My last blog was on the theme of protection and its link to ‘Challenging Coaching’. I want to continue this theme by looking at the world of NLP – neuro-linguistic programming. Last year I attended a seminar led by Sue Knight, author of ‘NLP at Work’. It was fascinating to observe Sue at work as a master practitioner of NLP and the evening inspired me to research the world of NLP and its close cousin, hypnosis.
Ploughing through the works of Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Milton Erikson and Stephen Brooks opened my mind. I loved the writing style of Bandler in particular with his word plays, his wit and his bold individuality. Yet most of all I learnt that the human mind is a fragile piece of delicate machinery. It shocked me how easily the depths of the unconscious mind can be accessed by those with the right skills and how then it can be programmed and re-programmed at will. Not without reason did Bandler and Grinder title their first book ‘The Structure of Magic’.
There is much value in NLP yet I would like to see it challenged more strongly – not to prove it wrong but to raise awareness on its best practice and to tackle the unspoken risk of manipulation that it inevitably entails. In particular, I would like to propose the idea of neuro-linguistic protection as a counter skill-set to neuro-linguistic programming.
Neuro-linguistic protection would focus upon helping people develop the behaviours to protect their unconscious minds from unwanted and illicit programming. It would be like having a virus checker for the human mind or parental code to prevent access to sensitive mental sites. Whereas traditional NLP and hypnosis have focussed upon putting people into trance and so access the unconscious mind, these self-protective behaviours would focus upon waking people up and stimulating their conscious minds to stand tall and strong when necessary.
Ultimately, to protect yourself and others you must know how and when to say ‘STOP!’. To point at a line in the ground and say ‘No more. No further. Enough’. Some of the behaviours required to do this skillfully and compassionately are found in our FACTS coaching model – giving challenging feedback, holding accountability, setting courageous goals, sustaining tension and raising awareness regarding the ‘bigger picture’ through systems thinking techniques.
In this context ‘Challenging Coaching’ could be viewed as a starter manual for helping others to achieve neuro-linguistic protection. It is about exploring the impact of a shared, collective reality rather than focussing upon the underlying structure of person-centered magic. It is about recognising and respecting the limits and boundaries that are an inevitable feature of organisational life. For until we feel safe in the hands of a Bandler, an Erikson or a Brooks then would it be wise to open those inner doors and let their magic in?
Please let us know your thoughts via the challenging coaching linkedin group.