Is There A Coaching Model Or Template In NLP?

Coaching

Coaching is a popular application for NLP patterns. The intention is to assist a client to solve one or more problems, create and discover outcomes for themselves and to provide processes whereby the client can organise their thoughts and experience to achieve their outcomes. This requires the coach to gather useful information without being drawn into stories or content, to marshall that information using their pattern detection skills and choose questions and process instructions to provide the necessary guidance to the client, all while observing non-verbal communication and listening for language patterns and speech patterns.

Coaching includes some similarities to participating in training exercises, all of which provide a context for developing skills and familiarity with NLP principles as well as processes. These include information gathering, sensory observation and calibration of an exercise partner and the capacity to ask pertinent questions and guide someone through a process. Coaching also requires additional skills and knowledge, related to framing and managing the coaching process and choosing the questions and interventions they offer to fit each client’s responses based on the patterns the client exhibits and or appears to be missing. Coaches also have to manage themselves and their context to ensure that their clients can maintain productive and resourceful states to make their changes.

A coaching session needs a framework in which to operate. While NLP does not espouse a formal model for coaching, it does include processes which lend themselves to that function. The most basic is the Present State compared with Desired State model. In this model, we seek to discover the client’s perception of their present state and their outcome or what they want instead. We can probably assume that if a client has a present state and wants a desired state, they are experiencing something preventing them from making that change by themselves. That something may become the subject of the coaching session. Minimally, it provides the starting point for gathering more information to flesh out the thinking and behaviour patterns the client has been using and the patterns they could use to greater effect.

While there is no direct mention of outcomes or intentions for outcomes, a competent coach will be aware that having a client discover an intention for wanting their outcome widens the scope for creating a satisfying and functional change that fits the client’s values and contexts. However, it is not necessarily common knowledge that change interventions are more effective if made in a larger frame (that contains one or more solutions), than the problem’s own frame (which does not contain solutions). Less experienced coaches will probably appreciate a coaching model that provides more guidance and reminds them to investigate intentions, evidence for outcomes and ecology (evidence that the changes proposed and made will be beneficial to the client and not disrupt anything in their greater system that matters to them). These concepts are instilled in a good NLP training, but may take time to become second nature.

The Outcome, Intention and Consequence process used with well formedness conditions from the Well-Formed Outcome provides a complete framework for running a single coaching session or a planned series of sessions. It can be used to create a coaching needs analysis, a proposal, a coaching contract and a coaching frame or model. The Present State – Desired State model provides enough framing to get started and then relies on the coach having sufficient expertise to ask penetrating process questions and identify and track multiple patterns simultaneously. A fully articulated outcome model provides the less experienced coach with a complete set of prompts to get them going and guide them through the coaching process, provided they have the necessary skills to be coaching in the first place.

Coaching Models: An Outcome Oriented Model

  1. Establish an Outcome
  2. Establish the intention for the outcome
  3. Establish evidence for the outcome
  4. Identify resources to achieve the outcome
  5. Check that the outcome is under the client’s aegis, (by the client and for the client)
  6. Check the consequences (costs and benefits) of getting the outcome are acceptable
  7. Check the consequences of having and maintaining the outcome are acceptable
  8. Check that the client wants that outcome and in a timely manner

1. Outcome

Establish one or more outcomes with the client and if there are several, discover if they are related or examples of something more general that might itself respond to an intervention.

2. Intentions

Identify an intention for an outcome to pursue this session. An intention, by nature provides a larger scope in which to work, thereby providing the client with more choice about what they want and how they express that. Sometimes they will prefer the content of their intention and choose to use that for an outcome.

3. Evidence

Identify sensory based evidence of the client having their outcome. What will they see, hear and feel that lets them know they have achieved their outcome.

4. Resources

Identify resources both to achieve the outcome and to facilitate the client to make the changes they want to achieve the outcome and meet the intention

Identify the present state or limiting factor. Something has been preventing the client from making the change they want or from achieving the outcome they have identified. This is likely to be something the client cannot articulate or even identify without assistance and may become the basis for an intervention.

5. Aegis

Check that the outcomes are by the client, for the client and not for third parties. (If an outcome is for someone else, go to the intention. Pursue higher levels of intention until you find one that is by the client and for the client).

6. Consequences (costs and benefits)

Check for ecology and cost-effectiveness of achieving and having the outcome. NLP change processes work best when the client is congruent about the change they ask for. However they can also work for a limited period if the client is not congruent. It is the coach’s job to ensure that the client considers how their choice fits their values and greater system.

7. Congruency

Review outcome and intention for new present state. Outcomes can evolve in the presence of new information and possibilities. Recycling through the outcome can provide further direction and updating of the client’s choices

8. Time Frame

Check that the client wants that outcome and in a timely manner

Notice that all the above is information gathering. When a coach uses this process to guide their work in a coaching context, they will learn what they need to identify and offer a suitable intervention for that client. Given that the client becomes aware of relevant material via the questioning process itself, the intervention the coach uses will be more in the way of facilitating change that has begun already. Process based information gathering can be all that is needed for some clients to make the changes they wanted.

