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NLP and Addiction

Helping people to overcome addictions such as alcohol and drugs can be very challenging for an NLP practitioner. This article by Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett provides an excellent summary of some useful NLP intervention.
Transforming Recovery: NLP and Addiction | International Society of Neuro-Semantics.
The article recognizes the different stages

Blog Reviews

Book Review: The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favourite writers, and I have great respect for the manner in which he can popularize important research findings in a way that respects the original research and still manages to be accessible to non-specialists. I read The Tipping Point when it came out first in 2000 and reread it recently. The subtitle of the book says it well: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
In Gladwell’s view, there are three type of people who are responsible for producing epidemics, trends, thought viruses, fashion, or whatever you may wish to term the popularization of a phenomenon. The connector brings people together. The maven is highly knowledgeable about the phenomenon, and the salesman is able to convince people of its merits. Sometimes one person can combine more than one of these roles, and sometimes they are different people, but in general a phenomenon (product, idea …) needs someone to create a group, someone to have expert knowledge, and someone to market the phenomenon.
Gladwell gives some excellent examples including the long life of Sesame Street, the fall in crime in New York, and the high rate of suicide in some areas. This is a valuable book for people interested in spreading ideas or raising the profile of products. In his conclusion, Gladwell notes that a big budget is not always necessary to get the word out, and that conventional advertising can be a huge waste of money sometimes. Instead, producing a message that is congruent with its context, finding an appropriate messenger, and setting up a network is the key. I talked to a publisher recently who had just spent $5,000 dollars on newspaper advertising that had yielded a single phone call which led to nothing.
People are innundated by advertising and while nobody would say that it is meaningless, people are powerfully influenced by their surroundings, their immediate contexts, and most importantly the personalities of those around them. Finding the special people to spread the message can make the difference that turns a product or an idea into a runaway success.

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Influences on NLP

Richard Bandler and John Grinder are generally credited with creating NLP, but they freely admit that they were influenced by a large number of other thinkers, and since the beginnings of NLP in the early 1970s, NLP has been further developed, taken in new directions, and enriched by many others. This article attempts to summarize some of the major early contributions. I will leave it to History to act as the judge of the relative importance of the later contributors! This article can be considered as a work in progress and suggestions are welcomed.

Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950)

Korzybski developed the theory of General Semantics which set the epistemological groundwork for NLP by suggesting that human beings are limited in what they know by the structure of both their nervous systems, and the structure of human languages. As a result, human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through what he called their “abstractions.” Korzybski’s most famous quote, “The map is not the territory”, is the fundamental presupposition of NLP.

Paul Watzlawick (1921 – 2007)

Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian-American psychologist and philosopher, particularly in communication theory and radical constructivism. His work in family therapy and brief therapy was directly relevant for the early work in NLP. He also developed many of Gregory Bateson’s ideas and his work underlies several of the NLP presuppositions. One of his memorable quotations is: “You cannot not communicate.”

Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980)

Milton Erickson was one of the biggest influences on NLP and his work and metaphors can still be found directly and indirectly in every NLP training program around the world. Erickson was a psychiatrist who specialized in medical hypnosis. Grinder and Bandler met Erickson through Gregory Bateson and they modelled some of his hypnotic patterning in two books. Erickson conceptualized the unconscious mind as being highly separate from the conscious mind, with its own awareness, interests, responses, and learnings, and he taught that the unconscious mind was creative, solution-generating, and often positive. He often carried out his hypnotic inductions and suggestions in the form of conversation and stories which he considered to be a powerful way to communicate with the unconscious.

Gregory Bateson (1904 – 1980)

Gregory Bateson was a British researcher and writer in many different fields including  anthropology, linguistics, semiotics and cybernetics. He was married to the well-known anthropologist, Margaret Meade. Richard Bandler was Bateson’s landlord, and Bateson introduced him to Milton Erickson. In addition to personal contacts, Bateson’s writings have been and continue to be an enormous influence on NLP, particularly on the underlying epistemology and the NLP presuppositions which draw on cybernetics:

  • Life and mind are systemic processes
  • Choice is better than no choice
  • There is no failure, only feedback

Bateson also described information as “a difference that makes a difference”. In NLP, it is often said that we are looking for “the difference that makes the difference.” In other words, what is the change in behaviour or beliefs or something else  that will produce the optimal movement towards a goal?

