Free NLP Patterns and Techniques

NLP Techniques and Patterns: Stepping Stones to a New Reality

When we use NLP Techniques, otherwise known as NLP Patterns, or NLP Strategies it is because something is not working in our lives, or not working as well as we would like. We might find ourselves at some kind of impasse, or stuck situation. We want something else, or something better. Then we know to set out to build a bridge from old thoughts, states, feelings, beliefs, or behaviors to new ones. In NLP, we literally build a bridge in our neurology from where we are, to the place we want to be, or from the person we are to the person we want to be come. In NLP jargon, we say that we move from a Present State to a Desired State, or PS -> DS.

It is the PS -> DS direction that is at the heart of every NLP technique (of which there are at least hundreds). Never forget this formula!

As human beings, we are learning and adapting to changes all the time... We do so very well, in fact. Yet there are all times when we all feel stuck. We need new resources, a new view, a new outlook, a new idea, a token, more information, or advice, motivation or skills, etc. to move us along.

NLP techniques and patterns are simply documented and tested strategies that move us and our human neurology along in a stepwise manner, and in a positive direction.

To use an Engineering metaphor, no two bridges are exactly alike, but they all serve the same purpose. Good engineering requires a rigorous study of the terrain, and the load that the bridge must ultimately carry. Real human change engineering is also required when building neurological bridges that will carry the load they must in the future that we want to create.

The NLP bridges we build are all in the mind... which literally updates our neurology or neural networks, as old habits and ways of thinking and feeling are diminished, in favor of new neurological patterns. These new patterns are then reinforced or strengthened until they become habituated, or learned.

How can I learn more about NLP Techniques?

Fortunately, the NLP founders and active NLPers ever since have left a wake of NLP techniques as templates that have stood the test of time, are available online and in books, and new patterns are being modeled all the time by creative NLPers. I highly recommend Shlomo Vaknin's revised edition of The BIG Book of NLP. This book has most of the patterns ever invented and documented, and Shlomo does a great job explaining not only that they work, but how and why they work.

The Big Book of NLP, Expanded: 350+ Techniques, Patterns & Strategies of Neuro Linguistic Programming

Everyone who lives a number of years, can learn new things, and speak a language has probably used some NLP strategy every day of their lives. And how do you know? You know that you are using NLP when what you are doing is working! That's the one criteria that permeates every NLP strategy. In NLP, we say that if something is not working, try something else!

You can buy the book above, or you can get some of those techniques here at Grass Roots NLP. We are always adding NLP techniques, patterns and strategies that you can freely use. Credit will be given whenever possible to those who have modeled these patterns originally, but we take liberty, (and so can you) of changing those patterns as needed to get the best results.

Where Can I Safely Practice NLP Patterns?

What Grass Roots NLP is all about is building a network of NLP Practitioners, who wish to improve their NLP skills in their own lives. One often forgotten aspect of NLP Practitioner is the practice that is involved. By consciously practicing strategies that work, these new programs can become unconscious and very efficient over time. We also try to make NLP practice as fun and useful as possible, because when it is enjoyable, practice does not feel like work. This is why children learn faster than adults. They do not know that learning is work, and so they do it naturally and unconsciously.

As you explore the NLP techniques in Shlomo's book, or on this site. Please feel as free as possible to comment on the patterns as you read and use them. We want to know how they work in your own practice!

Foundation NLP Patterns

Every bridge needs a strong foundation, and in building bridges to a better future through NLP we need to have a strong foundation of basic NLP patterns.

These NLP patterns are the foundation upon which the rest of the bridge will be built. You will see, hear, and use these patterns over, and over, and over, and over, and over again as you practice more advanced NLP patterns. These are the NLP patterns that touch neurological bedrock, so to speak. Learn these first, and learn them well. There is no cutting corners.

NLP Techniques: Sensory Acuity

The Idea:

Much of the foundation for all NLP rests on our powers of perception, and on what we do with those perceptions. Light and shadow, rhythms, melodies and harmonies, feelings of all sorts, scents, flavors, textures and contours, figure and ground and movement serve as inputs into our mind, which then filters, distorts, and generalizes minute changes in perceptions as they update the maps of our minds. The sharper and more trained our perceptions become, the richer the world becomes, while muted or damaged perceptions lead to a very dull, experientially impoverished place.

