How To Create Powerful Learning Experiences For Others

In previous post called "Essential questions.."

I talked about the need for any NLPer to become more aware about how people learn. As NLPers we regularly help establish, change or re-engineer certain thoughts, feelings and behaviours

And the interesting thing is there isn't a magic bullet. But NLP has developed some processes and distinctions that when used by a skilled practitioner, will enable them to typically get better results, much faster than traditional approaches.

There are a lot of skills you need to have under your belt, and some key distinctions about how people learn and change. Today I'll cover five major points that any practitioner looking to help wire up a new behaviour or learning experience for others, will want to know.

1. All Human Behaviour Is Goal Directed, Purposive And Adaptive.

This means that all behaviour that anyone expresses has some conscious or other-than-conscious goal in mind: that the goal criteria (of how do I know I've achieved it) is detectable through one or more of the five senses.: that the behaviour is in the service of a given outcome and is adaptive for the proposed circumstances one finds oneself operating in.

All of that is a bit of a mouthful, so let's walk through an example. Let's take the current news story of the 33 trapped Chilean miners who were found alive 700M beneath the surface. Their presumed goal is to survive long enough to be freed. As a group, according to press reports, they have organised themselves to stay "unified, organised and motivated to contend with the bizarre conditions of their daily existence". Their behaviour is consistent with the goal of surviving. Their behaviour is adaptive to the conditions they face. After being discovered they are euphoric, as one might expect. Yet after weeks of no contact and finally being discovered, the big risk facing them now is that their state might descend into depression as the reality of having to wait another six months before being freed and being embraced by their loved ones. The Chilean health minister reports that currently five of the 33 miners are "more isolated, they don't want to be on the screen, they are not eating well. I would say depression is the correct word".

From an NLP viewpoint we presume/know that intense feelings don't just arise, that there are typically thoughts (conscious or otherwise) that repeated, affect the states we experience and the emotions we feel.

Essentially you need to create multiple embodied reference experiences for the listener to get the skills and distinctions on board.

And what you habituate you get better at (even if that is a feeling you don't want), and if you do it enough times you can reproduce that thought-feeling-behaviour on cue. The five Chilean miners who are showing signs of isolation and not eating etc, may be habituating certain "negative" thoughts focusing on the fact that, although help has arrived, it will still be 180 days before they will be reunited with their families: and in the meantime they are trapped in a dark mine, and have to deal with the current monotony and uncertainty. Living in those conditions for a week would put many people into a downward state, and the miners will have to face those conditions for nearly 27 weeks, assuming they are reached within the current timetable.

That kind of environment will create a unique and no doubt forever life changing learning experience for each of the miners.

For the professionals whose job it is to monitor and come up with methods to keep their states optimal, for the task ahead, they will need to be clear on what the (sensory specific) goal is, what attitudes, constraints and resources each miner is bringing to the situation, along with an understanding and leveraging of the current group dynamic, and any external resources in service of the goal to ensure they keep their spirits strong. They will also need to ensure that whatever strategies they employ are adaptive to the likely changing mental, physical and emotional circumstances the miners are operating within.

The same process will apply for you when you are looking to set up a learning experience for someone. You will also want to set up the sensory based context (trigger or triggers) that will fire off the desired behaviour that you want when X conditions happens. So if you want to help someone who "always" gets angry you will want to wire it up so that when X trigger occurs - Y behaviour will follow.

2. You Need To DRIVE A Person Through The Experience You Want Them To Learn

It's not enough to simply tell someone "what they should do" or indeed give them reasons why they should do it. Putting the person or persons in the right state plays a key role, and if you want a person to quickly pick up a complex skill, you need to drive them through the experience using whatever resources you have at your disposal.

As NLPers, we can rely on many options from telling multiple stories that use powerful affective imagery, to having the person go through the physical experience or part of the experience several times, and every alternative in between. Richard Bandler's story about the guy who thought he was "Jesus Christ" is a good example of putting someone through a powerful learning experience to alter his behaviour, although you don't need to go to that kind of hilarious extreme.

Essentially you need to create multiple embodied reference experiences for the listener to get the skills and distinctions on board.

3. You Need To Repeat It As Many Times As Needed (Multiple Instantiations)

Unless you have set up some kind of powerful 'one time learning' experience (intense state evoked and anchored to fear or pleasure) then you will most likely need to repeat the process or chunks of the process several times. Each time you run through the learning process you will have the person further instantiate the strategy they have been learning. Remember the original Karate Kid movie?, where Mr. Miyagi had Daniel wash and wax his cars?  Here's the narrative…

Miyagi: First, wash all car. Then wax. Wax on… 

Daniel: Hey, why do I have to…? 

Miyagi: Ah ah! Remember deal! No questions! 

Daniel: Yeah, but… 

Miyagi: Hai! [makes circular gestures with each hand] 

Miyagi: Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important. [walks away, still making circular motions with hands] 

Miyagi: Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.

Daniel was learning how to block without realising it (an example of unconscious learning) and each time he repeated the wax on, wax off and breathing process he was instantiating the strategy in his entire body, hundreds of times.

4. You Must Test As You Go

If you are teaching someone to establish, change or re-engineer specific thought, feelings or behaviours you need to test at each step in the process that the person has indeed been wired up for the modified/new behaviour. This doesn't mean you ask them if they understand it, you get them to demonstrate it. And you don't always have to have them demonstrate it consciously, you can put them in the context where the "problem state" behaviour/response normally occurs and see what occurs. For example you can look to fire off the trigger for the old problem state and see if they re-access it or if they experience the newly wired up response. Mr. Miyagi tests his work with Daniel by unexpectedly striking him and Daniel instantly blocks.

5. You Must Have The Person Output

If you are to be sure that a person has the desired behaviour/learning wired up then you need to have them output it. Miyagi has Daniel output the skill of blocking over and over in multiple fighting contexts. Outputting is essential. Depending on the scope of what you are having the person learn (i.e. wire up neurologically) then you may want to initially arrange it in contiguous chunks of behaviour, which you can then combine into a sequence.

After a person has instantiated the skill/response enough times, eventually the "scaffolding" of how they learned disappears, and they are only left with the behaviour "hard wired." Think about anything you are really good at. Can you remember exactly when, where and how you learnt each skill and sub-skill component of it?

While there are many other aspects to doing behaviour modification and designing powerful learning experiences, if you apply the above five distinctions and practices you will be far more skilled in helping create changes and powerful learning experiences for yourself and others.

For the adventurous NLPer, looking to learn more, you may want to pay attention to how you can use the patterns of the Meta Model to wire up powerful learning experiences, linguistically.

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I'm Tom.

Everyone has something they’d like to change in their life. I’m here to help you transform the behaviours that get in your way so you can have the life you really want.

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