An introductory guide to the New Code of NLP and differences to the original NLP

NLP an Overview

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an exciting new field of endeavour in the Behavioural Sciences. It focuses on detecting critical patterns of human behaviour, including our observable actions in the world, our thinking processes and the organisation of our states of mind.

Patterns are what our lives are made of and consist of any repeating sequence of behaviour that, when the first part of the sequence is observed, the second part of the sequence can be predicted. For instance, before a cat pounces, it crouches down, the ears flatten, and the tail waves. Then it pounces. Because we can predict that the cat is about to pounce by observing the cat crouching, we can say that we have detected a pattern.

“NLP focuses on detecting critical patterns of human behaviour.”

Patterns are everywhere. There are patterns in culture, patterns in organisations, patterns in families, and, of course, individual patterns of behaviour.

By observing these patterns, NLP consultants can then build models of expertise around them to capture and achieve excellence. The concept of a model is the core element or activity of NLP, and the ability to work well with one’s unconscious is a mandatory prerequisite for NLP modelling.

To do this, NLP consultants focus on how highly skilled, exceptional people do what they do. Notice the attention is on how rather than why. The interest is purely in practical processes rather than historical justifications. Being able to detect how people do what they do creates possibilities and powerful leverage for achieving and excelling in personal and professional objectives through modelling.

An NLP model is a representation of an expert’s skill, not a replication or duplication. There are always differences between an expert’s own skill and the resulting model. Just as the map is not the same as the territory it represents, a model of expertise is not the model’s approach to a skill; it is the skill itself [1].

Interestingly and a compelling endorsement of the power of modelling, a model that is fully integrated (embodied) by the end user often produces superior results to those produced by the original expert (who was modelled).

Given this it goes without saying that NLP’s methodology has been so successful and practical that many of its models have been incorporated into management training, coaching, psychotherapy, education, sports performance, and personal development. Indeed, if you have attended a recent management seminar or done some form of personal development, it is highly likely that you have been exposed to a range of NLP techniques.

In summary, NLP is an extremely powerful field of endeavour and can be applied to achieve excellence in both personal and professional life.

Classic Code NLP

Classic Code NLP (as it is now referred to) began in the mid-1970s when Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler began modelling Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt therapy. When they began the project that led to the birth of Classic Code NLP, Grinder was an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Bandler was an under- graduate psychology student.

In the beginning, Bandler approached Grinder with a request to assist him in building an explicit model of the intuitive skills he had in applying Gestalt therapy. Bandler’s ability with Gestalt therapy was unconscious. He could get results with Gestalt but did not have an explicit model of how he achieved them. Grinder modelled Bandler tacitly, while Bandler applied Gestalt therapy.

Tacit modelling involves mimicking the behaviour of a model while in a ‘know nothing’ state until you can reproduce the skill and get the same result as the model in a similar context within a similar timeframe [2].

Grinder used the patterns he had modelled later, making them explicit from his own experience. After this, Grinder and Bandler modelled other patterns from exemplars of human excellence in psychotherapy and published them. They became the first models of NLP [3].

An explicit model comprises the minimum number of patterns necessary and sufficient to reproduce similar outcomes in the same class of context as the exemplar who was modelled [4].

When Grinder and Bandler first joined forces, Bandler had modelled Fritz Perls’ language patterns inadvertently while editing tape transcripts for a book. Bandler found he could get similarly effective results with change clients to those of Perls himself, in contrast to Perls’ alleged observation that his own students’ results fell short. Grinder modelled Bandler implicitly until he could replicate Bandler’s results. When Grinder was able to match Bandler’s performance to the same level and in the same time frame, he moved to the explicit stage of modelling.

To make a model explicit, the modeller has to identify all the patterns of thinking, observation, and execution (behaviour) that contribute to the performance and exclude all the idiosyncratic elements (those elements that, while present, do not contribute to the performance).

Bandler and Grinder then began teaching NLP to the public with the assistance of their early students, and NLP in the classic form has been taught for about 30 years. We now refer to this as Classic Code NLP. As with any field of endeavour, the quality amongst trainers differs markedly depending on who trained them, and over time, a number of flaws have developed in the classic version of NLP’s application and teaching.

Indeed, for some NLP trainers, the practise of training involves taking a recipe book approach where specific examples of previously modelled patterns are taught explicitly. The deployment of any particular pattern is made consciously, with the usual constraints of conscious attention [5].

Concerned about the feedback he was receiving regarding how NLP was being coded, practised, and taught within the NLP community, Grinder responded by working with Judith DeLozier [6] in the first instance and later with Carmen Bostic St. Clair [7] to re-examine and update the Classic Code NLP. He and his partners developed a solution to the most significant problems in Classic Code NLP resulting in what we now call New Code NLP.

New Code NLP

New Code NLP is a reorganisation and recoding of the fundamentals of NLP, and the main difference comes down to emphasis, pure and simple.

Historically, the application of Classic Code NLP was oriented towards the conscious manipulation of internal representations (visual images, sounds, and sensations). There was no formal engagement of the unconscious mind. An outcome was chosen in isolation, and a process implemented to shift from the present state to the desired state.

