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Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is so often presented as a psychological model that attempts to explain how we think and behave (unfortunately often with little direct evidence to support its claims). It is described as “The study of the structure of subjective experience”, but what it tends to miss off is the second part of that description, “AND what can be be done with that.”

To read the rest of this post please go to my LinkedIn Pulse article here.

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In this random and unscripted episode of my VideoBlog I discuss how I tell my trainees to assume I am lying to them! Why do I do that? Well, NLP is an attitude that led to a methodology that left behind a trail of techniques. One of the main attitudes to bring to NLP is that of curiosity, to explore and test and check everything. By telling my trainees to assume I am lying to them (and I use that language deliberately, as it is emotive and entertaining and creates a more powerful state that just telling them to “check what I said”), it encourages them to be curious. If you become curious about NLP you are using the attitude of NLP on NLP, you are doing “Meta-NLP”! Curiosity is also a great stepping stone to motivation – “I wonder what happens if…?”. Not enough people are really curious about NLP and that has led to it become stale and errors creeping into the model. So I urge you to assume I (and everyone else) is lying to you and check what they have said for yourself!

Random NLP Video Blog

In this episode of my occasional, random and unscripted video blog I teach a very simple memory technique (which, ironically, I cannot remember where I learned). I apologies for the text message interruption!


Random NLP Video Blog
(My apologies for such a long delay in uploading this, it was recored months ago, I just hope it is worth the wait.)

Here is the first episode of my NLP book club, where I discuss Ulysses by James Joyce. For my money it is one of the greatest books ever written and you will learn more about the use of language, perspectives and the meaning of “The Map is Not The Territory” than any “proper” NLP book. It’s a tough read, but worth the effort, it will enrich your life.

You can find much more details at my Ulysses: A Reader’s Guide (with an apostrophe that is conspicuous by it’s absence) here.

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think and leave any questions or comments on my Youtube channel here.

Your Career Survival ToolKit

“Being able to learn faster than your competitors is the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Arie de Geus

The world of careers has changed completely. The idea of a job for life or even a career for life ended a long time ago, but right now even bigger changes are taking place. In this post ‘economic crisis’ world of fast evolving technology you need much more than the normal skill set to survive and develop in business. You need the skills and strategies that give you the edge over your competitors.

You need a career survival toolkit!

What Is NLP and How Can It Help You?

NLP is so often sold as either some wishy washy self help “think good thoughts!’ type training or as an alternative therapy. In actual fact it is so much more than that, with its roots in cybernetics, systems thinking and cognitive psychology, it offers some of the most pragmatic skills and strategies available to improve your thinking.

It gives you the essential toolkit you need to survive in the modern business world.

Increase Productivity, Focus and Flow

The management consultancy firm McKinsey found that executives in “flow state” – often called the “Zone”, where you have increased awareness, focus and speed of thinking – are five times more effective than their peers. NLP looks at your mental state and teaches you to control and change you state at will.

Vastly improve Your Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Thinking, in particularly critical thinking, could be simply described as a process of asking yourself and answering questions. To get a better answer, you need a better question. NLP gives you better questions.

Speed Up and Improve Decisions Making

“Intuition is recognition” – NN Taleb

By clarifying purpose and helping you understand what drives your decision making, including your cognitive biases, NLP can help you develop your intuition. This means you will making faster, more accurate decisions that will lead the greater success.

Accelerate Your Learning and Skills Acquisition

NLP was never a therapy, it was a teaching tool. It looked at ways to help people learn better behaviours and thought processes. These ideas have been applied directly to education and developed such things as the “NLP Spelling Strategy” and can be used to help you accelerate your learning ability.

It allows you to “model” people who have excellent skills and abilities and learn those skills yourself.

This is the closest you will get “uploading” skills, like in the Matrix.

Improve Your Creativity and Lateral Thinking

NLP has modelled such geniuses as Walt Disney, Nikola Tesla and Mozart, and uncovered the structure of creativity. By applying these strategies you can think of new solutions and create brand new, better ways of doing things. It will also, if you so wish, improve such creative skills as painting, musicianship, etc.

Make You a Much Better Communicator, Compelling Speaker, Persuader and Negotiator

Two of the most powerful models in NLP are communication models. They will help you ask better questions, create more compelling persuasive arguments and help you gain rapport quickly and with more people.

