NLP, Schools & Relationships
Why don't (didn't) we learn these at school?
One source of on-going amazement to me is how we can spend ten or fifteen years at school and college learning all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects yet learn virtually nothing about one of the most important activities we will engage in throughout our lives - creating relationships with other human beings!
Strange Educational Priorities
Think about it. Aside from managing your own health and maintaining your self esteem there is little if anything that is more important than this! Yet neither healthy self esteem nor the ability to form and develop relationships receive any real attention in the conventional 'educational' process. (Certainly not in the UK. If, however, there are differences in your country I would appreciate information about this.)
The NLP skills to develop and maintain relationships are not rocket science and are certainly within the ability of a ten year old to understand and begin applying. What’s more learning them need take no more than an hour or two every week – even allowing for discussions and exploratory activities. Not a huge investment of time yet one that could have profound implications for our society in just a few years - not to mention the implications for the future happiness of the young people involved!
What is the time spent on instead? Dissecting animals. Making pottery or woodwork articles. Learning about the composition of layers of rock. And a range of other not-immediately-practical subjects.
But ‘how do I relate to a person in a way that continues to get better the longer we spend together?’ Or ‘How can I avoid soul-destroying rows with my nearest and dearest that neither of us wants but which we don’t know how to avoid – or how to stop, once they begin?’ Sorry! We don’t have the budget! It is not on the National Schools’ Curriculum! We don’t have the resources! Or the time. Or the ability???
Take just 2 skills...
Let’s look at how just two fairly standard NLP Core Skills can be applied to improve how people relate to one another. These skills could be understood by young people of around 10 to 12. They could be taught in a few hours. And the skills could be ‘wired-in’ and practised in many different ways – through games and projects, for example.
(1) The Logical Levels
Listening carefully to what a person says and how they act and then relating this to their Personality Map provides lots of opportunities to avoid difficulties and to convey respect and support. For example, if a loved on is unwilling to do something that you would like them to do listen to how they communicate this. If they say ‘I cannot do it’ this indicates they do not have the skill to do it. They may want to but do not know how.
But if they say ‘I cannot see the point in it’ it means they cannot see how it will fulfil their values. If your love and attention to them has enabled you to know what are their key values then you may be able to persuade them by explaining how the activity can enable them to fulfil their own values.
If, however, they say ‘It wouldn’t be me!’ then they are communicating that doing it either does not fit in with their self image or, more strongly, actually goes against their sense of identity – a much more fundamental reason for not doing it. If someone indicates that something conflicts with the Identify Level of their Personality Map it is generally best to step back and avoid attempting to persuade them otherwise.
The Personality Map (or Logical Levels) can also be used as to gauge how well you know someone. For example do you know the values that they try to fulfil and those the try to avoid? Are you aware of the strongly held beliefs – and can you offer them the space to have these beliefs even when these are contrary to your own?
The ‘If you love me you must have the same views, values, beliefs etc. as me’ rule is the cause of much unhappiness – yet many people believe this rule to be a gauge of true love!
(2) Different Perspectives (Perceptual Positions)
This is a second common and simple-to-understand NLP tool that should be taught to every young person. In NLP we focus mainly on just three of the many potential ways of perceiving a situation: my view, your view and the view of a detached observer.
For example lets say we are having an argument. And at some point I mentally run through these three Different Perspectives. First I assess my own view and, yes, I do want you to put down what you are doing and listen to what I have just heard about the neighbours!
Next I ‘go’ into the second perceptual position – your view. Now I imagine I am you and consider what the situation is from your point of view. From your point of view I realise that ‘that person over there just doesn’t like to listen to me any longer – they used to – now they are always too busy!’ And I recognise that you must be feeling hurt and unable to find a way of connecting with me anymore.
Finally I ‘go’ into the third Perceptual Position. Now I am looking at the interaction from the viewpoint of a detached and objective onlooker. And from this angle I recognise that these two people are not in rapport and are each more interested in doing things their way than in determining what the other person might wish for.
Cycling through these three viewpoints even once will provide me with valuable information with which I can, if I choose, begin to modify my approach. Now I have put aside the ‘me, me, me’ attitude of the three-year-old that most adults bring into relationships. I am looking at it in terms of how can I make it better and happier for both of us.
Imagine that every young person had the opportunity to learn and to explore the applications of just these two tools!
For a start they would begin to see the advantage in looking at how others perceive the world – which is much different from being admonished to ‘think about other people for a change, why don’t you!’
They would also begin to recognise that people are driven by their values and their self image – and there are other ways of influencing people than using guilt, withdrawal of affection, or physical or psychological fear.
How about you?
Do you use these skills? You do not have to have taken a full NLP Practitioner Certification Programme to know how to use them.
We teach them in our four-day NLP Core Skills trainings and, with some persistence, you can get a degree of skill from simply reading about them. For example Different Perspectives (or Perceptual Positions).
We owe it to the people with whom we have close relationships to take the time to really understand what makes them tick and what upsets them.
We owe it to ourselves to use skills such as these to ensure that a relationship which begins so wonderfully continues to get better rather than gradually deteriorates!
(This article was originally published in the Pegasus NLP Update - our monthly in-house newsletter for people who have attended a Pegasus NLP course.)