Learning NLP: Modalities and Submodality shifts

Submodalities are a classification of variables within a “modality”. Technically, NLP never acknowledges the “modalities” and “submodalities” as related classifications, but the fact is that VAKOG categories are the presupposed modalities that submodalities refer to.

As a learner of NLP, you have to be mindful that your ability to use submodalities has nothing to do with understanding the representation of a “modality” – it’s irrelevant. Focus on the elements of submodalities and explore them deeply.

Play around with analog and digital modes of shifting submodalities. As a practitioner, you might be doing this in your own mind. Yet, you also need to master it by applying  these shifts of submodalities in the minds of others, and facilitate that process.

“Make the picture bigger and brighter” affects submodalities as much as “instead of looking out through your own eyes, stand far away outside if yourself so you can see yourself”. While linguistically, most proficient individuals in English will find a way to describe this precisely, new practitioner must learn how to phrase their submodality shifts appropriately.

I’ve heard many people say things like “can you make your picture brighter?” (connotes uncertainty, especially with a typical beginner’s upward inflection which takes power away from their langauge) which defeats the purpose of the submodality shift: you want to use language that is certain: “make your image brigher now”. Or, if you choose a Ericksonian style, make it hypnotic: “I wonder how differently it feels when your image gets brighter now.”

Practice by recognizing your own STATES. You’ll know it works when you calibrate to the person’s response of you.

Learning NLP: Being Versatile with Sensory Predicates

A common issue I observe with people who are less linguistically inclined is the lack of desire to learn about language.

Is there a difference in these two paragraphs:

  1. The ocean was blue. You can hear the waves. It is relaxing.
  2. The vast and panoramic ocean is roaring with ebbing waves in the whistling comfort of the breeze, that makes you relaxed and the salty smell in the air reminds you of all the moments and times you stood comfortably by the beach.

I’m sure you will agree with me that #2 looks, sounds and feels more awesome. Remember – your words put images in people’s heads. You are going to need a wide enough vocabulary to do this. If you find yourself lacking in some of these, first, learn to be conscious of how others use their language and practice. Learn to describe and narrate scenario like a movie would. As you continue to do so, you will almost discover the power of words you have. And while they may not influence well for people less versed in this same language, you can most certainly adopt the process and apply the same kinds of evocative sensory language in the language of your choice.

You merely need to choose and commit to practice.

Learning NLP: The Problem With Forgetting Stuff

Recently, I had a group of new NLP Master Practitioner enrolees who had basically forgotten almost all their NLP terminology after 3 years. It was a painful process of trying to put the lessons back together again, because we were literally doing the Practitioner content over.

Do remember that the responsibility of learning rests on the learner, particularly since you are all adults — when you are experiencing a gap between a practitioner course and a master practitioner course, you have to make a deliberate effort to apply the NLP strategies and techniques to your everyday life. If not, it will be pretty much a waste of your money and time.

Remember – resitting the NLP Practitioner course is often a necessity, but that means (at least for me) a 50% resit fee. 

So,  this post is meant to help you save yourself from such a pain.

  1. Set goals for yourself. The moment you have goals, you have to galvanize resourceful states. When you do this, you will have the opportunity to apply NLP everywhere you go. Remembering that failure is feedback, you can always apply the NLP techniques alongside the belief system.
  2. Meditate. I coined a term called neuro-linguistic meditation.  This is basically a process of applying mindful meditation and enhancing it with NLP. Every day, if you start to build somatic awareness. you will learn to calibrate to yourself and your own emotions and experiences. Of course, it helps that you are put into a fundamental state of positive states through meditation, and thereby train your brain to be more effective.
  3. Hold coaching conversations. Most NLP practitioners are not coaches, but you can most certainly accelerate your pathway to become a Licensed NLP Coach through my Certified Motivational Coach programme (there is no pre-requisite to attend, but to be certified as an NLP coach, you have to be a Master Practitioner). This way, you can practice the most fundamental conversations in NLP, which is to help empower people through your language, while practicing reframing too!
  4. Keep reading NLP! NLP does advance as time goes by. Nowadays, there are applications of NLP in almost every other field such as medicine, negotiation, sales, motivation, self-help, spiritual development and the like. Oh, and remember to get a copy of Richard Bandler’s new generation of books.
  5. Develop an attitude of curiosity… with other NLP Practitioners. Social learning rocks! Well, if you haven’t done so, you should join your fellow graduates in the Facebook group (ping me on Facebook to get access). When events are organized, jump in and commit to learn by experience. Don’t just give in to the inconvenience – heck, by organizing this, it can be an inconvenience when people simply raise their hands but do not show up. If you don’t commit to learning, nobody will! And remember – I’m not obliged to organize free revision sessions. I’m just doing this because I know you need some space to practice, and you should come prepared to practice, not to come for a revision lesson.

