Today I’m going to have another look at one of the presuppositions of NLP, the one that says the mind and the body affect each other. This is one of the reasons why I got interested in NLP in the first place. I’ve always been interested in how the body works as well as how the mind works, and was always curious as a youngster about the power of the mind over the body, and whether it was possible to think yourself well…
If I’m really honest, I don’t like children very much. Shocking, I know. Not having any children of my own, I’m often irritated by the antics of small children in supermarkets and disapproving of their very presence in pubs and restaurants. I’ve been known to walk out of coffee shops full of buggies without even glancing at a menu and I love adults-only hotels. I don’t have anything against any individual child, it’s just that I quickly tire of the never-ending need for attention. Oh, and the noise!
Yes, I know that by not having children I have missed out on one of life’s great adventures. Yes, I understand that there is delight in being a parent as well as despair. Yes, I’ve been told ‘it’s different when they’re your own’. No, I don’t lose any sleep over it.
You may think I’m heartless or cold. That’s up to you. Please read on.
I know that for every child that causes me to mutter, ‘please shut up’ and every toddler that makes me wince at the sound of their shrieks that there are parents for whom that little darling is the centre of their world. I cannot begin to imagine the pain it must bring to know you’re going lose your baby.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m a huge supporter of Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice in Coventry. Zoe’s Place provides respite care for babies and children up to the age of five who have life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. Children so unwell that they need round-the-clock care. They cannot be left with grandparents for an afternoon while Mum and Dad go out to lunch or to the supermarket or to see their other child in the school play. They can only be entrusted to qualified nurses.
Zoë’s Place provides that. It’s a bright, cheerful home-from-home where these tiny tots can be looked after in total safety to give their parents a little respite. To visit, is to be uplifted and humbled all at once.
The problem is, it takes around £1.4m per year to keep the Baby Hospice open. Around 85% of that comes from charitable donations. The ‘Strictly Christmas’ event that I help to organise and dance in, is just one event that raises money for Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice.
Alongside ‘Strictly Christmas’ my friend James Sanders runs an annual Facebook auction. This year there are well over 100 lots and I provided one of them.
Brilliant Minds has a ‘New Client Package’ which includes profiling of team members, a diagnostic of the team’s strengths and culture and recommendations for the development of the team in line with the company strategy and values.
It normally costs £5000 + VAT.
I’ve put it in the auction with a reserve of £1000. Which means that you could get £5000 worth of my time to develop your team for only £1000! And at the same time you would know that you are supporting a very special place that touches many lives.
Feel free to share with your friends and colleagues!
Oh, and you’re also very welcome to bid on the other lots.
Perceptual Positions is the idea of being able to see something from somebody else’s point of view or, indeed, from a completely different point of view. If you work in a service industry, you probably will have had it drummed into you that it’s important to be able to see things from your customer’s point of view. In lots of other environments as well, we are encouraged to take somebody else’s perspective.
The thing is, it’s not that easy to do it really well…
“Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.” – C.G. Jung
Carl Jung introduced the notion of ‘projection’ to explain how people can feel certain they know what another person is like and what they think, then interact with the other person on the basis of those assumptions.
Jung also went on to propose that often these assumptions are false and say more about the person making the assumptions than they do about the other person. He suggested that everyone has ‘shadow’ personality traits ie elements of our personality that we dislike or of which we are ashamed and that rather than acknowledge their presence, we attribute them – project them – onto other people.
For example, if you’ve had a major disagreement with a colleague and are still feeling aggrieved about it, you may perceive their subsequent behaviour as hostile towards you when others maintain that it is not.
We may also do this with positive traits we feel unable to acknowledge, too.
Working as part of a team and playing a key role in a successful project, you may nevertheless feel that you ‘didn’t really do much’ and brush aside the compliments and appreciation of the client.
Some Jungian psychologists might say, when you’re irritated by the behaviour of a colleague, it’s really yourself you’re irritated with; When you’re pleased with someone else, it’s really yourself you’re pleased with. Interesting notion?