Jay Haley (1923 – 2007)

Jay Haley was very involved in the family therapy movement and helped to spread the ideas of Gregory Bateson.

Fritz Perls (1893 – 1970)

Fritz Perls was the founder of Gestalt therapy. He was the first person to be modelled by NLP, and in combination with transformational grammar, this led to the development of the Meta Model–the key model within NLP for moving from words and labels back to specific sensory experiences. Other influences on NLP include “parts”, the importance of physiology, spatial sorting, and an emphasis on what/how someone is doing something rather than why.

Virginia Satir (1916 – 1988)

Virginia Satir was one of the leaders in the Family Therapy movement. She was modelled by Bandler and Grinder in the early days and her work strongly influenced NLP tools including representational systems, reframing, nonverbal communication, and parts negotiation.

David Gordon

David Gordon was largely responsible for the widespread use of therapeutic metaphors in NLP, inspired greatly by his work with Milton Erickson.

Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936)

Ivan Pavlov is probably the best known behavioural scientist for his work with dogs, and most people have heard of his experiments in which a dog was conditioned to associate the sound of a bell with being fed. This is known as the conditioned reflex. In NLP, this type of stimulus-response is called an anchor or a trigger and it is a fundamental tool for entering a useful state.

Robert Dilts

Robert Dilts has developed many influential models of NLP including Neurological Levels, Sleight of Mouth, and Reimprinting. He also authored the Encyclopedia of Systemic NLP with Judith DeLozier. He is best known for his work on beliefs and strategies.

Richard Bolstad

Richard Bolstad has developed several influential communication and therapy models including the Resolve Model and the Personal Strengths Model.

George Miller, Eugene Galanter, and Karl Pribram

In their 1960 book, Plans and the Structure of Behavior, they described the TOTE Model which became a major influence on NLP strategies.

Noam Chomsky

Chomsky is a well-known linguist and political commentator who developed transformational grammar. John Grinder brought his knowledge of transformational grammar to NLP where it became the basis of the Meta Model in conjunction with the modelling of Fritz Perls.

Tad James

Tad James is an influential NLP trainer and developer who is best known for his development of Time Line Therapy and his use of Hawaiian Huna.

Useful Links

  • Tranceworks offers a great list of books which created the trail of NLP
  • Pegasus NLP provides a brief well-written history of NLP which emphasizes its present lack of overall coherence.
  • A good description of the history of NLP with links to all the major players is available at Wikipedia.


Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training

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NLP: The Toolbox for the Brain

Recently I attended an excellent seminar on speed reading by Terry Small in which he asked us if we had a toolbox for our brains. I was the only one in the audience to raise my hand. I believe that NLP acts as a very useful toolbox for the brain because it allows us to repair things in the brain such as traumas, adjust things such as learning to make them more efficient, and build useful things like a brighter future. So if NLP is a toolbox, I began to consider what the major tools might be–what are the hammers, screwdrivers, drill bits and other bits and pieces that we can find in the toolbox called NLP. In this short article, I give a brief description of just some of these tools and hope that you will eventually find them to be useful additions to your own toolbox.

Tool 1: VAK

Your brain deals with the world in several different ways including seeing, hearing, and feeling. Information comes to you from the world and you perceive it as pictures, sounds, or feelings. Or this information can come from your own memory and again come to you as pictures, sounds, or feelings. In NLP, these are called Visual (V), Auditory (A), and Kinesthetic (K), and a truly rich perception of the world involves the use of all three. For example, when a person falls in love, he or she will look at the other’s beauty, enjoy the sound of their voice, and feel the pleasure of being with that person intimately. Because all three modalities are engaged, the perception is extremely strong and these moments of being in love tend to become very strong memories. Learning to use these modalities effectively is a powerful tool in living an enjoyable life.

