Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP has been a hot topic lately, and it’s inspired a great deal of debate. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either New Agey pseudo-scientific quackery or a panacea that solves every single social and workplace problem.
In spite of all the hype, NLP is neither of these things. In fact, there’s a good chance that an overwhelming majority of individuals who claim to practice the techniques are misusing them.
Fortunately, even those who don’t have any formal training can take a few pieces of wisdom from NLP and apply them to your daily life. Many of these techniques involve conflict resolution skills you’re probably already familiar with.
Using Neuro-linguistic Programming for Conflict Resolution in a Workplace Environment
Getting angry and shouting at one another doesn’t solve anything. You’ve probably heard that adage on dozens of occasions, but that doesn’t make it any easier to keep your cool when you’re under a great deal of stress. However, doing so can really decrease the chances of actually getting your message across because the other party might never even hear what you’re trying to get across to them.
Yelling activates the limbic system. This, in turn, switches on the so-called fight or flight response, which ensures that the individual you’re yelling at is more interested in self-preservation than whatever message you were trying to convey to them.
To make matters worse, the fact that you’re being yelled at in a shouting match can help to raise your own dander, so you’re probably not going to listen either. NLP experts would suggest that you focus on reprogramming these responses so that you don’t immediately assume you’re being attacked whenever someone hurls some criticism your way.
Dealing with Miscommunication
In fact, hurtful miscommunication is one of the biggest reasons that projects don’t get completed in larger enterprise-level firms. High-stress work environments aren’t often conducive to accomplishing major tasks, because they start to convince everyone involved that everyone else is out to get them. Over time, people start to program themselves to believe that everyone is in competition with one another even if they’re not.
According to one study, 33 percent of remote workers feel isolated as well, so this isn’t a problem that’s confined solely to the physical world.
NLP specialists have recommended that people take a moment to assess the situation and see if they can’t re-associate some of the code words other workers use so that they’re not constantly feeling as though they’re under siege. Once you’ve learned to understand the meaning of words rather than the emotional responses you get from them, you won’t have to worry as much about how people perceive you in the workplace.
Learning to recognize what messages really mean can take a while, but it’s worth it.
Programming Your Mind to Process Information the Healthy Way
So what is NLP anyway and how it can actually help you? The easiest way to explain it is a set of techniques that treat your mind as though it were a sort of sentient computer.
Once you start to recognize patterns in your daily life, you’ll be able to respond to them by radically changing your thinking about them in a process that some specialists refer to as metacognition.
Literally, this refers to thinking about the way that you think. It’s easy to apply these skills to your social life as well, as soon as you’ve mastered them. Experts believe that communication breakdowns are among the most common reasons that interpersonal relationships fall apart.
Some people have applied these techniques to almost every aspect of communication. Imagine you were talking to someone who was attempting to talk down to themselves and said that they were fundamentally without inherent worth.
Over time, you can recognize these patterns and work to build people up so that they’re able to know how much they really mean to you. You might even think that there’s nothing special about these skills. Rather than looking at them as having something to do with neuro-linguistic programming or any other psychiatric practice, you might instead view them as simply applying a little wisdom to your relationships.
There’s probably a ton of truth to that. In fact, traditional wisdom might beat out tested NLP techniques in a number of situations.
Does Neuro-Linguistic Programming Really Work?
In spite of all the anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest NLP programs are effective, there’s never been a single scientific study that examined whether or not it works in specific cases. A few anthropologists have even gone so far as to claim that certain NLP workshops are run as a sort of quasi-religious experience that has very little in common with conventional mental health techniques.
Much of this has to do with the fact that countless individuals don’t apply NLP techniques correctly. The extraordinary claims made by some of the early practitioners made some people believe that you could theoretically fix any condition with it. When it comes to motivating yourself to do certain things, adopting a winning mindset and focusing on your goals is going to work better than training in nearly any field.
Unlike what you may have heard, NLP training doesn’t correct allergies or eliminate the presence of biological pathogens in a patient’s bloodstream. These things are scientifically implausible.
The fact that some people have made these claims mirrors developments in chiropractic medicine and acupuncture. Those fields have also been plagued by results that are hard to reproduce, in part because the individuals in question are applying their disciplines to treat maladies that they couldn’t normally treat.
In some cases, though, the skills you’d get from a good grounded NLP training program can be applied to almost every area of your life that requires communication. Scientists are continuing to investigate areas where NLP techniques might prove effective.
Recent Studies Urge Cautious Optimism
No major world scientific body is currently recommending neuro-linguistic programming for any particular disorder. One study conducted by Indonesian researchers suggested that cross-training in NLP techniques encouraged students to practice other things they learned in school. This includes writing and foreign language skills.
Studies continue to look at the possibility that these techniques could help people develop healthier social lives and a saner work environment. In the meantime, individuals are encouraged to try looking at their problems from a different angle and see if they can’t reason at least some of them away.
While this might not necessarily constitute a specific NLP skill, it certainly doesn’t seem to be bad advice.
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