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NLP and Brain Friendly Training


There are some strong views out there about NLP and Brain Friendly Training and at a recent meeting we began to get curious about where the training comunity saw links between the two. So we thought we would ask you.

Do you find helpful links between NLP and BFT?

If so which are the most powerful / useful links for you?

Or do you beleive that there are no useful links?

We have our own thoughts but it would be fab to hear what you guys think.



7 Responses

  1. NLP

    I am extremely sceptical about NLP in general, because it lacks validity in respect to scientific investigation.  Further, there appears to be more and more people selling NLP training courses, qualifications, books, tapes, etc.  The selling of the system appears to be outselling the claimed benefits!  It reminds me of the Greek Sophists, who travelled from Town to Town – selling their philosophy.

    That is not to say that NLP has no place.  But if you wish to build and retain credibilty with your audience, I would advise caution in repect to announcing the latest "NLP training system’.

    Just my opinion, am always to delighted to hear other views.




  2. NLP and brain friendly learning

    Hi Paul,

    Great question.

    I believe that both NLP and brain friendly learning are just ways of making explicit what many people do naturally.

    We can bring into our conscious competence things that we may already be doing but want to improve.  Or things that we observe, hear or experience other people doing and would like to master for ourselves.  NLP is a spill over from psychology that has somehow managed to gain its own following (some of it very lucrative) and there are lots of users, acolytes and sceptics out there.

    We use aspects of typical NLP in our training of brain friendly learning methods – e.g. the stuff about sensory preferences (VAKOG) and we also include many other aspects of psychology, learning, education, influence, human behaviour etc. so it’s definitely not all NLP.

    I recently accidentally converted a complete NLP sceptic into someone who was now curious.  He’d been put off NLP for years by being approached by various experts (he’s a senior sales trainer at a very large organisation) trying to ‘sell’ NLP to him.  

    He joined us on a one day intro to brain friendly learning because he was interested in the results we got – he didn’t really care about the methods.  He found he became more curious throughout the day about the whole BFL mindset and toolkit – and is now open to the idea of NLP too, so long as it isn’t thrust at him as the answer to all problems.

    I’ll be interested in what other people think too.

    Stella Collins /

  3. NLP continued …

    Hi Stella

    I could not let this pass without comment: "NLP is a spill over from psychology .."
    As a psychologist I can say that NLP was never a spill over from mainstream academic psychology. And I doubt if you can find a module for it in any accredited University is the UK.

    I have studied it to some depth, and have read a lot of Brandler’s et al claims, and never found any proof that any of it was validated, or more importantly – repeatable.  Anyone who spends time going through the many NLP claims, and transcripts of the training courses, etc,  will soon find a wealth of recycled and adapted anecdotes –  Brandler ‘cured’ a psychotic patient by throwing snakes on to his bed, etc.  My friend accidently anchored someone into a state of misery after giving them a hug, etc, etc.    Absolute nonsense!

    On VAKOG, perhaps you should read this:

    "Originally NLP taught that people preferred one representational system over another. People could be stuck by thinking about a problem in their "preferred representational system" (PRS). Some took this idea further and categorised people as a auditory, kinesthetic, and visual thinkers (see also: learning styles) It was claimed that swifter and more effective results could be achieved by matching this preferred system. Although there is some research that supports the notion that eye movement can indicate visual and auditory (but not kinesthetic) components of thought in that moment,[7]the existence of a preferred representational system ascertainable from external cues (an important part of original NLP theory) was discounted by research in the 1980s.[8][9][10] Some still believe the PRS model to be important for enhancing rapport and influence.[11] Others have de-emphasized its relevance and instead emphasize that people constantly use all representational systems. In particular, new code emphasizes individual calibration and sensory acuity, precluding such a rigidly specified model as the one described above.[12] Responding directly to sensory experience requires an immediacy which respects the importance of context. John Grinder has stated that a representational system diagnosis lasts about 30 seconds.[12]

    In a review of research findings, Sharpley (1987)[13] found little support for individuals to have a "preferred" representational system (PRS), whether in the choice of words or direction of eye movement, and the concept of a preferred representation system (PRS). Similarly, The National Research Committee found little support for the influence of PRS as presented in early descriptions of NLP, Frogs into Princes (1979) and Structure of Magic (1975). However, "at a meeting with Richard Bandler in Santa Cruz, California, on July 9, 1986, the [National Research Committee] influence subcommittee… was informed that PRS was no longer considered an important component. He said that NLP had been revised." (p.140)[1] The NLP developers, Robert Dilts et al. (1980) [4]proposed that eye movement (and sometimes bodily gesture) correspond to accessing cues for representations systems, and connected it to specific sides in the brain"

    You can follow the citations here:

    I’m sorry, but until NLP gets it act together and starts showing reputable studies to support it’s claims, then I will remain a skeptic.  I say the same about homeopathy, too …   😉




  4. But I’m a pragmatist!

    I only know what I know works and, for me, if it works then use it.  If it doesn’t, then don’t.