Tool 2: Submodalities

The modalities of VAK can also be broken down into finer distinctions which we call submodalities. These are particularly useful when we examine our memories and perceptions and use these finer distinctions to shape them in exactly the way that we want. For example, if you remember a happy event you will probably see a picture of the event. You may also have related sounds and feelings. Take a moment to notice whether the picture is big or small, whether it is bright or dark, whether it is near you or far away. These distinctions are examples of submodalities. Next, remember an event that was less happy for you, and one that you would like to make better with your NLP toolbox. Begin to change the submodalities of the unhappy memory. If it is bright, you might try making it darker. If it is near you, you might try moving it further away or making it smaller, or reducing the volume, or moving it out of sight altogether. Memories are not static – they can change every time that we bring them back into our consciousness and using the toolbox to change them in ways that make us happier makes a lot of sense. As someone once said, “It is never too late to have a happy childhood.”

Tool 3: Perceptual Positions

When you remembered the happy memory, did you see it out of your own eyes or did you actually see yourself in the picture? This is an important distinction and in NLP we call them perceptual positions. Looking out of your own eyes is known as “first position” or “associated” and it means that you are immersed in the memory, reliving it as it happened and probably feeling the same things as you felt at that time. When you see yourself in the picture, the memory is dissociated, and it is as if you are watching the event happening to someone else and therefore not necessarily feeling the same way that you felt in the original experience. Both association and dissociation are valuable tools in your NLP toolbox and they each have their own use. In general, it is useful to associate into happy experiences and memories so that we can really immerse ourselves and enjoy them fully. In contrast, it is generally more useful to dissociate from unhappy memories so that we do not have to go through the same negative emotions every time that we remember the event.

Tool 4: Timeline

Our brains can represent time in different ways. If you ask someone to point to the future, many people will point out in front of them and behind them to indicate the past. We call these people “In Time.” Other people have the future on their right and the past on their left. These people are called “Through Time.” Just like association and dissociation, neither of these arrangements is intrinsically better than the other. People who are In Time tend to allow events in their lives to unfold naturally without making intricate plans. Conversely, people who are Through Time tend to make much more detailed plans. Understanding your timeline is a very useful addition to the toolbox for your brain and NLP provides many ways to use it effectively in creating the life that you want.

Tool 5: Interaction with the Unconscious

Most people know that the unconscious mind is the bigger part of the brain, but many are not aware of quite how much bigger it is. One metaphor is to think of a glass of water which is three-quarters full. Is the conscious mind the top quarter of the glass? No, it is better to think of the conscious mind as just the rim of the glass – the small section of the activity of our brains that actually makes it into conscious awareness. Your conscious mind is smart, but your unconscious mind is much much smarter, and NLP offers many tools for interacting with the unconscious mind in order to achieve your goals more easily.


This article has just been a short introduction to some of the tools that can be found in NLP, a toolbox for your brain. The best way to learn more is to get training in NLP where you can experience these tools and begin to implement them in your life so that you can repair, adjust, and build your brain in exactly the most appropriate way to live the life that you really want.
Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training

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Nine Tips for More Effective Study

Recently, I attended two great seminars by the Brain Guy, also known as Terry Small. Terry is a lovely Canadian man who is even more lovely in my eyes since he just got an Irish passport. That’s two of my favourite nationalities in one easy-to-listen-to package.

Terry has been a teacher for many many years and now brings his amazing teaching skills and his deep knowledge of the brain to audiences in seminars in North America, Brazil, and now thankfully Japan. His rapport with the audience is superb. The first seminar that I saw was held at Nagoya International School where 125 tired parents and kids had gathered. To say that Terry has a lot of experience in keeping people awake would be a complete understatement. Through a combination of valuable information, magic tricks, interesting props, and much much more, he managed to keep us all completely alert, inspired, and informed for over two hours.

Below, in the form of  nine tips for more effective study, I have summarized some of the highly useful techniques that he introduced to us.

Tip 1. Make goals, write them down, and post them somewhere that you will see them many times every day.
Large companies like Coca Cola and Nike know the effect of advertising on our brains much better than we know ourselves. That is why they are willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to put their logos on billboards and sports players’ shirts. And we shouldn’t allow other people’s advertisements to monopolize our brain – we can also advertise to ourselves. Simply make your list of clear goals and post it next to your bed, on your fridge, or on your bathroom mirror so that you see it many times each day. Just by seeing it many times, the frontal cortex of your brain will take steps to make those goals come into reality. In addition, repeated exposure to these written goals will fulfill another bit of important advice: Never Give Up!

