NLP for people who like to think for themselves

How to be an NLP Bore (1): The born-again NLPer

NLP can change lives. No question about it. But some workshops, and especially those in the high-energy, revivalist, ‘we teach through hypnosis’ camp, could do with having a sort of health warning attached as in ‘NLP could damage your relationships.’

For example, let’s say Jack is like most of us. He has high and low moods, is slightly neurotic with various fears and irritations, is sometimes chatty and sometimes withdrawn, is sometimes confident and sometimes doubts himself – in other words he’s a reasonably normal human being.

Jack also knows he could do more with his life and he decides that a quick dollop of NLP is just the thing for him. So he say’s goodbye to Jill, with whom he’s lived for some years, and heads off to his ‘transforming experience’ NLP workshop.

Some days later a transformed ‘born again’ NLP fan returns to Jill. Now he’s wears this continuous smile, he urges her to ‘get into state’ and feel good, she can’t have a moan any more because he ‘positively reframes’ everything she complains about, and he begins using NLP techniques to change her into what he decides she ought to be.

Now Jack is so different that Jill feels she has lost the Jack she knew and has to get to know a new version – or not…

NLP is definitely great stuff. A very powerful, easily learned and easy to use body of insights, principles and skills. But having the skills does carry a responsibility and that’s why we have the NLP Principles.

And if an NLP workshop is purely techniques-based rather than principles-led then the participants are being short-changed. This is a risk with the shorter ‘fast track’ NLP Practitioner workshops where there simply isn’t enough to pay more than lip service to the principles and certainly not enough time to assess whether participants have integrated the principles into their use of NLP.

During our own NLP Core Skills 6-day workshop we emphasis the need to use NLP in a manner which respects the other person’s right to live their lives their own way (which can include not even liking NLP!). At the end of the course we suggest a number of ways of avoiding being an NLP Bore – which included the recommendation that participants do not ‘practise’ their NLP on their own family but simply influence through walking the talk i.e. lead by example.

(This is the first in an occasional, and not always serious, series about the things that make some people NLP Bores – or NLP Tyrants. Why not leave a comment with your favourite NLP Bore behaviour…)

  1. Sarah Ross on 15th August 2009 at 1:36 PM

    No doubt that those who “walk the talk” can make a positive difference. But those who insist that “walking the talk” means only talking in NLP terms about everything and anything really do bore! Awareness of when to use the developed skills is in need of improvement. Sometimes you really do just want to chat to them but you only get NLP analysis in return.

  2. Reg on 15th August 2009 at 1:46 PM

    Fully agree, with that, Sarah – if fact it’s one of the forthcoming ‘how to be an NLP bore’ topics, so watch this space

  3. Anonymous on 15th August 2009 at 9:10 PM

    Well put Reg, ‘born again’ anythings can be a pain in the butt.

    Just repeating buzz words without understanding the principles behind them won’t get you very far.

  4. Jamie Hanson on 16th August 2009 at 2:36 PM

    Understanding this has been a real lesson for me. My introduction to NLP was by an American showman. You may know who that is?
    A huge state change that wore off and a few pissed off friends later and short of a lot of money I decided to really learn about NLP its principles and its power and how to use it always in a way that has a well formed outcome. 6 years later and I am about to start training as an NLP trainer through the PGNLP.

    I think the saying goes; “Trust in Allah but don’t forget to tether your camel”

  5. Reg on 16th August 2009 at 3:54 PM

    Hi Jamie: happily I don’t know who the woman is. But, unhappily, have heard of more than a few of that ilk.

    PS: ‘liked the camel advice – similar to Oliver Cromwell’s advice to his men, during the Irish campaign: “Put your trust in God, my boys, but keep your powder dry”

  6. Clare Denyer on 17th August 2009 at 4:12 PM

    Less of a bore than a chore!
    I worked with someone who for 10 years pushed and pushed NLP at me. I suppose I felt he was trying to “fix” me all the time. He used phrases like “you really need this” and “this will be good for you”! Mostly I was put off by the fact that (to me at any rate) his people/communicaton skills seemed so appalling, I couldn’t believe NLP had anything to offer if he was the product!
    In the end I “gave in” but was determined not to be “banged up” in a London Hotel with 300 other people, and I searched until I found a company that believed in combining activities, the outdoors, practical exercises and small groups – Pegasus!!
    It’s interesting that in conversartion with this same person a week ago, I talked about the success I had had with parts negotiation to relieve pain. His response was “NLP is practically impossible to do by yourself”, how’s that for a limiting belief?!

  7. Reeta Luthra on 17th August 2009 at 9:38 PM

    My top NLP bore is the one who won’t walk the talk.

    I went on a course a couple of years ago where they had an NLP trainer come in for a day. He was enthusiastically selling the life changing aspects of NLP (and his own course) which all sounded rather good.

    Then came his piece de resistance – a “game” that tried to get people to reveal the colour of their underwear, sexual orientation and fave… errr… positions.

    People who didn’t want to participate were treated as party-poopers with no recognisable acknowledgement of personal values etc.

    Needless to say, I dished out details of the pegasus website to all the other students there.

  8. Reg on 17th August 2009 at 10:55 PM

    Hi Reeta: You know, I thought I’d heard about all/most of the ways in which unscrupulous people can pretend to be representing NLP. But your story is up there amongst the best/worst.

    Long before our own Pegasus NLP “4 Rs Model”, NLP had the Core Principle of ‘meet people in their own Model of the World’ which is about respecting each person’s reality.

    I hope lots of people on your ‘course’ had the courage to respect their personal integrity and opt out of his un-NLP stunt.