What this demonstrates, is that perception is not accurate. It’s subjective and therefore potentially unreliable. It’s important to remember, perception is an unconscious process. The perceptions and projections appear to ‘happen to us’ rather than being the result of deliberate choice. That’s because it’s all going on outside of conscious awareness.
So if we unconsciously create subjective perceptions of other people and events, on what basis do we do that?
The obvious answer is unconsciously we form our perceptions on the basis of what we already think we know. However, once we’re consciously aware of our perceptions, we can choose to question them, to look for contrary evidence or alternative explanations. We can ask ourselves, ‘how real is that impression?’ or ‘is that judgement really justified?’ or ‘how do I know that?’
Jung put forward the idea of projection in relation to other people. He suggested that we see others as we are, not necessarily as they are.
What if we extended the idea of projection to the wider world? Do we perceive everything as we are, rather than as it is? That could be the case. We have a frame of reference that is made up of our life’s experience to date. Therefore all experiences are processed and perceived in the light of that previous experience.
When we believe something to be true, we see examples of it in our world. If we don’t believe it, we don’t see it. Just like the social media algorithms that show you further examples of anything you’ve ‘liked’ or ‘shared’, our brains perpetuate our beliefs by noticing the experiences that support them and screen out anything that contradicts our view of the world.
The important thing is, we have a choice. We can always choose to challenge our own points of view. We can choose to look past the obvious interpretation of events and ask if there’s another perspective. We can be mindful that what we think we know about others could be completely wrong.
The trick is remembering we have a choice.
There’s a presupposition of NLP which says that every behaviour has a positive intention. Now on first hearing that, lots of people have said to me over the years “I don’t believe that’s true.” I’m not saying it’s absolutely true. What I’m saying is it can be a useful way of looking at things. As with all of the NLP presuppositions we’re not necessarily saying that they’re true all the time, but what we know is that if we behave is if they were true, then we can get some useful results…
Have you noticed that there are moments in life when something becomes absolutely clear? It might be something you had never thought about before, or something you thought you knew, but suddenly there it is!
We had one of those on the recent ‘How to be a Brilliant Coach’ programme:
On the final day, the participants were experimenting with everything they had learned by coaching each other. By this time, most people had offered up their trivial concerns for practice sessions and were ready to address some more significant situations.
This often raises the level of stress of the coach!
It’s not necessary, because as someone once pointed out to me, ‘big problems have the same structure as small problems’. The only reason we call them big problems is that there’s more emotion attached to them. However, many new coaches find it hard to focus exclusively on the structure and can – understandably – feel a bit apprehensive about tackling major issues.
On this final day, we’d talked a lot about the kind of interventions each person had to offer as a coach. A majority of the group realised that their coaching sessions often included aspects that might be labelled ‘mentoring’ – giving advice and using their own experiences to guide the client.
The moment of truth for one coach came towards the end of the morning. His ‘client’ presented a significant personal problem. A problem of which the coach had no personal experience. He had no advice, no solutions and no confidence that he could ‘help’.
And then the training kicked in…
He realised that he didn’t have to provide a solution. He just needed to provide a process to help his client organise their own thinking and find their own solution. In that moment – to me – he became a Brilliant Coach.
When you hear the word routine do you feel your heart sink a bit? Lots of people hate routine. They think it’s boring, dull and do whatever they can to escape it.
But today I’m going to talk to you in praise of routine…
When a person reacts with extreme and debilitating fear to a harmless experience or entity, we say they have a phobia. Common phobias include fear of spiders, heights, lifts, snakes, flying and enclosed spaces. Less common – but no less real for the sufferers – are the phobias about clowns, buttons, flowers or food.
Neurologically, a phobia is a link between a specific stimulus – usually the sight of the thing that is feared – and the fear response. Psychologically, a phobia is an example of ‘one-trial’ learning. This means that the phobia sufferer has learned from one significant experience a lesson they have never forgotten and indeed cannot control.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who had phobias and it’s clear that phobias are debilitating to the sufferer in many ways:
- It’s horrible to be afraid of something to such an extent that you can’t move, can’t speak and definitely can’t deal with the problem. For example, the person standing on the sofa for an hour because there’s a spider on the rug.