Tip 2. Get on your feet
When I was in secondary school (high school for the North Americans and Japanese readers), I used to learn vocabulary by pacing back and forwards across a room. Similarly, when I make an important phone call, I often find myself standing up to talk to the person. Terry explained why getting on your feet is useful. Just by standing up, the blood flow to the brain is improved, more oxygen flows, and memory is improved by 10%.

Tip 3. Learn in VAK
NLP introduced the idea of modalities–visual, auditory, and kinesthetic–and this powerful idea has spread through education, business, and many other fields. Terry explained VAK as three highways or neural tracks by which information can enter the brain. We can learn something by seeing it, hearing it, or doing it. Most people tend to have one dominant modality, but it is when we engage multiple neural tracks into the brain that we can really begin to learn more effectively. For example, running a finger across the page while you read can increase memory by 25% because it opens up the kinesthetic neural pathways. Or talking aloud while you study and engaging the auditory pathways can increase retention of the material by as much as 400%! Or taking notes as you listen to a lecture increases retention by 30% even if you never look at your notes again!

Tip 4. Questions and Answers
As Pavlov showed with his experiments with dogs, the brain can be viewed as a stimulus-response device. Give it a stimulus and it will return a certain response or behaviour. Terry is not suggesting that you study like a dog, just that you use questions as a stimulus for your brain as you study. One of his most useful suggestion for me was the use of the Cornell note taking system. In a notebook, the right-hand page is used for taking notes and the left-hand page is initially kept blank. Later, you can add questions on the left-hand page which correspond to the notes on the right. In this way, you set up a powerful stimulus-response engine for learning. The night before the test, you can practice by asking yourself the questions on the left-hand pages. In this way, you are able to “think like a teacher” and you will be well prepared for any test or situation where you need to recall the information.

Tip 5. Add Colour
Our brains like colour. In fact, our brains like all kinds of visual stimulus. If someone asks you to think of a horse, you are highly likely to see a picture of a horse in your mind rather than seeing the letters H-O-R-S-E. This is because our brains tend to think in pictures rather than words. You can make your study notes more memorable by adding colour and it also makes learning more fun. Get one of those pens with four colours. Terry recommends that you write your notes in blue on the right-hand page of your Cornell notes. Then add the questions in black on the left-hand page. You can add important notes in red because this colour has been shown to get the attention of the brain immediately, which explains why so many advertisements use red. Finally, you can use green as your own personal colour to add other things of interest.

Tip 6. Take Brain Breaks
Our concentration span is limited and that limit is age-dependent. For people over the age of 20, it’s good to take a short break every 20 minutes. For younger people, add two to your age and that’s the length of your concentration span. So for example, a ten-year-old should take a break every 12 minutes and a 15-year-old should take a break every 17 minutes, and so on. Your break doesn’t have to be long. Just 30 seconds or one minute of standing up, walking around the room, or doing some stretches can be really beneficial in giving your brain the break that it needs and allowing you to concentrate again. In the longer term, another important facilitator of effective study is to get proper sleep. Sleep is essential in the formation of long-term memories, so staying up late to study may not always be the best way to pass that exam.

Tip 7. Study Actively
When you study, you should really focus your attention on studying. In NLP, we say that “where attention goes, energy flows.” Remove distractions such as television or iPods from the room, or remove yourself to another location if necessary. By really giving the study your full attention, the retention of material increases massively.

Tip 8. Listen to Baroque Music
There is an exception to tip number 7 above. Listening to one particular type of music can be highly beneficial in studying. Many research studies have shown that baroque music with a tempo of 55-70 bpm can assist in concentration and memory retention. The music can affect the heart rate which in turn affects the circadian rhythms of the brain and can change the listener’s brainwaves from Beta (energetic state) into Alpha (relaxed state) which is more suitable for learning. Terry gives us the amusing line: “If it’s not baroque, fix it.”

