10 Outrageous Mistakes NLP Newbies Tend To Make

10 Outrageous Mistakes NLP Newbies Tend To Make

10 Outrageous Mistakes NLP Newbies Tend To Make

Based on the number of websites dedicated to NLP, it’s no secret that this “mysterious” and on-the-surface hard to understand technology arouses a lot of interest and curiosity…   The only reason why it begins with a sense of “hard-to-understand” is its name! What on Earth is Neuro Linguistic Programming? These words almost don’t make any sense in our daily language.   It is almost a strange and foreign language – which sounds threatening enough.   And if you are one of the fans of NLP, and you have ever tried to explain to somebody else what is it, how did that work? How easy was it to explain to your mom or to your friend Joe what NLP is?   Phew! Don’t even get me started!   What’s interesting is that it could be easy, except the mistakes you make in your own head when you think of NLP.

Let’s take them one by one

1.     The Name

Maybe the name NLP, Neuro Linguistic Programming (did your tongue twist trying to pronounce it?) was conceived from the very beginning to make most of the average Joe’s and Jane’s stay away, because there is a lot of power in NLP as we will see in a moment.   But if you keep it simple, you can summarize in one single sentence what NLP is all about: the science of how to create excellent behaviour. Of course implied here is that first you need to discover excellent behaviour, and then based on some techniques you’re then able to and replicate it. Now that’s not so complicated to remember, right? And it makes a little more sense, too.

2.     It Is Highly Theoretical

Actually this is one of the biggest misconceptions about NLP. Not only is not particularly theoretical, but its power lies in the practical applications. (This misconception is often the result of people who like to discuss about issues, but when it is about doing anything, they’re not the ones to take any action).

3.     It Is Too “Intellectual”, Too Logical To Figure It Out

Anything can be presented such that it sounds extremely academic or highly “intellectual”. In fact, there are NLP trainers who would like make it seem that the set of skills involved in NLP were unattainable for the average person.   In our school on NLP we disagree with that philosophy – although we agree that there are many different ways of training people in NLP and all of them are great. We agree that we all can have different philosophies about how to teach the body of knowledge of NLP and still not trash the field.   At the end of an NLP training, some trainers are interested in showing you how brilliant they are. At the end of our trainings – we are interested in you saying that you have discovered how brilliant you are in the process of learning NLP.

4.     It Is too Left Brain, Too Much Conscious Mind Cold Stuff

Again, anything can be presented cold-heartedly, logically and rationally, in a very pragmatic fashion. I could talk to you about walking the dog in a manner that would make it sound like an academic thesis.   The truth is that NLP has a lot of jargon. The jargon of NLP gives the field its uniqueness. I guess, any field that wants to have some importance must have a lot of weighty words – just remember that NLP’s second initial stands for “linguistic”.   But the jargon is not difficult to acquire. Every field has jargon. Car dealerships have jargon. What does it mean for a person on the street the words “service absorption”? But every person working in the dealership knows that it is the percentage of the cost of running the business covered by the service department. This is why, while you have your car in service, the dealership will try to sell you extras or if the time is right, even a new car!   Restaurants have jargon – what does it mean “high turnover” during lunch? It means how many times they have their tables occupied during lunch hour.   Bakeries have jargon, oh and let’s remember the new computer, Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod etc.; jargon we are all accustomed to. Twenty years ago, these words did not even exist. If you want to find out something just “Google” it! “To Google” something…uh, uh! Now, Google-ing has become a verb in the English language! Even more, it has become a word in the international language!   Did you post this on Facebook® yet? The new iOS 6 in the iPhone is coming up next…   So, the fear of jargon and too much “logical stuff” is not real!   NLP is no more difficult than any other field. In fact, the jargon is not even that important until you become a trainer of NLP – this is the moment where you need to know it well. Until then, at the NLP Practitioner or NLP Master Practitioner levels, all you need to do is to usethe techniques successfully. This is actually where we concentrate most of our attention in our trainings.

5.     I like To Do Hypnosis – NLP Does Not Do Trance

This is closely connected to the previous one. Sometimes, hypnosis lovers don’t like to deal with anything that takes them out of trance. But here is the mistake – and it’s a double one.   NLP would not be successful without working with the Unconscious Mind. Who do you think does the change occurring when we imagine a big picture on the screen and a little picture in the lower left hand corner and then we swish them quickly several times so that after a few sets the brain switches over?   If you are not familiar with NLP, I just gave you a big picture of one of the patterns of NLP called The Swish Pattern. So, you really think that NLP is done out of trance?   Here is the difference: when we do hypnosis the conscious mind gets out of the way. And this could be good or bad, depending on the situation. For some people it can be great, and for some people it would not work all so well. If you do hypnosis alone, but your conscious mind does not know what you’ve worked on, it can continue to operate as if nothing happened. This may, and I emphasize maybe counter-productive.   Now if you do hypnosis and the conscious mind knows what you’ve worked on but has doubts whether it worked or not, it can undo the change by these very doubts.   There are many types of trance. One type of trance is when you sweetly day-dream and your mind goes wherever it wants, without a focus and a controlled direction. Another type of trance is where your attention (still focused inwardly) is directed on a certain thought process.   This is a focused trance. It may be not as deep as other types of trance, but it surely is a trance.   In our school of NLP, we integrate the work of the conscious mind with the unconscious mind, and we do that in full consciousness and control of the students.

