Article The five core techniques of NLP can act as a powerful key to self-transformation. Learn all about them here! 2 2022 Life coaching https://www.lifecoachhub.com/img/uploads/articles/thumbs/126_1665166624.jpg NLP coaching life coaching Lifecoachhub Pty Ltd LifeCoachHub
Coach David J. Wingfield

The Five Best NLP Techniques for Self-improvement (Basic NLP Skills)

 
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Updated Oct 5, 2022

NLP in a Nutshell

Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP for short, is a unique approach to personal development, communication skills, and psychotherapy developed in the 1970s. Its approach is to draw connections and parallels between the neurological functions of the brain and the social function of language—and the subsequent effect on the way people behave.

In other words, if you change the way you speak, it will have knock-on effects in terms of the way you think and behave. Likewise, a change of thought patterns will manifest itself in a changed means of expression through language, and in a person’s social behavior.

In short, NLP offers individuals an extremely powerful tool to effectively change thought patterns, negative behaviors, and social problems, simply by concentrating on their words, thoughts, and body language! Many books have been written on the in-depth functions of NLP, and many practitioners make a handsome living out of providing therapy and self-help courses.

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Five Basic NLP Techniques

“Reframe all that happens to you — your narrative will start to match.”

The simple fact is that you do not have to understand the physiological processes behind NLP in order to take advantage of its empowering truths. This article introduces five basic techniques that allow you to harness the power of NLP to change your life today.

NLP Technique 1: RAPPORT

Be affable in your relations with those who approach you, and never haughty; for the pride of the arrogant even slaves can hardly endure, whereas when men are affable all are glad to bear with their ways.

       - Isocrates

A person who is instinctively able to build rapport with their fellow human beings will be more likely to be happy at home and at work, to have more friends, be more healthy and live longer.

The art of rapport is perhaps the most accessible of the basic NLP techniques and beyond doubt the most important in terms of how it will affect your life.  Rapport is the means by which you can empathize with and get on with other people; and is a blend of tact, body language, and listening.

A person who is instinctively able to build rapport with their fellow human beings will be more likely to be happy at home and at work, have more friends, be more healthy and live longer. 

The good news is that building rapport is not a matter of chance. There are a number of methods that can enable you to improve your relationships with others, which are accessible to anyone and everyone.

Merely relying on verbal communication won’t be enough for you to build a strong rapport with others. According to Albert Mehrabian, there’s a formula for this: the 7-38-55% rule.

Reading and understanding someone’s body language are crucially important in establishing rapport.

Only 7% of the message is communicated through verbal words. The 38% encompasses the tone of voice. And the biggest chunk, the 55%, is all about body language. If you notice, nonverbal signals relay much more than the actual words being said in a conversation. 

Thus, reading and understanding someone’s body language are crucially important in establishing rapport. Here is where mirroring comes in. As its name suggests, it involves matching or copying someone’s movements. 

Or better yet, match their energy. If they are brimming with life and vibrating in excitement, try to mirror it. And if they are more relaxed, you can reflect that kind of state.

Some examples of physical mirroring include:

  • Breathing patterns
  • Crossing your legs
  • Folding your arms
  • Leaning forward or backward
  • Gestures during communication

As for voice quality mirroring, these are:

  • Intonation
  • Pitch
  • Speed of speech
  • Volume of delivery
  • Pauses in communication

Of course, you can always just start with a smile :)

A smile can be an excellent way to diffuse the tension or appease the person you are talking to. A smile can go a long way in effective communication, even as far as you being perceived as trustworthy despite being a stranger. Not to mention, smiling is the number one nonverbal technique you need to have in your arsenal to look and be more accommodating.

After all, who isn’t drawn to someone smiling or laughing? It’s called a winning smile for a reason. And win that other person you shall!

Furthermore, building rapport is essential during negotiations to avoid any misinterpretations. Yes, even to gain the upper hand in many situations in everyday life (be it business related or not).

Aside from mirroring, you can better build rapport and connect with people by:

  • Speaking slowly and calmly: You are more likely to sound credible. Slow and calm speech is also an effective way to diffuse tension when it arises. Sounding calm will soothe the person you are talking to.
  • Knowing when it’s your turn to speak: Communication is a two-way street. You don’t get to drone on and on without letting the other speak. Respectfully listen when the other person is responding to what you said, and wait for a signal (often, a pause) that indicates that they are done talking.