This model does not specify skill training related matters such as the need for establishing and maintaining rapport with each client nor how and when to make or change the direction of an intervention. It is used here simply as a guide for how to frame one or more coaching sessions. Other business uses have been mentioned in passing, but this model can be used anywhere where the user needs high quality information and verifiable non-verbal delivery of that information.

Found this article useful? Share with your network!

What is NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)?

NLP explores the relationship between how we think (neuro), how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes) (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001).

It is both an epistemology, in that it studies how we know what we know and a methodology for creating practical descriptions of how we function as human beings. The purpose of NLP is to study, describe and transfer models of human excellence. (Modelling).

There are a number of other descriptions of what is NLP. The founders of NLP Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler defined NLP as “the study of the structure of subjective experience” (Dilts et al; 1980). Judith DeLozier and John Grinder (1987) define NLP as “an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world“. We think of NLP as a field that explores “the patterns of organisation of effective human intuition” (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001). Through modelling an expert’s intuitive application of their skill, we can as Neuro-Linguistic Programmers, have those patterns of organisation for ourselves and / or make them available to others. Modelling is the core function of NLP, learning to model (self and others) the core activity of well designed NLP practitioner and NLP master practitioner certification trainings. It is certainly at the core of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The most precise definition is made by John Grinder and is found on the back cover page of our book The NLP Field Guide part 1 (2001). Grinder states “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sports, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP”.

For practical purposes, learning NLP thoroughly will give you an edge when it comes to self management, creative and abstract thinking, communicating with other people in multiple contexts and increasing your skill levels at work and in private life. Specifically, you will sharpen your observation and listening ability and identify patterns in people’s behaviour and language so you can respond to the subtext of their communication. You will learn to communicate more effectively, create descriptions others can understand quickly and ask apposite and penetrating questions that lead their thinking in useful directions. Cut through distractions or make conversation that is well received. Your own thinking will benefit from these skills as you learn to identify the direction you want to take in action and interaction. These benefits only happen to their full extent with live training and class room practice of the full syllabus. If you settle for a short “practitioner” course, the chances are you will be given a sheaf of scripts which limit your ability to use the material creatively and naturally in real life.

References:
Collingwood, Jules., Collingwood, Chris. (2001) The NLP Field Guide; Part 1. A reference manual of Practitioner level patterns. Sydney, Australia: Emergent Publications.

Collingwood, Jules. (2016) Aegis; Patterns for extending your reach in life, work and leisure. Sydney, Australia: Emergent Publications.

DeLozier, Judith., Grinder, John. (1987) Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius. Bonny Doon CA: Grinder, DeLozier and Associates.

Dilts, Robert., Grinder, John., Bandler, Richard., Cameron-Bandler, Leslie., DeLozier, Judith. (1980) Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1; The study of the structure of subjective experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications

Related articles

If you found this article useful share it!,

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE

If you found this piece useful share it with your network!

Mindset and Creating a Compelling Future

There is a relationship between the prerequisite patterns for creating a compelling future and the concept in psychology of a growth mindset.

The previous article introduced a process for creating a compelling future. We considered developing ideas, outcomes and intentions that attracted and engaged our attention. The intention was to identify activities and qualities that would contribute to making the future compelling, enjoyable and rewarding.

Exploring desirable outcomes is predicated on a person holding the belief that such things are not only possible, but possible for that person. One of the most important aspects of creating a compelling future is believing it is possible to have dreams, realise them and change the present circumstances to facilitate progress. This is similar to the idea of a growth mindset, which is gaining traction in the business community courtesy of Carol Dweck, the author and researcher of the concept.

According to Dweck’s findings, a fixed mindset assumes intelligence and talent are innate and probably fixed. Therefore if a person is intelligent and talented, they should be successful, learn easily and make continuous and outstanding progress in life. Any failure can become a matter of shame rather than feedback. Children told they are clever or bright can experience huge pressure to live up to their labels and those who identify as being ordinary or less bright can assume they will never do more than just survive.

Conversely, a growth mindset not only allows for mistakes without shame, after all they are a natural byproduct of learning. It also enables people to consider mistakes as feedback and explore them to find what could work better in future. Without feedback, how would we know to do something different? People can become good at anything, provided they engage, learn, practice and take the time to develop skills. Skills, talent and knowledge are products of time and consistent attention, and available to anyone who chooses to apply themselves.