NLP Modeling: Building Good Master Practitioners

I’ve recently started a new Master practitioner certification batch. As we know, the Master Practitioner training opens up new ways to look at human behavior at multiple levels, including the way to change meanings through interaction rather than just a static NLP (Milton Model) approach alone.

This has brought me to integrate some elements of core linguistics in order to help Master Practitioners learn about language and the strategies they represent in order to create models effectively.

After all, the principle ability of a Master Practitioner is in his or her ability to view the same thing with deeper and more powerful distinctions. Recently, I worked with this group to watch a well-known speaker who had an online video. Before learning NLP Master Practitioner distinctions and watching the video, patterns were less obvious. After the distinctions were made, it became more apparent that there was a much broader spectrum of elements that could make up the represented model.

As such, we talk about unconscious uptake and conscious design. Master Practitioners of NLP should be able to also create their own approaches to deal with problems at hand, without the worry of breaking rules or that the approach to modeling is “not the right thing”.

Three things I recommend for Master Practitioners. First, to understand that knowledge is not as important as meta knowledge. To achieve success as a masterful practitioner of NLP is to know how you know, to read things from different perspectives, and to engage and disengage with common interpretations flexibly. In so doing, we create new knowledge or at least new representations that imply new things about what we already know.

Second, curiosity. This is something that practitioners know to do, and master practitioners should have even more of. The fact is, many NLP practitioners these days become skeptical. Well, the more important thing to do is to consider what are things that can be learnt from knowledge we already have. What can we experiment with in order to test our ideas?

Third, unconscious delivery. I find that when we second guess ourselves too much we tend to forget things and oftentimes mistake our conscious mind as the only provider of knowledge. In reality, we need to trust our unconscious so much so that you leave behind what does not work and adopt what does work through an unconscious assimilation of capabilities through the modeling process.

NLP Practitioner Singapore: Personal Development

While many people choose to learn NLP due to its awesome persuasion skills, often people miss the point in being a certified NLP practitioner.

The idea behind NLP is the ability to get you to become a massive modeling machine. You learn, adapt and enhance your skill and knowledge further. Most people simply deem the NLP practitioner certificate as a qualification alone. In fact many people are touting NLP as the way to success.

While I don’t dispute it can help people with success, it has gotten sickening to see that there are people who use it like a magic silver bullet. Most of these people don’t even know what the entire system of NLP is in the first place. Hence, their methodology is skewed to one direction, causing students to be unable to use NLP beyond a narrow set of skills.

Becoming an NLP practitioner is about hunting down useful skill to improve one’s abilities and become more powerful in achieving results. But that’s half the story. You can also maximize the use of such tools to make a difference in the world.

I’ve seen highly inflexible and intolerant so-called NLP practitioners. Even at a crossroads of choices, some choose the safe path while being critical, nasty or even rude. I think the job of an NLP practitioner is to elevate the standard of flexibility in working with self first. If you can’t get yourself under control and check your own ability to open up, consider new possibilities and achieve new goals, then what’s the point of learning NLP?

Key point is this: keep within a learning group that is diverse and celebrates changes and improvements. Often, without this kind of culture, learning ceases while people think more of themselves than they really are. There is social myopia.

Expose yourself to more opportunities to manage yourself and your experiences. If this means getting yourself to do something uncomfortable, then do it. It will merely be a matter of time before it becomes the new norm and you can look back realizing you have learned and grown.

If all that NLP does is to do this, I think you would have added a lot of value to the world, starting from the people closest to you.

NLP: Using Nested Loops

One of the most impressive things in NLP is the ability to transfer knowledge through the use of nested loops. The process is simple – you need three stories that you nest between them (as depicted in the diagram) in order to transmit information throughout the presentation.

