Quite simply -I don’t get NLP!

So claims our March spotlight of the month and CLO-ME contributor and prolific writer Ian Taylor

It seems like most people I meet these days at work are NLP master practitioners, or life coaches, or both. Some seem like quite nice people whilst others have the interpersonal skills and sensitivity of a bull terrier. Either way, they seem to claim it is the answer to everything from job success to quitting smoking.

I feel particularly stupid when I’m at some professional event surrounded by converts all nodding enthusiastically when the speaker remarks that, “those of you who are NLP practitioners will understand this.” Not being a practitioner, I don’t , but am too embarrassed to come clean. I think I get the three channels stuff about audio, visual or kinaesthetic people, but haven’t picked up the nerve to look deeply into someone’s eyes and figure out what channel they use. I’m more scared that they’ll punch me in the face than be hopeful that I’ll be able to seamlessly influence them. I can’t get more than 20 seconds into the mirroring stuff without a fit of adolescent giggles.

The self-help bumper sticker stuff about the inner leader, “There is no failure just feedback”, and, “Anyone can do anything it’s all down to self- belief and attitude”, seems plain barmy. Just the contrary, there is some well researched evidence that attitude does not necessarily lead to behaviour, so there!
The bits that make sense about empathy and listening seem to have been around for ages anyway, and just seem part of any good interpersonal skill repertoire.
It could just be the sceptic in me, but where’s the evidence for all this stuff, the experiments, the data, the peer reviewed journal articles? Apparently, if you even raise this you haven’t fundamentally understood NLP. Nice one! – with shades of the medieval witch tests. Innocent if you drown, guilty if you don’t, dead either way.

But can a million lemmings be wrong? Who needs science when you have millions of success stories seems to be the argument, while ignoring the “Hawthorn effect” , which shows that attention, any attention, can result in some change .
Maybe I’m just jealous. It takes a chartered occupational psychologist, 5 years of study and 3 years of supervision to get the badge . Even after that, there is on- going regulation. If I act unprofessionally, a client can make a formal complaint to a Health Professions Council. Did I waste my time and energy when about 3 weeks and Dhs20,000 would have got me” Master Practitioner” status with nobody to monitor my ethics?
Or as Groucho Marx said “ I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member “

Ian Taylor is a chartered occupational psychologist with 18 years experience of working in the UAE.  ©Ian Taylor Consultancy

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