Our human neurology is a fantastic perceptual instrument tuned and optimized to our world... and the essence of perception lies our ability to sense change from moment to moment. If our world did not change from moment to moment, there would be no perception... no news of change to our minds... the vital news that we depend on for all that we notice, for survival, and pleasure.

In NLP, we place a major emphasis on developing ever greater sensory acuity, also known as making distinctions, or becoming educated. But good NLP focuses less on academic knowledge, and more on utilizing and sharpening sensory acuity in real time. It's all about the noticing. It's about pattern detection, interpretation, and the meaning we make of it. NLP is about noticing something we did not notice before, or that was perhaps not noticed by anyone before. NLP is about paying attention, and lowering our perceptual thresholds to notice more and more... about less and less.

Speaking metaphorically, you can thing about sensory acuity as tuning our neurology to perceive a symphony, where we might only have heard a drone before. Sensory acuity is about tuning our neurology to see perceive explosion of color and movement where there was only a fog before. It's about tuning our neurology to perceive a way through where there was only a wall before.

The Pattern:

1. Tune up your visual acuity

Re-acquaint yourself visually with something completely mundane, such as your car dashboard, or the contents of your most cluttered drawer, or with a stock chart, or with your partner. Do not assign words or meanings to anything you see.

  • Moving your eyes from left to right, notice the way the light falls on every object.
  • Notice cast shadows, core shadows, and highlights.
  • Notice shapes, outlines and fills.
  • Notice ground and figure, or object and space.
  • Notice colors and combinations of colors.
  • Repeat the exercise, scanning with your eyes from right to left.
  • Repeat the exercise, scanning with your eyes from top to bottom.
  • Repeat the exercise, scanning with your eyes from bottom to top.

2. Tune up your auditory acuity

Take some time to dedicate all your attention to your auditory channel in a crowded public place, or in complete solitude. Close your eyes, and begin to pick out discrete sound sources from around you and just notice the following.

  • What rhythms can you detect?
  • Can you follow slight changes in volume, and range of volume that you can hear.
  • Follow along with changes in pitch, and notice any overtones.
  • What is the tambor of the sound source? What instrument does it most approximate?
  • Notice the direction from your sound source, and any changes in direction. Left and right are pretty easy, followed by front and back, and most difficult is up and down.
  • With changes in volume, can you also discern changes in distance?
  • With voices, notice any emotion, and how that manifests in terms of the aforementioned submodalities.

3. Tune your kinesthetic acuity

Some people live in their heads, regarding their bodies as transportation for their heads. Other people never know true hunger, and so they are constantly eating, and are never really satisfied. Still other people rely on drugs to bring relief to symptoms they can't quite put their fingers on. Our body speaks to us all the time, yet we don't know how to listen. Take a moment to listen deeply and compassionately to your body. It really is your best friend.

  • Notice the first bite of food, compared to the second and the third. Which bite is the one that finally brings satiety or satisfaction?
  • Notice where good feelings start and move to, and in which direction and at which speed they may spin.
  • Notice where bad feelings start and move to, and in which direction and at which speed they too may spin.
  • Notice if you were to interrupt a bad feeling and spin it in another direction, faster and faster, what might happen?
  • Notice when you are really fatigued, versus just bored. What are the differences?
  • When was the last time you brushed your teeth? Could you sense when your breath might be overpowering someone else before they do?
  • Think of someone you trust, and how does your body tell you they are trustworthy?
  • Think of someone you could never trust, and how does your body tell you they are not trustworthy?

When to Use This Pattern:

Suffering two bouts of polio, Milton Erickson was dyslexic, color-blind, tone-deaf and confined to a wheelchair during much of his professional life, yet as a hypnotherapist he was able to compensate exquisitely, masterfully and artfully through continuous development of new distinctions in the people he observed. His ability to notice changes in his clients from moment to moment, as well as nuances in in his environment were legendary... but he had to work at it.

