Good in parts

For the past four days I’ve been on an NLP diploma course. As I blogged a while back, this is a recent area of interest for me, and one that I approach with a healthy scepticism.

The low point of the course, for me, was round about lunchtime on the third day, when I’d had just about enough of enforced socialisation and talking about ‘feelings’ with strangers. It was only the thought of my shiny diploma that stopped me from walking out (oh, how sad to be motivated by a bit of paper). The turning point came later that afternoon when I finally realised that a) much of NLP is pretty much common sense, and b) not all of it works for everyone. By viewing npl as a set of interrelated theories to explain what many people do naturally, some useful, some questionable, I can see its applicability (I’m not sure that NLP practitioners would agree with this view, but it works for me).

The particular areas of nlp that we covered in the course that most strike a chord (oooh, auditory) with me are:

  • the concept of building rapport, matching and mirroring body position, pacing and leading – I’d like to try this in interviewing but suspect I would just end up looking like a mad copying lady;
  • the idea of thoughts being coded in different representational systems (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) and that the language we use and our eye movements can indicate the system we are using;
  • the model of developing well-formed outcomes, which are positive, specific, achievable (sounds a bit like SMART so far…) but where ecology issues (how this will effect yourself and others) and sensory evidence of achievement are also considered;
  • the idea of association and disassociation (whether memories are viewed in first or third person) – I wonder if this could be related to first person/third person game preferences?
  • the notion that people view time in different ways and can be ‘in time’ or ‘through time’ (at least I now partially understand why my parents get so cross when I’m late for stuff).

While I feel that areas of NLP have lots offer in terms of how we understand and deal with the world, there are a couple of things that really trouble me: 1) the lack of robust evidence that it works (sorry but ‘it worked for me’ just doesn’t cut it) and the apparent unwillingness of the NLP community to engage in empirical research; 2) the lack of recognition that the suppositions of NLP are simply one ontological approach and that others exist.

The NLPU site was recommended as a good resource by our instructor (if you can cope with the seriously bad web design).


  1. Katie Piatt

    I read about NLP after you first mentioned it – and I happened to be reading Derren Brown at the time who concurred with a lot of what you found. I tried mirroring body language, but must need more practice as I feel ridiculously self-conscious when trying it…

  2. Robert

    4 days? The average NLP practitioner course in the Netherlands is between 15 to 22 days(max) and takes a few months to complete, including all excercise sessions with fellow students (in a secure environment, allowed to make mistakes).
    Some stuff comes natural, some is hard, that’s a no brainer since it has to do with your personal preferences. However, the hard stuff needs practice to get in, since ‘if you do what you did, you will get what you got’.
    You need time & practice to get this stuff working for you. There is no quick fix, and thus your response does not surprise me since the amount of time invested is far from enough.

  3. nicola (Post author)

    Thanks for the feedback, Robert. It was a diploma course I did, which is basically the first four days of the practitoner course.

    I do try to have an open mind towards NLP, and I’m planning on sticking with it and completing the whole practitioner course in the future (a further 12 days). I think you make a really good point that this stuff takes time, and practice, to learn but I also think that it’s a problem (both in terms of expectation-setting and the reputation of NLP) that it is often touted as a ‘quick-fix’ solution (just look at the business shelves in any bookshop).

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