6.     It is Manipulative

Yes. NLP couldand please note I said could be used for manipulation. But so could everything else.   It is just too obvious! Do you know people who are manipulative without knowing NLP? I have some in my own extended family!   Do you know doctors who are manipulative? Do you know lawyers who are manipulative? What about teachers, priests (considering the scandals we watch on TV), etc.?   NLP is not manipulative in and of itself. It is no more manipulative than a hammer. You can manipulate somebody easily with a hammer.   But, of course, the techniques of NLP can be used for manipulation. Like all the other techniques in Public Relations initially called “propaganda” by Edward Bernays, like Spin, like advertising and marketing…   Ultimately, whether NLP is used for manipulation or not, depends entirely on the integrity and the character of the person using it.   In our trainings, we do everything we can to build in a lot of integrity and a lot of positive usage of these techniques. In fact, we only focus on the positive use: for coaching, for increased performance, for elimination of negative emotions, conflicts, limiting decisions and beliefs about one’s personal capabilities, and the like.

7.     It Is Hard To Do

Not only that it isn’t hard – but once you get trained in it, you realize how easy it is. But it is different from the normal average way of thinking. Which, considering how well the world is doing (look around), it may not be such a bad thing overall.

8.     If I Read Books On NLP, I Know All About What It Is

This is a very funny one. We got a call from somebody telling us how many books (there were 4 in total) he read about NLP, and how well he understands NLP, therefore he requested to be certified as an NLP Practitioner.   We asked him to describe what the keys to anchoring were – he said he wasn’t sure. We asked him then to tell us how to do the process of anchoring (these are the steps to anchoring). He said he cannot remember well but he knows everything about Pavlov and the dogs. For those of you who are new to NLP, anchoring is a piece of NLP jargon (again!).  It simply means a process by which a certain stimulus is liked to a certain state – in other words a stimulus- response process, and the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov demonstrated this at the beginning of the last century.   An example of an anchoring is the songs Jingle Bells. You hear it and you think of shopping for the end of the year holiday season.   Nevertheless, he had no clue how to do it. We asked then if he knew how to elicit the decision making strategy from somebody using only the person’s eye movements and the sequence of words by which s/he is describing how they bought something.   He said he did not know about that at all.   And so we concluded that he really did not know how to do NLP. He knew about NLP, but that was all.   There is a book on NLP on the market, which is written by such an author. Unfortunately, what is described in that book could be called anything but NLP. Or maybe a very personal view of the techniques in the field. Regrettably, if newcomers begin their learning of NLP with that book, they will never acquire the understanding to master the field. They will become, at most, dabblers.

9.     I Don’t Like That People in NLP Don’t Love Each Other

This is a common mistake. The fact that NLP Trainers are capable people, and they have a nice control over their own minds and behaviours, does not mean they are perfect creatures without blemish. They are no more or less perfect than any other humans.   My personal opinion is that if you play the game of trying to be perfect, you’re immediately setting yourself for failure. If we were perfect folks, we would not be here any longer. Like the old saying “When you’re done, you’re gone!”

10.    NLP Is Anchoring…or Swish… or Meta-Model…

If you read NLP blogs, here and there you find somebody whose comments indicate that “NLP IS… and then they name an NLP technique.   NLP is not a technique. NLP is a field where we have a bunch of techniques coming from everywhere else.  It is a collection of different patterns, and useful methods of first discovering how your mind works and then mastering it so it can lead to excellence. The power of NLP is in its practical applications.   Until next time, be well!

Adriana James

About the Author: Adriana James

NLP Master Trainer, Hypnosis Master Trainer and NLPCoaching Master Trainer. She is the author of the book Values And the Evolution of Consciousness - a book about how to take advantage of the massive changes which the world is going through and  Time Line Therapy® Made Easy - an introduction to Time Line Therapy® techniques easy to master by everyone. To read more about Adriana go here.


  1. Laura Petrie

    This article is an amazing resource!

  2. Brett Ellis
    Brett Ellis

    Hey Laura, that’s a good description of NLP – NLP is an amazing resource!

    What is NLP? Well, NLP is nothing without you and me!
    Have fun describing NLP to yourself, then when it comes to describing it to others you’ll have a myriad of ways in which you can say what you want to say with certainty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *