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Ever stop and wonder how you learnt everything you now know – the kind of stuff that without any thought you can do and take for granted? Chances are if you are like most people, the answer is a resounding no.

Yet as NLPers becoming more aware of how people learn, when they are unaware that they are learning, is one of the most profound areas for developing greater skill in helping anyone create a change or wire up a new skill.

In this post I am going to share some questions and thoughts that if you use and apply to yourself, will help you become a much better NLPer. Note this content aims to go beyond the typical mantra in many NLP books, and for some folks new to NLP may want to read it more than once to fully get what this is pointing towards.

But first, lets start off with some questions:

What is the connection between:

  • A tribe in Africa that wears huge rings through their noses
  • A person who straps a bomb onto their chest and blows themselves up
  • A bus driver who always waits when he see someone running to get to the bus?

What springs to mind for you?

Well, all could be described as examples of:

  • Goal directed behaviour
  • Where none of them came into the world with that behaviour “hard wired” as the thing to do
  • And each person has gone through some experience or series of experiences where they “linked up” that X outcome was the thing for them to do

So the natural question for to ask is “What is the process (assuming of course there is one) that each of them went through in order to wire up some behaviours?, and is there a common pattern that drives each experience?

I think there is.

And it is the same pattern that is behind all the “unconscious” stuff you or I have learnt and continue to learn, so long as we live. It is right in front of us, in plain sight but for the most part, remains completely hidden.

To begin to find an answer lets look at the base things that we use to create are ongoing experience.

The basic experience pretty much all of us share as human beings is having five senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory and olfactory) contained within our body, in which we can either make pictures, sounds, feelings etc inside our mind-body or sense various things as “external” to us.

We can consciously and other than consciously, play with the sub-modality components of each experience which changes and impacts the ongoing experience and the influences the “unconscious” learning process. And we can loop around, have meta-awareness about certain things and cross combine those components in many very beautiful and colourful ways.

All of what I have just said is presumption, and not a complete or necessarily accurate picture of what goes on in the brain-body, but will suffice for our discussion. Remember in NLP we are interested in useful models of human behaviour, not necessarily discovering “reality” or what is empirically valid.

So the question is “how does someone link X event, object or circumstance in the world to a specific behavioural response?”

How does a one human being strap a bomb to their chest and proceed to go out and blow up tens or hundreds of others and through whatever process assumedly feels “OK” with doing that, and also are sufficiently directed to end their own life in the process.

To find the answer, I think we first need to turn the torch in on ourselves and identify how did each of us pick up a lot of the habitual patterns of thought and behaviour that govern our lives. Take for example whatever is a “thing” that you habitually do and identify what is the driver behind that behaviour? When, where and how did that “thing/action/repeating thought process” get wired up and become a habitual behavior for you? So that anyone who knows you well can be guaranteed that you will do it.

For example:

If you are always kind, how did that get setup?

If you are always snappy in the morning, how did that get setup?

If you find you are the helper or “keeper of the peace” etc, how did that get setup?

Etc. etc.

Chances are you weren’t born pre-wired for that specific behaviour. Or perhaps science will find one day that we are. Who knows.

But for now assuming that we are not, can you identify what processes were at play that brought that behaviour into life?

And then the question becomes, what keeps that habitual thought, behaviour going now?

These kind of questions, I believe are at the heart of NLP. Because they aim to identify the underlying process upon which all change in thought and behaviour, and specifically behaviour that operates within a specific context and one that sticks (meaning stands the test of time) occur. When you become much more aware of the process by which we all learn you are no longer restricted to using rote NLP patterns and techniques and can come up with interventions on the fly that work without having any obvious “NLPness”. But that is for another day.

If you can trace process by which X behaviour got linked up, you may find that like many people, the habitual behaviours and dreams we are pursuing are fulfilling and the remnants of some other than conscious process for which we are unaware of and are unable to articulate how and why they are doing what they are doing. When you enquire with someone why they are doing X repeated behaviour etc they will tell you “it’s just because”.

This is somewhat like, for those of you who have worked in a large organization, the response you get when you ask “why do you do it that way?” and you get back “because that is the way we have always done it!”

There is no consciousness brought to that process any more. No questioning. The “learning” process is for the most part closed. The cup full. The person, persons or organisation has forgotten how they have learnt to output that thought or behavioural response and all they are now doing is acting because they have a typically internal strong kinaesthetic response – “a feeling that tells me so”.

Very little thought is given to the validity of their cause-effect and complex equivalence structures that they have bound together to form a well-established response.

Because to them, and indeed to each of us, it just feels real.

In another post I will go into detail on a number of the processes that I believe are work whenever we learn something well and also forget how we have learnt it. But for now, if you want to become an even more skilled NLPer, pay exquisite attention to narratives and experiences that are going everywhere around you right now on TV, the web and in your everyday social encounters noticing to identify how people:

  • Link up new meanings where previously no meaning has been wired up
  • Link up new cause-effect chains of thought and behaviour
  • The richness or vividness in which those experiences occurred

Have a great week.


Got a question or comment?, feel free to leave any thoughts below.

11 Responses to “Essential questions for pondering by every skilled NLPer”

  1. Ali Says:

    Great Article Tom really helps Keep posting & we keep applying!!!!!!!!

  2. rajesh asrani Says:

    till a few years back i had thought that memmory of mathematic or science lessons learned in school was normal as i could recall most of my formulas,theorms etc till i realised most of my friends /school classmates couldnot recollect simple things like area of circle ,circumference etc.and these were people who in no way could be considered lacking in intelligence.
    and on trying to analyse the reason i realised one basic difference in the thought process in people who remember what is being thought & those who forget what they had learned in school on the next bay of their exams/evalutions.
    and that was that most of the teachers do not mention the practical application of what is being thought and the student feels that all that is being thought is futile & only useful to clear evalutions and go to higher level.our brain being supper computer takes note of this and the memory is retained only upto examination day.on the other hand most of people who had the attitude that they need to learn now as this would be of use to them somtime in future ,do recollect their school lessons.

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  4. NJ Says:

    thanks for keeping me up to date on this issue.

  5. Alan Says:

    Good brief and this post helped me a lot in my college assignment. Gratefulness you on your information.

  6. Thomas Says:

    Oddly enough, when I read the email prompt to the blog, the picture that flashed to mind when I read the African tribe with rings through noses, was the same one you’ve published. That is, I pictured the plates in lips, rather than rings through noses.

  7. Jackie Sivilay Says:

    Glad i discovered this website.Added “Essential questions for pondering by every skilled NLPer ” to my bookmark!

  8. John Says:

    Keep up the amazing work!! I love how you wrote this and I also like the colors of your site. 🙂

  9. Glen Alegre Says:

    This post is good.

  10. Brendon Ellermann Says:

    Great Post. Thanks for sharing!!

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