Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Summary of Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton: this introductory book is written by two US experts. It will lead you into the world of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and guide you through the concepts and methods.

By Romilla Ready and Kate Burton, 2020, 313 pages.

Chronicle and summary of “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies” by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton


“This book aims to entrance anyone fascinated by people. Through its experiential approach, NLP encourages people to take action to shape their own lives. It attracts those willing to ‘have a go’ and open their minds to new possibilities.” […] The NLP approach is about setting aside your disbelief, having a go, and realising your potential.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 2)

This sets the tone: long live experimenting on yourself — and on others! Of course, this all takes place in a space of kindness, conviviality and a in pragmatic spirit of progress. That is why NLP has become one of the favourite resources in personal development. It offers a thousand and one techniques of varying simplicity for self-improvement and to improve how you communicate with others.

Although it may sometimes feel esoteric or outlandish (mainly because it frequently calls on the imagination), NLP has a sufficiently solid scientific basis. Its principles comes from academic work carried out in American universities, mainly in California, in the 1970s. It is widespread today and continues to be the subject of research all over the world.

Are you ready to discover the meaning and power of these three letters?

Part 1 — Introducing NLP

Chapter 1 — Getting to know NLP

1. What is NLP?

NLP — for neuro-linguistic programming — is a method that aims to improve thinking and communication skills.

  • The term programming refers to the theory of learning and the idea that each mental representation of our experience is the fruit of a special type of coding — a process that we can learn to control.
  • Neuro concerns the neurological system and it is evocative of the idea that the senses are the primary vector of experience: sensory information generates thoughts that activate the neurological system.
  • The term linguistic is used in order to mark that language is the preferred means through which human beings appropriate an experience and communicate it. Words have consequences on our way of experiencing the world.

This method was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the University of Santa Cruz in California in the 1970s. It is based on interviews held with personalities who were particularly gifted in the fields of communication and change. Since then, it has developed widely and many practitioners teach the method around the world.

2. The pillars of NLP

NLP is based on 4 pillars:

  • Rapport indicates the way we relate to ourselves and others. Integrity is important, and so is speaking honestly, even (perhaps especially) when it comes to saying “no”.
  • Sensory representation concerns the senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell offer access to a universe that is rich in sensations.
  • Outcome thinking is characterised by positive thinking turned towards goals to be achieved.
  • Behavioural flexibility in NLP indicates the capacity to change and therefore change your perspective about the world when necessary.

To achieve a good rapport (with yourself or with another person), you need to use your senses to hear the message coming from outside yourself, and have a clear idea of the desired outcome. You should also demonstrate flexibility in order to adapt the outcome if it cannot be achieved in the original format.

3. Models and modelling

Modelling excellence is an important theme of NLP. “The NLP premise begins as follows: if you can find someone who’s good at  something, you can then model how that person does that thing and learn  from them. You can discover how to model anyone you admire.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 18)

What is modelling based on? First, on the idea – also found in stoic philosophy – by which we interpret the world in different ways. Therefore, our representations (maps of reality) are also different.

4. Using NLP to greater effect

Furthermore, NLP considers learning (or the remodelling of our representations based on a model of excellence) to be progressive, in other words, step by step. There is no point in changing everything all at once. Take it one step at a time!

You also need to have an open mind and to believe that change is possible (if not for the whole world, at least in yourself). Adopting this kind of attitude is already a form of positive change that allows you to reconnect and change your life.

Don’t be afraid to embark on the adventure: stay curious and expect to feel confused from time to time. It is actually a good sign and the right way to move forward.

Finally, take responsibility for the change. It is up to you to experiment, take notes, share and pass on your experiences. And all this work is carried out in a fun and playful way.

Chapter 2 — Some basic assumptions of NLP

1. Presuppositions of NLP

Like any method or theory, NLP starts with a series of presuppositions or generalisations about the world. What are they? Here is a list of the most important ones:

  • “The map is not the territory” (Korzybski), your representations are not the world
  • Every person acts or reacts in relation to their own map
  • You do not fail, you receive feedback
  • The consequences of communication are more important than the intention — be careful about how you communicate, because the outcome of the discussion is what counts
  • Adopt other ways of doing things if what you are currently doing is not working
  • You communicate as much with your body as with your words
  • You have the necessary resources to achieve the desired outcomes
  • Any behaviour, even negative, has a positive intent (be accepted, be loved, etc.)
  • Behaviour does not tell a person’s entire story. You also need to take environment, capacities and skills into account at any given time, along with values and beliefs, identity
  • There is no clear-cut separation between body and mind. There is a continuum – one constantly influences the other
  • Change is always conceivable, even when it is difficult to imagine or accept
  • Taking the example of models is an excellent way to make progress

2. Final words on presuppositions: Suck them and see!

“Test the presuppositions presented in this chapter for yourself by behaving as if the generalisations are true. Practise those that you find particularly useful until they become second nature.  While trying out the NLP presuppositions, make a list and pick one each day, and live by it for one day.  Then pick another one for the next  day. You can then find, suddenly, that you’re living the presuppositions and ‘the  living is easier’! “  (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 37)

Chapter 4 — Taking charge of your life

1. Taking control of your memory

Memories are coded into sensory representations (sounds, images, various sensations). You can control your memories by accentuating the pleasant state of positive memories and by diminishing the pain associated with negative memories.          

