One of the biggest traps any NLPer can make is to try and cognitively perceive what in effect they should be doing. When learning NLP, a good rule of thumb is to spend 80% of your time in the doing. One strong experience is worth a thousand times all the notes and highlighting of books you can ever do.
A while back I was in a bar and there was a friendly young chap who had heard from my partner that I am involved with NLP. Being an active student in the speed seduction community he attempted to covert anchoring and "talk" about all the NLP cool things you can "do" to others in the goal of getting gals interested in him.
The approach exemplified being an NLP ass! But to be fair the guys was well intended he just thought that talking about NLP is the same as doing NLP. And that when we "do" NLP we are "doing it on others" .. which is total B.S. (as Tony Robbins would say - a belief system). When you think about NLP from this way then you also take on the limitations that come with it like "failure", that you are coming from a place of power and control etc etc.
To get good at NLP requires only a few things:
1. Get clear in your head what you're trying to learn/achieve. Having a clear outcome for what you want to do with the stuff you learn will help in fast tracking the process. Chunking is also important - chunk the skill you want to get at a suitable level is important otherwise it is easy to get lost in trying to learn everything but have no clear grounding on how you will apply it.
2. Get out of your head - the learning is in the doing. Practice and notice the results you get.
3. Don't ever think you know it all or that you need "understanding". I've meet and discussed NLP with many of the top names in the field and not one of them (IMHO) thinks they have got it "all" or that there is nothing left to learn or create.
Understanding is the end of the process of learning and you don't need to understand how something works to be able to use it. So if you find yourself confused, good, keep moving and all of a sudden it will make sense. But more importantly you will be able to use it, and that will give you so much more first hand experiences to figure out what works well for you and what you need to improve on.
To get good at using NLP Techniques you need to:
Have a clear goal and TOTE for what you want to do.
Realise the techniques aren't just stuff to throw against any old wall, that they are purposeful and intended for a specific application.
If a client is stuck and you run the phobia technique on them you're unlikely to get a positive response. Yet you might first start with calibrating to their worldview, conversationally ellict what is triggering this response and how he keeps "being stuck" as the right thing to do and in place on an ongoing basis etc. You might use the Meta Model to identify what needs to shift in this person thinking now, and then run through a process (a.k.a. a strategy) about getting them from their present state to their desired state.
Be flexible, systematic and persistent
When someone is stuck or has a problem you don't just go "well I tried XYZ technique and it didn't work so can you have a look" .. etc .. you will want to be persistent in your commitment to get a result. Sure ask other skilled NLPers for input but stay committed to getting the change/outcome. Make sure you are flexible and systematic when you use the tool set. Does the person have a clear goal and desired state, do they have a strategy to get them to their desired state? Is it linked up to a motivation strategy and have you got them to the point where they go "heck, get out of my way and let me get on with this??"
Making it Practical:
With all that said, we're now going to break the usual rules and have you do something a bit differently. As you are out with friends this week take one technique and apply it everywhere. Any technique will do, what you are looking for is the boundaries of where it works and when best to use it.
So lets say you take context and content reframing ( e.g. "John gets nervous before speaking to groups" vs. "well, I bet that nervousness would be helpful in he was about to make a bad decision, don't you think? I'm wondering could it be that his nervousness is actual excitement?".) and use it everywhere this week, at least once in every conversation. Notice the effect using it has on the listeners of the communication and on yourself.
When you notice that your brain can generate the technique on the fly over and over then move on and start using another technique. By doing this you will train your brain to use the techniques on que and in the most appropriate context and know the boundaries of how effective they can be.
Every other time you use a technique ask yourself, "do I understand the function of this technique and is it the right time to apply it? ".
Sequence plays an important role in everything you do with NLP so make sure you give yourself the best edge by using a technique at the right time and not for example when you have no clue what a clients communication means and are just grabbing at straws.
Before you know it, you'll already have every technique you need in the muscle and can draw upon them with ease.