Every discipline has its foundations. And NLP is no exception.
The techniques utilized in NLP to bring about success in life, are built on a foundation composed of 4 distinct pillars.
These pillars are basically 4 different aspects of NLP that are considered crucial for success.
This is what this article is going to focus on, and it’s a great place to start before you begin to actually practice some of the techniques.
Pillar one is outcomes. Pillar two is sensory acuity. Pillar 3 is behavioral flexibility. Pillar four is rapport.
But that doesn’t tell you much on its own, so this article is going to explain in simple words what it all means.
And without further ado, let’s get into it all…
Pillar One Is Outcomes
Pillar one is basically about being results focused.
And that ought to make complete sense, because how are you supposed to achieve great things without being results focused?
You must begin every endeavor with a concrete goal or outcome in mind. You must have a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve, a clearly defined goal.
This gives you something specific to work toward, otherwise you risk simply wandering around your life seemingly lost.
Without goals and clear direction, where are you going? And how will you know when you’ve got there?
You must plan to reach your outcomes in a particular way. Your outcome goals should be SMART, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
NLP lays out 9 criteria intended to boost the likelihood of success in each of your outcomes. These are as follows:
- State the outcome in a positive way
- Make sure that it’s something you can control
- Aim to be as specific as possible
- Be able to assess your success through your senses
- Think about the context
- Have necessary resources available
- Make sure the outcome won’t mean sacrificing former benefits
- Make sure the assessment of your endeavor fits in a natural environment
- Define the initial first step you need to take
Written this way, I get that it sounds like a lot. But honestly, once you get the gist and start practicing, it all becomes second nature.
Pillar Two Is Sensory Acuity
Sensory acuity basically means using your senses (ideally, the more, the better) to become more highly aware and in tune with your surroundings and circumstances.
To expand on that a little more, what is being referred to here are (mainly) the main 5 senses. The representational systems that the body has and uses to better perceive what’s going on.
This includes seeing, hearing, feeling and touching, smelling, and tasting.
(These are often shortened to the acronym VAKOG, which stands for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory.)
We make assessments of our circumstances by information we receive this way. This is how we get the lay of land. This is how we ascertain whether the time is right to act towards our outcomes.
This is how we assess whether our plan is working. This is how we know whether we need to change tack. And finally, it’s how we know when we’ve succeeded.
NLP acknowledges that different people have different preferences and abilities when it comes to interpreting the world through these 5 representational systems.
It’s perfectly fine to play to your strengths if that’s what fits the situation better. But you can also train yourself to improve in systems that you aren’t as strong at.
(That said, studies have found that the large majority of people tend to be visual thinkers.)
The great thing about concentrating on these 5 senses in any situation is that it really draws you into the present moment, rather than being lost in thoughts of the past or future. It makes you more present.
Pillar Three Is Behavioral Flexibility
Behavioral flexibility basically describes the ability to change your behavior in order to get a desired response from someone else.
You may have an outcome that you wish to achieve, and you’re using your 5 sense systems to see how it’s going.
And if your techniques don’t seem to be having the desired effect, you can adapt your behavior accordingly and take a different tack.
And this is important because all too often, we have a tendency to fall into our habitual behavioral patterns in all kinds of circumstances.
And a habitual response is often a very limiting one, and is not always effective for achieving your desired outcome.
Arguments provide a great example. You may have found that there’s someone’s behavior that you want to change. But when you start discussing it, the conversation always goes the same way and nothing ever changes.
The way to produce a different outcome in such a situation, assuming the other person doesn’t want to change their behavior, is to change your own behavior.
Many people fall into different types of personalities. For example, those defined by Myers-Briggs, that is extrovert, introvert, sensor, intuitive, thinker, feeler, judge, and perceiver.
NLP maintains that most of us have the ability to move between and within these different personality traits. And it is through behaving flexibly that we can achieve new circumstances, and ideally, better outcomes.
Pillar Four Is Rapport
The topic of rapport is perhaps what NLP is best known for.
Rapport is basically when two or more people are interacting in such a way that there appears to be a real connection between them.
Building rapport is one thing. It may start with pleasantries and small talk. But the key to truly successful relationships is to move beyond that. Go beyond the surface. And that means maintaining this rapport.
Once you have built a rapport with somebody, you can begin to really talk, and really listen. Each of you can explain what they are thinking and/or feeling, and the both of you get to feel heard.
It is only when parties really take everything in, and understand where everyone is coming from, that you can plan a way forward.
Part of establishing and maintaining rapport with someone is sensory acuity, as we discussed earlier. Seeing their body language, seeing their facial expressions, listening to not only their words but also their tone of voice as well.
But NLP also offers many techniques beyond that that will help people to feel more in sync with one another. And these can be particularly handy for those who are less empathic.
While some people might find that they automatically do these things anyway without even realizing it.
Key NLP rapport techniques include the likes of using the same metaphors, mirroring body language, matching tone of voice and sentence structure.
Using these techniques really helps the other person feel like you get where they’re coming from and that you can relate.
I bet you thought you could never learn so much about NLP from one short article!
This article certainly hasn’t covered everything you need to know about NLP, but at this point, you do have enough guidance to absorb the lessons of this article on the 4 pillars of NLP, and start practicing putting them to work, and see if they can work for you.
Go for it!