I suggest that you work on this pattern in all kinds of contexts for the rest of your life. It's in the noticing, that choices are born, and changes can be made.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, and adapted by Craig Pinegar

NLP Techniques: Well-formed Outcome

The Idea:

Good NLP always starts with the question "what do you want"? Other disciplines say to "start with the end in mind", and in business, we also say "a problem well-defined is half-solved". If you want something, and you are clear about it, and ferociously committed to achieving it the odds are that you'll be successful in the end. NLP calls this kind of result a Well-Formed Outcome, which name came from NLP's linguistic roots. When outcomes are well formed, the journey is also much more enjoyable.

Of all the NLP patterns that exist, this is, perhaps, the first pattern to master in your own life, and with your clients. Most other patterns only support the achievement of this one.

The Pattern:

As a coach, you will teach the client how to create future outcomes and create powerful motivational links to those outcomes. Your task will be to use good elicitation skills, to help the client become very clear, precise, motivated, and smart about achieving this outcome in the world of real people, and in real time.

1. State the outcome in the positive

  • Use future perfect tense to state the goal: "By June 30, I will have raised $6,000 for tuition"
  • Avoid the use of negatives in the goal statement.

Create a sense of expectancy and anticipation. "Consider it done!"

2. Identify whether you can get this outcome on your own, or only with the buy in of others

  • What could you do today, that would move you in the direction of the outcome.

3. Identify When, Where, Who

  • You can use a project plan to list the tasks, resources, timeframes, and dependencies, or at least walk through the tasks and write them down on paper.

5. Chunk the steps appropriately

  • The woman who ate the whale did so one bite at a time. Break the tasks in to steps that can be done, measured and evaluated.
  • What tasks can you do on a daily or weekly basis that will move you toward your ultimate outcome?

4. Add Sensory-based evidence

  • What will you see, hear and feel when your major milestones toward your outcome are acheived?
  • What will you see, hear and feel when your outcome is achieved?
  • What behavior will you display when your outcome is achieved?

You can work on submodality enhancement during this step if the sensory evidence is weak or foggy. "See what you will see, hear what you will hear, speak how you will speak, stand how you will stand".

6. Fortify yourself with the resources you'll need

  • Will you require technical competence or skill, Information, cooperation, confidence, communication skill or pursuasion?

You can go inside to elicit whether the client has the resources sufficient for the outcome, and create them if not.

7. Make the goal compelling

  • Are you excited to get up every morning and pursue your outcome?
  • What obstacles or parts of you create a drag on your motivation?
  • What other distractions compete for attention when working on the outcome?

8. Check for ecology

  • Is your outcome congruent with your own beliefs and values?
  • Is your outcome congruent with and supportive of life?

If not, go inside to find out how the outcome can become more ecological.

When To Use This Pattern:

Use this pattern in your own life, and get really, really good at it. Since the pattern takes some time to walk through, limit it's use to the really important goals in your life. An hour of planning for a 5-minute task is just not appropriate. But for the really big goals, an hour of planning will go a long way toward achieving your outcome. It is also appropriate on the big goals to review this pattern on a weekly and monthly basis as you progress toward your outcome.

Use this pattern for clients who want an important outcome, but are unclear on how to define that outcome, or how to get started or stay motivated. Use this pattern to teach how to correct course after launching, and how to anticipate navigate obstacles or resource shortfalls.


Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Pacing and Matching

The Idea:

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. When we pace matched the experience of another person, we honor them by joining them in the representation of their world.
Pacing, matching and mirroring are ways to gain fast and deep rapport with another person.

Successful salespeople understand this intuitively. Lovers do this instinctively, and any couple or group with a high degree of camaraderie assume the same postures, gestures, vocabulary, movements and rhythms of others in the group. In an intimate setting rapport can be gained through matching eye movements, postures, breathing, tone, nodding, and other rhythmic gestures.