How? By reliving the memory, gradually focussing on these sensations, and then altering them mentally (see chapter 10 for more details).

2. You see it because you believe it

What we think about the world and other people is related to our perception filters. In order to change, we need to be able to take responsibility for our thoughts and accept to change them. One effective way to undertake a change of belief consists of focusing on the outcome rather than on the problem.

What does that mean? The danger of problem-based thinking is that we may want to look for scapegoats. It can make us defensive. Relying on a question that aims to see the end of the action, such as “what is the goal of my action?”  allows us to see more clearly and move forward in a more constructive manner.

3. The path to excellence

Knowing what you want is the first step. When you know the goal, your brain will naturally refuse to continue with the exhausting and endless spiral of negative thoughts. When you know what you want, you can channel your energy and your resources in the right direction.

Here’s a tip – picture yourself as an old person, telling the story of your life. Or better still: write your obituary and take stock of your legacy to see more clearly what kind of results you want to get from your life.

Once you have a goal in mind, think SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed). More specifically, ask yourself the following questions. They will allow you to refine your wording even more:

  • “Is the goal stated in the positive?
  • Is the goal self-initiated, maintained, and within my control?   
  • Does the goal describe the evidence procedure?
  • Is the context of the goal clearly defined?
  • Does the goal identify the necessary resources? 
  • Have I evaluated whether the goal is ecological?
  • Does the goal identify the first step I need to take?” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 124)

4. The four-point formula for success

You can apply the (improved) SMART method for each specific goal in your life. More broadly, remember these four points, and keep them in mind throughout your life:

  1. Know your outcome
  2. Take action
  3. Develop sensory awareness
  4. Maintain behavioural flexibility

There is another point we can add: keep a dream journal related to your goals. Write down your goals. This helps you to remember them along the road and to programme your brain (and your unconscious mind) to follow the path you have indicated. Think of your goal like a date with yourself.

You can also use a notebook with different coloured pages or with dividers. In it, write down the goals for the different areas of your life (social life, work, sport, etc.). Write down the goals related to these different areas and put them in chronological order (short, medium or long-term goal). Make sure that your goals are well written (SMART) and look over them regularly.

use a notebook with different coloured pages Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Part 2 – Your brain’s highway code

Chapter 3 – Who is behind the wheel?

1. Grasping how your fears can drive you in the wrong direction

The unconscious mind acts undercover to control the body, emotions and behaviour. To act effectively, you have to bring your conscious and unconscious mind into alignment with each other.

To do this, it is good to know how each part works. For example, the conscious mind is focused on verbal language and logic, while the unconscious mind is more concerned with body language and creativity. Let’s take a look at some of the particularities of the unconscious mind.

  • Inability to process negative information (which is why it is important to formulate your goals in a positive manner)
  • Needs direction (meditation is a great way to open communication with your unconscious mind and learn to control it)
  • Processing memories (including repressing memories of negative and unresolved emotions)
  • Ongoing learning (the unconscious mind does not like being bored and needs stimulation)
  • Morality (your unconscious mind acts in relation to certain moral codes that you have learned)

2. Reticular activation: your monitoring system

In order to categorise the sensory information that reaches us at every moment in life, a system of neurons works overtime. NLP calls it the Reticular Activation System. What are the selection criteria? How does it choose what information to retain or reject?

  1. Importance for survival
  2. New (something that you are not used to will attract more attention)
  3. Strong emotional investment (for a loved one, for example)

Reticular activation will help you to notice things in relation to your goals, while allowing you to live your daily life without being constantly assailed by feelings. Note that your beliefs have an influence on reticular activation. They can prevent (or alternatively stimulate) your perceptions.

3. Beliefs and values make a difference

“Everyone has values; they’re just different for different people and different groups of  people. Your values and beliefs are unconscious filters that you use to decide what bits of data coming in through your senses you pay attention to and what  bits you ignore.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 93)

In other words, these values and beliefs are part of your unconscious decision-making. They are the fruit of your past experience and help you to have confidence (or not) in some of your capacities. Limiting beliefs are ones that make you feel unable to do something or other.

Beliefs of other people can also help us or cause us harm. If other people (especially teaching figures, professionals, friends and family) think that we are not capable, we tend to become like that… Happily, there are ways to get around this problem (see chapter 7 about exploring modes of perception).

You can also choose to transform your own beliefs and values by acting on the sensory aspects (sounds, images, sensations) associated with them — in a similar way to memories.

