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NLP Case Studies


There’s a dizzying amount of books, articles, audio-books, DVDs and more on NLP techniques, but there appears less on actually how these techniques have been used effectively in everyday life.  This article provides 3 short case studies each describing the issue or situation, the techniques used, and the outcome.  It does not offer explanations of the techniques (there are enough of those available already!), rather, it describes them being used in every-day situations – during group training courses and one-to-one coaching sessions. Also, it’s not necessary to utilise as many techniques as possible, it’s far more effective to stick with those that you feel comfortable using, and that work!


1.    The Job Interview

Melissa was a recently-graduated junior IT analyst who had a 2nd interview scheduled with a major banking client.  Two days before the interview she admitted to feeling discouraged, as the initial feedback had highlighted some concern over her communication abilities. She was a petite lady, and English was not her first language, and she felt her lack of physical presence together with her (perceived) weakness in English prevented her from standing-out in the crowd, and therefore exuding (in her mind) an air of professional confidence and self-assurance.

Her body language was slumped, head-down, the eye-accessing cues denoting inward reflection (downwards – left to right). Her language was negative and she appeared fully associated and withdrawn during the intake questions.

Techniques and outcome

To reverse this state, it was necessary to get her dissociated and change her view of herself, which would help raise her self-esteem and give her a confidence boost.  To achieve this, an Intake/Induction talk clarified these key issues, and positive language used to reinforce Melissa’s strong points – her petite look was in no way a negative, her looks actually quite striking, and she did in fact stand-out from the crowd, and have a professional air about her.  This simple confirmation did much for her ego, her physiology noticeably changing – body sitting more upright, head and chin lifting, smiling. Some simple dissociating techniques were explained to her, together with use of maintaining positive language patterns, all resulting in a complete state-shift, in under 10 minutes.

Melissa was not successful in getting through the 2nd interview the following day, although the feedback this time around was more positive, further boosting her confidence, and looking forward to future interviews.  It was also noticed by her colleagues that her demeanour had changed noticeably, her becoming far more outgoing and optimistic.

2.    Confidence

Larry was a computer programmer who had recently completed his in-house training, but following several unsuccessful client interviews, had so-far had failed to get placed on client-side.  Each time he had a client interview the feedback received was that whilst he was very good technically, his lack of confidence let him down, the clients’ feeling this would hinder effective integration into their respective project teams. This, of course, created a vicious circle – the more he failed the interviews and received feedback that he lacked confidence, the more his confidence diminished! 

Techniques and outcome

Larry’s case required a longer intervention than just providing a few tips and techniques to practice, so he was scheduled onto a developmental coaching programme of 1-hour sessions spread over 8 weeks.

The Intake session revealed that Larry was Visual / Kinaesthetic (quite common, by the way, with computer programmers), so following this, a visual representation was used to provide him with an ‘emotional base’ of where he was, and how far he could stretch himself comfortably and still retain confidence in a given scenario.  At the same time, he was provided with a visual safety anchor, in the form of an ‘island’ (Safety Island), where he could go if he strayed too far from the comfort zone, and which he could trigger kinaesthetically.  

Larry was invited to set his own parameters within the comfort/stretch/stress zone, and through sub-modality work was able to envision and experience his own ‘Safety Island’ where he could retreat to via firing-off a kinaesthetic anchor (touching his own watch wrist, so the movement would appear innocuous, and not a nervous one). 

Over the 8 weeks, Larry was introduced to other techniques:

·         Stacked Anchors

·         Dissociated State (head-up, 3rd perceptual position)

·         Modelling

The stacked anchors helped to reinforce the ‘sanctuary’ of safety Island, and Larry was able to retreat there rapidly if needed, creating a dissociated and comfortable state.  Opportunity was made of his 1-hour train commute every day for him to practise dissociation techniques (he often felt ‘everybody’ was looking at him). Lastly, modelling of the ‘City’ stereo-type was used to help him build an image of how he needed to be perceived in the corporate workplace – look, sound and feel.

Larry had always suffered a lack of confidence, and had in fact previously sought professional help, which had proved unsuccessful.  Over the course of the coaching sessions, Larry changed dramatically – new haircut and spectacles, introducing himself to others, saying hello and good morning to co-workers, in fact, he became conspicuous to the point of it being remarked on regularly!  Shortly after the end of his sessions, he had an interview with a blue-chip client, and remarked that he was looking forward to it as a test of his new-found abilities. The outcome?  Larry got the job.

3.    Communication Skills Training

 As part of a Graduate training scheme, a one-day Communication Skills training course was developed to provide trainees with the necessary social skills to help them integrate faster into corporate project teams as project management and business analysts. Previously, the course had comprised the ‘standard’ elements of listening, questioning, assertiveness and negotiating techniques etc. including basic role-plays and self-test questionnaires.

These had resulted only in mediocre levels of behavioural change, due to the techniques being quickly forgotten, as they were somewhat superficial and theoretical and did not allow for appreciation of meta-messages in communication, or of the role the unconscious mind plays.

Techniques and outcome

With the aim of achieving greater understanding of everyday communication, especially with regards to language patterns, the following techniques were introduced, demonstrated and then exercised by the participants:

·         VAK Questionnaire & Exercise

·         Language Diagnostic Instrument

·         Tonal Variance Calibration

·         VAK Language in Story-telling

·         Peripheral Vision exercise

·         In-and-Out of Rapport Body Language exercises

By the end of the day’s course, participants had:

a)    Discovered their own communication styles and preferred language patterns, and demonstrated both.

b)    Understood the concept of Perceptual Positioning, and were able to relate it to past social interaction experiences, understanding as to why those experiences may have been negative.

c)    Experienced the need to focus fully on the other person so as to calibrate language patterns, tonal variance and body language in order to mirror and match, pace and lead confidently during social interaction.

By introducing these few techniques, participants reported afterwards they felt more confident and assertive, and had gained an ‘edge’ in communicating skills above that of their peers.  On more than one occasion, some trainees had reported within a few days of attending the course that what they had learnt had been life-changing – a sure testimony to the effectiveness of NLP techniques!

Remember that it’s important not to get hung-up on which of the myriad of techniques to employ, just use the ones you feel confident in using. This confidence will be communicated to the person you’re working with, and only help to strengthen the effect of the process – what works, works!

For more articles on NLP and coaching, take a look at my website:

Thanks for reading.




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