Tip 9. Use Flashcards
Flashcards, or Memory & Mastery cards as Terry calls them, are an excellent way to study for exactly the same reason as the Cornell note taking system–they engage the natural stimulus-response system of the brain. By writing a cue on one side and detailed information on the other side, you can easily review a large amount of material quickly. For example, in language learning you can write English on one side and Japanese on the other. If you’re reviewing NLP processes, you can write the name of the process on one side and the details on the other side. Flashcards also have the advantages that you can change the order of the cards and carry them around easily in your pocket. I agree with Terry that flashcards or M&M cards are the number one tip for studying effectively.

I hope that you find these tips useful in your study or in helping others to learn more effectively. If you do get the opportunity to see Terry Small, the Brain Guy, take it immediately. He is an inspirational, informative, and entertaining speaker who will bring much into your life.

Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training

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NLP at JALT 2010

The JALT 2010 National Conference was held in Nagoya again for the first time in 15 years. It was wonderful to have this major teaching conference in our area again. The theme of the conference was “Creativity: Outside the Box”, so there were a lot of presentations which drew on the findings and resources of NLP. Of particular interest was a lovely presentation by Francis Bolstad and Tim Murphey which looked at the use of chunking up and chunking down as a creative tool. Another great session involved five speakers who were talking about positive psychology in the language classroom (Marc Helgessen, Bill Synder, Curtis Kelly, Ben Blackwell, and again Tim Murphey who was mighty busy at this conference). The speakers were all emphasizing that learners learn more effectively when they are engaged and happy. They backed this up with stories, activities, and summaries of the latest neurological studies.

Marc Helgesen has a page with EFL activities that take account of research into positive psychology.

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The Seven P’s of Music

Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
As a musician and songwriter, I follow the Seven P’s of music that I came up with to help me remember all the things that I want to do. I mentally run through the list each day before I sit down to practice so that I’m sure of my musical goals for that day. Recently, it occurred to me that the seven P’s may be equally valid for many other areas of life. For example, as an NLP coach and trainer, the same pattern works very well very me. Below, I have listed and explained the seven P’s of music. In a future article, I hope to revisit this topic and give more explicit examples of how they can be relevant for an NLP practitioner. In the meantime, you might like to simply consider music as a metaphor and begin to see how the seven P’s can be relevant in your life.

The Seven P’s of Music

1. Prepare

Before every one of the other steps, I prepare – making myself ready by entering into what NLP would term a resourceful state. I allow my breathing to slow down, let my body relax, and recall previous times when I was in flow and able to call on all my conscious and unconscious resources to help me fulfill my musical goals.

2. Plan

Know exactly what you want to achieve in as much detail as possible. It is very useful to consider how you will know that your goal has been achieved. In other words, what is the final step that you have to reach before you can say to yourself, “Wow, I really did it!” Sometimes, it is good to chunk your goals down into smaller goals that are more achievable in the short run. Once you succeed in a few small goals, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re progressing towards some bigger goals. So instead of saying, “I want to have a hit record”, it may be useful to set smaller goals such as “I want to complete this song” and then “I want to record a simple demo” that I can share with the band. Once you have achieved these small goals, you can set your next small goals which lead to your big goal. Some examples of useful question that you can ask yourself in the Planning state are given below:

  • Are there particular skills that you want to learn on your instrument? In 1 year, what would you really like to be able to play very easily?
  • Who do you want your music to reach? Do you want to get paid for it? How?
  • Do you want to record in the near future? Which songs/tunes?

3. Practice

Most people have heard the old joke about the man asking for directions and he is answered by a musician.

Man: How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
Musician: Practice, practice, practice.

Like most jokes, it is funny because it is true. It is important to build up your skills over the long-term. It may be frustrating each day as you feel like you’re getting nowhere, but over the long-term, you’ll be amazed at how much you improve if you practice just a little bit each day. Of course, it’s better to practice more each day, but the important thing is to be steady. Make sure that you spend at least a few minutes each day at your instrument. Spaced learning (learning in multiple sessions rather than single concentrated sessions) has been shown in research to have the most powerful long-lasting effects on improvement.