4. Daydreaming your future reality

Imagination is not a flaw! On the contrary, it can help you to establish your goals in a more efficient manner. Here is the advice that Romilla Ready and Kate Burton have to offer on this topic:

  • “Make a list of what’s important to you about your goal; that is, all the reasons why you want it, and put them in order of importance.   Are you surprised by your values? Did you realise something you thought  important wasn’t that important after all, and did you think of a value that  may have been missing in the beginning?  
  • Now, while still daydreaming, imagine floating out of your body and into the future, to a time when you may have achieved this goal. 
  • Notice the pictures, sounds and images and manipulate them. Can you make these stronger, more vibrant, and then even more so? 
  • From the place in the future, turn and look back to now and let your unconscious mind notice what it needs to know about and help you do in  order for you to achieve your goal.   Remember to notice what the first step would be! 
  • When you’ve savoured the dream fully, come back and take that first step!” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 108)

Chapter 8 — Pushing the communication buttons

1. The NLP communication model

The cognitive psychology of Bandler and Grinder proposes a particular kind of communication model. It is composed of four important concepts:

  • External behaviour = the way somebody acts visibly in relation to other people
  • Internal response = the reaction that is produced inside the person
  • Internal process = the dialogue that is in place during the internal response
  • Internal state = the sensations that overwhelm the person as part of the internal response.

When two people communicate, one acts in a certain way (external behaviour), allowing the other to formulate an internal response, followed by an external response that answers the other person. Evidently, this external behaviour will in turn produce an internal response on the part of the first person. The cycle continues until the communication ends. The communication can either “spiral” or it can succeed harmoniously.

2. Understanding the process of communication

Grinder and Bandler noticed that good communicators have at least three traits in common:

  1. They know what they want
  2. They are good at noticing the responses they get and identifying them
  3. They can be flexible in order to get, at least gradually, what they want

We are not all good at hearing other people. Communication depends on at least three processes: deletions, distortions and generalisations that we operate with the information the other person is sending (or the place).

Also, our reactions vary in relation to several characteristics that make us unique: our meta-programme (for example, more of an introvert or an extrovert), our beliefs and values, our attitudes, our memories, our decisions.

3. Giving effective communication a try

To improve your communication, it is better to learn to live with all these unconscious dimensions. It is possible to create harmonious communication with another person by being determined (knowing what you want to get out of the conversation) and patient (in other words, flexible).

Non-violent communication is based on similar methods of exchanging and consciousness of goals and limitations (desires, fears, etc.). Learning to communication well means learning to become fully responsible for your words, in other words the consequences of your acts of language.

Part 2 — Winning friends and influencing people

Seeing, hearing and feeling your way to better communication 

1. Three letters for the dimensions: VAK

We call the impressions of the senses as they remain in the mind while we are thinking the “dimensions”. For example, if you think of a meal, you may think of a picture, flavours, hot or cold sensations, etc. These dimensions literally impregnate the thought process.

VAK is an acronym for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (related to bodily sensations). We could also add two other dimensions, olfactory and taste (in which case the acronym becomes VAKOG). Some people have some senses that are more developed than others — which means that they capture more information through them.

With this in mind, you can also begin to train your senses to sharpen them and gather more varied information about the world around you. Perhaps you will discover better ways to learn or to carry out an activity, whether artistic or sporting, for example.

2. Listening to the world of words

The words you use can give you clues about your preferred sensory representation system (more visual, auditory or kinaesthetic). You can also guess the systems of other people.

For example, if someone is speaking, would you describe their words as being clear or bright (visual), that they resonates or are loud (auditory), or that they are solid or exciting…

When the words are neutral, without referring to the senses, NLP terms this digital language. Contracts and insurance documents are perfect examples of this.

3. The importance of the eyes

This goes hand in hand with body language, which also says a lot about your preferred sensory representation systems. In particular, eye movements can tell you about preferences. This is what NLP calls eye-accessing cues:

  • Up to the right = visual constructed (imagination)
  • Up to the left = visual remembered (known images)
  • Straight ahead = visual (seeing something new, important)
  • Sideways to the right = auditory constructed (hearing new sounds)
  • Sideways to the left = auditory remembered (remembering sounds)
  • Down to the left = auditory (internal) dialogue
  • Down to the right = kinaesthetic (feelings, emotions, touch, taste, smell)

In fact, studying eye movements can help you figure out another person’s state of mind. That way, you will be better able to communicate with them.

4. Using the VAK system

Knowledge of this system can help you in many aspects of your daily life, from managing business meetings to visualising your goals mentally, as well as developing stronger writing.

Why not work on one sense per day, seeking to explore what is happening inside you and perhaps by learning to put words to your impressions.

smell taste touch Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Chapter 6 — Creating rapport

1. Why is rapport important?

“Rapport sits at the heart of NLP as a central pillar, or essential ingredient, which leads to successful communication between two individuals or groups of people. Rapport is a  mutually respectful way of being with others and a way of doing business at all  times.  You don’t need to like people to build rapport with them.   Also, rapport  isn’t a technique that you turn on and off at will, but something that should  flow constantly between people.”  (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 176)

Rapport is important because it can establish bilateral relations with any other person, as part of a positive context of reciprocity and listening.

You will want to be able to identify successful rapport and compare it with poor or almost non-existing rapport. If you want to establish rapport with new people or improve it with others, ask yourself these questions and be sure to write down the answers:

  • What is my relationship with this person?
  • What change do I want to bring to it?
  • How will this affect me?
  • What will be the consequences for the other person?
  • Do I really want to spend time and energy on this?
  • What pressure is being exerted by the person?
  • What matters most to them at the moment?
  • Can I learn something from someone who has a good relationship with this person?
  • Do I need help to improve the rapport?
  • What are my ideas to develop the relationship?
  • What will be the first thing to put in place?

2. Basic techniques for building rapport

Creating rapport with someone involves their surroundings, values and goals (shared or not), beliefs and skills acquired throughout life, and of course ways of being, talking and acting.

NLP uses the terms matching and mirroring when two partners in rapport are totally in sync with one another. When they are not, NLP uses the term mismatching.

To facilitate or accelerate rapport, you can adopt the same outlook on life and the same pace as the other person (including breathing rhythm). Learn to match their intentions, as well as the way they live and learn on a daily basis.

When you speak, make sure you are in harmony with yourself. Words, images and sounds must provide the same message to the other person. Connect with other people by demonstrating self-confidence and sincerity.

To convince a person (or a group) and “guide” them in the desired direction, start by keeping pace with them. Instead of opposing them, listen and share the other person’s perspective to gradually draw them off that course and into the direction you want.

3. How to break rapport and why

You may want or need to break the rapport temporarily or definitively, to step out of pace, in other words mismatch, for several reasons. Perhaps the deal is done, you are tired or bored, you are busy, etc.

How to do this. Change the position of your body in the space, change the tone or volume of your voice or use clear words. Pay attention to certain gestures (raised eyebrows for example). Also pay attention to certain words (the connector “but” can change the other person’s perception of the message, only reminding them about the negative part of your message).

Of course, it is preferable to remain polite and diplomatic. But don’t be afraid to express your refusal, especially if you are in the habit of doing too much for other people.

4. Understanding other points of view

“Successful people enjoy the flexibility of being able to see the world in different ways. They take multiple perspectives, enabling themselves to explore new  ideas.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 205)

You can train yourself to have at least three points of view, which NLP calls perceptual positions:

  1. Your own natural perspective
  2. Imagining the position of the other person, standing in their shoes
  3. A neutral perspective, that of a disinterested outsider

To familiarise yourself with the different perspectives, you can also use the metamirror. This is an exercise proposed by Robert Dilts. It can help you to prepare a difficult conversation.

How to do this. Draw four positions on the floor and follow this procedure:

  1. Stand on the first position and ask yourself: “What am I experiencing, thinking and feeling as I look at this person?”   
  2. Stand in the second position and ask yourself the same question — this time standing in the place of the other person.
  3. Stand in the third position — neutral — and question the you in the first position: what do I think of “me” as seen from the outside?
  4. Take the fourth position, with even more distance. “Think about how your thoughts in the third position compared with your reactions in the first position and switch them around. For example, in the first position you may have felt confused, whereas in the  third position you may have felt sadness. Whatever your reactions, in your mind’s eye switch them to the opposite positions.”
  5. Return to the second position and ask yourself: “How is this different now? What’s changed?” 
  6. Finally, return to the first position and ask the same question: “How is this different now? What’s changed?” 

Chapter 7 — Understanding to be understood: meta-programmes

1. Meta-programme basics

“Meta programs are some of these unconscious filters that direct what you pay attention to, the way you process any information you receive and how you  then communicate it.”  (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 212)

These meta-programmes are the result of your experiences, mainly those you had during childhood. There are lots of them, but Romilla Ready and Kate Burton choose to focus on six pairs (in addition to introversion and extraversion as seen previously) that can turn out to be especially useful when you need to self-motivate or to facilitate rapport with another person.

Remember – these are mobile and evolving character traits. They can also be combined. Above all, they do not intend to judge or categorise, but to understand, interpret and possibly imitate (or match) a situation of communication or a person.

2. Proactive/Reactive

Proactive people are more inclined towards action. They want things to move forward and they are ready to act  to change a situation. They find solutions, even in an emergency. “Do it!” , “Let’s go!” “Let’s get started”… these are the kind of expressions they may use on a daily basis.

Reactive people are more inclined to take stock and understand what is happening before making a decision. They may prefer to wait until other people take the initiative. “Let’s think about”, “Study the data”, “Weigh the pros and cons”…is what the reactive person will probably say.

3. Moving towards/Away from

People who move towards (pleasure or positive values) want to move forward, often with the hope of expected benefits. They are capable of staying calm and focused. “Accomplish”, “Obtain”, “Include” are some of the verbs they like to use.

People who move away from (pain or negative values) are more inclined to distance themselves from risk or perceived danger. They manage crises and remain critical. They prefer verbs such as “remove”, “avoid” and “resolve”.

4. Options/Procedures

“Options” individuals like to discover new ways to do things and appreciate variety. They like to start projects (but not necessarily finish them). “Possibilities”, “Play it by ear” are words that are music to a options person’s ears.

A “procedures” person prefers methodologies that are tried and tested, even if they are not always able to put them in place themselves. “Follow the steps”, “one step at a time” – catchphrases of procedure people.

5. Internal/External

Internal people trust themselves. They do not need the opinion of other people to know whether they have made the right decision. They rely on their own resources. To influence an internal person, use terms like “It’s your decision” or “see for yourself”.

External people feel the need to get the opinions of others for reassurance about the way they act. They look for external approval. If you want to get more out of an external person, use expressions like “Statistics show that…”, “I know you can do it”, “Experts say that…”.

