“Why did they do that?!”
By Ricardo O’Campo
Listen to Ricardo’s interviews on the Creativity, Thinking & Education podcast:
Techniques of NLP Can Change Your Life, Part 1 – Release date January 10, 2017
Techniques of NLP Can Change Your Life, Part 2 – Release date January 24, 2017
As parents and teachers, we are sometimes left scratching our heads at some of the behaviors our kids act out. At times, we may be at a complete loss and our reaction is one of confusion, frustration, irritation and perhaps even an angry outburst that leaves us regretting our own behavior.
How can we choose a more appropriate response that makes the situation better rather than reacting and perhaps making the situation worse?
The field of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) provides many ways of looking at situations from different perspectives and mindsets allowing connection and understanding rather than separation which usually comes from criticism and judgement.
If you’ve never heard of NLP you may be asking yourself, “What is NLP?”
NLP is a field which models behaviors of excellence. This means that if someone does something really well, the “recipe” to replicate that behavior can be learned AND taught to another person to get similar results when they apply the “recipe”.
It’s like getting a recipe for a cake you like. In order to replicate the cake, you need the ingredients, quantities, temperatures, times, steps for putting the ingredients together, the proper equipment, and if you are guided by the person who makes that great cake, even better! Of course, human behavior is a little more complicated than a cake recipe but we all have “recipes” for how we do things which can be replicated when needed or modified if the “recipe” is not generating the outcome we want.
If the cake is not coming out the way we want it, we check our “recipe” or the steps we took and make the necessary modifications to get the cake we want. If we don’t make any changes to our “recipe” or our process, we’ll continue getting the same undesirable results. NLP is used to make changes to the “recipes” and processes used by individuals so they can get the results the want in many areas of their personal and professional lives.
NLP began in the late ‘70’s by modelling two of the most influential therapists of the time. Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the developers of NLP, studied these great therapists and were able to generate their “recipes” of behavioral change. John and Richard then took these “recipes” and were able to duplicate similar results with clients of their own without being therapists themselves.
Since then, there have been many developments and contributors to the field of NLP which is now practiced all over the world including here in Colorado where NLP of the Rockies offers various trainings in NLP.
So, what does the name Neuro-Linguistic Programming mean?
Neuro = Refers to the nervous system including our brains with its millions of synaptic connections, and ways of processing. It includes our bodies which bring information to the brain through our visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory and olfactory senses. It also includes our emotions, our needs and ways of being in this world.
Try this quick exercise:
As you are reading this, begin paying attention to your feet. Continue reading this text and notice how your feet feel. Are they warm or cold? Feel your right big toe, wiggle it?
Now, as you keep reading and noticing your feet, become aware of your breathing. Is it fast or slow? Is it deep or shallow? Are you breathing from your chest or your belly? What happens if you change the location of your breathing?
As you followed these instructions, you may have become aware of new information that you weren’t noticing before. This shows how your brain is processing the information it receives. Choices are being made as to what will be noticed and what will be ignored.
Linguistic = Refers to how the use of language in our communications with others or with ourselves (self-talk) affects our neurology, which has a cascading effect on our emotions and ultimately on how we express ourselves through our behaviors.
Language is made up of two components, verbal (the words use) and non-verbal (body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, and all the qualities of speech we use such as tone, volume, speed, tempo, pitch and others) which depending on how they are used, impact our neurology in positive or negative ways.
Try this quick experiment:
Read each phrase one at a time, close your eyes, repeat the phrase to yourself with your eyes closed and notice what happens in your body as your try each phrase out.
I have a problem
I will have a problem
I am a problem
I used to have a problem
I don’t have a problem
Now, I am going to ask you to repeat the exercise you just did but this time replace the word “problem” with the word “challenge” for each of the phrases you just read. Please do it now.
You probably noticed different physical responses in your body to the various phrases; different areas of your body being engaged perhaps? Did your mind create different internal images with each phrase? Did you feel different emotions being evoked by each of the phrases? What was your experience when you exchanged the word “problem” with “challenge” in the phrases? Did one of the words seem be more open or positive than the other?
This exercise gives you a small glimpse into how a word can impact our internal subjective experience. If you were to ask several people to do this exercise, each person would have a different physical, emotional or mental image associated with each of the phrases.
Programming = Refers to the sequencing, sometimes called strategies, of our neurological processes when combined with linguistics generate certain predictable behaviors, emotions and outcomes. This is what we could call the “recipe” of a particular behavior and this is where NLP is used to create change. If we are not getting the results we want, we can adjust the “recipe” by changing the sequencing, language, processing etc. to reach a more desirable outcome.
Notice what happens when you read the two following sentences.
The dog bit the boy.
The boy bit the dog.
Your brain probably made two completely different scenarios by reading each phrase. Notice that just by making a simple change to the sequencing, or the order of the words, we got two completely different outcomes. The exact same words were used but their order created a completely different experience. So it is with us, if we change the sequencing of our processing and language, we can get the results we desire more consistently.
This is a very simple introduction and explanation of NLP and I hope you get a sense that NLP works with the essential building blocks of our individual, subjective experience which can be used to create the experience we desire to have. NLP is a vast field which has many processes that are used from therapeutic interventions to assisting people getting results they want in various aspects of their life through life coaching support.
