NLP For Coaching [Uncovered Guide]

If you are a coach and are not using NLP for coaching, you miss a trick. In this part of our Coaching and NLP uncovered series, we will discuss how to use NLP in coaching others.

We will talk about how to use the NLP to get great results when working with and coaching other people and for yourself.

NLP was developed by observing what works in creating change and excellence. The body of NLP is so effective in coaching because it provides coaches with models, techniques, and processes to follow that help bring about change and help people get what they want from life and achieve excellence.

There are lots of exercises for you to do in this series as examples of how using NLP can generate change, help form great motivation and visions for the future, and use our brains better and get more from life.

This series will help you if you are interested in learning more about NLP, if you are thinking about coaching others or if you are already a coach and want to add some more tools to your portfolio.

I (Anthony) am a coach, and I also train other coaches. I hope that this series will be helpful for you and that it will encourage you to learn more about yourself and learn more about NLP to help people create better lives.

I will talk you through some of the models and techniques in NLP so that you can see for yourself how NLP and coaching interact, solve problems, and create solutions.

Why Use NLP For coaching?

In short using, NLP will make you and others that you use it with FEEL DIFFERENTLY. You will feel differently within, feel differently about yourself and your capabilities, and feel like something has changed. The methods and techniques in NLP change the way we think.

Coaching clients crave positive change. They need to feel the transformation taking place, which happens in coaching sessions using NLP. It happens like magic, but in fact, it isn’t magic. It is planned, rehearsed, and well-executed techniques that produce the change in feeling and thoughts.

This magic and change are worth paying for – it provides value to coaching clients and an income for coaches.

Coaches – Use NLP in your coaching!

What do you know already about NLP? You probably know more than you think that you do. We are all using NLP all the time. NLP is experiential. It is about knowing what works and using those things to achieve objectives and get better outcomes.

NLP is about understanding what makes us tick, understanding, and using the mind’s language to get better results. NLP is so popular amongst coaches because it provides tools and techniques for coaches to use that bring about better self-awareness and change.

Coaching for Change
Coaching is about assisting others in going somewhere that they want to go with their life. We are a coach. We help transport people, and we help create positive change. We use the techniques of NLP to do that.

If someone is interested in coaching, then they won’t change, don’t they? If you coach them and everything stays the same for them, you haven’t been effective as a coach, and they won’t be wanting any more coaching from you.

The fact that someone expresses an interest in coaching means that they seek a change of some sort, so that is the first box that needs ticking. People need to be interested in changing something.

Also, a fact is that the coachee hasn’t been able to create the change that they need themselves. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need coaching. There can be many reasons for this, and the main reason is that people get stuck in the same thought patterns and behaviours. They can’t seem to generate sufficient motivation, or they haven’t yet released their capabilities to get out of those limiting patterns.

A coach’s job is to enable people to take a look outside of their current limitations, create compelling objectives for their work or their life, and facilitate the change. This is our end objective in coaching.

You will hear me talk a lot about structure in coaching. The system is essential. It gives us guidelines to follow and helps us understand concepts better. NLP is extensive in form, it provides us with a framework to use, and there are five main principles in NLP that we need to bear in creating change and working with others.

5 Premises of change in NLP

Here then are the five principles or presuppositions for change in NLP which a coach will apply in the coaching process:

The map is not the territory. Our map is our thoughts and feelings. The region is reality. We respond to reviews and feelings about reality, not the reality itself. This is good news because it is possible to get a better map, a better way to think and feel.
Experience has a structure. How memories are arranged in our minds determines what they mean and how they will affect us. If we can change the structure of our memories, we will experience these events differently.
If one person can do it, then anyone can learn to do it. This is the great promise of NLP. Excellence and achievement have a structure that we can copy. If we use our brains in the same way as the people achieving excellence, we can achieve the same results.
Mind and body are part of the same system. If you can change your mind, then your abilities will change. If you change your posture, breathing, or other parts of physiology, your thoughts will change, which will improve the way you feel.
People have all the resources that they need. An image, a sound, or a feeling is a resource. We have the ability to see pictures in our minds. Whether these pictures are clear or fuzzy, they can be built up into great visions. Inner voices can criticise us or encourage and guide us. If we have experienced a feeling once, then feelings can be transferred from the past into the present and be there any time we need it.
When clients come for coaching, they may have a problem in mind that they want to address or a challenge they want to discuss. They may or may not have a solution or an outcome that they would like at this stage, and an initial chat with a client would be designed to agree on an outcome for the coaching. During the coaching, a coach will apply specific NLP techniques related to these five principles to the problem or challenge to help the client create their change and get their desired outcome. NLP is outcome-focused.

