Top 10 Most Useful Techniques To Learn In NLP

NLP is all about the study of successful behaviours.

So it’s no surprise that there are a lot of patterns in NLP that are really good for working on specific outcomes.

Like the app store, there are hundreds of techniques for all kinds of results. And like the app store there are really a few dozens that make up 99% of the rest.

Got a fear you want to get rid of; there is a technique for that.

Get anxious around your boss, there is a technique for overcoming that.

Need to feel more confident for that big presentation, there’s a technique for that.

Need a bucket load of charisma - you can get that too.

Want to have people listen to your every word, there’s a technique for that too.

And on and on we could go.

Before I share ten of the most useful NLP techniques ever created, I want too establish four key rules.

Follow these rules and you’ll get far more ‘bang’ from every technique you know.

Choose the technique after you’ve figured out what result you are trying to achieve.

What this means is figure out first what the desired state is first before you decide what tools/techniques you’ll use to get it.

Many students jump the gun and choose a technique before they have clear idea of the desired state and even have less awareness of what the real problem is and how it works. This is asking for failure. Figure out what the desired state is first (quantify and qualify it in behavioural terms) before you whip out your NLP recipe book…

Actually do the techniques

Sounds obvious, but I can promise you it isn’t.

When I help someone troubleshoot a problem they have with making a change, and they tell me they tried this technique or that, what I often discover is they did something other than the technique.

If you are inside your mind and your inner dialogue is talking crap to and asking “is this working yet?”, then that is what you are wiring up in your mind (noise and doubt), which means you aren’t actually doing the technique!

You’re baking in some other crap with it. Doing some other less potent variant of it.

NLP is a precision technology; so to get the most from it use it with precision.

Follow the techniques fully and as cleanly as possible. (Meaning no adding in your own natter or going off-piste.)

If you are working with someone else make sure they actually follow along and do what you are saying.

If you are using the tech on yourself, it will help to have someone trained guide you through the process so you can focus fully on experiencing it.

Intervention is everything

Some techniques work very well for some things but will suck at others (stuff they aren’t designed to work for.)

So intervening at the right place with the right tool will make all the difference.

I once worked with a client who had been a smoker for 25 years, 40 cigarettes a day. It was early in my career with NLP and I was expecting to do have to do a big hypnotic ding-dong trance and have her in a room for a few hours while we made the change.

During the setup I wanted to understand the structure of how she maintained the smoking habit, so I started asking her some meta-model type questions. 20 minutes in to the meet and greet I uncover a lever; she had a daughter who was coming of age and the client was worried her daughter would become like her; a chain smoking mother.

A few minutes later the change work was done, no trance, no fancy techniques - by listening to how she coded her experience and paying attention to what intrinsic motivate would cause her to change, when she held it as true, I had the woman convincing she was a quitter.

And she did.

Intervene where there target is soft, where you can get a lever and the force of that lever being moved generates the change.

This isn’t always easy, you may need to dig around a bit but generating the change will be much easier if you can find a lever which carries the desired state forward and causes the client to reorganise their own experience of themselves and who they are.

You’ll need to combine multiple tools and techniques

One of the biggest problems I see with how many people use (and even teach) NLP today is as a set of disparate tools and techniques. Like NLP is a mash up of ideas and little to no connection between the tools and techniques.

To be fair a lot of how this cool technology works and how things connect got lost from one generation of teachers to the next with the rush to get out there and teach, which lead to some folks making “wild claims” about what NLP can do, in part to stand out and also simply to cash-in and make money. (There’s nothing wrong with making money, but making stuff up and short-changing

There are very few purist, really good old school knowledgeable teachers around. They are a rare breed.

If you are confused how things connect, or think about NLP as a set of disconnected tools and techniques, rid yourself of that notion. Get educated on how things really hookup, you’ll become a much more capable NLPers from it. And that can translate in to being happier, more successful, making a lot more money or whatever goal you are pursuing.

Even if you have no idea how sub-modalities links to strategies or the Meta Model etc., know that they do. (I’ll cover more in a future post.)