4. Play

In the Seven Ps of Music, Play doesn’t just mean “play your instrument.” It also means just “play” as in “having fun”. Play as if you were a kid, really having fun and enjoying yourself with your music. Have fun every day as you play. It is sad, but true, that not everyone will reach Carnegie Hall, and not everyone will have a hit song on the radio. But what is certain in every case is that music can bring a huge amount of joy to your life. Make sure that you experience a little bit of that joy every day. Play some songs and tunes that you enjoy yourself. Get together with other fun musicians. Listen to some inspiring music and play along – even if you can’t follow at all and are just playing air guitar or air clarinet!

5. Produce

Unlike painting, sculpture, or fashion design, music disappears as soon as it is produced. The energy of the sound waves die away and the music is gone for ever unless you preserve it in some form. Recording technology is so cheap that you can easily preserve your music and that helps you greatly in the next step – promoting it. And I would advise you to produce on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting for a big recording date. Your unconscious mind needs to get into the habit of producing things on a regular basis. Once you signal to your unconscious that you want something, it will start to produce it easily and quickly – make sure that you honour its intention by writing it down or recording it in some way.

6. Promote

One thing that is likely is that nobody cares about your music as much as you do. So go ahead, and work to get your music out there in the world where people can listen to it. Of course, this implies that you want other people to hear your music, but for most musicians that is the case. From prehistoric times, music has been something to share with the community. People got together and played and listened to each other.
Whether you’re trying to promote a concert, a CD, or an online video, the principle is the same. People won’t know about it until you tell them about it in some way. There are so many ways to promote now – using Facebook, email, YouTube. If you make something that you think is good, get the opinion of someone that you trust, and if they agree that it is good, get it out there for people to share. That’s what music is all about – sharing.

7. Perform

While selling CDs and making money is a wonderful thing, for me personally and for most of the musicians that I know, it is the live performance in front of an audience that is the highlight of my musical life. That is the time when I am really in flow – pushing my abilities of musical skill and audience rapport to the highest level. Whether you’re performing in front of three friends or at Carnegie Hall, performing is the ultimate reminder that music is a physical phenomenon, the passing of waveforms through the air from your instrument or voice to the ears of the listeners, and the response in your audience’s movements, words, applause, and smiles.


It’s so easy to get caught up in one stage of music. I used to find that I’d get so involved in promotion that I would forget to actually practice or really enjoy the music, or alternatively I used to get so caught up in learning a new piece or skill that I completely forgot to promote my shows. They are all important and the Seven P’s has been useful to help me keep them all in mind. I hope that it will be equally useful for you – in your music, in your NLP work, or in your life.
And to be sure that you remember the Seven P’s:

  1. Prepare
  2. Plan
  3. Practice
  4. Play
  5. Produce
  6. Promote
  7. Perform

You can also download a simple colour wallchart for printing.
Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen,
Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

NLP Coaching and Training

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2nd and 3rd positions may develop from age 10

An interesting article in Science Digest seems to indicate that younger children have not developed the neurology which allows older children and adults to see the world from other people’s perspective. Children aged six to nine have five areas in the brain which become active separately, whereas they seem to work together as a unit in older children and adults. The researchers believe that this causes younger children to see the world only from their own perspective (NLP’s first position) whereas older children can consider the world from other people’s perspectives (NLP’s second and third position).

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NLP for Increasing Choices

Right from the beginning of Bandler and Grinder’s work, NLP has been focused on increasing choices available to people. They were very interested in human potential and began to model how successful communicators like Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir managed to achieve excellent results that others were not capable of. Erickson was capable of creating incredible hypnotic trances and Satir was able to resolve family disputes that other therapists could not emulate. In both cases, the results seemed incredible because the structure of the expert’s communication was not understood. The genius of Bandler and Grinder was to be able to “model” these people’s behaviour, to carry it out themselves, and to teach these techniques to other people.

Today, when people hear the word NLP, they often take it to mean the “techniques” that were modelled from these experts, and this trail of techniques is certainly a valuable result of the NLP founders’ work.

However, there is something much more important that can easily be overlooked. Bandler and Grinder were interested in the extension of human potential–giving people more choices in how to think and how to act.

