My Introduction to NLP

Toby and Kate Mccartney Image

Last weekend I attended an NLP foundation weekend in central London, hosted by training provider Toby and Kate McCartney, which is a free, introduction course into neuro-linguistic programming. For anyone unfamiliar with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), it does sound like some kind of complex brain surgery technique however I can assure you, it’s not! According to my ‘NLP for Dummies‘ book, it can be summed up in this way: Neuro – what’s happening in your mind, Linguistic – how you communicate (what you say, how you say it and your body language) and Programming – your patterns of behaviour.

The course was pretty incredible, packed full of interesting information, stories and anecdotes from the host (Managing Director, Toby McCartney), demonstrations, mini group exercises – and importantly, everyone attending seemed engaged and genuinely happy to be there. Those I spoke to over the course of the weekend were in agreement that the host, Toby was incredibly warm and welcoming. He had a real sincerity about him which came across through him sharing much about both his professional and personal background.

Attendees were from a variety of backgrounds with different reasons for participating. Some people were attending for their own personal development, others wanted to improve communication with colleagues/employees/clients and some, like me were keen to gain a better understanding of the world of coaching.

Unlike other coaching methods/personal development programmes, NLP seems to focus on the now and how we can live our lives moving forward, with next to no emphasis on the why (how the past has shaped our behaviours, attitudes and beliefs).

I don’t feel I can do Toby justice by explaining much of what was covered over the weekend in a blog post, however I will just give you a snippet of something fascinating that I learnt. One aspect covered was our unconscious eye patterns. It’s common knowledge that our eyes move in different directions when we’re thinking, but the specific movement is less commonly understood. 80% of people have the same pattern of eye movement, the other 20% have the reverse pattern. Note: The following directions are based on the perspective of the person observing the eye movement. When remembering or retrieving something from the brain visually, the majority of people will move their eyes up and to the right (for example if you were picturing the setting of your past holiday to Hawaii). When constructing something visually, most people move their eyes up and to the left (if you were imagining how your wedding would look in the future). For an auditory memory most will move their eyes directly to the right and for an auditory construct will move them directly to the left. For self talk, eyes usually move to the bottom right and for kinesthetic (our feelings) eyes move to the bottom left.

The 80% of people who follow the above pattern tend to be those who are right handed and the other 20% are usually left-handed, although there are exceptions. For instance people who do certain tasks the opposite way round to their fellow right/left handed folk e.g. those who are right handed but eat with their knife in the left hand and fork in the right. Once familiar with a person’s eye movement pattern, this understanding may help to read that person more effectively and as a result, we may decide to appeal to them more in a way we know is more likely to reach them. If, for example you know your boss generally constructs ideas from a more audio perspective (rather than say, a visual one), you may chose to use more inspiring language to pitch an idea to them, providing a vivid description for them to hear, rather than focusing on how that idea might look.

This is not however, an exact science and when I asked the question about whether it’s possible for someone to manipulate the system by constructing a story, but rehearsing it so well that they believe it themselves and their eyes would therefore move to remember rather than construct, I was advised that this is indeed possible.

NLP wasn’t designed as a means to manipulate or control others though, it was born out of a curiosity around how some people are able to communicate so effectively (even with those considered to be particularly hard to reach), however the question of ethics was raised on day one. My dummies’ guide addresses this with the authors arguing that we influence others all the time in life, as long as we’re doing this in a way that benefits all parties, we are doing this with integrity. It also crossed my mind that if we’re influencing others all the time, surely it makes sense for us to learn how to do this more effectively?


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