Everything connects and when it comes to using the techniques you won’t just use one technique on it’s own. You may need to use several, depending on what you are working on.

And remember the techniques operates within the broader framework of NLP TOTE, presuppositions and other models.

If you don’t know these or don’t know how to work with the TOTE model then take the time to learn it because it’s at the heart of everything you do with NLP (and makes troubleshooting issues much easier, both in real life and in personal change contexts).

OK, to recap the 4 golden rules to live by are:

#1: Choose the technique after after you’ve figured out what result you are trying to achieve

#2: Actually do the techniques

#3: Intervene at the right place. Find a lever.

#4: You may need to combine multiple techniques in succession

I introduced the 4 golden rules to live by if you want to be far more effective with the techniques of NLP.

Now, I want to share the ten of the most useful techniques you can learn in NLP.

Although there are well over 300 documented techniques, the vast majority can be cut down to a few dozen core techniques upon which all the others are a variant of.

For example the swish pattern (#5 in our top ten list) is used in several other patterns including the kinaesthetic swish, the belief swish, the advanced swish, the self-esteem pattern, the cyber-porn addition removal pattern etc.

Once you understand the ‘moves’ behind how a pattern works you are able to quickly see where the overlaps occur and come up with new variations for the challenges you face.

In choosing which ten patterns would make my list, I decided to choose based on ease of use, practical nature ( many diverse applications it can be applied to) and how easy it is to use in everyday life. I also choose the original variant of the pattern before it got sliced in to other patterns, so when you learn these ten you actually are in a good position to master the rest with a little bit of work.

Here we go…

# 10:  State interrupt

You are a human. So am I. We interact with other humans - which invariably means there will be drama, emotions and sometimes upsets.

The state interrupt pattern gives us a powerful tool to stop run-away states, break up conflict, de-escalate tension.

Make sure to add it to your tool-box. A day doesn’t go by without me using this. Perfect tool for working with yourself, as a parent, people helper or leader.

#9: Spinning feelings

This is a super cool pattern and doesn’t require a Ph.D in NLP to use effectively. For a long time people have talked about their feelings in visceral sense, “I feel dread in the pit of my stomach”, “i’m so excited I could wet myself!” or “I’m so in love… I feel like I’m floating on cloud nine!”

The spinning feelings pattern recognises that feelings don’t just stop and go dormant, they must move! So when someone says they are frustrated, angry, overjoyed - things that sound like an event, what is actually happening is the person (often outside their awareness) is doing the activity of generating frustration, angry, joy which is then felt in the body.

The more they repeat it the better their body becomes at creating and maintaining the feeling.

With the spinning feelings pattern we want to know where that feeling starts, how it moves, where it goes. By changing the direction of the spinning pattern you can radically alter how the feeling changes (or if you want to make it stronger.)

With this one wonder pattern you can tackle a wide range of ‘stuck’ problems and amplify good feelings. You never have to feel permanently crap again and don’t have to wait till ‘flow’ arrives to get in to a a powerful resourceful state.

#8: Collapsing Anchors

There are actually several patterns that fall under the category of anchoring and all are worth learning. However for sheer fun and usefulness learning how to collapse an anchor is one of those patterns I’ve used over and over again with clients, friends and myself.

In case you are wonder, remind me again Tom, what is anchoring?

Anchoring is the process of learning, it’s how two things get linked together in our neurology. With it you can break problematic patterns or trigger off a resourceful state exactly when you need it.

Collapsing an anchor is where you bring together two states, typically a state-response that a person finds limiting e.g. fear when around their boss and introduce a powerful resource state(s) e.g. belly busting laughter at the exact moment they begin to experience the ‘problem emotion.

By having the body experience the two at the same time, it force the person’s neurology to reorganise itself, to a neutral or positive state. So in this case, the laughter washes over the fear and the person just laughs at their old self being ‘scared’ of the boss.

Done right, it works remarkably well. And of course you can ‘add’ additional states to build on the new feelings anytime you like.