People can connect by matching with each other at any of the Neurological Levels:

  • Environmental Matching
  • Behavioral Matching
  • Capability Matching
  • Beliefs and Values Matching
  • Identity Matching
  • Sprituality Matching

There are times when it is appropriate to break rapport for the purpose of moving on to another priority. This is most easily and tactfully done by introducing a mismatch into the process.

One of the easiest ways to mismatch is through physiology rather than through words. For example of two people were sitting down and talking and one suddenly stands up. That signals the end of the conversation. More subtle gestures would include leaning away from the person, pointing your feet toward the door, looking at your watch or changing the rate of your breathing and blinking.

On the phone, it's also possible to mismatch by changing your tone rate of speed or volume to be much different than that of the person you're talking to. All of these are ways to signal the coming end of a conversation without having to say so directly.

The Pattern:

1. Take on the physiology similar to your partner

  • Stand or sit the way your partner is standing or sitting.
  • Assume the same posture as your partner
  • Assume the same breathing patterns
  • Use big or small gestures and rhythms in harmony with your partner
  • Match the pitch, quality tone volume and speed of your partner's voice

2. Match the other person's representational system preferences

  • Compare by accessing cues with verbal predicates to determine which representational system your partner prefers
  • Does your partner strongly favor one representational system over another?

3. Match the persons met or frames, values, and beliefs

  • Use similar words as your partner when speaking about values, believes, standards etc.
  • What frames do you discern?
  • What emotions are conjured up?

4. Intentionally mismatch your partner

  • Intentionally mismatch one or more of the elements you were matching earlier, and observe just how quickly rapport can evaporate.

5. Regain rapport through matching
Repeat steps 1 through 3, until rapport is again established.

When To Use This Pattern:

Use this pattern in conjunction with all other NLP patterns. Good NLP requires a state of rapport between client and coach. If rapport is ever lost during an NLP pattern, stop and regain rapport before continuing.
Use this pattern in your romantic endeavors, in your profession, and with family and friends, and notice how life's skids are greased just a little more.


Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: State Calibration

The Idea:

In NLP, "calibration" refers to using our sensory acuity to guage the mental and emotional state or mood of a person or audience. This ability sharpens with experience, and is a critical factor in the success of any NLP intervention, because when delivering a pattern, timing is everything.

There are many individual clues that our body gives off to reveal one's inner state at any time, including eye access cues, breathing patterns, perspiration, skin tone and color, not to mention posture, voice tone, hesitation in answering, etc. Each of these can be a study unto itself, but a seasoned NLP practitioner will take all of these cues together as a set and then identify areas of incongruence or inconsistency.

Not all signals from another person are of equal importance. What is most important in calibration is that you know if you are getting a positive (+) or negative (-) response. Yes means, I'm with you, please continue, this is working. No means, I'm resisting this, there is something you are missing, this is not working.

Besides calibrating a Yes or No response, here are some other kinds of Positive or Negative responses you can calibrate:

Calibrating Like vs. Dislike

  • Ice Cream
  • Cold Showers
  • Deserts
  • Waiting in Line

Friend vs. Foe

  • Hitler
  • Bush
  • Gandhi
  • Santa Claus

Interesting vs. Non-interesting

  • Seinfeld
  • Animal Planet
  • Discovery Channel
  • ESPN 

The Pattern:

In this pattern, we will simply calibrate the yes/no response of a partner, first verbally, and then non-verbally. Then switch.

1. Practice calibrating verbal yes/no responses

Ask 10 - 20 light questions, and be sure to keep them light. Choose questions whose yes/no answers will be spontaneous and quick.

  • Is your name Susan?
  • Do you drive a Ford?
  • Did you go to Oxford?
  • Have you ever been skiing?
  • Have you been skiing recently?
  • ...

2. Note physiological responses to verbal yes/no responses

During the elicitation, make mental notes of physiological shifts that occur concomitant to a yes or no.

  • Is there nodding or a head tilt?
  • Is there a change in eye pupil dilation or eye direction?
  • Is there eye contact avoidance or excess eye contact with a response?
  • Is there a shift in face or neck color?
  • Do the hands activate in response to a yes or no?
  • Does breathing rate change with a yes or no response?
  • Does breathing in the stomach or chest change with a yes or no response?
  • Does the body lean forward or back with a yes or no?
  • What else can you consistently recognize?