    Of course, the nice thing about stories like yours is that they put such people/games in the public arena for open discussion. There may well be lots of people who think this is how NLP should operate… And they are entitled to their views and their Model of the World. Vive ‘choice’ – just so long as people recognise that they ‘do’ have choice.

  9. Reeta Luthra on 18th August 2009 at 12:22 AM

    Well, that was the interesting thing. The group mentality phenomena kicked in and the majority participated – albeit uncomfortably.

    Talking to them afterwards, a few thought it inappropriate but harmless. Others had played along to avoid the labels of party-pooper or prude, but had given random and fake answers. With the remaining, I got the impression it was the conditioning of the student/teacher relationship that “made” them participate in what was essentially presented as an exercise.

    Nobody had anything complementary to say about the trainer however and mostly, people were using it as an opportunity to gossip and speculate about the answers that the trainer and the course organisers had been giving.

    It’s the group thing that I found the most intriguing. It’s like there is a tipping-point percentage of people that influences the decisions of a group. Because only a couple of us opted out, the bias remained with the ones staying in.

  10. Reg on 18th August 2009 at 7:48 AM

    Hi Reeta: Yes, it can be unsettling to see this sort of growd control or ‘group think’ being created, fostered, and policed.

    In the early 90’s I got a free ticket to a 2-day NLP workshop featuring a Big Name. It was a lead-in to a longer and more expensive workshop by an Even Bigger Name. They had attracted a big crowd of about 200 people so it was easy for the presenter and hence-people to get compliance and inhibit awkward behaviour or questions.

    The manipulation was so disrespectful of individuals that I left after about 2 1/2 hours!

    And that’s when, in Pegasus NLP, we began actively ‘encouraging’ people on our workshops to discuss, question, and challenge.

  11. Simon Roskrow on 21st August 2009 at 10:14 AM

    Strange timing Reg – I have written on a very related topic this week. My (least) favourite is the mis-use of the phrase “I’m sorry you’ve taken in that way”, or variations on that theme.

    For me, this is a non-4-R’s approach to NLP in most uses. It manages, very simply, to try and avoid taking responsibility yourself and impose responsibility on someone else. No respect whatsoever!

    Very glad, in you and in Pegasus, to have found people who train from principles rather than just in the use of tools.

  12. Vidyut on 22nd August 2009 at 8:34 PM

    I think this is the hazard of all transformation related work in the initial stages. You see people returning from T-groups asking everyone they encounter about their feelings, till the temptation is to yell out – I’m feeling fed up! I’ve seen people working with group unconscious processes leaving workshops so sensitized to unconscious stereotypes, that they see all circumstances and interactions as happening between males, females stronger or weaker people, etc.

    Like you say, being principles led is important to get a sense of perspective.

    Also, I believe that it is important to create an awareness that it is us going through the experience, and it is really our way of looking at the world that has changed, and it is up to us to make sense if we would like to be understood rather than tolerated.

  13. Reg on 22nd August 2009 at 8:51 PM

    Hi Vidyut: Yes, your email reminded me of how I was on returning from a “Neo-Reichian” body-work week in the early 80’s. Very sensitised. So much so that, for a week, I was reduced to tears if people began talking about emotions… (You see it was at this workshop that I re-discovered how to weep – the only benefit I got from it).

    I’ve also had a few Born Again NLPer phases – last one in 1993 after a two week Richard Bandler workshop.

    Looking back on them, now, they are definitely too embarrassing to relate!

    The ‘NLP Bore’ series is/will be about raising awareness that it is only too easy for participants to get caught up in the revivalist-style NLP workshop culture, especially when critical thinking is discouraged or, worse, inhibited.

  14. tim atyeo on 1st September 2009 at 12:03 PM

    nlp bore. just a thought.
    AT first I was a nlp bore, but I quickly learnt that just by talking about or using associated words in my over enthusiastic manner, I switched everyone off to what I was saying.
    I learnt to tone down my enthusiam and behaviour about nlp and talk without using nlp words and jargon
    Take the recommendation of not practising nlp on family, but simply influence by walking the talk, lead by example.
    Reg showed me the door (nlp) now it was up to me to open the and walk through.
    nlp is so much fun and ever lasting

  15. Reg on 2nd September 2009 at 8:02 AM

    Hi Tim: I think we’ve all been NLP Bores for a time – or at times! I certainly have more than a few uncomfortable memories of boring the pants off, or even alienating, friends and customers and family…

    A lot of the NLP Bore phenomenon comes from NLP being taught as a collection of ‘kick ass’ techniques rather than what Richard Bandler many years ago described as an attitude plus an approach – followed by a collection of techniques.

    But the attitude and the approach take longer to teach…

  16. Richard House on 2nd September 2009 at 9:44 AM

    Hi Reg,

    to minimise the potential risk of any Pegasus nlp-ers becoming nlp bores (i’m cringing at some of the comments above and at thoughts of my own occasional slips into nlp bore-domain) I wonder whether you have/would consider hosting refresher opportunities for those of us who could use a wee reminder and an opportunity to play.

    That said – of course the Pegasus evening groups may just be the place to play? Do they still run?

  17. Reg on 2nd September 2009 at 9:50 AM

    Hi Richard: Good idea – the refresher+fun sessions.

    We’re beginning with a new venue in Swanage in a couple of weeks and, once we’ve settled in, this could be ideal for such sessions. Probably after Christmas (ouch, that word already!)

    Yes, the Bournemouth Group is alive and well – 2nd Wednesday of every month. Will put you on the mailing list.