These are not black and white categories, unless you are operating from a fixed mindset in the moment. Some people identify with being of a fixed or growth mindset, but in reality, most people carry a blend of both characteristics with their associated beliefs according to subject matter. For example, someone who knows they can learn any new software they choose to master, may also believe that learning a musical instrument requires innate talent which they do not have. Some people profess an interest and facility in engaging other people and keep learning new soft skills with alacrity. Yet the same people run in the opposite direction if someone takes the back off a television or opens the bonnet of a car.

As well as holding growth oriented or fixed beliefs about their capacity for learning different subjects, people can hold different beliefs about the same subject, though usually not simultaneously. This simply indicates that people change states, experiencing different takes and even opinions on the same event at different times. It is quite common and is a form of state dependent learning, which relates to remembering specific knowledge when in the context where it was learned or where it is relevant and being used.

What this indicates is that most people carry a blend of fixed and growth mindsets, creating a context where even the most enlightened can identify and change beliefs that limit their capacity to learn. This is despite the common belief in those familiar with fixed and growth mindsets that they “are” one or the other. For anyone operating in a fixed mindset moment, the idea that beliefs are changeable is contentious. In a fixed mindset, truth is black and white, unchanging and may be worth fighting and dying for. In a growth mindset, everything is open to question and even the most expensive mistakes can lead to something worthwhile.  

When it comes to creating a compelling future, it helps to approach the possibilities with a frame that anything is possible, and possible for you. If that it too far fetched, the minimum flexibility of thinking needed to engage you in considering what you want is that change might be possible, even if you suspect it is unlikely. If you are certain you cannot have what you want and it is too unbelievable to contemplate, you will not even discover a dream. That is is a major downside to bringing a fixed mindset to the process. If that is the case for you, start simple. Consider the proposal that any belief can be placed in question. When you do that, you become open to the possibility of finding evidence or support for both or all options.

When you begin exploring your creation, do it with a sense of possibility, not requirement. If you find it is not what you thought it was, change it or create something else. Treat your creation as a work of fiction for as long as that allows you to dream it up. If you were writing a story of someone who wanted a future you cannot dream of, your character can. You can create the context for them to imagine what they want and then make it happen. You are not restricted to rule bound, compliance ridden 21st century conditions. Your story could be set in a steampunk world or modern urban fantasy, sci-fi or outright magic. Whatever it takes to enable the characters to have the experiences you want to create for them. As a minimum, you will have a collection of short stories. Ideally, you will hit on something really attractive to you and grow it.

Check our course Creating a Compelling Future

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

If you found this article useful, please share it!

Creating Compelling Futures

Creating futures that are compelling

Creating compelling futures is a topic of ongoing interest, yet a large number of people operate from the assumption that they have no chance of living the life they want. Others believe they are stuck in an ongoing and unsatisfactory present with no way out short of a miracle, while some can’t wrap their minds around determining what they want in the first place. Creating anything seems to be a chancy business. What is the difference between a creation that succeeds and one that disappears without trace?

Successful entrepreneurs come to our attention when their businesses take off, after they have had an idea, researched and realised it and marketed it in a manner that got the attention and customers they needed to succeed. by the time we know about their endeavours, it looks like a TV chef taking a completed example of a complex dish out of the oven with the words; “Here’s one I prepared earlier”.

Rock musicians who make it seem to appear on the scene fully formed, but with some of them, there are stories of the years of effort, practice and day jobs they lived before the song that first got the public’s attention. For example, that the Rolling Stones were just another London rock group playing the college ball and pub circuit until their first hit made them famous, apparently overnight. That gave them the start to success that continued for decades.

A casual observer might be forgiven for thinking talent, skill, planning and execution has less to do with creating a stellar future than luck, given so many examples of someone breaking into public awareness suddenly and apparently overnight. How does one author’s book make it onto the best seller lists when another, at least as worthwhile, sinks into obscurity? What makes a mediocre teacher wildly popular while a skilled and knowledgeable teacher struggles to survive?

Elite athletes compete for honours that mean a lot to them. The differences in capacity and performance at the very top are reputed to be minimal. The difference we hear about is; “You have to want it more than anyone else does”. This proposes that those who want to be first most, push that little bit more and maintain the desire consistently and for longer than everyone else.

The capacity to do that is predicated on the athlete’s beliefs, their state and how they imagine their future in the short to medium term. They have to believe it is possible and possible for them. They have to generate continuing motivation to train, refine and practice their skills to peak at the right time. They have to produce the quality of attention that will enable them to train effectively over time and perform at their best on the day and the next and the one after that.

Cathy Freeman and Elon Musk are household names. They both rose to prominence for having ideas, dreams, the ability to engage appropriate skilled help and unwavering belief in themselves and their capacity to realise their creations. The biggest difference between them is not subject matter, gender or intellect. It is that Elon Musk always has a dream beyond the current project and Cathy Freeman had nothing in place to motivate her beyond the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

According to the publicity, Elon Musk’s dream beyond the dream is to create a colony on Mars. Earlier iterations include building the transport and infrastructure to take people to Mars safely and enable them to stay there long enough to make a permanent habitat and renewable resources. He wants to create a back up for humans in case Earth becomes uninhabitable.

