Adriana James in her website NLP Coaching for the Tad James Company wrote a 2-Part Article answering the question: “Can NLP be used for manipulation.”

Tad and Adriana James

Here is Part 1 of the article:

From time to time we read articles on different websites that talk about NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) as being used against us, the viewers, readers – in other words the public. The discussion ranges from the language patterns taught in NLP to anchoring and other techniques all being employed for mind manipulation.

  1. First of all, in order to answer that question we need to understand what is NLP and where is comes from. Let’s make something clear: there is nothing in NLP that comes from NLP. Despite NLP being a relatively new field (developed in the 70’s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder), all NLP comes from somewhere else.

For example:

  • “Rapport” comes from Hypnosis and the work of Dr. Milton Erickson. Now what is rapport? Rapport is a technique taught in NLP that allows you to enter the world view of anybody you choose to be “in sync” or on the same “wavelength”. People who are in rapport with each other feel alike and relate very well to each other. You have been in rapport unconsciously with people before. But do you know how to do that at will and with anybody you want? We’ll take an example below to show how this can work in your favor.
  • “Anchoring” is another set of techniques taught in NLP. As we understand it in NLP, anchoring comes from behavioral psychology – and it goes all the way to Pavlov (you know, the Russian physiologist who experimented with dogs, salamanders and other animals.) He would ring a bell just before showing the dogs a piece of meat. The dogs would salivate. Eventually after repetition, he would ring the bell without the piece of meat but the dogs would still salivate. We are all anchored every day of our lives. Advertising on television, radio or billboards, the alarm clock, a certain tone of voice, certain words…they all can act like anchors that determine a set response in us. Here is the problem: once an anchor is set, other judgments are made in a biased way. In NLP we can get rid of old unwanted anchors. Anchors set wrongly can wreak havoc in relationships. Let’s say that one partner is upset. S/he is crying. The other partner comes and hugs him/her for comfort. If s/he does this several times the hug itself becomes linked neurologically to the negative emotion itself. In the future, even if both partners are in a happy state, a hug itself can trigger the old negative state creating the false judgment that hugging feels bad. Uh! Trouble at the horizon!
  • Our “Values” come from the work of industrial psychologist Clare GravesGraves was a professor of psychology and originator of a theory of adult human development. In his work he showed how humans develop new coping mechanisms all geared towards solving existential problems and cope with their worlds. In our NLP trainings (and this differentiates us from other schools) we teach his system since it is vital for the understanding of yourself, your family, community and the entire world around you. By understanding it, NLP and Time Line Therapy® offer you the tools to change it. A very important point which is directly linked to NLP and Time Line Therapy®  is what Graves postulated, which is that

“[…] man’s nature is not a set thing, that it is ever emergent, that it is an open system, not a closed system.” This open-endedness set his approach apart from many of his contemporaries […]

In other words, he realized something extremely important: that there is no end to human perfection. There is no “final state”. Human beings are destined to perpetually further develop. This is why NLP and Time Line Therapy® come in handy as tools for this development.

  • “Time Line Therapy®” is a set of techniques particular to our school of NLP or the training companies of our  graduates. Although the notion of “Time Line” or “Time Lines” is not a new one – it goes as far back as the Greek Philosopher Aristotle in Physics IV, Time Line Therapy® is a relatively new technique. It does not come from NLP per se, but it was developed by Tad James Ph.D. who was at the time (and still is) a Master Trainer of NLP actively teaching NLP trainings. Distinct from other Time Line techniques, Time Line Therapy® is applying Time Line concept in a practical manner for the purpose of letting go of Negative Emotions and Limiting Decisions that block and limit your ability to further develop.
  • “Reframing” comes from psychology and hypnosis. Reframing is a structured way of learning how to have a different view over situations and events to find more positive alternatives. Extremely useful in changing an negative way of thinking into a more resourceful positive one. If your thinking is always fearful of possible disasters in the future, this technique could really turn your life around. If you are in a positive mind frame, you can control all situations in the present and in the future much better.
  • “Strategies” from NLP come from George A. Miller (Harvard University), Eugene Galanter (University of Pennsylvania)  and Karl H. Pribram (Stanford University) in “Plans and the Structure of Behavior Everything you do is based on strategies. The way you get out of bed, the way you do your job, the way you eat, the way you relate to others, is based on strategies. If you discover your strategies you can change them if they are not useful and don’t serve you well. It is actually pretty simple to change un-useful strategies but it is not a conscious decision. This is obvious when you think how hard it is to change a habit you want to change. Here is a simple example of something trivial. Let’s say you bite your nails. You say “I should not do this again only to find yourself biting your nails again.” Or you say “I will not get frustrated when my partner says X” and yet, you get frustrated again. This is because you react unconsciously following a certain strategy which obviously does not serve you well. You can change this with NLP.
  • “Representational Systems” and the “Meta Model” come from Virginia Satir,the “grandmother of family therapy”.  – Virginia Satir was an American psychotherapist and author, and she was particularly known for a very specific approach to family therapy. Her “Change Process Model” has been adopted by the founders of NLP into what is called as the Meta-Model. This technique offers you a different point of view over a situation. Let’s say you are stuck on a certain way of looking at an event or situation. By reframing it, you will be able to make a conscious shift in your mental perspective, therefore changing positively what bothered you before.

Since many of the techniques in NLP and Time Line Therapy® come either from psychology,  linguistics (and let’s remember here the indirect influence of Noam Chomsky) and also from philosophy, to say that NLP is Manipulation is to say that these disciplines are also manipulative.”

Continue To Part 2