3. Practice calibrating non-verbal yes/no responses

Now, repeat the 10 - 20 questions, or come up with a new set. This time, however, request that your partner only think of the yes or no response, but that they do not say yes or no aloud. Write down the yes or no response next to your question, and see how many you guess correct.

4. Rotate

If you are playing this as a game, then switch partners and repeat.

When To Use This Pattern:

Try this pattern at home, in your relationships, with your co-workers and clients. You do not need to announce that you are playing a game with them, but you will come to know when you are in agreement or disagreement regardless of what is being said outwardly.


Michael Hall, and others.

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NLP Techniques: Checking Ecology

The Idea:

In doing change work that is NLP, it is critical before implementing any change that the change itself be ecological. We like to say don't fix what ain't broken. This is true in NLP and is common sense in life. Making a change can end up to be disastrous if we don't take time to step back and evaluate the impact of the change before making it. So in NLP we stress ecological checks before installing any new program.

An ecological check means stepping back from the proposed change to think about it in a disassociated way. We evaluate the future as though the change were made to see if there are any negative, harmful, or unnecessarily expensive results caused by its implementation. This gives us an opportunity to debug the new program before it is ever installed.

Whenever we engineer anything for human use, whether it be a new bridge, new biotechnology, a new software system, it is critical that we perform the necessary functional and stress testing before we put that new program into production. Neuro-linguistic programming is no different. We check to make sure that the program performs the desired function in the desired context, and it that it performs well.

A simple neuro-linguistic program that is designed to solve a specific persistent problem, such as allergies, can be tested against the introduction of an allergen, and then you'll know whether program will stand up in real life. In contrast, a more complex neuro-linguistic program that is designed to help someone change it deep-seated metaprogram requires more thorough testing in more contexts and more possible kinds of stresses before that program can be six should be installed. For example, moving from a victim mentality to an absolutely confident mentality needs to be tested in a variety of contexts where confidence will be required.

As we debug the new neuro-linguistic program we check for certain things:

  • Conflicting Outcomes: Does this program interfere with other programs?
  • Loss of Present Benefit: Does the new program take away any currently available choices?
  • Bad Fit: Does this program address the presenting problem or goal, or something else?
  • Incongruence within the Person Making the Change: Is there any part within the person that disagrees or may sabotage the new program?
  • Possible New Problems: Does the new program create new problems which significantly offset the new gains?
  • Unfulfilled Needs: are there any other gains to be had which are not addressed in the new program?

The Pattern:

NLP Ecology Check

1. Invite the person to take a step back

  • Think about the new program in the future in a disassociated way
  • As you think about the new program, feeling, state, belief or decision, is it ecological?
  • As you think about the new program, do you feel that it is life enhancing?

2. Invite a higher level evaluation

  • As you implement this new choice, will it serve you well?
  • Does every part of you find it useful?
  • Is there any part of you that would object to it?
  • What are the new choices or limitations brought about by this new way of being or operating?

3. Step back further to evaluate your criteria for checking ecology

  • What standards do you use to make this evaluation?
  • Are the standards suitable for the kind of change you want to make?
  • Are the criteria of your standards properly weighted?

4. Explore the Cartesian Coordinates

  • If I make this change, what will happen?
  • If I make this change, what won't happen?
  • If I don't make this change, what will happen?
  • If I don't make this change, what won't happen?

When to Use This Pattern:

Use this pattern in all kinds of change in your life and with clients. Use this in project planning, software engineering, organizational engineering, and human engineering. Good NLP patterns ALWAYS include ecology check. If any program proves to be un-ecological, stop while you are in the development phase and modify the program before you install it.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Flexible Response

The Idea:

There are certainly times when the same old response is appropriate. However, having more choices in a dynamic world is generally desirable, and very often highly prized. In NLP we presuppose that the meaning of our communication is the response we get. More often than not the intention economy and what we say will be understood somewhat differently than we intended it. So we often need multiple ways of saying or doing something in order to get a response that we want. If we keep trying the same thing over and over, and harder and harder, we can only expect the same results.