Increasing choice lies at the heart of NLP. NLP began by modelling therapists before it became widely used in business, education and other areas, and it is useful to consider how it compares with some other models of therapy. The circles at the top show how some forms of therapy attempt to remove the “bad” behaviour. This essentially creates a person with less choices. NLP is fundamentally based on the idea that we should increase a person’s choices–giving them more ways to act and to think.

While this model was highly influenced by the therapeutic applications of early NLP, the same rationale can be applied to any sphere of life. Below, I give an example from my own experience in education.

In education, teachers sometimes talk about discipline problems such as students talking out of turn, not listening to the teacher, or sleeping in the classroom. These are all behaviours that are labelled as “bad” in some way, and the teacher is suggesting that the elimination of these behaviours would be helpful in the learning environment. However, this is not always true, for either the individual student or for the whole class. It may take a bit of thought sometimes, but offering the “bad” student an alternative behaviour may often be more beneficial.

At a teachers’ meeting at a high school in Japan, I was surprised to hear that other teachers were all complaining about a student called Hajime.  They said that he was constantly talking out of turn, often shouting out answers to questions. Ironically, that was exactly why I liked Hajime. In Japan, it is often difficult to get students to respond to questions or to make contributions to classroom dialogue. As far as I was concerned, Hajime was acting as an excellent role model for the other students by giving unsolicited answers. In NLP terms, this can be viewed as a content reframe, and it is the teacher’s response to the situation that makes a difference.

To take another example from education, I occasionally have students who fall asleep in class, especially when the weather gets really hot and humid in July and the air conditioners haven’t been turned on yet. I used to get angry with these students until a fellow teacher gave me a tip. He always wakes the sleeping student gently and asks them if they are feeling sick. When I tried this out (and it has become my regular method), I found that the student invariably woke up quickly and became involved in the class again. By again employing a reframe, suggesting to the student that I was worried about their health, it immediately changed the situation.

Both of these examples show how increased choice in the teacher’s behaviour can change a situation. One final example from my classroom shows how increasing student choice can be equally or more powerful. I had a student called Rika who was not doing her homework and was quickly heading for a failing grade. I talked to Rika after class and realized very quickly that she was a smart person, but bored by the content of the textbook. She was expressing this boredom in the self-destructive manner of not doing her homework. I asked her if she would prefer to do an alternative form of assignment instead of the regular homework. Rika was really surprised because the education system in Japan tends to be quite rigid. After a few minutes discussion, she said that she was very interested in the Harry Potter series. So I gave her two options. The first option was to carry out the regular homework assignments. The second option was to read two Harry Potter books and give a presentation on each to the whole class. From an objective viewpoint, reading the two Harry Potter books was many times more work than the regular homework and the presentations were an extra workload, but Rika chose the second option and went on to inspire the whole class by giving very interesting presentations.

Choice is a good thing – whether it is in therapy, education, business, or another sphere of life. People won’t always take the hard option that Rika took, but simply having another choice shows people that we respect them, and sends the message that life has many paths.

To conclude, I’d like to paraphrase a remark that I heard from John Grinder.

If you have only one choice, then you really have no choice. You have to do it. If you have two choices, you are forced to choose between them and you have a dilemma. It is only when you have at least three choices that you have a real choice.

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Pages and Posts

I discovered something interesting about WordPress today. According to this very useful post, pages and posts play quite different roles. The architecture of WordPress had led me to believe that they were pretty much the same and I had been using pages for most of the content of the Standing in Spirit website.

However, this is not the case at all. Some important differences are:

1. A Page is not viewed in search results, categories, archives, or other multi-post page views.

2. Pages do not appear on the feed from the webpage and so cannot be syndicated etc on other sites.

3. When you publish a Page, access is only through the list of Pages in your Theme’s sidebar, typically in alphabetical order, possibly grouped by Pages with subPages. They do not appear on the front page of your blog as a post, nor on categories, archives, or other multi-post page views on your blog.

If this all comes as a surprise to you (or is vaguely interesting at all), I suggest reading the original highly informative post. Thanks to Lorelle!