6. Global/Detailed

Someone manifesting a global meta-programme will break tasks down into bigger pieces. They like to have an overview, lateral connections and concepts. “In a word”, “generally speaking” are outward signs of a global person.

A more detailed personality will break tasks down into increasingly smaller pieces. They get straight into the details, using examples and moving forward in a sequential manner. “Specifically”, “Before/after” are signs to recognise a detailed person.

7. Sameness/Sameness with Difference/Difference

Three profiles stand out here:

  • Identify something new with something known (sameness);
  • Notice similarities, then differences (sameness with difference);
  • Focus on the changes (difference).

The first type will use vocabulary of the “shared” and “static”, “unchanging” type; the second will say “It’s the same except” or “it’s increasing/decreasing”; and the third will find that “it’s day and night”, “there’s no comparison” or “it is transformed”.

8. Combining several meta-programs

“You have a combination of meta programs that you prefer to adopt when  you’re within your comfort zone. Try to remember that this preference may change depending on the different circumstances in which you find yourself.   […]Also, realising that certain combinations of meta programs may fit certain professions better than others is important, as is understanding that many more meta programs are available that may be of use to you.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 250)

9. Developing your meta-programme skills

Think about it: are you able to identify your own meta-programmes in the different spheres of your life? Are you able to make out some more easily than others over the course of an interaction, and to act in consequence?

Over time, start listening to yourself and other people to improve your chances of achieving your goals and having serene rapport with another person.

Who are you Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Part 4 — Opening the toolkit

Chapter 9 — Dropping anchors

1. Starting out with NLP anchors

You may feel overwhelmed by your feelings – positive and negative. You lose control and react in a disproportionate manner. This can have consequences on various aspects of your life.

To control your states, or in other words control how you want to feel at any given moment, NLP has tools called NLP anchoring techniques. An anchor is a stimulus that comes from outside to trigger a response in you and an internal state.

You can learn to define anchors. One method is the following:

  1. Know the positive state in which you want to find yourself
  2. Find a matching memory
  3. Relive the memory, associating sounds, images and sensations with it
  4. Choose an anchor – a sound, movement or image
  5. Mentally use the anchor (or make a gesture) when you feel the need

Without meaning to, we all create negative anchors. But we can learn to spot them. We can also learn to calibrate our relationships by using expressions or attitudes of other people as anchors.

Finally, thanks in particular to the procedure mentioned above, we can create a range of anchors for our own use. They can be used to increase the number of positive experiences and reduce negative experiences.

2. Going through the emotions: sequencing states

States transform: we move from one state to another. And we sometimes actively seek the change, for ourselves or for other people. Anchors allow us to change our states.

You can use music as an anchor, especially baroque music (Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi)! But not just Baroque music – broaden your tastes while trusting your intuition,. Vary the rhythms and see what states each piece of music evokes. Progressively, you will find the best music for a problematic situation and you can find resources.

Another way to learn how to change states is to imitate a positive model. Do this not only at meta-programme level, but by adopting the way the model operates or some of their bodily movements. For example, if you are short in stature, you can gain confidence by acting like a taller person!

3. Becoming sophisticated with anchors

Anchors can help you to change in a positive way. You can change your negative anchors by becoming desensitised, by neutralising them, by extending the chain of anchors. This means moving through successive states that go from very negative to very positive (from anger to worry, then from worry to curiosity, then from there to relaxed, for example).

If you need to speak in public, you can use the circle of excellence. It is intended to improve self-confidence at the moment when you take action. This technique requires a partner and is once again based on reviving a positive experience.

You may also need spatial anchoring, when you need to go on stage, for example. In this case, you need to send a certain type of information to a precise location in the room to get the other people used to the idea that such and such a place (or gesture) signals a specific type of information.

4. A final point about anchors

“Anchors may or may not work for you when you first try them.  As with all the tools in this book, you learn fastest by taking an NLP class or working with an experienced practitioner. Whichever way you choose to develop your skills – on  your own or with others – simply give it a go.” We encourage you to persist even if setting anchors seems strange at first.   When you do take control of your own state, you expand your options and the  result is certainly worthwhile.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 307)

Chapter 10 — Sliding the controls of your experience

1. Sub-modalities: how we record our experiences

In NLP, the senses are called modalities. Sub-modalities are secondary characteristics related, for example, to sounds (hearing) or images (sight): to rhythm, timbre, volume or colour, luminosity, size, etc.

2. Basic information you need to know before you start

Modifying the sub-modalities of sensations relating to a memory of an experience can transform those sensations (shifting from pain to indifference or relative pleasure), and therefore the memory itself.

When you think of a memory, you can either be active in the picture – NLP calls this association — or outside, observing — this is called dissociation. This is an important sub-modality and it has to be used wisely to distance ourselves from or draw ourselves closer to our emotions.

Changing your memories can release you from fears or inhibitions acquired over the course of your life. For example, if a teacher one day told you that you were no good at maths, you can return to that memory and transform the modalities (make the teacher smaller, or give him a high-pitched voice, turn the sound down, etc.) in order to make the associated memory absurd, or even funny. In doing this, you dissipate the feeling that you are unable to perform a mathematical task.