“I think the most important thing is to create a self-sustaining city on Mars, That’s, I think, the critical thing for maximising the life of humanity; how long will our civilization last.”
– Elon Musk

Musk’s current endeavours include Tesla, making fast, responsive, long range luxury electric cars and battery packs for storing electricity, Spacex, which manufactures and deploys cost effective rockets for commercial applications, Sun City solar energy and now the Boring Company for making tunnels deep underground for transporting vehicles. All of these align with Musk’s desire to increase sustainable resource use and infrastructure on earth as well as contributing to the likelihood of his Mars project. No doubt, as the Mars project becomes closer, Musk will extend his dream beyond the dream.

For Cathy Freeman, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games represented the pinnacle of her ambition as a runner. It took place in front of her home crowd, she was at the top of her game and there was nowhere more important to race after that. Training and preparation took up all her attention for several years and somehow, what would happen next or later was overlooked. In a runner’s career, there is always another event to prepare for. Until they retire from racing, the future is handled. At the Sydney Olympics, Freeman won gold and was given additional honours. She was picked to carry the flag in the opening and closing parades and to light the stadium Olympic Flame. Then nothing.

How to create a compelling future

Creating a compelling future is a process and it starts with discovering or determining what you want in your future. It is important to be willing to consider any options that really attract you, even if you think they are impossible for you at this time. The turn on factor is vital. You do not want to pursue something that leaves you cold, however worthy. 

If you know what you want, you are ready to consider what you want it for. This is something people often leave out. Yet the intention for having what you want can increase the compelling nature of the desire. It also opens up more paths to achievement. If you don’t know what you want, “I wish I could be, do or have something” may be a useful starting point. Even if the wish is not that good on closer inspection, there is an intention for having it. That intention is probably worth having in its own right and the intention for something with a turn on factor will also have one. Another starting point is; “If I had this resource, I would be able to have that experience”.

As an example, let us consider financial independence. This will involve different sums of money for different people, but it works as a concept. Financial independence can provide peace of mind, a sense of security, freedom, choice and access to a range of experiences without reference to anyone else. Do you want your own house, or a new car or a boat? Would you like to retire from work with a comfortable income stream? Would you like to travel for extended periods in comfort? If you had any or all of these, what would that do for you? What other experiences would open up through having financial independence?

Do you immediately discover objections to achieving financial independence? What if you believe on reasonable historical grounds that your earning capacity is not up to it? What if your normal way of creating income is being eroded through structural changes in the economy? What if you have fallen foul of government intervention that wrecked your prospects? This is where discovering the intention for having what you want can be valuable.

Back to the example; if financial independence initially seems too hard, go to the intention. Let us say you want financial independence to experience freedom in your life. If you believe you can only have freedom through financial independence, that will dictate your next move. However, if you are aware that freedom is a sense that comes from within, that is not predicated on external circumstances, you can approach it through this class of exploration. At this point, you can argue that if you continue to live life as it is currently, and you have not been experiencing a sense of freedom, then to experience a sense of freedom in your current context would be delusional or require resources which would take years of self discipline to obtain. Not so; it requires access to internal resources of which you are not aware yet, combined with the capacity to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes.

The intention for exploring financial independence and freedom as above is to flush out some common, very plausible limiting beliefs that stop some people from even considering the possibility. In the Classic Code of NLP, the obvious next step would be to change the beliefs directly. This is not a good idea. What we do is create an experience as if you had financial independence. You can explore your outcome as if you were there for real, standing in it with the context unfolding around you, life size in all senses. The experience is; “This is what it is like to live financial independence”. From this you can refine it, discover longer term benefits and any costs you might have overlooked and find your own intention for having it.

The exploration process is called, “Outcome, Intention and Consequences” and it enables people to discover what they really want, to have a living experience of it and then to explore the intention for having the outcome. You can repeat the process with higher levels of intention to discover a broad, overarching intention that will support all the lower levels. Then, when you return to a practical outcome, which may be different from the original outcome, you will have something you can plan, believe in and find very attractive. This is the first stage of creating a compelling future.

Check our course Creating a Compelling Future

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

If you found this article useful, please share it!

Coaching for Personal or Work Place Change; A process Approach

About Coaching

Coaching takes place when one person uses their expertise to assist another person to improve their performance, learn something of value and, or make changes in their thinking and behaviour that translate into a better quality of life, work, sport or interest. The term “coaching” can be used to refer to subject matter expertise, as in swimming coach or maths coach. It can also be used to mean someone who works with individuals and small groups to assist them become more able, resilient, and in tune with their lives.

