Principles of NLP

There are a number of principles in NLP.

NLP Principle One – Achieving Outcomes

The importance of knowing your outcome cannot be stressed enough. Many people do not have conscious outcomes. Others have no idea what they want but know what they don’t want. Their life is based on moving away from those things they don’t want. NLP stresses the importance of moving towards those things you want. Without outcomes, life becomes a process of wandering aimlessly. Once an outcome is determined you can begin to focus on achieving that outcome.

NLP lists certain well-formedness conditions that outcomes should meet:

  1. The outcome needs to be stated in positive terms. This means that the outcome must be what you want and not what you don’t want to happen. Outcomes must be capable of being satisfied. It is both logically and practically impossible to give someone the negation of an experience. You can’t engage in the process of ‘not doing’. You can only engage in the process of doing.
  2. The outcome must be testable and demonstrable in sensory experience. There must be an evidence procedure. Unless this is the case, there is no way to measure progress towards the achievement of the outcome. With an evidence procedure for the outcome, it is possible to determine whether or not you are making progress towards achieving the outcome.
  3. The desired state must be sensory-specific. You must be able to say what you would look like, sound like and feel like if you achieved the outcome.
  4. The outcome or desired state must be initiated and maintained by the subject. This places the locus (ie position) of control and responsibility for achieving the outcome with the subject and not with someone else. It is not a well-formed outcome when someone else does something or changes in some way. All you can do is have an outcome in which you can change yourself or your behaviour so as to bring about a change in someone else.
  5. The outcome must be appropriately and explicitly contextualised. This means that outcomes must not be stated as universals. You must never want either ‘all the time’ of ‘never’, but only under specific circumstances. In NLP we always strive to create more choice and never to take choice or reduce the number of possible responses. The goal instead is to make the choices or responses available in the appropriate circumstances.
  6. The desired outcome must preserve any positive product of the present state. If this is not the case then symptom substitution may occur.
  7. The outcome or desired state must be ecologically sound. You should consider the consequences for yourself and for other people and not pursue outcomes that lead to harm to yourself or other people.

NLP Principle Two – Sensory Awareness

Once you know your outcome you must next have sufficient sensory acuity to know if you are moving towards it or not. NLP teaches the ability to calibrate or ‘read’ people. This involves the ability to interpret changes in muscle tone, skin colour and shininess, lower lip size and breathing rate and location. The NLP practitioner uses these and other indications to determine what effect they are having on other people. This information serves as feedback as to whether the other person is in the desired state. An important and often overlooked point is to know to stop when the other person is in the state that you desire.

NLP Principle Three – Changing Behaviour

The third operational principle of NLP is to vary your behaviour until you get the response you want.

If what you are doing isn’t working, then you need to do something else. You should use your sensory acuity to determine if what you are doing is leading you in the desired direction.  It what you are doing is leading towards your outcome, then you should continue. If, on the other hand, what you are doing is leading away from your goals, then you should do something else.

NLP Principle Four – Time for Action

The fourth and final operational principle of NLP is to take action now. There is no place for the slogan ‘Complacency rules, and I don’t care.’ NLP is about taking action now to change behaviour for yourself and for others, now and in the future. So, to use another catchphrase:

‘Don’t delay; act today.’

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