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Neuro-linguistic programming… sound familiar? If not – don’t worry. It’s a unique term, and we are going to break it down so you know exactly how to use it to your advantage. And if you have heard of neuro-linguistic programming, keep reading because you will definitely want to hear our tips and tricks on this technique! 

Without any further ado: what is neuro-linguistic programming? 

Broken down simply, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is like learning your own personal language that is one-of-a-kind to you. 

Neuro refers to the make-up of your brain and nervous system; Linguistics refers to language; Programming refers to how that neural language computes to relay messages that you can understand.  

This psychological approach to learning new things helps us better understand how our thoughts and actions have subtle, but lasting effects on our subconscious mind. 

In this post we are going to expand on these key components of NLP: 

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How neuro-linguistic programming works

You’ve probably heard of the hype surrounding manifestations, affirmations, and the law of attraction… While you may think this all has to do with “lucky girl syndrome” (as trending on TikTok), these are all techniques that are used to train your subconscious and positively transform your thoughts into reality. Similar to how neuro-linguistic programming works.

Our mind is much more powerful than we give it credit – which is how neuro-linguistic programming can be used to change your mindset, and your life.

NLP is a technique that analyzes how the way we think affects the way we act. NLP is used to subconsciously change your mindset so that it is always working towards your advantage. 

Let’s break down NLP even further: 

NEURO: Our nervous system processes all the sensory input we experience, and translates this into something our mind and bodies can understand. Essentially, this is how we experience the world through all of our senses. 

LINGUISTIC: We use language every day to speak to others and to interact with ourselves. It is fundamental to how we communicate with the world around us. 

PROGRAMMING: Everything we do, think, say, feel, and believe is processed through the meaning that we assign to our experiences and actions. Our reactions to things become programmed subconsciously in our brains. 

When you put neuro + linguistic + programming together – violá! You are left with a formula that equals the perfect recipe for gaining cognitive control of your life. 

It is important to understand how your subconscious operates, and your emotions and feelings are at the center of this. This initiates your actions and behaviors. NLP strives to break this down so that we can understand where our actions and behaviors stem from.

NLP is based on the idea that the language – verbal and nonverbal – we use every day with ourselves and others can be used to improve our lives by changing negative habits and restrictive beliefs that are holding us back from our full potential. 

What is NLP used for? 

NLP techniques are used to help people meet their goals and step into their higher selves. It is used to empower people to realize their unlimited potential. 

People who practice NLP have the ability to increase their confidence, enhance self-awareness, build communication skills, increase motivation, and have more positive social interactions. 

NLP is used to help achieve a wide range of work-related and personal goals, self-development advancements, and improvements in mental health. 

NLP also targets issues in the following areas: 

  • Increasing productivity
  • Shifting to a positive mindset 
  • Developing more efficient patterns 
  • Working on skills for personal growth 
  • Building effective strategies when feeling stuck 
  • Improving communication with the self and others
  • Changing limiting behaviors and unwanted habits 

NLP is also used in the therapeutic setting for treatment of mental health issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Phobias and fears
  • Substance abuse 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The NLP technique focuses on how the mind and body influence each other through our senses and communication. Anyone who wants to change the way that they perceive the world can apply the techniques of neuro-linguistic programming to their own life. 

What ways can you use NLP to your advantage?

The nature of neuro-linguistic programming is self-development and self-improvement, and there are a lot of ways that you can use these techniques to your advantage.  

NLP focuses on growth, and those in helping and motivating professions can really benefit from practicing some NLP techniques for themselves and for their clients or students. 

Many coaches find success in using NLP techniques to help their clients or students achieve their goals. Coaches are often helping people in a niche area of self-improvement, and NLP techniques can help keep your clients or students engaged and focused on achieving their desired outcomes from the program. It’s a win-win situation!

You can use the skills you gain from practicing different NLP techniques in all areas of your life. Neuro-linguistic programming targets your subconscious thoughts and actions, therefore once you make these changes you will start to see all areas of your life being benefited from NLP techniques. 

10 powerful NLP techniques

  1. Dissociation 

Dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity. 

To use this technique to your advantage, identify an emotion that is not welcome (such as fear, anger, sadness, or discomfort) and imagine yourself completely stepping away from this emotion. 

Look at yourself having this emotion from an outsider’s perspective. This will help you distance yourself from those unpleasant feelings and help your body remain calm. It allows you to ask yourself why you are having this emotion, and what you can do to make space for more positive feelings instead. 

  1. Anchoring

Anchoring is the process of associating an emotion that you are currently feeling or that you want to feel (happiness, peace, confidence) with a gesture. The idea is that when you apply or perform this gesture again, those blissful feelings will resurface. 

For example, if you want to feel confident before an interview or presentation, a gesture would be to strike a “power pose” (i.e. puffing up your chest and sitting tall, or doing things that exude confidence in your mind). This gesture you perform puts you in a positive mindset and then acts as an anchor to those feelings of confidence each time you perform it after.  

  1. Reframing

Reframing is the practice of turning negative experiences and situations into positive thoughts.

With this technique, you are altering the automatic response your mind gives you when you encounter a tough or unpleasant situation. This helps you to shift your reality to a positive one instead of a negative one. 

Reframing allows you to really be in control of your own destiny, as you have the power to give meaning to any circumstance. 

For example, you can reframe feelings of stress before a competition into feelings of excitement. Almost anything negative you hear, you can reframe in a positive manner. Have fun with this technique by experimenting with the different positive responses you can think of in unpleasant situations. 