These five principles form the foundations of how to create change. We will look at each of these principles in more detail later in this series and see how they can be useful to us as coaches.

Why use NLP? In the words of a coach learning NLP
NLP is a very well-researched and evidence set of tools and techniques that help me develop myself in the way that I want and, more importantly, improve quite a few dimensions of my coaching and mentor practice that benefits my clients. It was created by observing key individuals who were masters of their craft, linking mind, body and linguistics and enables me to improve:

How I read my clients messages, verbal and non-verbal, more subtly and to identify and work upon incongruency in their messages, getting to the nub of their issues more quickly (includes noticing the changes in tension in their facial muscles as well as eye movements and body language.)
It enables me to understand better how I filter messages I receive to help me manage my self-talk and in the coaching session to be better aware of what I am seeing, feeling and hearing to feedback in support of my client and facilitate my greater objectivity and my better representation of reality.
It gives me deeper levels to build rapport with my clients by not only being empathetic but also by acknowledging how they map the world and matching or not matching their verbal and body language, giving me greater control of the meeting. It is also a “do with” process, so it helps me leave responsibility for the actions to my clients and avoid, what is quite a natural tendency, to jump in to offer my own solutions.
A greater understanding of how others have constructed their world and using the presuppositions of NLP to better respond to issues such as being stuck in a professional session and to accept that others see the world differently from me and that they naturally try to do their best in the circumstances which may not seem so to me. Particularly in both settings, to know that they are just poor communicators or have a different representational system, so it is for me to make sure that they can get a meaningful two-way dialogue with me, they are not likely to be resistant to what I am trying to achieve, just poor at communication or there is an element of mismatching of communication for which I need to translate.
Additional tools to help me work with the client to address their issues once identified include building their confidence and other positive views of the world by working on their self-talk and their responses to the negative emotions triggered by events.
It enables me to work with them more effectively at both a conscious and unconscious level and giving me an observation structure to see what I am trying to achieve, how to approach it and how to read how well it is working as I move through the process.
It is perfect to have scratched the itch to learn more about NLP after the three-day training I had as a trainer about 10 years ago. I now have a wealth of resources to deepen my theoretical insights and exercises to undertake to hone my practical skills. It fits well with all I have learnt before.

The principles of coaching I have worked with for many years are largely reproduced in NLP presuppositions but taken a little further. The way that Erickson treated his patients is reminiscent of “The Inner Game of Tennis”. W Timothy Galway, the coach, got the tennis player to tell him which way the ball was spinning to improve observational skills for himself. It also links with the “Five Minute Coach” and “Clean Language techniques”, where you try to avoid making assumptions by translating a client’s words into your own and also to talk to them in their reference system by relaying their words back to them. The integration and greater perfection of these techniques will be compelling and work to triangulate what I have learnt from different sources, giving me greater confidence in my competencies as a coach and a flexible approach in dealing with client’s issues. This will enable me to relax more at the moment within a coaching session and therefore be more capable of noticing even subtler changes in myself and my client – a positive reinforcement loop.

It will also enable me to articulate to a client an approach I want to try and to treat any unsuccessful avenues as feedback, not failures. This will make me braver to attempt more. A positive double learning loop to satisfy my theoretical and pragmatic tendencies. It also includes the concept of checking that the action taken to address the issue is right for them and wider within society. It, therefore, gives a sanity check before the coaching contract is finalised either to set up the sessions or as the working alliance is agreed within a session to reinforce the fact that I should not harm.

If you would like to use NLP to coach others, you may be interested in taking one of our NLP training courses or an international Coaching Course. On these courses, you can qualify as an NLP Practitioner, NLP Coach, NLP Master Practitioner, NLP Master Coach, Life Coach and Business Coach.

Use NLP in your coaching practice – with the best intention (and for an excellent reason).

We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

What is NLP?

In simple terms, Neuro Linguistic programming (NLP) is a series of models, techniques and strategies to help us better understand how the language we use influences the way we think and the results we get!

How can I benefit from using NLP?

NLP can have a positive effect on every aspect of your life. It can be used to move forward with some specific challenge or issue, or can be adopted more generically to make a difference to all areas of your life.

ANLP has many case studies and success stories detailing how NLP has helped clients, organisations and educational establishments with specific challenges over the years.

How does NLP work?

Have you ever done something so elegantly and effectively that it took your breath away? Have you had times where you were delighted at what you did and wondered how you did it?

NLP shows you how to understand and model your own successes, so that you can reproduce them. It is a way of discovering and unfolding your personal genius, a way of bringing out the best in yourself and others.

NLP is the study of excellence. It is the study of both the conscious and unconscious processes that combine to enable people to do what they do. The key to success is often unknown at a conscious level. Using NLP, you can elicit these unknown pieces.