“The term “coaching” can be used to refer to subject matter expertise”

In the world of personal change, there is a continuum, with psychotherapy and psychology at the most serious end, some dealing with severe mental health issues as well as less debilitating situations. These people normally have graduate or post-graduate training in their fields and rely mostly on research and evidence based skills for their therapeutic intervention tools.

In the middle is a range of therapists and coaches working with moderate to lighter issues, some of whom work to enhance functional situations as well as solving problems. Their training can range from a blend of informal non-accredited programs leading to membership of private, non-accredited professional style bodies, up to rigorous, post-graduate qualifications. Life coaches operate at the least debilitating end of the range of clients and may only have three or four weeks training or a Certificate IV qualification.

If you consider consider consulting a coach to help you solve a problem or create a future outcome, there is a wide range of offerings available. Currently, coaching is similar to the Wild West: It is unregulated, freely available, priced from a few dollars per session to thousands. Each coach has a different idea of what questions and problems are appropriate for coaching.

The questions you might have for a prospective coach are of course subjective, but the level of qualification they hold, as opposed to non-accredited training, is likely to indicate the potential quality of their work. It is also important to discover if they intend to put you through a specific program, regardless of what you present, or if they expect to tailor what they are doing to fit your responses as the session or set of sessions progresses.

You might be interested in how long a coach has been in practice and if they get good results with their clients, but do not rely on client testimonials. Many clients prefer a confidential service and giving a testimonial might not be in their interest, so an absence of testimonials cannot be equated with incompetence. Equally, a flood of testimonials does not mean you have found someone who does lasting, high quality work. You may be able to ask your prospective coach if you can talk to a client to get a reference. That is different from testimonials and can often be arranged.

The form of coaching we teach at Inspiritive in the Graduate Certificate in NLP and apply in our private practice uses patterns of thinking, communication and behaviour to offer change to clients. We attend to clients’ current patterns of thinking, communication and behaviour and work with them to provide more functional options for them to create what they want. In our opinion, coaching does not offer advice. It guides clients to learn different ideas and new perspectives so they can access the internal and external resources they need to make their own choices and decisions according to their own values.

To give an idea of how process based coaching functions, here are some frames to consider.

When a new client comes for coaching, there is information we need and there is information that many clients imagine we want, but which, for us, simply offers more detail than is useful. If a client has consulted a coach, psychologist or therapist before, or read about therapy sessions, they may assume we want to know the entire background history that led them to their present situation. Some people hold the view that the telling of their story is beneficial to them and some want to make sure we know everything possible so that we can work with them.

This is not the case with process coaching. It saves time and creates a direction to explain how we can be most useful to a client right at the start of the first session. We can tell a new client that the most effective way to work with them is for us to ask specific questions and for them to respond to those questions. Some of the questions may seem unusual and we may not ask the questions the client might expect. This is because we are working with how the client responds to their situation, not the situation itself.  

We are here to identify clients’ outcomes and change limiting patterns of thinking so that the client can learn what they need to achieve their outcomes. This is different from talking about problematic events in depth. We use the clients’ own language and thinking patterns to teach them generative skills. This enables them to become independent,  self directed people who make satisfying choices and create their own lives. To do this, we need the freedom to ask unusual questions that lead clients to think differently about their situation, often without their having to tell us what that situation is.

Coaches do not have the legal privilege of confidentiality that psychologists enjoy and even psychologists are required to report admissions of illegal activity by their clients. Our approach can offer an effective substitute for privacy. Process coaching can be entirely confidential, because we do not need to know where, when or with whom specifically, an event took place. Nor do we need to know what the event was, just the client’s internal response to it. For example, a client may say; “I have a situation at work with a senior person. It recurs roughly every week. When the senior person uses a particular voice tone or has a particular expression on their face, I feel as if I were six years old and about to be reprimanded and I don’t like it”.

A description like this tells us everything we need to begin the session and nothing to identify the kind of work, the workplace or the senior person. It provides a wonderful opening statement for change to unfold as we ask additional questions. Most new clients are not that succinct naturally, but with clear instruction and assurance that this is the quality of information we want, they discover that we can work fast and effectively and without exposing them to unpleasant memories.

A coaching session is conducted within the frame of a well formed outcome. The well formed outcome is a set markers that define and elaborate an outcome to the point of taking action if it works out, or changing it to something else that does a similar job if it fails the tests. In coaching, the coach’s outcome is to assist each client to get the best quality outcome in terms of the client’s values and choice.