Each person is more sensitive to certain sub-modalities than others. Test yourself with a positive memory and change the auditory, visual and kinaesthetic sub-modalities. What changes affected you most? These sub-modalities are your critical sub-modalities.

3. Making real-life changes

“Just think: you can sit and program your mind on the train, in a traffic jam or  even over a boring meal with your in-laws (or should that be out-laws, just  kidding!).  And remember, practice makes perfect, so start experimenting,  safe in the knowledge that you can’t get arrested for playing with your sub-modalities, even in public.”    (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 327)

In this way, you can:

  • Reduce the range of an experience
  • Change a limiting belief
  • Create an empowering belief
  • Get rid of unpleasant sensations (backache, etc.)

You can also use the swish. What does that mean? Use the process of a (poor) habit to change it. What is the trigger that makes you bite your nails, for example? Find it and interrupt the process using the new process suggested by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton:

Identify the unwanted behaviour:

  1. Check with yourself that going ahead with the change is okay. Are you ready?
  2. Identify the trigger that initiates the unwanted behaviour and make an associated picture.  This image is the cue picture. 
  3. Play with the image to discover a critical sub-modality.
  4. Break state. This means you exit the state in which you find yourself. […]
  5. Think of the desired image. Create a dissociated image of you doing a preferred behaviour or looking a certain way. 
  6. Break state.
  7. Recall the cue picture. Make sure that you’re associated into it and place a frame around it. 
  8. Create an image of the desired outcome.
  9. Squash the desired image into a small, dark dot and place it in the bottom-left corner of the cue picture. 
  10. With a swishhhh sound, propel the small, dark dot into the big picture so that it explodes, covering the cue picture. 
  11. Break state.
  12. Repeat the process several times speedily.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 334)

Chapter 11 — Working with the logical levels

1. What is your perspective?

Do you think that change is impossible? But the world – the landscape – is constantly changing around you. So why not you and your map? Adapting and changing your perspective is a key component to a successful experience.

Logical levels help us to understand the change and to set up strategies to transform, for ourselves or for groups. How? Firstly, by sequencing every step of the change and them moving forward towards the desired outcome with confidence.

2. Understanding logical levels

Logical levels (also known as neurological levels) present differently: either in hierarchical form (in the shape of a pyramid), or in reticular form (a network of relationships, for example). How they appear is not important: the important thing is to design relationships between them.

Here are the six logical levels of change:

  1. Environment (where, when and with whom)
  2. Behaviour (what)
  3. Capabilities and skills (how)
  4. Beliefs and values (why)
  5. Identity (who)
  6. Goal (what purpose, for whom)

It is easier to change something in a controlled environment (repaint the walls of your house) than to change behaviour, but it is undoubtedly easier to change behaviour than to change your capabilities; and so on. As you can see, from 1 to 5, the level of difficulty increases.

Furthermore, the lower level influences the higher level. Also, to feel good about yourself or find a state of congruence, the different levels need to be aligned.

You can learn to identify where the problems are located (with you or elsewhere), and attempt to realign the misaligned logical level. Use the questions related to each level to figure out where “it” is stuck and get to work. To act on a level, be sure to use resources that come from the levels above it.

3. Asking the right questions

In order to change, you have to want to change, know how to proceed and have the opportunity to set the change in motion. Ask yourself how you can make the transformation easier. Ask yourself the following questions for each level:

At environmental level, ask yourself:

  • Where do you work best, where is the best place to live?
  • What people do you like to have around? What makes you tired?
  • What time of day do you feel best?

At behavioural level, ask yourself:

  • Does your behaviour support your goal?
  • Does your attitude match the person you want to be and the way you want to live?
  • Do you use certain expressions or certain language patterns?
  • What is your body language in different settings?

To question your capabilities and skills, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What abilities are you proud of? How did you acquire them?
  • In your opinion, and that of others, what areas do you excel in?
  • What people can inspire you?
  • What would you like to learn?

When it comes to beliefs and values, remember to include the following:

  • Why do you act this way?
  • What is important to you?
  • What do you consider to be good or bad?
  • When do you say “I should” and “I shouldn’t”?

To change your identity, you should ask yourself these important questions:

  • How does the way you live express who you are?
  • What type of person are you?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How do you describe other people?
  • How do other people describe you? Does this description suit you?
  • What images, sounds and sensations do you associate with yourself?

Changing a goal involves questioning these points:

  • Why am I here?
  • What do I want to offer other people and the world?
  • What do I want people to remember after I die?

These questions will help you to navigate the logical levels.

Chapter 12 – Driving habits: uncovering your secret programmes

1. The evolution of strategies

To create a valid model, NLP relies on previous psychological studies, such as those by Pavlov, who discovered the stimulus-response system and Miller, Galanter and Pribram who took up the baton by creating the TOTE model (test, operate, test, exit). NLP uses this model and adds systems of sensory representation.

  • Test D = trigger element for a strategy (in other words, a habit)
  • Operate = the moment you bring together the elements to act and you apply your strategy
  • Test C = the moment when you compare the data and the situation with the goal you are pursuing
  • Exit = leave the process

2. The eyes have it: recognising another’s strategy

“When a strategy of your own is embedded in your neurology, you have little or no conscious awareness of its steps.   Yet, if you know what to look for, you can  figure out other people’s strategies. Just look for their eye movements.” (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 375)

To do this, remember the elements from chapter 6.

