Many people talk about the fraudulent use of therapies such as NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and a simple Google search for NLP will reveal there is quite a backlash against it. But why? Is NLP a useful tool in therapy, business and learning or is it a complete fraud and of no scientific use at all?
Let’s discuss shall we.
Now, first things first – and to put my discussion in context – yes I am an NLP Master Practitioner, however I also have a Master’s Degree in Business so I’m well used to the reductionist model of breaking everything down to measurable, repeatable and finite levels and the rigours of testing for scientific proof.
One of the main arguments against NLP is the fact that many of the techniques have no scientific proof, for example:
- Eye patterns and their link to the representational systems of Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic and Internal Self talk (Auditory Digital). Many studies have failed to find any empirical link between eye patterns and representational systems, including Beale (1981), Poffel and Cross (1985) & Cody (1983)
- The link between the words and the representational system of the speaker. Again studies have failed to find any empirical link between what people say and the way they represent the world, including Faulkender (1985) and Lange (1981).
I could go on… but you get my point!
NLP Where’s The Evidence?
So how come NLP is so popular with seemingly little scientific evidence?
The reason (in my opinion) is the paradigm in which we live. We live in the paradigm of scientific reductionism, we want to reduce EVERYTHING around us to a set of scientific and repeatable experiments. And if you are thinking ‘Yeh, that’s right, that’s the only way’ then you are probably thinking that because you live in this paradigm too!
However, what this approach fails to do is to understand the reasoning behind NLP plus, and here’s the big one… they are researching the wrong thing!
NLP is not really interested in why things work… all it wants to do is to understand how the client does something and then fix it.
One way that NLP is used is in performance enhancement and success management in life and business. Now, one can look at this claim (that NLP helps in success) and decide to break it down for research, we could choose to research many things such as:
- What is the link between NLP mental rehearsal visualisation and success. What is the process and is it scientifically verified?
- When an NLP practitioner uses Strategies, do these exist, are they repeatable and scientific?
- If a practitioner elicits a clients Values, can they really be re-sequenced and is the entire process repeatable and empirically verifiable?
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever bought a car, and then noticed that there are actually loads of other cars on the road that are the same make and colour as yours? Yep, I thought so! Why did this happen? Can it be broken down in to scientific steps? Do you care, or is the fact that this phenomenon works all that really matters – proving why it works is not really especially useful – interesting perhaps, but even if we can’t prove why it works the phenomenon still exists all the same.
NLP is the same. If a client is asked to focus on what they want, by using visualisation techniques – does it matter that it can’t be researched and proved? Or is the fact that the client is now able to go out and spot opportunities that were always there but missed before the really important thing? Much like the car, bringing it in to your awareness, no matter how this happened is what’s important… so it’s the result that validates the process, not the ability to scientifically prove it.
The same goes with values. Whether or not we can prove that we can move values around e.g. to make ‘money’ more important is irrelevant. What matters is that when we go through the process the client is more focused on ‘money’ or ‘fun’ or ‘love’ (or what ever other value has been moved) and so does more in their life to attain more of this.
For me the proof is in the pudding, using NLP with clients and on myself has proved massively valuable in helping us achieve success and other things in life. We’re able to spot opportunities to be happy, be successful or anything else that otherwise we would have missed. We’re able to understand another persons point of view and avoid arguments better, we’re able to negotiate better and we can now see a clear focus of what we are trying to achieve in life and business and can identify the paths we need to take to achieve it.
In these examples, NLP has absolutely worked and continues to work – why, or how, or can we prove it? Can we verify how we moved our values, can we verify how we have changed a strategy or the process for removing a limiting belief… Who cares, so long as the practitioner is able to assist the client in getting results then that’s all that really matters!
NLP is more than just a series of techniques, it’s an attitude of continual learning, creativity and of the use of mind’s natural ability to do amazing things… whether it can be studied or not!