‘I’ve done NLP – I can tell if you’re lying’
The hoary old myth of the NLP Lie Detector Technique came up again in today’s course – just as it does in just about every NLP Core Skills Course we do. And it again struck me how sad it is that such a valuable body of knowledge as powerful and life enhancing as NLP is can be trivialised in this way.
Not only trivialised but misrepresented in facile and misleading NLP articles, websites, and training courses – to the extent that these trivialised versions of NLP become almost ‘accepted facts’ about NLP…
The NLP ‘Frogs into Princes’ book
The myth is based on an early observation made just a few years after NLP began to be developed in the early 70’s and mentioned in the great little book ‘Frogs into Princes’.
In this book two of the three NLP co-founders, Bandler and Grinder, suggested that some people look up and to their right when they are making up visual fantasies. And that they look up and to their left when they are remembering images from their past. (Note that they said ‘some people’ – not everyone.)
They went on to suggest that if you ask a person about an event that occurred in the past and they will look up to the ‘wrong’ side (i.e. to their right) that this could they are inventing rather than remembering the answer.
Bandler and Grinder then furtjher and cautioned against putting too much faith in this and pointed out that many people naturally looked up to the ‘wrong’ side to remember things – they simply remembered with slightly less clarity.
That should be clear enough, shouldn’t it?
They were effectively saying here’s something that can occur but is quite unreliable.
Let’s not let reality get in the way of a good (profitable) myth
Sadly, it’s not enough.
It’s simply an inconvenient and easily ignored fact for those who seek to offer a trivialised and sensationalised version of NLP for their own benefits. The type of person who markets NLP to a particular market as a way of seducing women, boosting one’s own ‘personal power’, or having power over others. (Which ‘particular market’? Well, ask yourself what kind of person would find such promises attract… and why they might find them so.)
And it’s a myth that doesn’t do NLP any favours – any more than do some other dubious applications of NLP.
The real power of NLP
In over 30 years of exploring NLP I have seen it used by people to transform their lives.
I have seen it used by people to release themselves from life-restricting fears, phobias, and behavioural patterns.
I have seen young people re-discover their faith in themselves through it.
I have seen couples and teams use it to discover how to work together happily and creatively.
I have seen individuals stop in their tracks, recognise that they were not living a life that was right for them and then change directions.
And I have seen it used to free people from life debilitating and even life threatening illnesses.
To me that is what NLP was, or certainly should have been, invented for.
Make your voice heard
There is a thoughtful saying, often wrongly attributed to Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, which goes along the lines ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’
Maybe it’s time for real NLP Practitioners and Master Practitioners, the ones who have participated in full-length and full-syllabus 120-hour courses rather than the more commercialised ‘fast-track’ affairs, to make their voices heard – so that their voices balance the ‘lets’s make a killing out of this NLP lark’ clamour.
To paraphrase the above saying: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of Trivialised NLP is that true NLP users do nothing.’
You’ll find more articles on Rep Systems here:
NLP, eyes and lying – Q&A – published Summer 2000 (from Q&A published Summer 2000)
NLP Representational Systems: Predicates (September 2001)
Using the famous NLP Eye Accessing Cues (January 2002)
‘Gimme time to think!’ (January 2006)
The NLP Eye Accessing Cues (January 2007)
NLP & Representational Systems (February 2007)
The ‘NLP Lie Detector Technique’ (February 2008)
Trivialising NLP (again…) (February 2010)
The NLP Lie-Detector Myth (yet again…) (August 2010)
How to use the NLP ‘Rep Systems’ (March 2012)
‘The Eyes Don’t Have It’ – NLP scientifically disproved? (July 2012)
Using the NLP Eye Movements (April 2013)