If the outcome had unfortunate consequences to the person’s lifestyle, family, or social system, it became clearly apparent, but only after the event.

“New Code NLP is a reorganisation and recoding of the fundamentals of NLP.”

Engaging the Unconscious has Benefits

It is useful to engage the unconscious mind when choosing outcomes and resources. The unconscious has access to a greater range of possibilities than the conscious mind. According to cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff, 95% of our thought occurs outside of conscious awareness [8]. The unconscious mind works with patterns in metaphor and can consider multiple time frames, logical levels, and perceptual positions. The unconscious mind has the capacity to imagine future scenarios and include likely consequences. It can deliver intents, solutions, and many other resources to consciousness and carries information from all our experience.

When we engage the unconscious mind in forming outcomes and choosing resources, the ensuing change respects the person’s ecology [9].

“According to linguist George Lakoff 95% of our thought occurs outside conscious awareness.”

In this context, ecology considers the broader scope of possible consequences (benefits and costs) of any action, including change. When we include consequences, we can test resources before the change and ensure the entire well-being of the person and the systems in which they operate. Unfortunate consequences are identified early on before any action is taken so that the process can be altered to fit the needs of the person.

In the early days when Classic Code NLP was developed, there was explicit reference to the unconscious mind but no formal means of engaging with it. This has been rectified in New Code NLP. Indeed, it is an essential element of New Code NLP [10].

Emphasising State Rather Than Behaviour in NLP

New Code NLP attends to a person’s changing state instead of replacing one behaviour directly with a single, different behaviour. A change in state leads to a range of different naturally occuring behaviour. Instead of replacing one behaviour with another in a context, an appropriately framed context can be used to elicit a suitable state, which enables a range of possible appropriate behaviour to manifest. When the state is associated with the context, the client can alter their behaviour spontaneously in response to the conditions they find there.

“New Code NLP attends to a person’s changing state instead of replacing one behaviour directly.”

Change processes with New Code NLP often uses content-free, high-performance states. These can be associated with one or more contexts in cases where a client wants more choice or a specific outcome.

If I wanted to improve my performance when negotiating, one way would be to review a specific example and mentally rehearse an alternative way of behaving. Alternatively, I could use a new code process to develop a ‘content-free’ high-performance state which is then associated (linked) to the context for the negotiation. Having done this, the next time I was in that context, I would discover new behaviours that supported the process of negotiation. Through the high performance state I automatically generate the necessary behavioural resources to improve my performance in each future negotiation situation. Using appropriate states is a creative and generative approach to making productive and effective change

(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 Chris Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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Learn more about NLP by reading our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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[1] By discounting idiosyncratic elements in a model’s expertise, NLP models often produce even higher grades of performance.

[2] A ‘know nothing’ state is also known as a modelling state. It is a state in which analytical skills are put aside temporarily so that the modeller can use their senses to attend to and take up the target skill without imposing prior knowledge or internal dialogue. This approach to modelling is similar to the way we all learned naturally as young children.

[3] See Bandler and Grinder’s The Structure of Magic, Volumes 1 & 2, Patterns of the Hypnotic Technique of Milton H. Erickson, MD., Volumes 1 & 2 (with DeLozier), Frogs into Princes, Trance-formations and Reframing.

[4] See Whispering in the Wind 2002 by Bostic St Clair and John Grinder. See the chapter explicating the criteria for modelling.

[5] Conscious attention at any one moment in time is limited to between 5 and 9 ‘chunks’ of information. See G.A.Miller’s paper “The Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two; Some limits on our capacity for processing information”.

[6] One of the first new code of NLP seminars was DeLozier and Grinder’s Prerequisites to Personal Genius, taught in San Francisco in 1986. The seminar was transcribed and edited into their book Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to personal genius.

[7] See their book Whispering in the Wind (2002), which contains a major section on the New Code. The book examines NLP epistemology in depth and distinguishes between NLP modelling, NLP application and NLP training. This is a seminal book in the field and one of the most important NLP books written in recent years.

[8] See Philosophy in the Flesh; the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Quoting Lakoff and Johnson “The cognitive unconscious is vast and intricately structured. It includes not only our automatic cognitive operations but also all our implicit knowledge. All of our knowledge and beliefs are framed in terms of a conceptual system that resides mostly in the cognitive unconscious p.13″. Recent work in embodied cognition fits nicely with models already developed in NLP, especially in New Code NLP.

[9] The study of the relationships and interactions between living organisms and their natural or developed environment.

[10] In most classic code training reference is made to the unconscious mind via the related field of Ericksonian Hypnosis. When this is the case, methods for engaging the unconscious mind typically involve hypnosis. While the psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson’s work provided many essential patterns to NLP, his particular application has created an erroneous perception that NLP is a therapeutic modality. Thus, most classic trained NLP practitioners can only work with a person’s unconscious mind using hypnotic methods. In the new code, there are formal patterns for engaging unconscious processing without resorting to hypnotic trance. This enables people trained in the new code to apply the benefits of NLP to themselves naturally and independently and to use it in contexts where a hypnotic style would not fit. One of the features of the new code is that it supports self-application of NLP patterning.

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