But, these core concepts are a great place to start if you’re looking to try out a few NLP tips and tricks in the workplace.
NLP Tactics to Try in the Workplace
If you’re ready to be more successful in your career, this next section is for you. Try out these actionable tactics to communicate more effectively, lead more efficiently, and form better workplace relationships.
1. Remain flexible in your thinking and your behavior.
When you approach a problem or task with a rigid mindsight, you limit your options. NLP operates on the premise that the person with the most flexible mindset has the most control over an outcome.
Let’s look at a quick example: Your manager asks you to take on a highly technical project that seems slightly beyond your skill set- but, you have several years of experience under your belt and you’re confident you can get the work done.
After a few failed attempts, you take a step back and realize the approach you’re taking is clearly not the right way to go about it. Instead of trying to complete the project in the same way, you remain flexible in your thinking, try a new approach, and accomplish the task.
Recommended reading: 3 Examples of Creative B2B Marketing Examples.
2. Act as if there is a solution to every problem.
When you approach a problem in the workplace- whether it’s an actual work task or an interpersonal issue, always go into it assuming it has a solution. This facilitates a more creative mindset- meaning, you’re more apt to think outside the box to come up with a solution rather than simply giving up or doing a sub-par job.
Let’s look at an example- this time, a family story told to me by a long time friend. Growing up, this person’s six-year-old sister was obsessed with birds. Of course, she asked and asked her mother to buy her a pet bird to no avail. One day, clearly frustrated, the mother responded to her daughter’s pleas with, “Go outside. If you can catch a bird in the yard, you can keep it.”
The mother’s bargain was likely an attempt to placate or distract the child and it was absurd to think the girl would be able to successfully capture a bird. But, sure enough, two hours later, the young child walked back inside clutching a very real, very alive crow.
Now, obviously the family didn’t keep the crow. But my point here is this: The child had no idea her mother had assigned her an impossible task and as a result, approached the task as if it had a reasonable solution.
To tie things up, no one is quite sure how the girl captured a crow, but there’s no doubt she was only successful because she had no idea she was supposed to fail.
3. Provide better feedback.
In NLP, the term feedback is used to describe the process of reflecting on past actions to influence next steps. In the workplace, giving and receiving feedback are both essential components of improvement and success. The trouble with feedback is, people aren’t always receptive to criticism- whether it’s constructive or not.
Now, I’ve always been told to deliver feedback in a “compliment sandwich.” If you’re not familiar, a compliment sandwich is when you say something you like about a project, then something that needs improving, followed by another compliment about the work. Although this can be effective, this type of communication doesn’t always yield the best results. Sometimes, more direct feedback is necessary.
Here are a few NLP-based tips to help you provide better feedback in the workplace without jeopardizing your personal relationships:
Fact or fiction:
Before providing any type of feedback, ask yourself, “Is the information I need to convey fact or opinion?” If it’s truly necessary feedback, it will likely be based in fact and supported with evidence. Otherwise, your personal opinions might be getting in the way of productivity. Remember, just because someone executes a task differently than you would, that doesn’t mean they did something wrong.
In most cases, it’s more important to preserve a personal relationship than it is to prove a point. So, before providing feedback, consider whether or not it might hurt the relationship you have with the other person. Of course, in cases where a person’s actions are dangerous or counter-productive, your feedback may trump the relationship.
Most frustration and conflict occurs as a result of someone not feeling understood or heard. Remember, feedback is often a two-way conversation. So, before you offer constructive criticism or feedback, ask yourself if you’re seeing the whole picture. Perhaps this person has tried to communicate something to you in the past that would have prevented this difficult conversation.
General feedback leaves room for misinterpretation. For this reason, always be as specific as possible with your feedback. Rather than saying, “Your work has been sloppy recently,” say something like, “The last three articles you wrote contained quite a few grammatical mistakes like X, Y, and Z. Please spend some extra time proofing your content before you submit it for publishing.”
If you don’t provide this piece of feedback, what’s the worst thing that could happen? If there is no clear consequence, it probably isn’t worth burning bridges or hurting feelings. Now, if there is a clear consequence, you must weigh that consequence against this particular relationship.