“A coaching session is conducted within the frame of a well formed outcome”

The stages of a Well Formed Outcome

  • Establish what the client wants; this is an outcome
  • Establish the evidence they would see, hear, feel that proves to them that the outcome has been achieved
  • Establish what they want the outcome for, or what they want the outcome to do or provide for them; this is the intention for having the outcome
  • Establish that the outcome is physically possible to achieve
  • Identify the resources, internal and external, required for obtaining the outcome
  • Identify the costs and benefits associated with obtaining the outcome
  • Identify the consequences of having and keeping the outcome
  • Identify the appropriate time frame for achieving the outcome

In terms of a coaching session, a client is presumed to have a problem, a question or an outcome that they want to pursue with the assistance of a coach. Either way, there is a difference between their present state or situation and their desired state, or outcome.

The coach’s function is to assist the client to identify and clarify their own outcome and identify what has been preventing the client from having their outcome. Then the coach will lead the client to make changes that are consistent with the client’s values and the client meeting their outcome and intention, or having a result they find more generative and that supersedes their original outcome. With process coaching, the coach’s function is to facilitate the client’s process and the client’s choices at all times. Advice is not offered and is not part of the coach’s responsibility. This is important to remember, especially if a client seeks advice.

The beginning of a session is for introductions, describing the flow and the process and determining the present state and outcome. This sets the stage for discovering what has prevented the client from having their outcome and how to approach proposed changes. The coach will ask specific questions to gather enough sensory specific information to identify the present or problem state without going into it in detail and to develop an outcome that fits the client’s needs and wishes. The skill is in identifying the non-verbal, sensory specific elements in the client’s experience that have been making it difficult for the client to pursue their outcome successfully.

With this approach, it is rare to take a complete NLP process and use it from beginning to end. The use of process questions and directed information gathering enables a coach to keep pace with the client’s process and direct their attention while accommodating and guiding the client’s own patterns. The coach directs the process by attending to non-verbal shifts and language patterns in the client’s responses, while the client applies the coach’s questions to the content of their situation without having to say anything identifiable.

Most of the change work takes place by way of information gathering. Clients become aware of subtle signals in their experience and beliefs that have been deeply presupposed that have been directing their attention and behaviour away from their outcome. As they learn how their own process has been functioning and bring additional resources into their attention, their experience changes. In addition, there is the option of using all or parts of formal interventions in combination to facilitate clients’ changes.

This form of coaching is applicable to resolving problematic situations and generative outcomes. It works equally well with long standing and recently manifesting issues in  personal, sporting, business and workplace matters and relationships. All interventions are tailored to the client, their values and their preferences and are aligned with each client’s life and working contexts to preserve and enhance their ongoing experience.

All change work is done with the client, for the client and towards furthering the client’s outcomes. Clients are made aware that a coach cannot change them directly. It is the client who makes their changes, with guidance from the coach. Also, neither coaches nor clients nor parents nor bosses can force the other people in their lives to change. It is a fact of life that we cannot change another person. Leverage involves inducements and pressure, but even then, the subject of the inducement or sanction has to find it meaningful to them, or they will not comply. In coaching, we are dealing with freely chosen change in service to an equally freely chosen outcome.

“All change work is done with the client, for the client and towards furthering the client’s outcomes”

Where a client’s problem is apparently created by someone else, the client may start the session with certainty that someone else needs to change. However, interactions and relationships are systemic. This means that when a client changes their own state so they become comfortable and able when they are with a problematic person, the client’s presentation is different. Therefore the other person is bound to respond differently and sometimes it appears as if that person has changed. The base line outcome for a client who feels disadvantaged or unsafe when they are with a problematic person, is for the client to become naturally competent, comfortable and able in themselves, with a sense of choice; plus whatever additional outcomes and intentions they may have for themselves in those contexts. This is possible, however unlikely it may appear initially, provided the client is willing to trust that the coach is competent.  

Process coaching is made safe for clients by the frames that govern it. The absence of identifiable history and disclosure protects clients’ privacy. The absence of advice protects clients’ right to choose and decide for themselves and the coaching process is pure process. Questions and instructions are given to enable clients to attend to their own situations differently from their normal ways of thinking, to help them identify and apply resources and ideas that they would not have found by themselves. Every coach appreciates a client who is willing to learn to do something different in the privacy of their own mind. When a client is willing to explore their own process with a well trained coach, the results can be impressive.

Learning: unconscious uptake or conscious effort.

Unconscious uptake and hypnotic trances

Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance. Whereas most trances take a person’s attention inwards, modelling specifically requires the modeller’s attention to be external, so they can see, hear and feel everything unfolding in front of them and take it in directly. While not a hypnotic trance, this state is sometimes called an uptime trance, denoting full sensory attention to the outside world. External attention only uses sensory input through eyes, ears and body. Ideally there is no internal dialogue; minimally, internal dialogue is reduced to the best of your ability. There is no use of internal imagery or sound either. One of the most effective ways to reduce learning is to make internal images, sounds and dialogue during a presentation or lecture. Internal representations use up the input channels at the very time they need to be clear for input and the quality of learning is enhanced if they are kept to a minimum during the class. Understanding can be sought later, in private, over suitable course materials. , 

“Learning by modelling or unconscious uptake as described is different from a hypnotic trance”

Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP. It facilitates natural acquisition of the patterns with the ability to use them to respond to others with appropriate questions and instructions. There is no requirement outside the classroom to adhere to a complete process if other patterns fit the conversation and context more closely. In the classroom, learning complete change processes has several functions. A complete process can be used like training wheels on a bicycle. It provides a framework to carry a subset of NLP patterns to which students need to be exposed. It provides an opportunity to work with others with sufficient constraints to allow students to practice the new piece with previously learned patterns, such as rapport, sensory acuity and calibration.