It is not surprising then that a recent survey suggested that up to 75% of Bluechip companies are looking for NLP as core competency in their staff.

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NLP training has been carried out by Barclays Bank, British Gas, nPower, Jaguar Land Rover, Johnson Controls, House of Frazer, John Lewis, Severn Trent Water, Natural England and the NHS to name just a few.

How Do I Get This Toolkit?

The best way to learn NLP is by attending an NLP Practitioner training course. To see my upcoming dates, click here.

closing the loops
When I was young one my favourite TV shows was The Rocketeer. The re-run was shown in the morning during the school holidays and I would religiously tune in. Each episode always ended on a preposterous cliffhanger that was resolved in the first moments of the next episode, but still it kept me coming back every day to see what happened. The idea that leaving a story unfinished, or a loop open, compelled people to return for the next episode has been well used in Hollywood for years!

Our brains hate unfinished material. They keep the story or activity open in our minds and desperately try to close them off. This is why you will find people who have hectic lives tend to be stressed and seem overwhelmed. They constantly interrupt a process and so their mind is trying to sustain all these open and unfinished routines.

It is one of the many theories about why we dream – to help us to close all the loops that we have opened during the day. We understand the world through metaphor and a dream is an extended metaphor that we use to attempt to organise and “file away” all those incomplete tasks, half told stories and unfinished activities.

When Richard was asked to develop a stress management program for executives at a Fortune 500 company in America, the first process he introduced was to get them, at the end of the day, to open and close every drawer or cupboard in the room, close down their computer properly, lift up and put down the telephone, etc. This seemingly odd behaviour was designed to make sure that all the physical processes they had started through the day and which had maybe been interrupted would be closed off.

The key to reducing stress and feeling less overwhelmed is to make the effort to keep as few loops open (tasks unfinished) as possible. Do one thing at a time (multitasking is a myth) and remain mindful and present throughout the day. Be aware of anything that you have not finished and take some time at the end of the day to “close off” these tasks. Whether that is to finish them off or make some meaningful plan to continue at a later date.

Contains excerpts from “Nested Loops Demystified” available now at Amazon.

perception by all 5 senses at once

Last year Cadbury changed the shape of it’s dairy milk bars and received a whole host of complaints that they had changed the recipe for the worst. The truth was, they hadn’t changed the recipe at all! It was just the customers perception of taste had been altered by the change in shape.

Assuming you don’t have any organic brain problem that stops you from utilising one of your senses, we perceive the world through ALL FIVE senses at once and by changing the input of one sensory channel effects how we represent the world as a whole.

  • Certain colours create certain associations with taste, emotion, etc (we often use colours to describe moods).
  • Sounds can create powerful emotional responses.
  • Words, both spoke (auditory) and written (visual) create an emotional response (kinaesthetic).
  • We make picture of what people look like from hearing them talk.
  • Smells and tastes can conjure up whole memories or experiences. As Marcel Proust demonstrated in his Magnus Opus “In Seach Of Lost Time“!

This natural propensity for us to create our internal representation out of all five senses means we tend to fill in gaps. This phenomena is known as Synesthesia. Usually the term Synesthesia is use to describe people who have extreme multi-sensory experiences (they perceive shapes or colours when listening to music for example) but in NLP we consider Synesthesia as a broader naturally occurring phenomena that we all experience to a certain extent. We naturally “cross over” senses when creating an internal representation.

How is this Important?

It is essential to recognise that we perceive the world in this holistic manner and draw from all five senses when creating our internal representation (NLP is often misquoted as saying that we have a preferred sense that we understand the world through. That is in fact a misunderstanding – NLP actually states we tend to have a preferred sense in which we COMMUNICATE our experiences of the world – the sensory predicates we choose to use). By changing one seemingly inconsequential sensory channel (changing the colour of packing of food for example) we can radically alter someones experience as a whole..

If you are in a field were influence is important, you need to consider how what the person sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels in that experience.