3. Flexing your strategy muscles

Strategies are related to different logical levels. For example, at the level of your capabilities and skills, you can decide to change the way you introduce yourself in public by changing your approach strategy. For example, you can introduce yourself, then ask questions, all the while keeping your goal in sight.

At behavioural level, you can also change a strategy that you dislike. Are you an aggressive driver? When someone overtakes you (Test D), instead of expressing your displeasure vocally, think about how ridiculous the situation really is, and smile (operate). Did it work? If yes (exit), carry on with what you are doing peacefully. If not, keep training and start the process over again!

4. Using NLP strategies for love and success

When you seduce someone, you put all the modalities on your side: from fragrance to appearance, including your movements. You try to control everything. Over time, when the fusion with the other person dissipates, NLP can help you to recreate a strategy or observe your partner’s strategies to be loved.

How? Ask your partner a question: “You know I love you, right?” and “What can I do to make you feel more loved?” Look them in the eye. Watch what is happening to find out how to satisfy them!

The same applies when you want to motivate someone: by observing their eyes when you ask a question like this: “How do you usually train?” You will understand their strategy and you can apply it to another area (from football to studying maths, for example).

For yourself, ask yourself where you excel and what strategies are in place. Try to transpose them to the new area.

Chapter 13 — Travelling in time to improve your life

1. Understanding how your memories are organised

Memories are organised like a chain of pearls (William James): they form a chain that goes from the past to the present. For the future, you use images that allow you to predict what is going to happen to you. Each memory is associated with sensory modalities and their sub-modalities.

Sometimes events are connected:  you experience something and this conjures up a memory. That memory is considered to be the primary cause of the feelings experienced when the second event happens. Thanks to NLP and your control of modalities, you can act on this process.

2. Discovering your time line

Your time line connects the past, the present and the future. You can picture it in this way:

  1. “Think of an event that you experienced recently.
  2. Now take a deep breath and relax as much as you can.
  3. Imagine yourself floating up, above your present and way above the clouds, into the stratosphere.
  4. Picture your time line below you, like a ribbon, and see yourself in the time line.
  5. Now float back over your time line until you’re directly over the recently experienced event.
  6. You can hover there as long as you like until you decide to float back to the present and down into your own body.   (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 405)

3. Changing your time line

You may want to be more or less associated with time. This means that you may want to be more conscious of the value of time and focussed on goals, punctual and rational (dissociation) or more creative and multi-tasking, emotional and in the present moment (association).

In order to dissociate, leave your time line and float up so that you can see past and present, or position yourself so that you can see clearly in front of you. In order to associate, see your time line stretching out ahead of you and walk along it like a tightrope walker, or let it pass through your body.

These exercises require practice and it is preferable to try them lying down as they can make you feel unstable.

4. Travelling along your time line to a happier you

By practising these time line exercises, you can:

  • Free yourself from negative emotions and limiting decisions;
  • Reassure the young person you used to be;
  • Rid yourself of anxiety;
  • Come up with a better future for yourself.

Romilla Ready and Kate Burton propose several procedures. This is one of them. It involves treating anxiety, in other words a negative feeling associated with a future event.

  1. Find yourself somewhere safe and quiet to relax, and think of an event about which you’re feeling anxious; check with your unconscious mind that letting go of the anxiety is okay.  
  2. Now float way above your time line so that you can see your past and your future stretching below you.
  3. Still above your time line, float forward along it until you’re above the event that’s making you anxious. 
  4. Ask your unconscious mind to learn what it needs to from the event in order for it to let go of the anxiety easily and quickly.
  5. When you have the necessary information, float farther into the future, along your time line until you’re 15 minutes after the successful conclusion of the event about which you were feeling anxious. 
  6. Turn and look towards it now and notice that you’re calm and no longer anxious.
  7. When you’re ready, float back to your present.
  8. Do a quick test: go into the future to the event and confirm that the anxiety no longer exists.”   (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 421)

Chapter 14 — Ensuring smooth running below decks

1. A hierarchy of conflicts

We are all prone to inner conflict. When this happens, two representations of the world confront each other inside us. Very often, one is conscious and the other is beneath the surface, hiding in the unconscious. ‘Part of me wants …  and yet another part of me wants…” or “I don’t know what got into me” are language markers that reveal this struggle.

Conflict can appear at different logical levels (see chapter 11). It is important to be able to identify the level at which it is located. Here are some examples.

  • Identity: social roles that you play can come into conflict. Being a “good parent” and a “good employee” may not always be compatible.
  • Values and beliefs: some may be difficult to reconcile or may cause you doubts. You may seek happiness, while strongly believing (unconsciously) that you don’t deserve it.
  • Capabilities and skills: how to combine social skills with creative abilities. This can sometimes lead to difficult career choices.
  • Behaviour: conflict arises when you adopt behaviour that is in opposition with the behaviour that will lead you to achieving your goals.
  • Environment: where do you really want to live? Who do you want to spend time with? Do you do things at the right time?