  • Rapport is the willing engagement of the other’s unconscious attention.
  • Sensory acuity is observation and listening for language patterns and non-verbal responses without attributing meaning.
  • Calibration is observation of patterns previously seen and heard in that individual and known to be associated with particular states and response potential for that person.

Unconscious uptake enables students to engage with patterns in different combinations as the course progresses, so they build up schemata or representations of increasing complexity as the course progresses. This creates a collection of known patterns which can be mixed and matched by the unconscious to suit different conversations and contexts and becomes more accessible with practice. In due course, the student acquires conscious understanding, often some time later.

“Unconscious uptake is the kind of learning we advocate for becoming expert in the use and application of NLP”

It takes trust in the trainers and the training organisation for students to be willing to engage in unconscious uptake. It often feels unfamiliar and does not provide immediate conscious feedback that one has acquired knowledge. To reduce the level of discomfort commonly associated with uncertainty before students discover that unconscious uptake is extremely effective, we provide them with the opportunity to discover that it works with minimal risk.

We advise prospective students to research carefully before enrolling, to assure themselves that we know what we are doing. In line with government policy, if they are not finding class useful, we allow anyone who wants to withdraw to do so before the second day of their next unit. We also provide students with reading material to which they can refer after learning a particular piece. Students who have completed a unit of study satisfactorily are invited to repeat that unit for a nominal fee at any time during the next two years if they want to review it. These measures are all designed to give students the assurance that they can take the time they need to familiarise themselves with unconscious input so they can give their full attention to learning. Then they can develop trust within themselves to learn that way. We also offer them reliable material to help facilitate conscious understanding after their experience, should they so wish.

Yet in this world full of diversity, (which makes it interesting) many people have been taught that conscious, deliberate learning and wanting immediate understanding is the right way to learn. The most extreme examples insist on taking notes, talking to themselves and visualising during presentations. They may ask very precise, literal questions that take their attention away from the patterns unfolding in front of them. By their very activity, they make a great effort, engage their conscious resources and miss the frames and patterns that make a new process memorable, effortlessly functional and ecological to use.

Ecology is preserving the client or subject’s long term wellbeing with reference to the contexts of their lives, relationships and circumstances which could be impacted by their outcomes with an exercise or change process.

People who espouse conscious mind learning, especially if they get results from it, say they are not learning if they are not taking notes and if they cannot have exercise instructions to read. They become agitated and naturally subject themselves to loud internal dialogue and intrusive internal images as they imagine wasting their opportunity and not learning. This response is precisely what stops them learning. If they can stay the course and attend externally, eventually they, too, discover that unconscious uptake works well in the context of NLP. It just takes a little longer at the beginning. Otherwise, these are people who leave training with a collection of notes and recipes and a limited capacity to work with NLP in their lives.

Conscious mind learning is used by the majority of people who have experienced formal education and it is the culturally accepted norm. Therefore it is not surprising that much of the material modelled by Bandler and Grinder has been written up in the form of techniques and scripts. When students attend exclusively and consciously to verbal instructions and specific comments and questions, the demonstrated piece is taken down verbatim and used in the exercise with the exact words in the same order as they were offered in the demonstration. When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created. The format becomes the standard for general use. No one remembers it expressed patterns for a specific interaction and is not a complete model ready for generalisation.

“When the words survive and the non-verbal elements in the communication are missed, a format is created”

A prime example of an over specified NLP process for creating change is the Swish. It is variously described as a method or a technique and is normally presented as a recipe to be memorised or as a script to be read.

If you enjoyed this piece share it with your friends!

NLP change processes; What you need to know

NLP change processes; technique or pattern?

Many practitioners focus on the acquisition and use of NLP techniques as examples of NLP change processes without an understanding and appreciation of the difference between a technique and a pattern. First we need to define NLP.

Bandler & Grinder’s Definition of NLP

Richard Bandler once defined NLP as “…an attitude of insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques…” Bandler, R., DeLozier, J., & Cameron-Bandler, L. (1981). Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Info-Medix.

Bandler, himself, does not use unchanging techniques when working with different people. He asks questions, observes non-verbal responses, listens to verbal and non-verbal responses and uses his body to communicate. He changes what he is doing to fit the other person’s ongoing shifts in behaviour as they unfold in front of him and he uses his own behaviour to facilitate the change. 

