Exploring the crossover between nlp and experiential learning

21 February 2017

Recently I attended a session on Neuro-Linguistic Programming run by Paul Mason, one of the Lead Faciliators on a long running programme for Steps. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a method of influencing brain behaviour, controlling how our brain responds to stimuli.

We explored methods of applying some of the basic techniques of NLP- for example, mentally picturing an experience we liked and then making it appear bigger or smaller, moving it further away or closer to us in our minds so as to enhance the positive effect. It was an engaging session which gave me an interesting insight into how our minds respond to stimuli and how this awareness can allow me to explore how I’d prefer to respond in a given situation. I found that it took a lot of concentration to be able to implement these techniques and this could be hard for me to incorporate into my daily life as a habit – but I imagine that, as with all things, practice makes perfect and the more one is able to use whichever techniques works for them, the more effective it can become. More advanced methods of NLP techniques delve deeper into the consciousness of the human mind to investigate how we process things through the use of our senses and how we can use this information to better our experiences, build self-esteem or achieve our goals.

What I found most was useful was becoming aware of how differently people perceive, process and respond to stimuli. The same thing can mean very different things to different people and being aware of this can help to incorporate the mindsets of others into the way we perceive, process and respond to stimuli as individuals. For example, a thumbs-up sign means ‘well done’ or ‘good luck’ in Western culture, but in some Eastern cultures it is an offensive gesture!

It helps to look at the ‘why’ of behaviour along with ‘what’ it is. The variety of choices that we have in the way we respond to things can be empowering to explore. We may have been unconsciously ‘conditioned’ by various factors (culture, upbringing, society – to name a few) to perceive things in very specific ways and therefore to respond accordingly, but only when we are given a chance to ‘walk a mile in another’s shoes’ are we able to truly analyse if this response is actually the most preferable way for us to behave.

Steps’ approach to drama-based training, as a form of experiential learning, does this extremely well. It allows a person to be able to observe behaviour objectively, and to be able to learn from what they see subjectively. Often when we are ‘in the moment’, we are unable to see how our own behaviour impacts the outcome of a situation, and therefore we are not so easily able to change our behaviour to try and achieve a different outcome. Yet, when we watch the same or similar behaviour being acted out in front of us -and are able to express our view of how this behaviour affects the outcome – we are then able to more easily imagine alternative behaviours and explore alternative outcomes. We find that our internal barriers to change can break down, especially if a particular subject matter is close to a personal experience

It was interesting to explore the similarities between experiential learning and the techniques involved in NLP. There is undoubtedly an interesting crossover in terms of how these two methodologies can help inspire people to explore, and potentially change, their behaviour.

Food for thought for us here at Steps too, in terms of our ‘Steps to Change’ model, our own understanding of the neurological processes involved in the change process and how we combine that understanding with our experience and skills in experiential learning, in order to support individuals to See It-Own It-Change It-Live It.