- It’s embarrassing to have such an extreme response to something you know is not actually harmful. Many people with phobias experience more stress because they feel silly for having the problem. For example, the person who dropped to all fours in front of colleagues in a glass lift, had to crawl out of the lift at the top floor and then attempt to participate in a business meeting.
- The phobic response can be triggered by talking about the thing you fear or seeing a picture of it. Thinking about it can bring on the phobic response and make it hard to concentrate on other things. For example, the person who ran away from a piece of paper on which the word ‘snake’ was written.
- It takes up a lot of mental energy. If you have a phobia you’re constantly on the alert for the thing you fear. It’s like a background programme that runs all the time, checking the environment and future plans. For example the person who had to have the door open and had to sit where they could see out of the room and constantly checked their escape route.
- It takes up physical energy. The fear is connected to the ‘fight or flight’ response and generates adrenaline. Your heart rate goes up, your digestive organs churn and you want to run, but you have to suppress it all and try to act normal. It’s exhausting! This could be the person who has a phobia of flying and has to travel for business – with their boss or senior colleagues.
- It can lead to you avoiding situations where there might be a possibility of your phobia being triggered. This can mean turning down invitations or limiting your social life in order to avoid all possibility of the phobia being triggered.
- In extreme cases it leads to anxiety and depression.
Because phobias are irrational, people are often reluctant to talk about them and therefore don’t get the help and support they need.
Because phobias are irrational, well-meaning friends and family often fall into the trap of thinking that if they keep pointing this out to the sufferer, they will be able to ‘get over it’. This is another reason why people tend not to talk about their phobias – they KNOW they’re being irrational but they can’t control the fear response.
Some decades ago when did my degree in Psychology, the accepted treatment for phobias was Desensitisation Therapy. The theory was that if you exposed the phobic person to the very smallest experience of the thing that triggered their phobia and taught them how to relax around it, you could gradually work up to the full experience and they’d be able to cope. So, for example, someone with a phobia about spiders would perhaps be shown a very small picture of spider a very long way away. When they were able to experience that with no fear, the picture would be brought closer. Eventually, a larger picture might be used and so on until a very tiny actual spider would be introduced.
The challenge with this approach is that it takes a long time. It could mean up to two years of weekly appointments.
Lots of people have heard of this process and the very idea of the treatment involving the thing they’re afraid of put them off seeking help. In fact, it’s a mark of the irrational nature of phobias that most people prefer to live with their phobia than get help for it. The ‘reason’ being that they’re so afraid of the thing they’re afraid of, they’re also afraid that if they weren’t afraid of it any more they’d get hurt.
I said it was irrational!
So what can we do about phobias? There is an NLP approach to phobias that starts from the position that the phobia is a demonstration of your brain’s extraordinary ability to learn.
As a result of one experience, you have learned that this thing is to be feared. You react accordingly, without any effort or prompting. You always react this way. You never forget to do it. What an amazing ability you have.
Then, we move on to acknowledge that the thing you have learned is not actually useful. The fact that you can learn so well is great, this particular lesson is not. Fortunately, it can be unlearned. It’s a simple (when you know how) matter of breaking the neurological connection between the trigger and the response.
It doesn’t require the presence of the thing you fear. It doesn’t even require you think about it for more than a few moments.
The whole process takes – on average – about 40 minutes. I think this represents a giant leap forward in Psychology. It certainly has been for the many people who have taken the NLP approach to phobias.
I’m not going to explain the whole process here. It’s available on-line, but I wouldn’t recommend attempting it unless you’re a Practitioner of NLP. Please encourage people you know to seek help for their phobias. It’s very clear to me that getting rid of a phobia response can be truly life-enhancing. Even if you have to travel to see an NLP Practitioner, it’s probably not going to be more than a day out of your life, but it will make the rest of your life much less stressful.
Finally, if you’re wondering why I’ve chosen this topic for my mainly business-oriented readership, it’s simple. There are more people than you realise who have phobias. I have a client who moved their offices from a three-storey building to three floors near the top of a thirty-story building. HR was overwhelmed with people who were scared to go in the lifts, sit by the windows or even admire the view. If they hadn’t been able to offer appropriate help to all these people, they probably would have lost valuable employees. Don’t let something similar happen to you.
