By Karen B. Smith, MBA, PMP
In my earlier Get A Clue post, I discussed that neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”), and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience (“programming”) and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life. Hopefully by now, you’ve started noticing a few of these context clues, including if your conversation revolves around:
- Pleasure or Pain? Do you act in a way that seeks to increase pleasure or decrease pain?
- Matching or Mismatching? Some people sort in terms of what things they have in common, while others notice what is different.
- Possibility or Necessity? Some people are motivated by what is necessary, rather than by what is possible.
- Past, Present, or Future? Some people dwell on the past, others on the future, and others seem to live only for the present.
But now that you’ve noticed these clues, what can you do with them?
Notice that with pleasure or pain, we all act in a way that seeks to increase pleasure or decrease pain. We have different perceptions of these, of course, and one person will delight in what another dislikes. But some have a greater tendency to move towards something they want, while others are more likely to move away from things they don’t want. Each “driver” can be highly motivating, and bring similar results, although positive motivation tends to be the stronger motivator. Additionally, people with the same dominant tendency tend to enjoy rapport and communicate well with each other.
In the Real World – Pleasure or Pain: An applicant once interviewed for an open position I had posted. When I asked her why she was interested in the position, she replied she’d like a fresh start (yes – this actually happened during one of my interviews for a mid-level marketer). Of course, I probed deeper into why she wanted a fresh start, e.g., what was she “running” from, by asking her additional questions. She could have answered it several ways to overcome my objections, but in the end, she knew that she said the wrong thing at the wrong time based on her situation. In this situation, I was looking for a candidate who wanted to work with my company on the projects listed in the job description. Again, positive motivation tends to be the stronger motivator.
With matching or mismatching, one person will spot a common trend, while the other notices an exception. A matcher will tend to generalize, while a mismatcher usually focuses on specifics. On the occasions when you just do not hit it off with a person, the reason might be the way in which each of you sees the world. If you don’t recognize this trait for what it is, you too can easily write off a person as ignorant, belligerent, negative or nitpicking.
In the Real World – Matching or Mismatching: As part of your organization’s development team, let’s say that you are tasked to compare product features, e.g., your company’s product versus a close competitor’s. If you are a “matching” person, you’d see all the things that the products had in common in general, e.g., provides the customer with X, is available online, 24/7 support, etc. Whereas if you were a “mismatching” person, you would possibly notice that the 24/7 support is in five languages, the product provides the customer with not all of the features listed for product X, but it does provide the customer with the most important feature which is protecting personal data from cybercrime, while the rest of the features are deemed fluff. In this case of building a new or enhanced product, you may very well want a person who is detailed and notices the differences explicitly.
Another example may be when you debrief a project, e.g., post mortem, to help forge more efficient projects in the future. A matching person may notice the overall flow and point out that certain things should remain in the next project plan. A mismatching person may provide feedback on what not to do in the next project. As long as there is balance, both matching and mismatching feedback are helpful for future projects.
Regarding context around possibility or necessity, some people do things because they have to, rather than because they want to or because they see the possibilities in a course of action. Others are open to new possibilities and choices, and welcome the unknown. Each has strengths to offer in different kinds of jobs or situations. You will probably expect an auditor or quality controller, or perhaps an airline pilot, to do what must be done and stick to the rule book. A more creative job or leadership role will demand a mind that is open to new possibilities.
In the Real World – Possibility or Necessity: Several examples of possibility or necessity come to mind, including Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways captain who safely landed his aircraft in the Hudson River. With so little time to think through landing and protecting the lives of all onboard, he went into his “rule book” and knew what was “necessary” via a checklist. However, your CEO or VP Human Resources may be great examples of what is possible, by way of developing strategies that stretch the imagination, and making hiring decisions that require people-nurturing and development for those who have the intent and “possibility” to make the strategy come alive.
With past, present, and future context, some people dwell on the past, others on the future, and others seem to live only for the present. A highly goal-oriented person who has clear objectives will usually think a lot in terms of where they are going and the sort of experiences that will result. A visual person will “see” an experience in advance of it happening, so that it almost becomes the reality. But in a very similar way, another person will be able to recall memories so vividly that in effect they carry their past around with them, which influences every current behavior. In management, such a person would be less able to cope with change, or to grasp opportunities.
A clear representation of both past and future will usually mean a person is very time conscious, and for example, they may make for a reliable timekeeper. A person whose timeline is less distinct will live more in the present and may easily overlook appointments, or simply not appreciate the importance of keeping to a schedule.
The time dimension seems to be a major factor in leadership. The orthodox role of leadership usually includes creating a vision. But many would-be leaders have difficulty communicating their vision of the future to colleagues, who may neither think visually nor have a strong future timeline. However, by matching to a sensory preference, rapport can be established with ease.
A person who lives mainly in the present will be attracted to immediate or short-term outcomes, regardless of the economic or other logical sense. They just can’t (or don’t) represent a distant future in their minds.
In the Real World – Past, Present, and Future: If you are tasked with pulling a team together for a key project, say developing a new customer delivery process, you would probably consider a diverse team to ensure that appropriate ideas are considered in a timely fashion, aka “group” think does not occur. Having mindset and knowledge from the past to know how the future may be impacted is important, but so is knowing what the customer wants going forward. And since most, if not all projects, are on a time crunch, having a balanced person round out the team will help to ensure the grand visions and sins of the past don’t bog down the timeline.
Putting the Clues to Good Use
Now you can begin to see that “noticing” the clues is just the start to building rapport and understanding how the different contexts (and outlook) are necessary for a particular role or scenario. An exceptional manager, project manager, front line employee, marketer, CXO, daughter, brother, or spouse must listen and watch what is going on with their stakeholders, customers, Board of Directors or family and respond appropriately to help shape the outcome he or she wants to achieve.
Are you interested in learning more about using NLP to achieve specific goals in life? Check out our new one day class It’s Not Just the Words: Catch the Clues and Use Techniques That Work.