One of John Grinder’s definitions reads: “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sport, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP.” – John Grinder (The NLP Field Guide, Collingwood & Collingwood).

Grinder’s definitions of NLP suggest that applying NLP in daily life is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world. Bandler is attending to something similar.

“Applying NLP is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world.”

NLP Change Processes; The Difference Between Patterns & Techniques

When NLP change processes are performed by someone with refined pattern detection and utilisation skills, the consultant works in relationship and response to the responses of the client. Well trained and experienced consultants are not limited to using NLP formats in full, as they appreciate the patterns that frame different parts of a process. Each question or instruction is offered with intent to assist the client to think differently and more productively. Then the client can access, arrange and learn information about their matter, with a view to obtaining systemically satisfactory resolution.

An able NLP consultant’s skills include but are not limited to their sensory acuity, capacity to detect and recognise patterns in themselves and others and their ability to articulate questions, suggestions and requests in terms the other person’s conscious and unconscious minds can appreciate, follow and use. This presupposes that each change work conversation will be unique as the consultant and client communicate with each other and each of their responses is predicated on the previous delivery of the other person.

This approach is quite different from someone repeating a list of questions and instructions they have been told will shift a specific problem. However, Bandler’s choice of the word techniques had an unfortunate effect on the field of NLP training and on the large number of trainers who became comfortable with teaching techniques.

Most people who learn NLP do not have the opportunity to study with Bandler, Grinder, or the small handful of others who teach the patterns of excellence that frame an NLP syllabus.

Therefore the majority of students of NLP learn formatted procedures (techniques). The nature of techniques is such that a technician has learned to perform a particular technique when a specific criterion for using it is apparent. They do it the same way every time, regardless of differences in context, available materials or differing patterns of organisation of the person in front of them.

An NLP technique is a written version of a change process used in the NLP community, which probably came from patterns of excellence modelled or demonstrated by Bandler and or Grinder initially. A change process is an example of one or more patterns in action. The point about patterns is that if you can detect patterns unfolding in front of you, for example in a client’s comments and behaviour, you can respond with functional examples of patterns of excellence that mesh with what you are observing and lead the client’s own process towards a useful conclusion for them. This is personalised change work as opposed to formulaic work.

In its first iteration and certainly before becoming a technique, any change process would have been demonstrated by a practiced NLP trainer or consultant. It would have been that trainer’s expression of a combination of patterns of excellence used on a specific occasion with a particular individual. The change process would have been crafted from patterns of excellence held in the trainer’s neurology, either as a result of extended modelling of someone like Grinder or Bandler, or deriving from in depth training and practice in pattern detection and implementation.

The exact patterns used on any occasion would have been selected unconsciously from first principles. The selection would have been made in light of information gathered from the demonstration subject and the language and behaviour patterns of that specific person in that specific context. There would have been framing and metaphor preceding the change process, to set the scene and engage the subject’s unconscious mind.

Any observers or students would have been expected to model the trainer’s entire presentation, including non-verbal patterns and observations without taking notes, so they would acquire the underpinning unconscious skills and knowledge to work with NLP patterns from first principles.

To have made the shift from modelling and learning first principles into written formats and conventional learning, someone present at such a training program missed the point. They would have ignored the framing that proposed modelling the demonstrator and attended to the exact words only. They would have written the questions and instructions in the change process verbatim and later disseminated that writing as a literal format or technique. Then they passed that version on to others and the others applied it as written. 

A Recommended Way of Learning: Use Your Unconscious Mind

In the education system, people learn by attending consciously to the content of a lecture and taking copious notes. They read relevant material before and after a topic is presented and use conscious attention to engage with the material. If anyone suggested they silence their internal dialogue, open their peripheral vision and soak up the experience directly to the unconscious mind, they would be horrified. They would imagine that leaving a lecture with no notes and little conscious awareness of the material would place them at a severe disadvantage.

Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages. Yet the material is available for application, even though someone learning this way may not be able to find and access it consciously until some time has elapsed. When learning NLP this way, the evidence that learning is happening is in the practical exercises and future experiences when the student hears themselves say something that expresses a pattern learned in class.

“Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages.”

A student described the experience of using unconscious uptake in NLP training very clearly. She said she appreciated the framing and metaphors that carried the patterns without trying to understand them consciously. Then she modelled the demonstration, again without trying to record or understand consciously. When the exercise was given, she had no idea what to do, so she sat with her partner and allowed her unconscious mind to run the exercise. She found that she had all the right questions in a functional order to accommodate her partner’s responses and fulfil the intention for the exercise.

We teach a postgraduate program in NLP accredited within the Australian Qualifications Framework. Find out more about the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

If you enjoyed this piece share it with your friends!