  1. Building rapport

Rapport building techniques focus on gaining trust with another person through finding commonalities at the beginning of a relationship. Building rapport enables you to connect with people easily through aligning your communication styles. It’s why people engage in small talk before discussing any business. 

To practice this technique, watch how the person you’re conversing with uses their body language when they speak. A way to build rapport is to try having the same posture, using the same tone, and using the same keywords as the person you’re speaking with. This develops trust through symmetry in communication. 

  1. Priming

Priming is an exposure technique. We see priming in all forms of marketing and advertising. An example of priming is when you are in a wine shop and they play Italian music to subtly influence you to purchase Italian wine. This could be the same for French or Spanish wine as well.

The idea behind priming is connections, and how the brain unconsciously uses these connections. Priming helps the brain process, store, and remember information. You can use priming to influence future actions. 

  1. Swish

Swish is a visual technique that involves reprogramming your mind to think a certain way. This process shifts your mind from an unwanted behavior to a desired behavior. We have an emotion associated with every action and experience. Swish disrupts this association by replacing a positive emotion with a specific behavior. 

Here is how you use the swish technique: 

  • Identify the unwanted behavior and what you would like to experience instead 
  • Create your ideal outcome 
  • Imagine the positive experience
  • Visualize making the change 
  • Repeat 5-8 times 

Swish is a good technique to practice if you want to replace any unwanted habits.

  1. Mirroring

Mirroring is the process of taking on elements of another person’s physiology and voice qualities. This technique goes hand-in-hand with building rapport and establishing trust. 

To practice mirroring, the next time you have a conversation with someone try matching small things that they do with their words or body language.

Adopting the same kind of demeanor creates a friendly environment that encourages communication and trust.

  1. Modeling 

Just like mirroring, the technique of modeling is just as it sounds. It is the process of adopting the same language, actions, behaviors, and strategies of a person you look up to. This instills the same set of values and beliefs as the person you are modeling. 

Modeling helps internalize new ways of thinking and behaving. Believing that you are someone else you admire allows you to fully embody their presence – but in your own voice. This helps shape the idea that if you can act like your role model, you have the potential to be everything that they are and do everything that they have accomplished. 

  1. Meta model

The meta model is designed to help gather information, challenge, and expand the limits of a person’s model or view of the world. 

The meta model allows you to speak your existence in the third person, giving you a front row seat to how you think, feel, and behave in the world. 

This technique offers an insight to the limits, distortions, and generalizations of the language you use. It is the idea that language is a translation of mental states into words. In this translation, there is an unconscious process of deletion (not everything thought is said), distortion (assumptions and inaccuracies), and generalization (a shift towards broad statements).

The meta model is a safe way to dissociate from your positions, giving you a more holistic view of yourself and better insight towards a situation. It allows you to view yourself in an unbiased position, and become less attached to your stance on something.

  1. Incantations

Incantations are like more powerful versions of affirmations. Affirmations are a word or phrase you repeat over and over to yourself to instill positive thinking and self-empowerment. They help you believe that you can achieve success in anything with a positive mindset.

Incantations take this a step further by wholeheartedly embodying these affirmations, reprogramming your mind to truly believe what you are saying. 

This is a powerful technique, as it creates a state of confidence and control in your own destiny and future. 

Potential benefits of NLP

If you haven’t already guessed, neuro-linguistic programming has a ton of different benefits! 

Practitioners of NLP believe that these techniques help you create your own reality. NLP assists you in discovering the tools in your own mind to help you be in control of your experiences, rather than perceiving them as things that happen to you.

Some of the benefits of neuro-linguistic programming include: 

  • Connecting to your purpose, values, and motivation
  • Improvements in your health and wellbeing 
  • Establishing mental clarity 
  • Increased confidence in yourself 
  • Business and career satisfaction 
  • Engaging in successful and lasting relationships
  • Financial comfort and freedom 
  • Finding satisfying hobbies and passions

Neuro-linguistic programming techniques help you enhance your communication tactics with yourself and others. This process has a positive and lasting effect on your personal development and quality of life.

There are also benefits of NLP training and coaching. As we mentioned previously, using NLP techniques in your coaching sessions not only benefits your clients or students, they benefit your business as well. 

Neuro-linguistic programming techniques help benefit coaches by: 

  • Increasing leadership skills
  • Aiding communication tactics
  • Building resilience
  • Assisting influence and teaching skills
  • Expanding emotional intelligence
  • Promoting mental and behavioral flexibility
  • Amplifying sales and management skills 
  • Improving networking and relationships

The benefit of NLP skills not only apply to coaches, they are applicable to counseling, therapy, and professional and personal lives. Teaching NLP skills will help you achieve different kinds of success and have a significantly more fulfilled life.

How to start using NLP

If you are interested in applying the techniques of neuro-linguistic programming to your life – either personally or professionally – there are a few different ways you can go about this. 

  • Enroll in a NLP course 
  • Find a coach who performs NLP techniques 
  • See a therapist who specializes in NLP 
  • Go to a NLP practitioner 
  • Self-learn NLP techniques
  • Take a course to become NLP certified 

There are many ways you can implement neuro-linguistic programming techniques into your life. Whether you want to teach these techniques or learn how to apply these techniques to your daily life, it will benefit you in the long run. 

Neuro-linguistic programming techniques offer a unique way of viewing the world. These language and visualization techniques employ an opportunity to look at your own internalized map of the world and how you communicate in it. 

Interested in other theories? Check out our piece on how to use cognitive theory next!