All in all, 

“Be affable in your relations with those who approach you, and never haughty; for the pride of the arrogant even slaves can hardly endure, whereas when men are affable all are glad to bear with their ways.” 

This is actually what one of the greatest Greek rhetorics, Isocrates, wrote to the young Demonicus. I believe, had he been alive today, Isocrates would have advised us the same about building rapport — friendly and never arrogant or disdainful is the way.

Just remember not to overdo the rapport building as you may be sacrificing focus or, heaven forbid, crossing too many boundaries. There’s negative and positive rapport. Sticking with the latter would be best for avoiding excessive self-disclosure and over-identification with people. 

NLP Technique 2: DISSOCIATION

Much of the stress, depression, and negative emotions we experience in day-to-day life are the result of trigger reactions to common experiences. For instance, you may notice your temper rising whenever you hear someone mention a particular word or phrase. Alternatively, it may be a particular habit of your partner that sends you into a paroxysm of rage or inertia.

Dissociation essentially severs the link between the negative state of mind and the trigger event. As such it is a very effective long term treatment for deeply entrenched psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, stress and phobias.

One of the basic NLP techniques can be helpful in those situations. Dissociation essentially severs the link between the negative state of mind and the trigger event. As such it is a very effective long-term treatment for deeply entrenched psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, and phobias. It is also a positive way of dealing with difficulties at work, at home, or in our relationships.

To dissociate from an experience, you will mentally visualize yourself out of your body, a “somewhere over there in a picture” sort of way. You can be the younger or older version of yourself, narrating the experience as it unfolds. Or you can see the experience from above while it happens below you, like a cloud looming over a landscape. 

Typically, dissociation and curing phobias go hand in hand. This technique can give you the chance to reprocess the intense traumatic experience and turn it into a non-threatening memory

During talks of dissociation, two subtypes are often mentioned:

  • V-K Dissociation. This type aims to separate the visual from the kinaesthetic. When achieved, you will no longer be triggered by the mere sight of the object.
  • Double Dissociation. This typically happens when you’re watching yourself watch yourself. It provides a safe distance between you and the traumatic event you fear. 

How to use NLP Dissociation: 8 steps

What this process does is scramble the original memory to make it lose its sense. Going forward, the unpleasant feeling that was attached to it falls apart as well. With the original memory lost in all the fast rewinds, feeling bad is also removed from the equation.

First choose some sort of trigger that makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, or stressed. Follow these steps to clear away the intensity and stop the trigger from activating:

  1. Think of a memory or event as if just witnessing it, like a movie playing in a theater.

Remember how dissociation might involve your older self watching your younger self? This approach enables you to feel differently about the memory. It also allows you to learn from it in a new, useful way. 

Realizations of how your younger self was acting and reacting with the limited resources you had back then will likely surface. Appease yourself with the fact that it was a different time — when your current wiser self didn’t know any better. 

  1. Imagine yourself at a distance from your other self who is watching. 

To ensure effectivity, imagine that there is some see-through obstruction (it can be glass or just about anything transparent) separating you from yourself who is watching the movie. This glass will remind you that you are not in the memory. Instead, you’re at a safe distance from it: where you have control, and you’re secure from all the elements that make it fearsome for you. 

This time around, though, you get to dictate how things appear. It all depends on how you comfortably want to see it. 

  1. Find a scene that is comforting for you and freeze it. 

Let the movie play out in black and white until the end, from where you are safely watching. Do this until you are way past all the unpleasantness and back to comfort and pleasure. Stop the movie there and freeze it.

  1. Step into that comfortable scene and just be there. 

Allow yourself to feel all the delight wholly. Let it fill you, and enjoy the feeling because the bad part is over.

  1. Hit rewind and experience everything back from the very beginning (everything in reverse). 

All the conversations, people, and even you are all talking and walking in reverse. 

  1. Repeat these steps five times. 

When you do this repeatedly, the rewind will happen faster each time until it only takes a second for the whole rewind. 

