Can NLP Help or Harm Your Business?

By Yemm, Graham | Management Services, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Can NLP Help or Harm Your Business?


Yemm, Graham, Management Services


'NLP could be the most important synthesis of knowledge about human communication to emerge since the sixties' - Science Digest.

The simple answer to the above is 'both' as it depends on a number of things. Perhaps the first thing to explore is your reaction to seeing those three letters put together? If someone tells you they are an NLP practitioner do you search for your cross and garlic cloves? Or do you welcome them and want to know more?

In this article I want to cover four key aspects:

* Why knowing more about NLP and its uses might be useful for you and others in your organisation;

* What NLP is and some of the key principles;

* How it has been used in some organisations;

* What you might be able to do with it in the future.

Although I have been involved with NLP and using it in work and other parts of my life for over 10 years, I am not one of the evangelists nor do I believe it is a panacea! I am not aiming to defend NLP. I have my own views about what it is and how it can work for those who want to learn more about it - but I can offer no empirical evidence for these and do not intend to. Over that time I have realised that it can help most people and in many different ways. Whether improving the communication and influencing skills of individuals, enabling managers and leaders to operate more effectively, giving sales and customer service people more options when dealing with the wide range of prospects and clients, helping teams to work together, providing tools to address problems or providing everyone with a better understanding of themselves - the list is not limited to particular disciplines or groups.

One of the biggest problems with NLP is its name! Neuro linguistic programming is hardly the branding of a smart marketing team! Apart from being somewhat 'user unfriendly' the last word often carries negative impressions for many. Without giving the whole history, suffice to say that the original developers of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, were involved in mathematics and linguistics. Much of what they identified and developed was based on the work of well known linguistics experts - one of whom, Alfred Korzybski, had already used the term neuro-linguistic in his work. The principle is that the 'neuro' is to understand how we process and think about things, the 'linguistics' is to consider the words we use and the clues within those and finally the 'programming' is how we have generated the patterns within ourselves and keep running the programmes. NLP is 'a set of guiding principles, attitudes and techniques that enable you to change behaviour patterns as you wish.'

A fundamental premise of the early work done by Bandler and Grinder was that they wanted to study people who were excellent and to identify what specifically they did to achieve this. They wanted to be able to break this down and identify the specific elements and then teach or impart these to others in order to improve their performance. From this early work a number of tools and techniques were created, some were adapted from different disciplines, and others have been developed by people such is Robert Dilts.

Many of these tools and techniques can be very powerful. This, in turn, can lead to the accusations of NLP being 'manipulative'. First question how do you define the difference between manipulation and influence? second point; is a chisel a murder weapon when in the hands of Michelangelo sculpting 'David'? Yes, in the wrong hands, NLP has a lot of manipulative tools, especially when you see some of the websites and others about 'mastering the art of seduction' etc!! It has to do with the integrity, and intention, of the user.

For me, one of the most powerful applications of NLP was using it on myself. It helped me to know myself even better, to recognise that I could develop even more flexibility in my actions and interactions and to take more responsibility for my own thoughts and actions. …

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