June 4, 2019

Think about the last time you heard about something and something inside you wanted for you to move on and have nothing further to do with what you encountered. More often than not, a belief of yours has been triggered. Some time ago a series of experiences has led you to form an opinion of something, further evidence (true or constructed) hardened this opinion and a belief was born.

In this article I will share a belief of mine that has held back my development as a coach.

Following the article "What all coaching classes should be like", this is the second post in the series sharing parts of my essays for my postgraduate certificate in personal & business coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester. This section is from the essay titled: "Coaching in practice: The futility of perfectionism as a coach".

NLP in a new light

A half-day with Ms. Kim Morgan, that she kindly dedicated to introducing NLP to us at our request, challenged a stereotype of mine. Over several years during my traditional career I had occasionally heard about NLP and often in the context of negotiation, influencing, and selling. Based on this my stereotype was that NLP is a sophisticated way to manipulate others into doing what one wanted. This goes against my belief system.

The first thing that Ms. Kim Morgan introduced was that people are considered whole and capable, which reminded me of the discipline of Co-Active Coaching's basic premise. “People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole” (Whitworth, Kimsey-House, Kimsey-House, & Sandahl, 2007). That NLP shares this principle surprised me and opened my mind (Bandler, Roberti, & Fitzpatrick, 2013).

My stereotype was triggered again when the fundamental three steps of the NLP meta-model were explained. 1. "Vague, generalised, language keeps us successfully stuck.", 2. "Specific questions puncture vague hypnotised state and engage the Reticular Activating System.", 3. "Bypass conscious resistance to deliver positive messages in patterns which are familiar." (Morgan, 2015). As point three is leveraged by the coach employing NLP as a coaching technique this was matched by my filters as an act of manipulation.

The term of manipulation reminded me of the OK Corral (Stewart & Joines, 1987). When manipulating the client, according to OK Corral, the coach assumes a position of more power than the coachee and thus assumes that they are OK but the coachee is not OK. I was unable to reconcile this conclusion with NLP's supposed premise that the coachee is considered whole. This was also not in alignment with the underlying and very fundamental nature of the coaching relationship in that both coach and coaching client are adults and working through a personal development engagement.

Upon further reflection on the matter I found myself leveraging the OK Corral more, coaching therefore very much falls into the quadrant of "Assertive", with equal power and the state that both coach and coaching client are OK. This by definition is what NLP leverages as its most basic assumption as well. The use of step three in NLP's meta model therefore ought to be based in the Assertive quadrant. As such it is employed with positive intent for the benefit of the client to help them achieve an even better version of themselves. Having had this realisation I am now in a place where I want to actively learn more about NLP and also help to dissolve the stereotype that others may hold.

The efficacy of NLP was obvious to me based on my own experience. Further reflection clarified this for me. My first experience of being coached (2010) helped me embrace for myself the understanding that I wanted to carve my own professional path. Thanks to coaching using NLP approaches I decided to become independently self-employed. A strong driver for this was the realisation that I am driven by personal development, and self-employment would allow me to take control to steer my self-deployment.

Works Cited

Now what?

There is still a stereotype floating around NLP and the name is perhaps not so elegantly chosen and might put some people off. The techniques used though can be quite powerful to help people make progress in their personal development. Some of the techniques are reminiscent of much older ones, first popularised by Maxwell Maltz in his body of work of psycho-cybernetics.

Since my time on the coach training programme with Barefoot I sought to learn more about NLP and at some point made the intention to get trained in NLP (planned to be completed end of 2019). More importantly I have overcome my belief that NLP is designed to manipulate people. On the contrary, true NLP is there to liberate people from self-manipulation.

I look forward to offering my coaching partners the use of NLP in my coaching practice to help them reach their goals effectively and quickly.

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About the author 

Georg Fasching

A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching guides leadership teams to delighting their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.

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