2. Drifting from wholeness to parts

Every important memory triggers an emotional response that forms part of you, hidden from your unconscious or acting without your knowledge. You have intentions that you are unaware of. They are positive in themselves (see chapter 2), but they may not meet their goal. For example, you may drink because you want to find love. However, alcohol will not give you what you are looking for.

You need to discover the real need that underpins the problem behaviour. You are going to dig through your unconscious to find out what is “stuck”, either alone or with the help of a specialist.

3. Help! I’m in conflict with myself

“Self-sabotage is one of the symptoms you can experience when different conscious and unconscious parts of you are in conflict, where every attempt you  make to reach a goal is subverted by one of the parts.”  (Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies, p. 433)

To end this, you need to start by listening to your unconscious mind and replacing the inadequate behaviour with a different, more positive form. Or you can “pick a side”. You can decide which part of yourself you want to eliminate.

4. Becoming whole: integrating your parts

The ideal is to aspire to become a harmonious whole in which all the parts are in agreement with each other. NLPP has invented two techniques to do this: visual squash and reframing.

In the first exercise, you need to identify the parts that are in conflict and their respective positive intentions, and then visualise – through personification – the parts that are in conflict and imagine a constructive debate between them. The useful resources to achieve a positive common goal should appear.

In the second case, you are seeking to change the context of an experience and through that, find out what is wrong. It is about acting as if you have fixed a problem, or as if you are another person you admire, or as if you have all the information to make a decision, or as if a fairy godmother came along and changed an unwanted element.

5. Resolving bigger conflicts

The examples given above mainly involve intrapersonal conflicts. But what can you do about conflicts between people or groups (or even nations)? Here once again, you can use the resources and tools that have been given in the book, but you need to adapt them. For example, you may need to use both methods, acting in the following way.

  1. Picture yourself as the negotiator
  2. Ask each party, ‘What’s your positive intention?’ Keep asking both sides until you uncover some core and fundamental needs on which both parties can agree
  3. Suggest to the parties that they find common points and a shared goal
  4. Explore alternative solutions using the “as if” frame
  5. Decide on the resources each party can bring to the table to help resolve the conflict.
  6. Always keep the common aim in mind and strive for a win–win outcome.
strive for a win–win outcome Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies

Part 6 – The part of tens

Chapter 21 – Ten applications of NLP

To end the book, here are ten areas of life in which NLP can be useful:

  1. Developing yourself
  2. Managing your personal and professional relationships
  3. Negotiating a win-win solution
  4. Motivating and leading staff
  5. Creating powerful presentations
  6. Managing your time and precious resources
  7. Being coached to success
  8. Using NLP to support your health
  9. Connecting to your audience: advice for trainers and educators
  10. Getting the best job for you

Conclusion about “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies” by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton

A handbook you can use to experiment

In additional to theoretical explanations and guides to help you take action, this book suggests a list of ten reference books and other very practical resources. You can use the book to improve your practice of NLP, scribble on it, choose the exercises that suit you best, etc. The watchword is – Experiment!

What to take away from “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies”

NLP developed its basic theories in the 1970s and they have been evolving ever since. It relies on a variety of resources, from behavioural psychology to the works of Carl Jung.

Its main practical use today is to provide a kind of toolbox of methods and instruments to be used to get to know yourself better or help to unblock conflictual situations.

It is based on a major presupposition – that it is always possible to change people and relationships, on condition that you use your imagination and demonstrate a certain amount of motivation.

Strengths and weak points of “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies”

Strong points:

  • Didactic presentation of the concepts
  • Useful resources and references
  • Several clearly explained exercises

Weak point:

  • Sometimes repetitive, although this can be necessary.

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The practical guide to “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton

The four pillars of NLP:

  • Rapport 
  • Sensory representation 
  • Outcome based thinking 
  • Behavioural flexibility

FAQ about “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton

1. What was the public’s reaction to “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton?

Published in 2008, Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies quickly found public success. It became a best-seller, read by thousands of people all over the world.

2. What impact did “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies” by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton have?

This book introduced readers to the world of NLP and guided them in the use of its concepts and methods. It also helped them to improve the way they communicated.

3. Who is “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies” by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton for?

Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies is for anyone who cares about their personal development.

4. What is NLP?

NLP — for neuro-linguistic programming — is a method that aims to improve thinking and communication skills.

5. What are the four important concepts of cognitive psychology as developed by Bandler and Grinder?

The four important concepts are:

  • External behaviour = the way somebody acts visibly in relation to other people;
  • Internal response = the reaction that is produced inside the person;
  • Internal process = the dialogue that is in place during the internal response;
  • Internal state = the sensations that overwhelm the person as part of the internal response.

Criteria for selecting sensory information vs Taking charge of your life 

Criteria for selecting sensory informationTaking charge of your life 
Importance for survivalTaking control of your memory
New (something that you are not used to will attract more attention You see it because you believe it
Strong emotional investment (for a loved one, for example)The path to excellence

Who is Romilla Ready?

Romilla Ready

Romilla Ready is a master in Neuro-linguistic Programming and and conference organiser.

Who is Kate Burton?

Kate Burton

American national Kate Burton is a Coach and NLP trainer. She helps people and companies to efficiently channel their energy and improve motivation and performance.

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