Nested Loops Demystfied

There seems to be a lot of confusion within NLP about Chaining States, Stacking Realities, and Nested Loops. Many people mix them up with each other or treat them as the same approach. They may share some conceptual DNA but in actual fact are very different processes for very different purposes:

Chaining States

NLP spends a lot of time working with our state, it is because our state dictates our behaviour. Sometimes it is not as simple as getting from the Present State to the Desired State in one step and you have to use a series of “stepping stones”:

1. Present/Problem state

2. 1st step towards desired state

3. 2nd step towards desired state

4. Solution/Desired state

For example:

1. Present State – Certainty about limitations

2. Step 1 – Doubt

3. Step 2 – Curiosity

4. Desired State – Magic(k)al possibilities, freedom and choice.

Set the direction and consider what intermediary states may be useful (what would be a natural and easy step from the previous state?), if you are in doubt, it is worth having a conversation with the client and asking them what they think would be useful.

Stacking Realities

The first time I saw Richard Bandler on my NLP Practitioner training back 1999, I didn’t really know what to expect. Other than listening to some audio tapes of him I had no clue about what he looked like, his style of delivery or what sort of person he was. So, when he was introduced by Paul McKenna and stalked onto the stage, I was somewhat taken aback. He had long hair tied in a pony tail that was dyed purple, he was wearing big rings, painted fingernails and cowboy boots with flames up the side. When he reached the stage (to the tones of “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix!) he didn’t introduce himself, he just launched straight into a story about Milton Erickson, I think it went something a bit like this, “The first time I met Milton he looked me straight in the eye with that stare of his and said “I once found a white horse roaming free on the road. I didn’t want to let the horse continue to wander around so I caught hold of it’s loose reigns and jumped on it’s back. I began riding it down the road…”

Now, that is a simple and obvious example of “Stacking Realities”, I started talking about my experience (reality 1), of Richard telling a story (reality 2) about how Milton gave him a metaphor for change (reality 3).

Stacking realities are first and foremost a way of creating an altered trance state and can be placed in the bracket of “confusional induction” where the conscious mind cannot keep track of who the “speaker” is and naturally goes into trance.

Nested Loops

Nested Loops were developed to, and are fantastic way of, delivering large quantities of information easily and quickly, whilst keeping the attention of the person or people you are working with. A Nested loop is story within a story. The difference between Nested Loops and Stacking Realities, is that, whereas Stacking Realities is a linear approach, Nested Loops is circular. In Stacking Realities you would start with Story 1 and finish with Story N. In Nested Loops you Start with Story 1 and end with Story 1.

You break each story part way through (other than the last one which you complete in full) and start the next story, until you reach the final loop (how many loops you use depends on the context) then you reverse out, completing the stories in reverse order, something like this:

Start Story 1


Start Story 2


Tell the Complete Story 3


Complete Story 2


Complete Story 1

Each story should contain a state or meaning appropriate to the desired outcome.

These three processes are  very useful approaches but have very different applications; Nested Loops would be useless at getting someone who is stuck to being unstuck. For that you would be better off using the Chaining State approach, if you used Nested Loops, you would just end up taking the client back to where they started (the unwanted state!).

This article contains excepts from “Nested Loops Demystified”, available now in paperback and on Kindle.

To buy from, click here.

To buy from, click here.

I was teaching my Coaching for Change/NLP Coach course over the weekend, as part of it we give an overview of the GROW model developed by Sir John Whitmore. The GROW Model has become one of the standard coaching approaches over the years, particularly in the world of business or executive coaching, so it is necessary to give an overview of the model.

The GROW model was one of the first real attempts to represent what goes on in the coaching interaction. The key word in the GROW model is “model”.

So, lets go back to first principles for a moment, what is a “model”?

In it’s broadest definitions a model is “A three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original.”

In more specific scientific terminology it can be defined as “A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics.”

What does that mean for NLP? NLP is the “study of the structure of subjective experience”. It is an attempt, in some meaningful way, to create a representation of what is going in our minds. We can use this model to inform our behaviours. Developed from this model has been some formalised processes, applications and “techniques” as well as some other more detailed or context specific models; the Strategy Model, or the Sleight of Mouth Model for example.

Unfortunately these models are so often presented as processes, or worse, techniques. One of the biggest problems of NLP is that it can be offered as a “bunch of techniques”. These techniques are NOT NLP they are applications developed from the model of NLP.

But what is the problem with presenting them as processes or techniques?

The problem with taking models and presenting them as processes or techniques is two-fold:

  1. The problem with all process or technique based thinking is that you end up with a fundamental inverse of what you should really be doing. You create a Procrustean bed; you expect the world to fit your technique and not the technique to fit the world. You use the wrong criteria to judge success (whether you completed the process effectively, rather than whether the process had any effect) and if the process doesn’t work you tend to blame the world not your techniques.
  2. It removes any form of flexibility. The reason the GROW model is presented as a model is that it is trying to capture, in some meaningful way, an approach to coaching. It is flexible and dynamic (as are all good coaching sessions and coaches), if you present it as a process (as is so often is), with a  “start here, end here” approach you remove that necessary flexibility (and miss the point of what a model actually).

There is nothing wrong with using a technique, it is a formalised short-cut to getting a specific result in a specific context. But don’t confuse Model with Process, be aware what the difference is (for example, is the Swish Pattern a process or a model?) and it is appropriate to apply a model or use a technique.

Matt Caulfield 10th Anniversary Blog

I recently realised that I have been writing a regular entry on NLP and related topics for 10 years!

I got my first website in June 2002. I had been running my own NLP therapy and “life coaching” (remember when it was still called “Life Coaching”?) business, properly for about a year at that point (before then I was simply working on word of mouth and working with friends and friends of friends) and thought I would invest in this new fangled thing called the internet (you have to remember that back then, getting a website was a real faff. You couldn’t simply build your own like you can today with WordPress or templates provided by your web host. You had to employ a web designer, which was expensive). It was simple static site, nothing like even the simplest sites you find nowadays.

Around a year later (I cannot recall the exact date, so this is a 10th-ish Anniversary post really), I had been reading the Barefoot Doctor’s and the late great Robert Anton Wilson’s sites, both of which did a regular update; The Doc did his daily “Docbox”, RAW did his “Thought of the Month”. Suitably inspired, I wanted to start experimenting with making some sort of direct connect with my visitors, rather than just offering a brochure site. So, with the rudimentary HMTL knowledge I had collected in the previous 12 months, I started doing a “Daily NLP Tip/Musing” on my homepage. There was no archive and, unfortunately I never kept a copy each Tip.

I kept this up for just over a year before I stumbled across (A long time before Google bought it), at the time blogging was very much in it’s infancy and was still really the domain of techies and early adopters.

I have kept that blog going, on various platforms and websites since September 2005 (when I set up my first blogger blog – Those of you with keen eyes, after reading the title of this blog post will notice the archive only goes back to September 2005, this is the reason why).

The tricky aspect of getting in the habit of pouring out the secrets of existence on a regular basis, with the intent to helping as many people as possible (I have never blogged as a “marketing strategy” and always because I have wanted to share), by teaching them about NLP, hypnosis, learning strategies, cybernetics, coaching, and other such related fields, is trying to decide what to say.

Do I just ramble on about what I am up to and interweave that with an odd tip, or do I do a cold and hard “technique” driven blog, with bullet points and step by step processes?

What is the level of the people who read this, are they people who are totally new to all this and trying to figure out what it is all about, or are they already well versed in the art of NLP and are looking for more detailed, “advanced” entries?

So, where do I pitch it? Beginner, or advanced? I do tend to try and avoid jargon, unless  am doing a specific entry explaining such jargon. I hope I get the balance.

I am only human and sometimes events conspire to steel from me the requisite time and space to a write a reasonably informative and entertaining entry. Because, believe me, to churn out a decent entry, I really do have to put the effort in (not actually being a genius, and still battling with my own limitations – particular, as regular readers my have noticed, my spelling…). I am often struck down with a terrible case of the “humbles”, where I convince myself that I have nothing to add to the mass of information out there (or convince myself that no one is reading this). At other times my mind just goes blank for days, or I just won’t be able to muster the energy or motivation to apply myself. Or I am simply too busy. So there are inevitably times when it all goes quiet and I won’t write for weeks, or what I’m writing, while well-meaning and definitely comprising at least one small nugget of something useful, is just a load of old b*ll*cks.

I do hope, though that over the last 10 years I have shared enough to keep people interested, entertaining and educated you in some small way. Here is to the next 10 years. Who know’s where it will take me, but I hope you will come along for the ride…