    I don’t care which part of any theories are validated scientifically (and I am a Psychologist, by the way) as long as I can find something that works with an individual at the time I need it to.  That means that I don’t give the tools and techniques I use ‘labels’ such as NLP or even ‘Brain-friendly’ (although that is a much more pleasant expression) I just work with people on an individual basis with as much respect for their state as I am able, bearing in mind that I have to do with many individuals in the same event at the same time.  I’m good, but I’m not yet Superwoman 🙂

    I find that this helps them to learn better, faster, deeper and makes for a generally jolly nice time for all of us.

    It is great for me, particularly when training trainers, to have genuinely validated scientific research to back up tools and techniques that work but I don’t go running and screaming from the room if they are not there. 

    Jooli Atkins


  5. NLP isn’t BFL or vice versa


    THis is interesting.

    Thanks for the scientific links Ian – I am a pragmatist and a theorist (and an activist with some quite strong reflective tendencies).  I haven’t studied NLP in any real detail so really can’t argue with what the NLP community are saying or not – though I am very aware that there is some very poorly researched information out there (have you read Bad Science – it should be compulsory reading for all?).

    I did a very reputable psychology degree (BSc) and we discussed NLP as a newly forming area – but it was a long time ago and NLP’s clearly developed enormously since then – certainly financially – and may well not be in current psychology courses.  But there are overlaps even if only in language – perhaps that’s what gives it it’s pseudoscientific aura – I remember learning about birds ‘mirroring’ each other. 

    I’m with Jooli in that if something works as a model it can help to explain complex ideas to people – so long as we remember a lot of these things are models and not scientific facts.  And that’s one of the problems of sharing most knowledge – to start sharing it you have to simplify it at first, and then you can start to lose the complexity as the simplifications are shared more quickly and easily, so spread faster.

    Brain friendly learning uses lots of tools, models, data and the reason I find it useful is it gives me a process to design a rich, interactive, results based, people focussed learning environment; and I’m sure there are other ways of doing that but I haven’t come across a more useful one yet.  It’s a mindset and not a science but it’s so helpful when real science provides back up data.

    THank you for the brain stretching that I’ve had this afternoon – now I have to go and be pragmatic and find some dinner!




  6. NLP – a word of caution?

    Hi all

    I think Stella supports my case very well with the example of the senior sales trainer who was put off NLP by sales pressure, for it is natural for people to be suspicious of unsubstantiated claims of efficacy, etc.  A golden rule of marketing is never inflate your promises.  The most difficult part of our job is getting in front of a potential client, and should you convince them of the power of your new methods and then fail to deliver – it is unlikely that you will be invited to return.

    Having spent 100’s of hours studying NLP, EFT, etc, I will admit to have found some diamonds amongst the dross. (Albeit, a lot of these are rehashed from other disciplines).  A few of them are incorporated into my training methods – but I never mention the term ‘NLP’, –  so that I am removed from the over zealous, and perhaps not so ethical practitioners.  Present company excluded from these, of course!

    The aspects of NLP that I do use tend to be incorporated into mindmapping, and EI. I use an adapted form of mindmapping, and try to persuade the companies we work with to allow us to do a crash course on it before we start the seminars proper.  In groups of up to 12 I can ‘hammer’ the basics into a working model in about 60 – 90 minutes.  The ‘tricks and tips’ I develop as the main training evolves.

    I remained concerned about an over-reliance on NLP as a panacea for making the difficult concept easier to understand.  And I would say to Jooli, that if you believe that NLP works for you, that’s great.  However, I suspect that a good trainer will achieve as much without it.  And that is the key – ‘good’ trainer, for NLP will not turn a bad trainer into a good one. 

    You may rightly ask, ‘What makes a good trainer’?  I think that is an excellent starting point for a new discussion!




  7. Thanks everyone

    Many thanks to all of you for this erudite conversation. I think you have confirmed what we were thinking in that:

    1) Putting labels on things and then claiming one size fits all isn’t helpful.

    2) An exciting part of our role is to keep informed of latest research and latest fads and adapting / adopting whatever bits work best for us to support our learners.

    And, I think we need to be observant and alert to what is being hi-jacked and sold on in the name of "latest thinking" by those who have never had an original thought in order to make a quick buck.

    For us, the joy is to stay curious.

    Best regards,


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