Thursday, August 17, 2006

Using NLP for Business Success - Neurolinguistic Programing

Using NLP for Business Success - Neurolinguistic Programing
By Ellen Dunnigan

Business professionals face challenging people and events everyday. They may ask how they can better relate to their client(s), give a more dynamic presentation or simply, get better results. The answer is clear: Neurolinguistic Programming. Here’s how it works:

Neuro refers to the brain and neural network that feeds into the brain. Neurons or nerve cells are the working units used by the nervous system to send, receive, and store signals that add up to information.

Linguistic refers to the content, both verbal and non-verbal, that moves across and through these pathways.

Programming is the way the content or signal is manipulated to convert it into useful information. The brain may direct the signal, sequence it, change it based on our prior experience, or connect it to some other experience we have stored in our brain to convert it into thinking patterns and behaviors that are the essence of our experience of life.

Our experiences and feelings affect the way we react to external stimuli. Let me illustrate. I am afraid of snakes. The impulse I get if I see a snake or even hear a sound close to resembling that of a snake is a feeling of total fright. This is because I was a city girl and no one in our family was fond of snakes. One day in Arkansas, a man in my office brought in his pet snake. He wanted to show it off. He was holding it like we hold a puppy. For him it was a pet and gave him lot of joy to hold. To me, it gave an anxiety attack!

My colleagues and I saw the same thing. The same signal was passed to our brains. It was the picture of a snake. However, our brains interpreted the implications of the snake entirely differently. In processing the information, our brains used our experiences (good and bad), our biases, our opinions, our value systems, etc. to convert it into useful information that we can use.

Neurolinguistic programming (NLP for short) was developed in the early 1970s by an information scientist and a linguist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. They had observed that people with similar education, training, background, and years of experience were achieving widely varying results ranging from wonderful to mediocre. They wanted to know the secrets of effective people. What makes them perform and accomplish so much. They were especially interested in the possibility of being able to duplicate the behavior, and therefore the competence, of these highly effective individuals. It was the golden era of modeling and simulation. They decided to model human excellence. They looked at factors such as education, business and therapy. They then zeroed in on the communication aspect. They started studying how successful people communicated (verbal language, body language, eye movements, and others). By modeling their behavior, John Grinder and Richard Bandler were able to make out patterns of thinking that assisted in the subject's success. The two theorized that the brain can learn the healthy patterns and behaviors and that this would bring about positive physical and emotional effects. What emerged from their work came to be known as Neurolinguistic Programming.

One of the basic tenets of neurolinguistic programming is the impact of the senses during communication (for both the speaker and the listener). As each person develops, their five senses (visual, auditory, touch/emotion, taste, and smell) are shaped by both environment and genetics. As we go through life experiences, we store newly learned (and reconfirmed) information through our senses. In other words, our reality is stored information which becomes memorable through the senses. We either see pictures or symbolic images, hear voices or sounds, or feel sensations, energy, and emotion. We recall this information literally in the words we use. These words are called predicates and are nouns, verbs and adverbs. Each statement represents what a person is subjectively experiencing.

Consider these three different ways of giving the same message:
“I am out of step with my boss.” (Kinesthetic)
“We are not seeing eye to eye.” (Visual)
“We are singing different tunes.”(Auditory)

Let’s review an example: A manager I worked with said to his subordinates, "I want you to jump on it." His employee responded "I will take a look at it as soon as possible." My client felt that his employee did not understand the criticalness of the situation. If the subordinate had replied, “I’m going to stomp the fire out,” this manager would have felt that his message had gotten across.

Another example shows a manager and director who were not working well together. After learning about predicates the director realized that she is visual and the manager is auditory. The director wanted to see everything in charts and graphs and the manager was always telling her the information. After this recognition the manager was sure to paint pictures for the director as he spoke. The director also attempted to comment about the information, in order to satisfy the manager's needs.

Do you have a boss? How does your boss “talk” about sales or business results? In pictures? In words? Likes sports analogies?

How do you give your boss info about sales or business results? How can you gain her/his attention? Be seen as valuable? Use the boss’ style!

Beware of categorizing or labeling someone visual, auditory, kinesthetic etc. No one is purely one style. Often it is contextual. For example, when describing a communication snafu one client of mine primarily used kinesthetic predicates. Words like, “felt”, “confused”, “grasp”, “handle”, “connection”. When she spoke of her vacation she used all visual words

i.e., “vistas”, “colors”, “bright”, “light”, “see”, “vantage point”. And when she described a successful event in her life she primarily used auditory words,

i.e. “heard”, “clicked”, “snap”, “tell”, “spoke”, “listened”, “harmonize”. Rather than pinning her down as a kinesthetic from the first interview it was important to pay attention to her words and be flexible in each of the other scenarios.

When you meet someone for the first time, listen for the predicates and match the system. If you meet them a second time, beware of the labeling tendency. Make sure you give them an opportunity to speak – then, respond to them at the moment using the appropriate sensory mode.

Sometimes people do not use predicates in their language. Now can we label them "difficult people?" No, of course not. These people are using unspecified words.

For example, “awareness”, “understand”, “experience”, “comprehend”, “appreciate”, “think”. When you are in conversation with an unspecified speaker simply ask a clarifying question.

For example, "Well what do you appreciate about your employees?" The response should be more specific with sensory information; “I am so grateful that they see the big picture” (visual).

In business, people generally use three senses in making decisions about buying a product or service; visual (sight), auditory (hearing), and kinesthetic (touch and emotion). And more often than not, they rely on one sense more than the other two. In building rapport and bonding with your prospect or client, your job is to figure out which one is more dominant.

It’s your lucky day! We can help you “get a read” on your prospects and clients. In addition to having a clue as to how this person perceives the world, your ability to match the style of your prospect or client is a great technique for establishing rapport. When you enter the other person's model of the world they feel understood. You’ve gained their attention and their trust. You have a greater opportunity to influence their actions and make the sale!

For more information or to schedule a voice assessment with Ellen Dunnigan, call (317) 843-2983 or visit

Accent On Business founder and CEO Ellen Dunnigan is a nationally-recognized and proven coach with specialized training in voice, speech, and English improvement. She holds a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and has been certified as clinically competent by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

In addition, she has spent several years in corporate settings as an operations leader and strategist. Ms. Dunnigan has devoted 17 years to helping people improve their personal and professional voice and speaking skills. For more information go to:

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