You may want to improve your relationships, or eliminate an anxiety, or become more competitive in the market place. The key pieces are not found in the muscles, but in your inner thoughts, like words or pictures, or feelings or even beliefs. Once you know these unknown pieces you can change them. NLP exercises are like thought experiments, mental exercises or a game. The laboratory is your mind.

How did NLP develop?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming was first defined by Dr Richard Bandler (a Mathematician) and John Grinder (an Associate Professor of Linguistics) working together at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the early 1970s at a time of rapid development in the humanities field.

They asked the important question "What is it that makes the difference between somebody who is merely competent and someone who excels at the same skill?" and decided to model various people in order to discover the answers. It just so happens that the three people they chose to model were the outstanding therapists, Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir (Family Therapy) and Milton Erickson (world renowned psychiatrist who gave his name to a form of hypnosis). They could just as easily have modelled outstanding businessmen or scientists.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder modelled their language, physiology and mental processes and then identified patterns (rather than theories) which could be explicitly taught. NLP also drew on many existing fields of study including the work of Chomsky in linguistics, of Korsybski in general semantics, Ashby in systems thinking and many, many others.

Do I need an NLP trainer or an NLP professional?

That depends on what you hope to achieve.

If you would like one to one support to achieve a specific goal or deal with a particular challenge in your life, then you may like to consider visiting an NLP professional (a Practitioner or Master Practitioner).

If you would like to learn more about NLP, either for your own personal development or because you are considering a career change or additional career, then you are looking for an NLP trainer. You can then attend some NLP training and become a qualified Practitioner yourself.

How do I choose a good NLP professional?

For starters, make sure any NLP professional you are considering working with belongs to the Professional Body, so you have something to fall back on and they have a self-regulatory framework to base their business upon.

ANLP offers you impartial guidance on choosing either an NLP professional or an NLP trainer and strongly advises that you do your due diligence before engaging their services.

How much does an NLP session cost?

The cost of an NLP session will vary depending on whether you are having a 1-2-1, group or a training session as part of a longer course. Prices will also vary based on the skill and specialization of the Practitioner… a single session may be as little as £50 and a course can be over £3,000.

We recommend you use our ANLP resources to select the right NLP professional for you and that you understand how much you will be charged per session or for the course before you commit.

By searching on our site and using an ANLP Member, you will be assured that the person you select is qualified, as they state on their profile, as either an NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner, Trainer, or ANLP Accredited Trainer from an ANLP-recognised NLP School.

NOTE: If you are looking for NLP training and to learn NLP as a practitioner, we do NOT recommend that you use online courses to learn NLP as the quality and depth of training offered is, in our professional opinion, not adequate to certify you as an NLP practitioner with ANLP. As the internationally recognized, independent body of NLP Professionals, ANLP does not endorse or recognize ANY online-only NLP courses.

Where do I start?

If you are interested in engaging an NLP professional to support you through a particular issue, then we suggest you start by looking at our guide for choosing a good NLP professional.

If you are wondering if NLP is a good fit for your organization or workplace, then start by reading our guide for using NLP at work.

If you are thinking about training in NLP for yourself, then start by looking at our guide for choosing a good NLP trainer.

If you are curious and want to know a bit more about NLP before diving in, then do have a look at our case studies and recommended book list, both of which can help you to make informed decisions about whether or not NLP is right for you.

Is there any research to prove NLP works?

For many years, there was very little research around NLP. That is changing and there is a growing body of evidence to support the roots of NLP practice and various specific strategies and techniques used within NLP practices.

There is also a growing body of research particularly in the education field, funded by the Education Development Trust (formerly CfBT). We feature their research papers, and others, on our Research Pages.

The first NLP Research Journal was published by NLPEA  in 2009 and was launched at the House of Commons in January 2010.

In the States, the Research and Recognition Project focuses on PTSD and trauma protocols and continues to campaign for funded research into these particular areas.

What about online courses in NLP?

We think online courses, in NLP, such as Udemy, are one of many great ways to discover more about NLP and what it can do for you...

We also strongly believe that if you have more than a passing interest in NLP and want to use it to build your own practice or enhance existing client-led services, it is so important to learn your NLP practice face to face, in a live training environment and dealing with real people.

NLP is an experiential subject and practicing NLP is an essential part of any certification when you want to work with others.

There is a big difference between 'online' courses and 'virtual' courses. Due to the pandemic in 2020, NLPEA's Accreditation panel and advisors explored ways of safely delivering NLP training in a virtual setting, resulting in the ANLP Criteria for Virtual Training. If your NLP Training meets all these live training requirements, you can still apply for membership of NLPEA.

What is NLP


What is NLP


What is NLP



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