  1. Take a break for at least a few minutes.
  2. Test the results. 

What this process does is scramble the original memory to make it lose its sense. Going forward, the unpleasant feeling that was attached to it falls apart as well. With the original memory lost in all the fast rewinds, feeling bad is also removed from the equation. 

Typically, people use disassociation in changing the way they think in order to handle more and feel less. People with a lot on their plate may experience constant negative emotions, an inability to sleep properly, and difficulty making wise decisions. Thus, being able to switch off unpleasant thoughts is a much-welcomed relief. 

During disassociation, you are likely to be:

  • Looking in as if you are separate from yourself
  • Noticing your emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them
  • Listening to yourself as if from the outside
  • Analyzing your actions and thoughts while learning from them
  • Stepping out of yourself during hard times

For further assistance during dissociation, you can always consult with an NLP coach and undergo coaching. 

NLP Technique 3: CONTENT REFRAME

Your point of view plays a very crucial role in this technique. Once you are able to reframe a situation, you also get to change how you react to it.

The technique allows you to view negative situations in a new light, and thus enables you to see how positive outcomes might be derived from seemingly hopeless and frustrating situations.

Another one of the best NLP techniques that we need to discuss is content reframe. Content reframe is a group of visualization techniques that encourages you to think differently about situations in which you feel disempowered, victimized, or out of control. The technique allows you to view negative situations in a new light, and thus enables you to see how positive outcomes might be derived from seemingly hopeless and frustrating situations.

This NLP technique can be of benefit to people who have experienced severe trauma in their past such as battlefield stress or childhood abuse—or who are suffering from a chronic or life-threatening illness. Content Reframe is also useful for helping you deal with acute and unexpected trauma, such as losing a job or suffering bereavement.

Changing the context in a content reframe

When it comes to content reframing, you can either change the context or the meaning of a particular situation. To explain the former, let’s look at the insights of one of NLP’s founders, Leslie Cameron-Bandler. She worked with a woman with compulsive behavior tendencies, specifically towards her carpet.

What Leslie did was use that kind of content reframe in changing the woman’s response to the sensory experience she didn’t like (people leaving stains on the house carpet).

How to do a content reframe using context

You can change the context for a fixation on something in the following way:

  1. Close your eyes and picture what you are fixated on, in a perfect setting, with nothing awry.
  2. Then, realize that in order to keep your fixation in such a pristine condition, you’d have to put up with being totally alone without your loved ones around.
  3. Now, add flaws to that perfect picture. But think of the flaws as welcomed additions brought by the people you care for the most.

The situation remains the same, but a new response, a lighter and better context, is attached to it. Instead of seeing footprints as something to nag over obsessively, take the idea of being constantly around the people you love.

You need not let an experience hold you a prisoner of self-imposed negative perceptions, especially if you wield the power to dictate how it influences you. Why choose negative content if you can easily attach a positive one? That seems like a personal punishment, in my opinion.

Changing the meaning in a content reframe

Comparatively, changing the meaning in a content reframe, as its name so implies, is when the meaning given to something is modified into a positive one. Let’s take another big personality in the NLP community, Virginia Satir, to help us understand this other concept of content framing.

Satir once worked with a family made up of a stuffy father, a placater mother, and a “stubborn” (at least to the father’s eyes) daughter. Virginia helped the family by changing the meaning of stubbornness. The daughter saw her father as someone who was always in the wrong, so she usually sided with her mother. The father then saw this behavior as her daughter being stubborn.

Viewing the “stubbornness” in a different light, like standing up for yourself, turns it into something much more valuable and ultimately beneficial. The meaning switched, hence the response changed.

How to do a content reframe using meaning

Think of life as a movie and you, its director. You get to frame events in a way that makes them look amazing. If one angle doesn’t work, surely, a better one is achievable if you shift your lenses (something that you can control).

So when we put this in general settings, you can be successful in context reframing by:

  1. Identifying an aspect that you want to change.
  2. Finding out what behavior you generate when that aspect is present.
  3. Giving the behavior a new name and meaning — a label with positive connotations instead of negative ones.

This change in meaning is also associated with simply being kinder to yourself, wouldn’t you agree? How you talk to yourself and how you see yourself impacts you overall. You’re not stubborn. What you are is determined. You don’t call yourself slow or undecided, rather you’re thoughtful and calculated. 