There are several elements. The first thing is the ability to (1) segway, (2) stack on anchors, (3) close loops.


Segways. A segway is a “break” in the storyline. An effective segway usually creates what we call “premature closure”. It means that the story appears to be over, but actually isn’t. This is the way through to the next story.

Stack on anchors.

In a typical NLP Practitioner training, it is important to learn basic anchoring. Stacking anchors is the the way in which you can intensify emotions through the story. In the use of nested loops, anchoring is a process within the stories. Each story carries a peak state of experience that either stacks or chains.

Close Loops

The process of closing loops is simple – you continue with the previous story. This will only work if the story that you have told is emotionally impactful enough.


The only way to continue to be good in nested loops is to practice it in multiple settings. As far as  can see, the most practical way to do this is to attend a good Master Practitioner training program, once you have the proper foundations settled. Remember, not all NLP training programs are equal because of the capabilities of the trainer!

Master Practitioner Training: Criticisms, Misconceptions and The Path To Professionalism

I always keep a look out for people who are in the NLP space, especially those in the region and those who are online. Much of the time, I feel a little sorry for those who have been attended NLP certifications for a few reasons.

Many NLP trainers (let alone Practitioners and Master Practitioners) are not reinventing themselves because they are too busy making money. Since the 1990s, there really hasn’t been much of a breakthrough in the applicability of NLP, let alone the transfer of NLP skills into the real world. I know a few NLP Practitioners who have attended the certification but do squat with it.

This is primarily because most NLP trainers still focus on therapy training as the foundation rather than the real roots of NLP, which is modeling. Recently, I took a look at an NLP Master Practitioner syllabus and realized that they spend about 10% of the time on teaching therapy rather than real modeling work.

How many people in the world actually use therapy in real life scenarios?? How much practice are you really going to get, even if you learn therapeutic models in NLP??

The main danger here is simple. By looking through the lens of therapy, you see every problem as a need for therapy. The truth is, if there are pathological symptoms, you will be in ethical danger of treating someone without really knowing the pathology and how to deal with it if you are simply NLP trained.

[NOTE: NLP is not therapy; if you are a therapist, it can help you to catalyze and improve your skills. NLP is a modeling methodology, linguistically bound. Many people do not even have the appropriate linguistic background to claim they can maximize the use of linguistics in so-called conversational hypnosis].

NLP was meant to be modeling oriented. Conversational. Linguistic. Since the beginning of time, NLP has always focused on meta models – models for creating models. At the moment, there are only two linguistic models in NLP, but the plethora of linguistic models in the real world are much broader in purpose, depth of application to access individual mental models, and supported by a growing body of research.

There are key disadvantages to this. Firstly, you are learning models that are not enriched. Many people who are teaching therapy aren’t in therapy, let alone having had the rigor of studying and understanding and applying therapeutic models. They simply have an NLP certificate (which doesn’t really amount to much). If you really want to learn therapeutic models, please learn them from an experienced therapist, and be prepared to study them in great detail. Secondly, you are detracting from the modeling process by taking things and expecting people to be learners of  a fixed model. This causes people to go about what I call “toolboxing” – where individuals say “let’s use A to achieve B”, resulting in fixedness instead of progression. Thirdly, a Master Practitioner should be Mastery driven rather than goal driven. A mastery orientation is different from a performance orientation because performance orientation reduces motivation to learn and is often associated with lower quality of learning (Dweck, 1986). In order for a Master Practitioner to be mastery driven, one needs to consider the fact that one has to be effective in modeling mental maps of others. This will include pre-requisite knowledge about:

  • listening to beliefs, values and attitudes through language
  • pattern recognition
  • understanding and differentiating cognitive structures through the use of linguistic frameworks
  • expert orientation – seeking out best practices and building the appropriate methodology to extract expert knowledge (multiple tools are in existence, including Cognitive Task Analysis, Applied Cognitive Task Analysis and Competency Mapping frameworks; Discourse analysis methods such as Speech Act Theory, Conventional Implicature & Conversational Implicature, the Cooperative Principle in comparison with Relevance Theory and the Politeness Principle ). Why? Simply because some methods help generate expert knowledge models far faster and comprehensively than other methods.