So, now that we have a brief explanation of NLP let’s get back to “Why did they do that?!”
The field of NLP has several presuppositions it uses as a foundation of looking at human behavior. We will look at two of these presuppositions in relation to our question above. They are:
- Behind every behavior is a positive intent.
- The map is not the territory.
It took me a while to accept and understand the presupposition:
Behind every behavior is a positive intent.
I couldn’t understand how every behavior has a positive intent. For example, if my son hits or yells at my other son, what is positive about that?!
It wasn’t until I understood that we need to separate the behavior (the hitting or yelling) from the need that the behavior is trying to fill for the individual acting out the behavior. NLP encourages having a sense of curiosity about what is driving the behavior. In this case, we become curious about what is this child trying to accomplish by hitting or yelling.
Usually, instead of becoming curious as to WHY the child is hitting or yelling, we react and get angry with the child judging their behavior as bad and sometimes attacking the child by linking their behavior to their identity. We may something like, “You are such a bad kid for hitting so and so…” or “Good kids don’t hit” the implication is that they are bad kids for behaving the way they do. The result being that they don’t feel understood and perhaps we are helping create an unintended negative self-image.
What if instead of judging the behavior, we got curious and asked the child, “What will hitting or yelling at Tony get for you?” or “What would you like Tony to do differently?” or “What’s going on that you think hitting or yelling will solve?” Sometimes the child may not know what he needs, but as adults we have behavioral flexibility (another NLP Presupposition) to step into the child’s experience. We can assume the position of the child (as if were that particular child, with his particular experiences) and imagine what we are trying to get by behaving this way. Generally, we can get a pretty good idea as to the need they are trying to meet and begin there. Here are some possible needs trying to be met:
- Could the child be trying to get attention from the child they are hitting because they actually like them?
- Could the child feel threated by the child they hit?
- Could they want attention from their favorite teacher or parent by engaging in a behavior that will guarantee getting their attention?
- Could the child feel lonely and not have the social skills to make a heathier connection?
- Did something happen at home that the child doesn’t know how to handle other than acting out in this way?
- Could the child be masking a sense of inadequacy?
There are many possibilities as to why the child is behaving this way. If we become curious and ask ourselves, “What is the positive intent or need this child is trying to fulfill by behaving this way?” we could help the child understand their own behavior and we could guide them to fulfil their need by redirecting their behavior in healthier ways which leads us to the second presupposition:
The map is not the territory.
This means that what see is not necessarily the whole picture. We are operating from our own beliefs, experiences and values; our maps (what we know). These are formed from the life we’ve led. The culture we’ve lived in, the country we grew up in, the family we had, the religion we practiced, our social status, and many other factors that lead us to the opinions we hold dear as to how the world “should be or behave”. However, everyone we come in contact with has their own map of how things should be. Even within our own family we can experience different maps.
People have different ways of doing things. Our opportunity lies in learning how others view the world. To learn what their map looks like. Their maps have information we are missing that could help us understand them better before we judge their map as inadequate. As we go through life, we need different maps in order to get a rich, full experience of life.
For example, if you want to go hiking, the best map to use would be a map showing the trails. However, as good as this map is, it is leaving important information out. Such as:
- The flowers you will see
- The trees that are growing next to the trail
- The temperature or weather conditions
- The condition of the trail
- How you will feel on the trail
The map doesn’t and can’t tell you what the real territory is like. And even if the map is the best money can buy, if it’s not the map for the area you are hiking in, it’s useless. The idea NLP conveys is that we all have different maps and that by becoming curious about each other’s maps, we can make connections rather than separation if we get into judging and criticizing the usefulness of each other’s maps.
As a parent or teacher, we can use these two NLP presuppositions: Behind every behavior is a positive intent and the map is not the territory, to become more curious about how our kids see the world and how we can best help them meet the needs they are trying to fulfill through their behaviors. We can switch from “Why did they do that?!” to “Hmmm, I wonder what they are trying to accomplish by behaving this way?” May your curiosity lead you to making closer bonds with your kids.
NLP of the Rockies conducts Certification Trainings at the Practitioner and Master Practitioner levels. We also host trainings specifically focused on building healthy relationships combining the latest discoveries in relational psychology, spirituality, science, and other fields with the powerful processes of NLP to create significant change in the quality of your relationships.
Here is a list of upcoming trainings at NLP of the Rockies you may be interested in:
- Discover NLP, a free two-hour introduction to NLP on January 22, 2017 and February 19, 2017 in Denver.
- The NLP Starter a two-day introduction to NLP on February 4-5, 2017 in Denver
- The Foundations for Healthy Relationships Workshop, A three-day workshop on February 10-12, 2017 in Denver.
- The NPL Practitioner Training (Extended Format) starting February 18, 2017 and running for six weekends through June in Denver.
- The NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner Trainings (Residential Format) July 24 – August 5, 2017 in Winter Park, Colorado.
If you want more information on these trainings or how NLP can help you reach your desired outcomes, visit our website at NLPoftheRockies.com or call Ricardo at 303-550-8553.