There is no doubt that NLP as a general term has become way more popular in recent years. And there is a good chance that in everyday social conversation that someone there has heard of NLP. However I've yet to hear someone at a dinner party or social function go "Yea I've heard of NLP, that's that really powerful change and influence technology that top communicators and conversational change agents use!". In fact the most common pattern of thought I've heard goes along the lines of:
"NLP - yea I've heard of it … isn't that the stuff that is used to manipulate people" or "you know NLP eh?, how do I know you haven't spent the past hour trying to manipulate me?" or "I once had a boss who was really good at getting what he wanted, and he used to tell people he was using NLP on us all the time. I never could trust him".
Chances are you have had similar experiences. The mass perception (in my experience) that most people have of NLP is that it is some form of manipulation, con, a tool or thing to do to others, or worse is dangerous. Even many people trained in NLP have shared with me that they don't feel good using it "because it is manipulative and bad and I don't want to manipulate people". This kind of thinking reminds me of a story I often heard Richard Bandler tell how in the early days of hypnosis, Doctors weren't allowed practice hypnosis because "hypnosis was dangerous and didn't exist".
Certainly with the popularity of Derren Brown shows in the UK, stage hypnotism around the globe, the occasional story of 'rogue hypnotists' mind controlling others, and the rapid rise in popularity of NLP techniques being employed in the speed seduction community, that for many the main perception of NLP is it is manipulative.
But anytime I hear something think that way, I am reminded of another thing Dr. Bandler once said .. "NLP doesn't exist!".
You see there is no living THING called NLP. NLP is made up of people who for the most part simply take and apply the techniques and patterns of NLP in some context. There is a small few who are are actively developing the field, but for the most part, most of us use the output of the various models developed and do not "refill the well" as John Grinder has rightly said.
So how could some-thing that doesn't exist be manipulative? I don't think NLP is manipulative .. that's somewhat like saying a match is a killer. A match can help start a fire to keep you warm, dry our wet clothes or it can be used to burn a house down. But to get the first spark going a match needs to be struck, which requires an action, a someone to initiate some thing and that requires a person. So perhaps a better question is .. are some people manipulative?
Well that doesn't need a scientist to say .. yes!. Some people would fall into the category of manipulative (depending on who is doing the measuring and how it is being measured).
Interestingly, the root of the word manipulate dates back to the 1830's when it meant "to handle skillfully by hand", then later, in the mid 20th century it became known as a euphemism for "masturbation." Are we seeing a connection here and how some people think or use the technology? Perhaps…
More recently the common meaning held is "to influence or control shrewdly or deviously", something which many do not regard as necessarily good. Who likes the idea of "being manipulated?".
Yet, NLP isn't manipulative, or is it? What do you think?
I remember Steven Covey once saying something to the effect that he thought NLP was a truly powerful technology however his only bone of contention with it was it was amoral. It didn't dictate any moral way of using it. While we have the core presuppositions of NLP there isn't an overt 'law' or 'rules' for how anyone who learns the technology is required to use it. That said, most trainers I've meet put a strong emphasis in their training, on using it for "good". But not everyone's intentions are designed that way.
Is NLP manipulative? .. it all depends on how you look at it.
Feel free to leave your opinion or comments in the box below.