Moreover, every behavior, even those you think are bad, can be useful somewhere. Not every time and in all situations, but somewhere. Identifying that somewhere is what context reframe is all about.

Here’s an analogy, think of life as a movie and you, its director. You get to frame events in a way that makes them look amazing. If one angle doesn’t work, surely, a better one is achievable if you shift your lenses (something that you can control).

Your point of view plays a very crucial role in content reframing. Once you are able to reframe a situation, you also get to change how you react to it. It encourages us to see the good when there is only bad. 

The beauty behind content reframing is that you surpass any limiting beliefs you may have. As the ‘The Do Good, Be Good Principle’ states, “reframe all that happens to you — your narrative will start to match.” Content reframing encourages us to spot the positive aspects of everything we do in our lives, even if nothing looks promising initially. 

NLP Technique 4: ANCHORING

The fourth of the five basic NLP techniques focus on anchoring. Anchoring aims to elicit a habitual, positive emotional response to a specific word or physical stimulus.

It is also possible to generate these responses yourself, and thus provide yourself with an instant pick-me-up to see you through hard times.

For example, an NLP coach may be able to induce a patient to smile whenever someone touches their shoulder. This is an extremely powerful way of instantaneously changing the way a person feels and works well in long-term therapist-patient relationships. 

It is also possible to generate these responses yourself, and thus provide yourself with an instant pick-me-up to see you through hard times.

How to anchor in NLP: 5 steps

Here is how to anchor in 5 steps:

  1. Ask yourself what emotion you want to feel. Is it to be more confident? To feel less anxious? Whatever it may be, you need to be specific. 
  2. Think back to a time when you felt that way. Summon up a memory where you knew that you were feeling confident or unbothered by something.
  3. Determine your anchor device no matter how weird the gesture might be. Hey, if it helps, you can go and do jazz hands for as long as (it’s effective) you like.
  4. Relive what your senses perceived during that particular memory. Immerse yourself into that situation as if you are there again. Hold on to it until you feel the emotion you want, and then do your anchoring device to cement it.
  5. Test and assess the effectiveness of your anchoring. If you feel the same way, then you can now access the particular feeling you associated with your anchor device anytime you want.  

While these steps may be helpful, your established anchor may not always work. There might still be situations where your anchor won’t be enough to prevent intense emotions from arising or getting the best of you. If this happens, using additional NLP techniques to help you through would be the best course of action.

Anchoring also shares a similarity with conditioning, a technique used by Pavlov. In his experiment, Pavlov rang a bell whenever he presented the dogs with steak. He did this a couple of times until the dogs salivated just at the sound of the bell. The anchor in this situation is the bell. 

An anchor is established when you are at an intense state with a stimulus applied at the peak. When the intense experience and stimulus become linked at a neurological level, that very same state can be accessed just by activating the stimulus. 

Accomplishing a successful anchoring is based on four elements:

  1. Intensity of response: You must be in a fully associated state. So you need to be in your own body.
  2. Timing of anchor: Your preferred anchor must be applied just before the peak of the intense state.
  3. Uniqueness of stimulus: Make sure not to use an anchor that is usually touched, as this may weaken the anchor and be set off by others.
  4. Replication of stimulus: Your anchor must be done the same way every time, from testing it out to using it whenever. 

NLP Technique 5: BELIEF CHANGE

There’s no shame in being adaptable once new information presents itself. It’s never a weakness but strength in itself. Why stick to an outdated belief if it impedes you from going forward? 

Last but not least on our list of the best NLP techniques is belief change. From childhood onward we gather around ourselves a complex web of beliefs, assumptions, and opinions that guide and affect our everyday lives. Many of these are so deeply ingrained that we spend most of our conscious time being completely unaware of them. 

When taken together, an individual’s beliefs constitute a person’s unique worldview, a web of assumptions whereby we filter and interpret the events going on around us. Some beliefs reinforce negative behavior patterns that have a deleterious effect on the way we think and interact with other people.

Some of these beliefs are inherited from the society in which we were formed and others are of our own idiosyncratic creation. We are often unaware of some of these core beliefs until we find them challenged when we often fly into an otherwise inexplicable defensive rage.