In NLP is critical that we operate out of the other person's model the world. That model of the world is only made known to us in bits and pieces as we are able to discern other world is represented in their model. Our understanding of another person's model improves with experience with the person. The person's model of the world shifts over time, as do the moods and states of the person we are working with. What works one day may not work the next. So because NLP is results-oriented, we need to be able to quickly shift our approach to match the current model moods and states of the person we are working with.

Our models of the world are gained through osmosis, since before birth. Even in utero, our neurology is taking in the information about the world and organizing it in terms of what is friendly, and what is dangerous. Through our years we subconsciously come to learn who we can trust or not. On through adolescence, our belief systems are forming, and all of this external input comes to form our internal map. The trouble is most people fail to ever recognize the difference between their internal map of the world and the real world on the outside. We come to confuse our beliefs with facts, and never question those beliefs. When beliefs are to longer questioned, then learning and change become retarded or stopped. The more we question our beliefs, or can guide another to do the same, the more we are able to recognize them as mental constructs only, which then allows us to develop richer flexibility in the world.

The Pattern:

1. Identify areas in your life where more flexibility would be an asset

  • Where are you or your client feeling rigid, stuck or limited?
  • Where do you feel you are cycling through the same old routines, unable to escape?
  • Does your approach feel rigid anyway?

2. Take a step back and look at the situation in a disassociated way

  • From a disassociated perspective what choices do you see yourself having in that situation?
  • From that disassociated perspective, what choices would other sage advisers give you?
  • If you could not be fired for what you really want to say, what would you say?
  • What choices are available within your unconscious mind?

3. Make contact with the states that support that flexibility

  • Can you sit or stand, or move your eyes in a way that allows more creativity to flow?
  • Can you remember a time when your wit and imagination were unstoppable? Can you recall those feelings now?
  • Are there leading words that you can use that would elicit a more flexible response, such as "let's rewind...", or I'm curious...", or "how would it work if..."?

When to Use This Pattern:

Just like a good stretch every morning helps your body to stay toned and fit, stretching your flexibility and responses are useful skill to have in everyday life, but especially in NLP work when going for a particular outcome. Try to be flexible in your romantic endeavors, not to gain dominance over your partner, but to keep things interesting and exciting. Try saying something in a brand-new way. Remember that the response you get will tell you whether the way you said it comes across to your partner the way you intended it. Keep trying new ways when saying I love you, or discussing chores, or telling about your day at work. Pay attention to accuse your partner is giving you at all times.

If you are in a sales job, and your prospect is looking at his watch, you have to try something new and fast. Watch for cues to determine whether what you are saying is moving them to closer or further away from the close.

In talking to yourself, try talking in a new tone of voice or from another perspective, while paying attention to the other signals you get in your mind and body, to see if the new way of talking motivates you in a stronger way.


Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: State Elicitation

The Idea:

State Elicitation is one of the core skills of any NLP coach. In NLP, a state is more than I thought. A state involves thoughts, feelings and physiology, and covers the spectrum from deep relaxation to to high excitement, from acute pain to ecstatic pleasure, or from mental vertigo to flow. A good NLP practitioner needs to be able to "light up" the neurology, in order to disassociate an old state from an undesirable outcome, or to associate a new resourceful state to a new desired outcome.

Good neuro-linguistic programming does not happen through intellectual discussions about change. Real change only happens as a result of installing a new neuro-linguistic program in a receptive state. The new neurolinguistic program must be powerfully linked to resourceful states, just as any old unresourceful states must be de-linked. NLP must be experienced, not merely thought about. The role of a good NLP practitioner is to teach the client that they have choices about their states, and that they can enter resourceful states as required. Again, this teaching does not happen through discussion only, but through directly experiencing changes in states.

