NLP Coaching – The Difference That Makes a Bond

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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Jay Arnott (United Kingdom).
NLP has filtered into numerous fields spanning the realms of business, education, therapy, sport and now has wormed its way into coaching. So, whether people say they like it or not, many are using it.
Expressions such as ‘framing,’ ‘reframe,’ ‘limiting beliefs,’ ‘congruent’ and ‘calibration’ flow from coaches verbiage without notice. Presuppositions like ‘communication is the response you get,’ are commonplace and catchphrases like, ‘If what you are doing is not working then do something different’ emerge from hidden laws of requisite variety.
People are startled to hear that NLP has been around over 40 years. It has become a vast field since its inception as META when it was used to deal with the fallout of LSD casualties from the University of Santa Cruz, circa 1974, and some of  its early prospectors like David R. Wick went on to create positive transformational impact within the American youth services.
NLP has a kind of Marmite effect (each individual lives in their own unique model of the world) because it generates a ‘love it or hate it’ stimulus-response wherever it goes. In some quarters its message appears to have gotten diluted. Maybe this is because of the sheer variety of contributions covering nearly a half century, not only from the two most recognised co-founders, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, who remain largely at a ‘difference of opinion’ but the many others who engaged in early experiments and continue to contribute: Frank Pucelik, Robert Dilts, Judith Delozier, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Stephen Gilligan, Steve Andreas and so on.
What do I mean by diluted? Well, there are people out there who genuinely believe an NLP coach’s sole intention is to control people’s minds against their will. I remember once being described by an internet hack as a, ‘pernicious brainwasher of pseudoscience.’ Thanks! I won’t go into that here, but in the same light the NLP converts who believes NLP to be the only way self-imposes a limiting map that goes against the true philosophy.
Look beyond that awkward label of Neuro Linguistic Programming and you will find strength in depth. Similar to coaching it has no central regulatory body, and as agents of change, we are lucky to have such freedom. Perhaps one of the reasons NLP and Coaching dovetail so snugly?
Coaching and NLP can certainly be defined as encouraging varied practice as per the coaching process definition in sport. NLP is renowned as a dynamic and efficient change work process and coaching prides itself on results through systems of support and accountability. Yet both are very person-centred by nature.
An early modeling subject of NLP, guiding light, Milton H. Erickson said, ‘any suggestion in therapy is a mistake.’ Coaching is not therapy (although sometimes it feels like it!) but the danger lies in offering suggestions when we don’t know we are doing it. If the content is yours and process is theirs, there are times when we need to impose ideals, but at least need to know for what purpose. A common bias in both fields I suspect is an aspiration to show not tell. Get our clients to find their own way, not ours. Both professions promote connecting deeply and powerfully with client subjectivity in order to meet them at their model of the world and create profound shifts. Something I keep in mind is: prepare the mind and the body will follow. Impoverished thinking can be a badly learnt problem, however, when shift to more ‘non-cognitive’ states of visioning, intuiting, stimulus and response with optimal physiology and state, our perspective changes, and so does our behavior! Fritz Perls, another of the B&G modeling subjects once quoted fittingly, ‘Stop thinking and come to your senses!’ See what I mean? NLP untangles our muddles through a process of unthinking. Ironically, by slowing down, suddenly our performance is accelerated!
The truth is – and this is the one thing that infuriates my practitioners on day one of an NLP practitioner course – there is no map. The territory is unknown. We create our own maps, maps are not reality, and all maps are subject to change. Until we know our reality parameters the only thing we can be sure of is our ability to construct and deconstruct. In NLP coaching our job is to help our clients deconstruct the maps holding them back and help them build new ones.
In NLP, there is no script. All we have is the patterning from our training, a bag of simple but powerful presuppositions and shed load of calibration (acute observation and response).
If you know NLP in its purest form you will realize that it is not limited to simplistic visual swish patterns, bound by rigid eye pattern calibration, or a one approach to a ‘fast phobia cure’ (Erickson’s old rewind technique). If you are at Master Practitioner level you will have embedded the principles from the key patterns and will know that you generally follow zero script. The most important aspect of NLP is the client in front of you. Can you see the connection to coaching now?
With pure NLP we generally understand:

  1. The Map is not the Territory – you help your client realize this and take ownership.
  2. Respect your client’s current map  – value the coachee’s current subjective experience.

(The recent Renaissance of such philosophies of mind such as The Three Principles of Mind and Thought) are but around this principle alone – although the followers may not see it our admit it).

  1. Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate – when you are scriptless you are duty bound to operate in your client’s world and give them 100% attention. When you operate from a know-nothing state of acute observation you notice small changes in state and incongruencies as a continuing feedback source. Lift your head up from your notes!
  2. Process not content – generally speaking, you work with a process instead of content. Many NLP’ers believe NLP to be the only map. They have no idea they are applying their own content and keep asking their client to visualise on a one hour session where time is at a premium and the client has already told them they have got a really bad ‘feeling’ about it or that the future does not ‘chime well,’ so you go with what’s being presented.

The danger with NLP is that some clients often to look to it as a one-session-fix. The beauty of coaching is that the process is much more realistic. With coaching you present a support system (a package), and this helps integrate tasking, environmental changes, strategies, and other considerations of rapport and your client opening up to move beyond what I call the ACDC states of stagnation – Aversion, Constriction, Denial, Comfort Zones – when your clients sabotages and resists. Which happens at all levels.
Just some examples of NLP Coaching and how it might help.

  1. Chunking – to break down large abstract goals into achievable steps.
  2. Logical Levels – using Russell’s system to determine exactly on what level a problem sits.
  3. NLP New Code – applying games and activities to enhance high performance from a content-free (associate to state rather than think) perspective.
  4. Change personal history – to remove past barriers affecting future performance.
  5. Rapport – lots of studies on this about client/therapist coach/client. Pacing and calibration help.
  6. Solutions focused – work from the present-future possibility perspectives.
  7. Sensory experience – create massive shifts which result in desired behaviour.
  8. Create change from the inside out – ownership, map and territory distinctions.
  9. Physiology – moving into spaces to access neurological connections.
  10. Pattern interruption – disrupt and collapse non-resourceful patterns through language, touch, physiology, anchoring.

I define coaching as ‘creating shifts in subjective experience in order to accelerate performance,’ and there is a debate whether the word ‘coach’ as modern expression actually evolved from NLP’er Tony Robbins when he didn’t have a job title for his work?
NLP has already permeated coaching, but NLP Coaching has its own distinctions. You will find it in many coaching books in the form of popular diagrams like Dilt’s Neurological Levels, drawn from his book From Coach to Awakener in books such as the The Art of Coaching by Jenny Bird and Sarah Gornall.
It would be great to see some sort of conjoined approach.
About Jay Arnott
Coaching Accelerator: NLP trainer, hypnotist at NLP Newcastle
Jay offers in-house coaching for teams to develop behavioral performance and embed brilliant people related practices to transform working culture and bottom line. Some of these values include rapport-based marketing, cultural and price point negotiation using NLP and hypnotic language patterns. Most of all, easy to use practical exercises and learning’s to quickly transform emotional state, skills and behavior.
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