When taken together, an individual’s beliefs constitute a person’s unique worldview, a web of assumptions whereby we filter and interpret the events going on around us. All beliefs limit our behavior in some way and many have a positive effect. However, some beliefs reinforce negative behavior patterns that have a deleterious effect on the way we think and interact with other people.

According to Robert Dilts’s book Beliefs: Pathways to Health and Well-Being, there is a particular NLP formula for change. It combines the present state with your resources. These two together then equate to the desired state.

Present State + Resources = Desired State

Creating change is done by:

  • Establishing the present state or the current problem.
  • Setting your desired state. 
  • Figuring out the resources you’ll need to move from the present state to the desired state.  

An example of the NLP Belief change technique

How about we apply the formula in an example? In a law firm setting, perhaps?

Say, you want to make a partner. The position is among the highest ranks in the company and is only for a select few people. Of course, it also comes with the stigma that only the well-connected ivy league alumni who have won the most top-tier cases within the year will be selected. 

With your present state (current position) and desired state (promotion) established, we add in the resources you will need to make a partner. What information and skills do you need to possess to achieve that goal? It may be bagging more cases for the firm and networking with the right people. Once you have acquired the necessary resources, whatever the desired state will be yours. 

But as simple as it may look, a lot can still influence this formula. Interferences may come into play and sabotage your efforts in change. 

These hindrances can take one of these three forms:

  1. A part of you does not want to change. Most often than not, this is something within your subconscious that is not readily apparent to you.
  2. You don’t know how to create a representation of the change that you so desire. It can also be you do not know how you’d behave if you, indeed, changed. 
  3. You don’t give yourself the chance to change. 

The first hindrance can be subconsciously sabotaging your chance at becoming a partner because you don’t want the additional workload it would entail. 

For the second one, you might have the impression that those who become partners end up developing arrogance and a god complex, which is not how you want to behave. 

As for the third interference, it could be when you easily give up on acquiring the necessary cases to secure your spot, without giving yourself enough time to do so (i.e., you want to win all your cases in the snap of a finger). 

It will be wise to factor in any of these hindrances in the process. Better yet, why don’t we alter the formula altogether:

Present State + Resources – Hindrances = Desired State

Along with this new formula, you will need what I like to call ‘tos’ for the belief change to happen: you must want to, know how to, and give yourself the chance to.

That looks more effective, right? Of course, along with this new formula, you will need what I like to call ‘tos’ for the belief change to happen:

  • You must want to 
  • Know how to, and 
  • Give yourself the chance to

Aside from everything we’ve covered so far, let me just throw in another consideration: by knowing the implications of your beliefs, you are more likely to change them. Questioning and dissecting what you believe in marks the beginning of the realization that maybe the belief just doesn’t make any sense after all. Once those doubts start creeping in on you, the belief change process begins. 

Having conversations with other people can also factor into changing your beliefs. According to Thalia Wheatley, a Dartmouth social neurologist, individuals do not think in a vacuum but with other people. What you know may differ from what others know. You are likely to come across another set of ideals and perspectives when talking to different people that can make you evaluate your own. 

Weak and old beliefs should then be replaced with better and useful ones accordingly. There’s no shame in being adaptable once new information presents itself. It’s never a weakness but strength in itself. Why stick to an outdated belief if it impedes you from going forward? 

As Stephen Hawking plainly puts it, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Be smart enough to know when to hold on or let go of your beliefs. 

Summing up and further reading

NLP offers an effective toolset for reprogramming your belief set and revising the way you view the world in order to act more positively within it.

In the following series of articles, I will examine each of these core NLP techniques in detail and show you how they can be used to unlock your latent power to transform your life for the better. Read more about each here:

Rapport: The art of rapport

Dissociation: Improving your mental wellbeing through dissociation

Content Reframe: NLP Reframe: A Practical Guide To Content Reframing

Anchoring: Step by Step Guide To Basic Anchoring Techniques

Belief change: A Practical Guide For Using NLP To Change the Way You Think

Photo Credit : qthomasbower

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COMMENTS

  • Anil Thomas NLP
    November 18, 2020

    I went through your blog, its an excellent one. It gives us brief description about NLP techniques and ways it can help us.

  • Kalpavally
    October 15, 2022

    Great article thanks!

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