NLP – What’s The Real Truth?

Despite the growing popularity of nlp and its increasing use by learning institutions, the business world, coaches and their clients it does have its detractors.

Reading comments across the ’web they can loosely be divided into two camps. The less well informed who regard it as some sort of magical Jedi trick that enables one to manipulate others at will. And that we are continuously being subject to such manipulation by politicians and other authority figures. I suggest we can disregard that group. The other group comprise the more learned and academics who question the lack of scientific evidence or ‘real proof’.

NLP Where’s The Evidence?

So how come NLP is so popular with seemingly little scientific evidence?

The reason (in the writer’s 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 client’s Values, can they really be re-sequenced and is the entire process repeatable and empirically verifiable?

These are all great questions and it is in the scientific paradigm to want to research these, after all if they can be proven then it means NLP is for real and a fact, right?

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.

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One of the definitions of nlp is simply ‘NLP is whatever works’ (Robert Dilts).  And the evidence that it works is mounting daily. Do we need to prove it scientifically? How about we ask someone who has overcome an embarrassing phobia or one that has had their employment threatened by their attitudes or problems, whether they want scientific evidence to prove that their phobia is no more? For me the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this pudding sure ‘eats good’!

Perhaps the question should be asked the other way around. Why search for ‘scientific’ proof when the evidence that it works is staring them in the face if they would only care to look?


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