6 ways to practice (or practise) your NLP skills

I practise - I become skilled

Keep your NLP skills fresh and sharp

“I hear and I forget …”

So you've arrived back from that great NLP course or you've just read that inspiring NLP book. And you feel enthusiastic and optimistic about using the new ideas and techniques.

And your enthusiasm continues - for a while.

And then it fades.

And eventually you stop using NLP.

Okay, then, better start again

The next stage is when you begin promising yourself you’ll begin again, soon, and with a Great New Plan to really practise (or practice, in US English) and fine-tune those wonderful skills… once you can find the time.

We’ve all been there at times while developing skill - any skill, including NLP.  And we, yes, know about that “Use it or lose it” thing.

But it’s so easy for life and routine and demands on your time to get in the way.

Nevertheless, the old saying I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand does apply.

I practise and... I become SKILLED

However, when it comes to skill, as opposed to mere knowledge about NLP (as in, 'Yeah, I know all about NLP' I did an NLP weekend once) , this piece of wisdom from Confucius is incomplete.

How come?

Well, Confucius was a philosopher - and he was teaching about acquiring and retaining information. But NLP is not a philosophy. Nor is it just about acquiring information - NLP is very much about 'how to do things'.

So here at Pegasus NLP we've added 'I practise and I become skilled'.  Because it’s not enough to just do it once and decide you understand it – you have to keep doing it until it becomes an automatic (or unconscious) part of your behaviour.


Well, if our NLP remains a purely intellectual ‘knowing’ we get little benefit from it...

... because NLP is about what you can do - not just what you know.  That means NLP is not just about knowing - it is about being able to do things.

So, we aim to wire in our NLP skills and abilities through practise so that it becomes a normal part of how we think and act - and that’s when the real benefits occur. When it's in the muscle, so to speak

6 tips for wiring-in your NLP skill

There’s no right approach to practising NLP so pick the approach that best suits your style and way of thinking. For example, some people are very organised and systematic in how they go about practising. Others, including myself, quickly get tired or bored with such an approach and like to experiment and do things as the spirit moves us – doing it one way for a week or two and then trying something else.

(1) Have reminders

Most of your day is spent doing things automatically, without thinking. It’s called routine and it accounts for much of our efficiency. So if you want to introduce a new skill into your life this needs to become a smooth part of your routine – otherwise you’ll forget.

Do this by setting up reminders to use it.  And make each reminder, or anchor, automatically ‘kick in’ by linking it with something else you do automatically.

Suppose your topic for today is Soft Eyes  you might make your automatic reminders "each time I...

  • Have a drink of tea, water or coffee
  • Stand up or sit down
  • Switch from one computer programme to another
  • Check my social media accounts
  •  Reach a stop sign whilst driving
  • ….and so on.

(2) Have a theme for the day

Each morning randomly choose a topic for the day ahead.  Make a numbered list of a dozen to-be-practised topics. Each morning think of a number and check your list to see what topic you’ve ‘won’ for the day.

Or, do this in the evening to select next day’s topic. Then spend 5 or 10 minutes reading up on the topic so the details are fresh in your mind for next day.

(3) Thin slice!

Instead of trying to cover a whole NLP subject how about taking a few little pieces of each subject and then working on these.  So rather than “this is my week for practising NLP Eye Access Cues!”  go for “today I’ll pay attention to Visual Eye Accessing movements.” Other thin slicing could include:

Listening to voice patterns: pay attention to any one of the following – speed, tone, pauses, Rep system (e.g. V, or Ad, or K), smooth or staccato, etc.

Observing non-verbal behaviour: watch out for any of these: head tilt, facial muscles, gestures, overall posture, ‘favourite’ gestures or stance, etc.

Open Questions: notice how many times you or someone else uses a closing question (one that invites a Yes-No answer), how many times you or others use opening questions, how many different ways people use to open up a conversation (live or on radio or TV).

Logical Levels: pick just one of the Personality Map levels and aim to identity this level being referred to in conversations today (live, radio, TV or written media.)

Satir Categories (or Modes): watch and listen or behaviours which indicate that a person is operating in one of these mode e.g. Blamer, Placater, Distracter, Computer.  (We will shortly have an online article on this.)

Meta Model: watch out and listen for just one of the Meta Model patterns for a day – or simply listen for which pattern a person uses most in a conversation.

(4) The first 90 seconds - only!

If you meet lots of people in the course of your day allocate the first 90 seconds of each conversation to NLP practise.  And 'only' the first 90 seconds - so you don't get so involved in watching eyes or listening for Meta Model patterns that you forget to pay attention to what they are actually saying!

(5) Practise on your own

We don’t all go out and mix with dozens of people every day. So, if you work from home, how can you practise NLP?

Listen to interviews and discussions on ‘talk’ radio. Or watch TV interviews and discussions with sound turned off.  (Fiction is less useful than live discussions because it is practised and rehearsed.) Whilst driving on your own comment out loud on what you see and what you think about what you are seeing. And nowadays it’s fine to do this because if other drivers notice you talking to yourself they’ll assume you’re on a hands-free mobile phone!

(6) Teach someone NLP

This is one of the best ways of developing NLP skill and of checking how well you know a topic.  Why?  Because, in order to teach something to someone else, you have to organise your thinking about the subject very, very clearly.

It’s often only when you begin to teach others that you recognise the gaps in your own knowledge about a subject!  Plus, as a bonus, you will hopefully get lots of awkward questions which test your knowledge even more...

Now, you could go about this covertly but that’s a bit old-style – you know, the old “I have power to do things to you” school of NLP!  It’s not very respectful and, in any case, it’s much more fun for both of you if you do it overtly.  Why try to do things TO people when you can do things WITH them!

Simply ask a friend or colleague for permission to teach them a bit of NLP.  Afterwards check their understanding of it. And remember to thank them for their attention - and their tolerance.


The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

Most articles on this site originally appeared in The Pegasus NLP Newsletter - which has been published continuously since January 2001.

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6 ways to practise your NLP skills
Article Name
6 ways to practise your NLP skills
Knowing about an NLP isn't enough. Neither is just 'learning' NLP. We need to practise (or practice!) our skills so they become automatic and natural.