As the fields of psychology, linguistics and NLP begin to converge, it becomes more and more imperative for practitioners and master practitioners alike to be mindful of being able to expand the field not just for commercialization, but for professionalism.

NLP At Your Best… And Your Worst

It’s said that NLP is meant to bring out the best in you. Well, I’ve recently just concluded an amazing training with a bunch of high energy individuals, and you can catch them on my Facebook album.

What I’ve learnt is that no matter what tool we have, we need to always have faith that the future can be better for us. We are not who we “are”. The only “best” we can be is being “better” every time.

Sometimes, that’s not possible. I know some people who will say “But Stuart… we are in a crisis right now! How can you have “faith”?” Well, that’s the whole idea.

Somehow, human beings have been programmed to get in their own way. I think that’s what Bandler said, at least. As I get to understand this even more, I realize that the process of being at our best is sometimes about our worst. Hasn’t there been a time where you felt so miserable that you knew you bottomed out? Almost like the economy now, kind of. So when things get so bad you think they can’t get any worse, you learn from it.

Balancing actCreative Commons License photo credit: tanakawho

This “get in your own way” program seems to have been developed for our own good. As an NLP trainer, one thing that I often do is observe behaviors that are moving someone toward his or her goals. If their state is so bad that they can’t take action, it’s going to be likely that the failure is going to leave them disappointed and wondering if they can move forward. But we all know that there are different perspectives to the same issue. Someone can see the financial crisis now and scream in pain at the loss of opportunity. Someone else will scream in ecstacy of the possible wealth they can create for themselves.

Maybe, therefore, this whole modeling thing is meant to help us to increase our awareness of our best as well as our worst.

Maybe excellence presumes the inclusion of passionately going in the opposite swing of things. When we gripe and swear and wish others were dead, perhaps that is as low a state as we need to go to bounce back up.

In NLP, we explore the ideas of meta programs and values. Meta programs are those internal programs that create for us a sense of ‘personality’. They operate in the unconscious and shift from state to state. Values are the filters in our head that process what is important to us. Harmony or excitement, wealth or intimacy. These are values that guide many decisions in life.

When we are at our best, our values and meta programs activate in a much different way than when we are at our worst.

In a state of depression or fear, what is important to us activates an away from. We sometimes do everything possible to avoid all things, often to the detriment of our own results. I know someone who is so afraid of snakes, that anything that looks similar to it triggers off his fear… including a lock of long hair! He starts feeling that the people around him cannot be trusted (meta program: pessimism), that the people who had just bought his lunch were going to poison him. If he reacts instead of responds, you might even find him running onto the road with heavy traffic… simply because of an imagined stimulus. But if his survival instincts work, maybe this state will bottom out with him losing all his friends and loved ones simply because they can’t stand the way he reacts to a pipe, a wire, a water hose…

Somewhere along the line, this balancing out on the worst of us could cause us to bring out the best in us. We start saying “I lost all my opportunities or loved ones because of a stupid hose??” then we come to our senses. 🙂

I suppose as NLP practitioners, we only need to pay attention to what is happening. We keep people alive long enough for them to realize that they could do more with what they already have.

NLP Representational Systems

According to NLP theory, we have four major representational systems – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and digital. A visual representational system means you prefer seeing over hearing or touching. Auditory, of course means discussing, talking or sounding things out. Kinesthetic relates to doing, moving and the like. and digital refers to sequential processes (e.g. a flowchart or standard operating procedures).

Identify your own preferences when you think of your favorite activities, the thoughts in your head, and basically come to awareness of how you get a sense of the world around you.

National Poverty Hearing: Oliver Letwin in listening modeCreative Commons License photo credit: cooperniall

The implications are tremendous. What if you could sell to a preferred representational system (PRS) and increase conversion rates? What if you could interrupt negative behaviors by jarring the PRS? What if you could identify a person’s PRS and use that to get them to enjoy something that isn’t within their PRS? 😉

To be sharp in assessing a person’s PRS, observe their behavior, including eye movements (will discuss this in another post), physiology, preferences for activity. Listen also to sensory words being used. Visuals tend to use “see, color, bright” words. Auditories use words like “hear, speak, harmonize”. Kinesthetics “feel, touch, weigh” their thoughts. HINT: these are definitely not exhaustive but you should listen to more people speaking so you can see patterns evolving over time. Get it? (hint, read the HINT).