Here are some states that you may wish to evoke in yourself or client when you wish to move away from some compulsive behavior:

  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear

Here are some transitional or interruptive states that you may wish to evoke in yourself or client in order to interrupt an old program, and prepare for new learning:

  • Disarray
  • Confusion
  • Shock

And here are some resourceful states to which we would anchor new positive behaviors:

  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Forgiveness
  • Willingness
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Going for It

The Pattern:

1. Bring yourself to an uptime state

  • Open up all your input channels including your site your hearing and your feelings in the present moment.
  • Become acutely aware of the signals being sent out by the person in front of you.

2. Assist the person in accessing the state

  • Think of a time when you felt _______, and give it a name.
  • What would it be like if you were thinking or feeling _______, right now?
  • Do you know anyone who thinks or feels _______?

3. Clarify the essential aspects of the state

  • What about this state captures the essence of it for you?
  • What about this state makes it distinct from all other states for you?
  • Avoid emotionally or semantically loaded references.

4. Elicit the state in a congruent and precise manner

  • Carefully choose your questions, and support those questions with voice tone and body language congruent with the question.

5. Give the elicited state time and space to emerge

  • Remain comfortably in silence while the elicited state forms and expresses itself.
  • Comfortably reward small steps in the right direction, using confirmations such as "that's right", "there you go", etc.
  • If the client responds with "I can't", then encourage them to act as if it were possible, and "what would that state be like"?

6. Use vague language patterns in order to elicit a trans-derivational search

  • Integrate commands such as "just think about", "you know", "try to understand", "could you teach me", "can you remember", "try to experience", "just notice", "become aware", in order to encourage the client to go inside and search their experience.

7. Watch and listen for and match the person's predicates

  • Remain in tune with the person while listening for sensory predicates, such as seeing, hearing, or feeling parts of the state you are eliciting.
  • When eliciting a past state, encourage the person to see what they saw, hear what they heard, and feel what they felt.
  • When eliciting a hypothetical state, encourage the person to see what they would see, hear what they would hear, and feel what they would feel.

8. Use good downtime suggestions to light up the neurology

  • Help the person go deeper inside to more fully experience the state in their neurology.
  • You can just feel those feelings again now, can't you?
  • You can just make the picture older and brighter, while you make the sound deeper, and the flow of emotion more powerful, can't you?
  • Now you can double the sensation, and double it again!

When to Use This Pattern:

Use State Elicitation as part of almost any NLP intervention. Remember that it is an art, and not a science. Pay attention to the person in front of you as you ask for the state to come out!

Many persistent problems in relationships are caused by one or both partners becoming stuck in an un-resourceful state, leading to more and more problems caused by acting out of that state. With courage and skill the partners can learn that states can be changed rapidly and effectively, allowing better outcomes to flow out of that state. It is important to be able to go into a learning state when studying, a relaxed state at the end of the day, a pumped up state just before working out, a friendly state when meeting with the new client, a rational state when being sold, or a light trance when integrating new learnings.

Founders of NLP often asked "who is driving the bus", implying that each of us is responsible for controlling and directing our own states.


Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: State Induction

The Idea:

State Inductions are used when an NLP coach wants to produce a neuro-chemical shift in the body-mind of the client. There are simply certain neurological states in which we get our best results. For example, there are times when we need to learn something, focus or concentrate on performing a complex task, relax or forgive someone, or get amped up and motivated for action. In these neurological states, excellence becomes possible.

In NLP, states are neurological conditions with distinct brain waves and chemistry at work. We can invoke or induce these states at will, if we only know how.

There are 3 common ways we access desired states to create them in ourselves:

  • Remembering a time in the past when we experienced the state strongly
  • Using imagination to create a fresh experience of the state in the present
  • Catching that state from someone else who does it well (to get crazy, think of  your favorite Jim Carrey movie)

States come and go all the time, like waves in the ocean. We are constantly shifting between states, and each state swells and ebbs like a wave. Sometimes states are experienced as distinct, and sometimes two or more states can co-exist, and amplify or cancel the effect of the others.

Remember that in NLP, we want to anchor behavior to resourceful states, so we must be able to induce the desired state and anchor the new behavior at the very peak of that state.

A master at inducing positive states in thousands of people at once is Tony Robbins. You may have heard help pumping up a crowd with shouts of "yes" and "aye". It really works, if you know how.