When we did a survey of subscribers to our mailng list and asked people about some of the challenges they face at work, one of the things that lots of people identified as being a challenge for them was the business of ‘influencing upwards’. In other words, getting your boss, or other senior sponsors, to do what you want them to do, or think is the right thing to do.
Coaching works. No doubt about it. The quality conversations between a person and their coach can lead to massive increases in performance, to hugely enhanced confidence and skills or to the resolution of long-standing problems. It’s worth the time and money to get these types of results.
But who should coach your people? An external professional operating under a contract? You as their line manager? Or maybe an internal coach from another department in the company?
Inevitably, there are pros and cons in each case. Here are my thoughts:
The External Coach
The benefit of an external coach is that they are completely removed from the politics and culture of your workplace. They have a neutral standpoint on all of that and so they’re free to be a supporter of the person they’re coaching and help them achieve their goals, regardless of their colleagues. An external coach will almost certainly have skills and material that is different from anyone in your company, and there will be benefits from a different approach.
With an external coach, the work will probably have to be scheduled well in advance and be mainly confined to formal sessions. Some coaches offer ad hoc support as well, or other methods of maintaining an ongoing presence.
The downside of an external coach is that they are completely removed from the politics and culture of your workplace! They won’t have the day-to-day familiarity with the personalities and the pressures people face and it may take them a while to fully understand what it’s like to work for your company. Also, they’ll have to be paid. So you either need a budget of your own or a sponsor who will authorise the expenditure.
The Internal Coach
The benefit of an internal coach – someone who works for your company and has coaching skills – is that they understand the environment. They know the people and the systems and won’t need any time to get familiar with the situation. They can get straight to work on the person’s goals. Internal coaches often come free, which is a huge benefit if someone wants or needs an ongoing coaching relationship.
The downside of the internal coach is that they know the people and the culture! They may struggle in the same way everyone else does to envisage any completely different ways of working or of tackling problems. There’s also the perceived risk to confidentiality. A line manager may feel slightly uncomfortable about another manager knowing about problems in their team. For the person being coached, they may worry that something they disclose could prejudice their career prospects in the future. Whether there is a real risk or not, the concern can hamper the coaching relationship.
The Line Manager
The benefit of the line manager as a coach is that coaching doesn’t have to be formal. It can be scheduled in advance and kept to ‘official’ sessions or it can be part of the daily operation of the team and be undertaken exactly where and when it’s needed. Who knows better than their line manager what pressure someone is facing? Who has more invested in their success? For a line manager who has the coaching skills, their own team must surely be their priority?
Of course, there is a downside. Sometimes when someone is struggling to achieve their goals, their boss may be part of the problem. While, in an ideal world, we’d love to say that people should be able to discuss such problems with their boss, we also know that’s often not the case. Furthermore, if all that’s on offer is coaching with the boss, a person may forego the opportunity for coaching altogether rather than run the risk of getting into a tricky conversation.
So what’s the answer?
Predictably, it depends…
It depends on what the focus of the coaching is going to be. It depends on the scale of the investment needed. It depends on the skills of the available coaches.
In an ideal world I’d suggest that line managers should be adopting a coaching style of conversation regularly. Line managers should also be available for more formal sessions as needed. I also think there is merit in offering the opportunity for coaching with an alternative coach as part of the routine.
Should you coach your own team? Yes, absolutely, I believe you should.
Should you be their only coach? No, definitely not.
What do you think?
When we talk about NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming – most people are quite happy that they understand that the “Neuro” bit means it’s to do with the brain and the nervous system. “Linguistic” obviously means it’s to do with language; and the ‘Programming” is about habits and changing habits.
So when we talk about linguistic skills, I think a lot of people assume they know what that means. But if you come back to it and say: “What are we actually talking about here?” It’s not just about the use of words.
You see… most people think they’re good at communicating…..
What does it look like when someone really takes on the NLP Presupposition of ‘The Map is not the Territory’? Find out how adopting this filter can reduce your daily stresses…