Be conscious of word choice:
According to NLP, there are certain words that prevent feedback from being processed. Two common examples include the words but and try. If I were to say, “I like your idea but the execution was off,” the word but serves as a trap door. The person I’m speaking to will likely fail to process everything that came before but.
Now, if I were to say, “Next time, please try to clean up your grammar,” the word try implies that the feedback is optional- that I might actually doubt the other person’s ability to execute the task at hand.
Of course, these are just a few of many helpful communication tips that come from NLP. But, the tips listed above are a great starting place to help you provide better feedback in a professional setting.
4. Act as if every behavior started with a positive intention.
When something goes wrong at work, it’s easy to take things personally, blame others, and assume the worst. But, according to NLP best practices, it’s much more effective to assume every choice or behavior started with good intentions. Doing so flips an important switch in the human mind. Rather than playing the blame game, you go into problem solving mode with a clean slate.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example: You’re in charge of digital marketing and your website goes down, making it impossible to collect new leads. If your first thought is, “Who did this?” or “How did this happen?” you’re not actively working to solve the problem. But, if you assume this was an honest mistake that stemmed from a positive intention, you eliminate that first line of thought and move into problem solving mode much faster.
Not only does this generate more efficient workflows, but it also preserves personal relationships, improving almost every aspect of business.
Recommended reading: The Do’s and Don’ts of Identifying Soft Skills.
5. Always meet people where they are, rather than expecting them to meet you where you are.
NLP operates on the premise that all people are doing the best they can with the resources given to them. Therefore, to communicate with someone effectively you can’t expect them to operate with resources they don’t have. Instead, meet each person where they are in life, rather than expecting them to meet you.
What we mean here is this: Each person has a unique view of who they are and how they operate as individuals. When it comes to interpersonal interactions, you must consider this perspective, regardless of how your outlook on the person differs from their internal outlook on themselves.
Let’s look at an example: Your direct report delivers consistent, high-quality work. But, based on things they’ve said and how they interact with others, you can tell they have extremely low self-confidence. Although their identity is not based in fact, you must still consider this during interactions with them.
Because this particular person has extremely low self-esteem, it may not be in your best interest to ask them to complete an advanced task out of the blue. Remember, this person constantly thinks they’re doing a bad job and may question their ability to complete something difficult.
Instead, remember to regularly provide specific, positive feedback. Although you can’t change someone’s opinion of themselves, positive reinforcement will help familiarize this person with the idea that you value their effort and input.
Doing so builds rapport and facilitates trust. Thus, when doubts or low self-esteem arise, this person has the resources they need to negate and work through them. Just as you would provide constructive criticism, remember to give specific examples. For example, “Your approach to X, Y, and Z was particularly successful because you did A, B, and C. I am assigning you this more advanced project because you demonstrated your ability to A, B, and C. I value your input and I’m excited to see what you do with this task.”
Recommended reading: 3 Ways to Build Trust in Sales Quickly.
Key Considerations About Neuro-Linguistic Programming:
Although NLP is said to help all aspects of a person’s life, businesses, in particular, can benefit from NLP. To get more specific, the concepts described in this post are critical for those in customer-facing roles and leadership positions. With just a few new habits and a shift in your mindset, NLP can help your organization accomplish the following:
- Generate predictable, successful business outcomes at scale.
- Improve all aspects of business relationships and business communications.
- Instill a sense of confidence, morale, and motivation in employees and customers.
- Establish more effective training programs, presentations, and sales demos.
- Provide yourself and those around you with direction and focus.
- Understand and reproduce the qualities that make top-notch employees successful.
The concept of NLP generates mixed responses- some people love it, some people hate it. But as with any business practice, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Try out some of the techniques referenced in this article and see how they work for you. Of course, the ultimate goal is to be more productive, more successful, and more influential. So, if at any point, you find something that works for you, we’ll consider it a success.
Contact ZoomInfo today to learn how our contact database solutions can also help you improve relationships and scale your business success.