#7 Sub-modality change pattern

Few patterns give you as much bang for your buck as the sub-modality change pattern. This wonder pattern can be used to blow things up (in your mind!) or shrink away your fears. It’s a swiss-army knife pattern when you understand how it works.

The sub-modality pattern is used in countless other patterns because it’s so darn good and key to reorganising how a person experiences their reality.

Applications include: Changing beliefs, installing confidence, breaking apart negative self-image, reducing stress, getting over loss, building motivation etc.

Now wouldn’t that be nice pattern to pull in closer to your toolbox?

You can.

#6: Threshold pattern

Remember Humpty-Dumpty? Well turns out he had something to do with NLP. Well… not quite but if you know about him you’ll get this pattern in no time.

As much as people would like to think they got their stuff together, that they run their emotions and free choice completely, more and more people realise that this ain’t so.

Our mind-body gets caught on a loop and sometimes the same pattern of behaviour (thought, emotion or action) occurs over and over again. And it seems to be beyond our control.

The threshold pattern, also known as the compulsion blowout is the your tool of choice for getting the person’s mind-body utterly fed up with doing the same old thing that’s wearing them out (slowly) or that isn’t serving them.

Just like Humpty-Dumpty we want to break the problematic pattern so it can never be put back together that way again.

And the Threshold pattern shows you how.

This is final installment of this mini-series on my top ten most useful NLP techniques to learn.

I’ve always been a practical person so while techniques like the ‘Fast Phobia Cure’ are very useful if you’ve got someone who is a phobic… I don’t run into phobics in my everyday life that often. Sure, there are plenty of people who have various anxiety issues that elements of this pattern and others can help with, so I’m guessing you don’t have the need to use a fast phobia cure that often.

Hence it’s not made my top 5 list. Even though it’s one every NLP practitioner should learn.

Six step reframe doesn’t make the list either. There are better ways of getting the same result.

Or the good old ‘Circle of excellence’ which is a nifty pattern but again not something I would use (certainly overtly) in a business or everyday interpersonal context.So drum-roll, here are my top 5 techniques I think are really useful to learn:

#5: Timelines

Over the years timelines has grown in to a whole class of sub-patterns that are very effective in helping us create change and enhance a person’s life.

Timelines give you a powerful way to let go of emotional pain without the drama, transform old stories and install new ways of feeling a bright future, long after the changes work has ended.

By having a person access their felt-sense of time and hallucinating a timeline, we can help them interact with memories of events, access old resources, seed changes back in their ‘past’ and generalise those changes all the ways through to the present and beyond… for transformative change.As Richard Bandler so eloquently put it…

“It’s never to late to have a happy childhood.”

Many people think of timelines as an overt visual change tool, but you can actually use them covertly and conversationally, which makes them incredibly powerful tool for change, persuasion and helping others.

#4: Mindreading pattern

This little gem comes from the Meta Model and is actually one of 12 patterns that are part of that model. Do I recommend you learn them all? Sure, but I also know that some people won’t be interested in that.

The mind-reading pattern is one of those patterns that can transform a situation. Years ago I realised that a huge difference between those who can solve problems quickly and those who don’t was often down to the quality of their thinking. If you’ve framed the problem incorrectly or you don’t even realise you’ve accepted someone else’s frame on an issue that is wrong, you are going try to come up with solutions for a problem that doesn’t exist, or even if implemented, won’t fix the real problem.

The mind-reading pattern asks a simple but powerful question: “How do you know?”  (or a variation of it.)

This question causes the person to recover how they ‘know’ something to be true. It informs you about what is on a person’s map. That map could be your own thinking, a friend’s, your colleagues, your Doctor’s etc.

By focusing on this one linguistic pattern you begin to join them in their model of the world and  can use this one pattern as a powerful technique for change and transformation.

Best of all you can use it anywhere, and it has multiple other uses in persuasion and trance…

#3: The Swish

Wouldn’t it be nice to direct your mind to go where you want it to, on cue?

When a text pops in, instead of checking out your phone, imagine if your brain took that as a trigger to refocus on what you are working on.

Or when you wake up in the morning instead of hitting the snooze button, you find yourself jumping out of bed ready to hit to gym. The swish pattern makes it possible. It allows us to switch our brain to do this “positive thing” instead of that “unhelpful thing”, without conscious intervention.

It’s so good, you’ll find this mega pattern used in many other NLP processes. Learn one, master many…

#2: Reframing pattern

This pattern is so good, Richard and John wrote a whole book on it. It’s so useful in everyday use that it earned my #2 spot.

Reframing is the process of changing the frame-of-reference someone uses to order to change the meaning. Framing can happen at a both verbal and non-verbal level. We can reframe the content or the context for near infinite combinations.So magical are frames that to the untrained eye and ear they are invisible, they are simply felt. They shape and control the thoughts of billions every day. And the fascinating thing is we are all framing things, all the time.

A great communicator uses framing to create new meanings and new realities and to break apart limiting ones.

Need to kick the legs off an unhelpful idea, why not deframe it.

Worried about how to approach a pay rise with your boss? No problem, pre-frame it to him as “a performance reward” session. Boss accepts you’ve earned it but rejects the rise on the grounds of “limited budgets”, out-frame his frame and show how it’s possible with counter-framing examples.

There are so many useful roles reframing can serve it’s one every student should master.

And finally we arrive at the #1 spot.

#1: Self-Anchoring

There are several that could of made the top spot including the “Act as if” pattern, “Change personal history” or “New behaviour generator” etc. Each would be good contenders that can have major generative change on your life.

However intentional self-anchoring clinched the top spot because it’s results are so immediate, it takes very little effort to setup and your ability to anchor yourself or trigger an anchor is always available.

Why do I say intentional? Because you are already anchoring yourself all the time. If remember to turn off the light at night when you walk out of a room, you have created a anchor for yourself.

When you self-anchor, you create a reminder in your nervous system, that says when I do this, do that. It allows you to evoke a desired resource state on cue. To teach your brain to chunk ‘this’ signal with ‘that’ response.

For example it’s like saying; “Brain when I ‘karate chop’ my right hand into my left palm then call up a strong state of confidence and let that emotion flood through my body.” Repeat the self-anchoring process a few times and BAM it’s ready to roll for you.

Further when you are good at doing this for yourself, it’s easy to anchor others, steel other people’s anchors and become a person of influence even with people you’ve just met.

Self-anchoring gives you the chance to quickly train and retrain your mind-body to start doing more of the states you want. To access more of the resources you want.So there you have my top 10 most useful technique to learn.

When you can…

  • interrupt your own state or others with ease
  • spin your feelings to amplify or create rapid change
  • collapse anchors at will and play with sub-modalities to install new beliefs or explode old ones
  • when you travel along timelines like you’re a kid on a flying rug dropping in resources
  • and learn to hear your own or other people’s thought processes so you can reshape them
  • and get your brain to quickly do this positive thing instead of that unhelpful one
  • when you can reframe in your sleep 
  • or anchor yourself to get up…
  • and stay up, especially when life knocks you down

You’ve come a long way in developing real skill with the technology and more importantly with developing the tools to change your life in any way you want.

You won’t need a shrink to help you overcome run-of-the-mill trauma, a coach to get you ‘motivated’ or a guru to tell you how to live your life.

You’ll be able to set your own sails. Row when you have to… or fly to wherever you’d like to go.

Be who you want to be and as with all of the techniques in NLP, have much more CHOICE about how you experience this wonderful, sometimes mind boggling experience we all call ‘being alive’.

Are there other techniques you should learn? Sure there is always more to learn and many other great techniques that didn’t make the top ten cut. Pick up one you’re not familiar with from this list and get really familiar with it.

As I sign off I’m reminded of a quote Steve Jobs once wished some graduates of Stanford in 2005 that I’d like to wish for you.Over to Steve…

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” 

It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

I wish the same for you.Learning and using NLP is an adventure.A really wonderful one…

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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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