The Pattern:

1. Be ready to catch the induced state as it occurs and anchor it when it peaks

Like a surfer trying to catch a good wave, be ready to watch for the induced state and anchor it with your client. Stay in the present. Stay in up-time awareness. You are outwardly focused on the physiology of your client. You are teaching the client how to do this for his or herself.

2. Elicit a time when the client felt the state strongly in the past

For this elicitation, remember to ask the questions briefly, and take the first response. Do not dwell on any one question too much. Watch for a physiological shift.

  • Recall a time when you felt _______.
  • Go back to that experience and see what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt.
  • Notice exactly what was going on inside of yourself at that time.
  • Notice the energy as it starts in one place and moves through your body.
  • Where does the feeling start, where does it end, and which direction does it rotate?
  • What color would you give this feeling?
  • Are you there yet? Good.

3. Amplify the intensity of the elicited state

When you start to notice a physiological shift, you know you have accessed the state. Now to make the state stronger and more distinct. Here are some ways to amplify high-energy states:

  • Now, double the brightness and sharpness. Add more color.
  • Now, double the volume and the bass.
  • Now, double the feeling as it flows through you in a circuit.
  • Double the speed of the feeling as it flows through you.Now, double it again.

Here are some ways to amplify states of relaxation and learning:

  • Now, soften the brightness and deepen the colors.
  • Now, diminish the volume to a very relaxing level.
  • Now, unwind the tension and continue to allow it to unwind.
  • Now, take those feelings of relaxation and double them, double the relaxation again.

4. Access the physiology of the amplified state

Remember that physiology is an important part of any state, and should be congruent with the inner state you are trying to induce. The mind and body should be on the same wavelength.

  • When accessing high energy states, the client should be standing, pacing or leaning forward in the chair, ready to pounce. Breathing should be higher in the chest, and the pulse should be elevated.
  • When accessing relaxation or learning, the client can be comfortably seated with breathing lower in the stomach. Soft eyes. Soft face. Everything is OK.
  • 5. Calibrate the state

Ask the client to report the amplified state, and contrast it with the originally induced state.

  • How motivated or relaxed do you feel now, on a scale from 1 to 10? (e.g., 4)
  • How motivated or relaxed did you feel when we started, on a scale from 1 to 10? (e.g., 9)
  • How did you get from 4 to 9?

6. Break state and repeat

Repeat the example steps 2 through 5 up to 3 times, each time getting faster and faster at accessing the new resourceful state.

When To Use This Pattern:

Use State Induction patterns when inducing a resourceful state that you want to anchor in yourself or in a client.


Richard Bandler, Tony Robbins, Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Break State

The Idea:

Breaking State, or applying a Break State is useful for times in life and in NLP work when we simply need to say "STOP!" because the present state is taking us nowhere, or in the wrong direction.

Break State pattern is also used often to build repetition into an NLP intervention, where the client will learn by repeatedly getting into and out of a state. A Break State provides that repetition. And sometimes saying "stop" to an inappropriate state will work, but often not, because most states have a momentum of their own... like a flywheel on an engine. When is the last time you tried to ask a child to stop crying, or a person with depression to stop feeling that way? Were the results good?

So when we want to interrupt an unresourceful state in our selves or in a client, we need better tools. The best tools have an element of surprise, shock or unusualness to them. A child will almost always stop their crying if candy is presented to them out of the corner of their eye. Hearing a coin hit the ground will cause most people to pay attention if only for a second or two. Good humor is based on some kind of surprise in an otherwise predictable stream of words or circumstances.

Pattern interrupts or state breaks happen naturally around us all the time. Whenever we notice a very attractive person, or a very ugly person, even if we look at them through our peripheral vision, they captivate our attention. Seeing a bald eagle, or a fighter jet in the sky will distract most people, and so would the sound of screeching tires.

Notice as you go through the day how many times state interrupts occur, and then pay attention to what happens next. Do you go back to the previous state, or are you on to a different one entirely?

The Pattern:

NLP Break State

1. Name the current state

  • Welcome your mood, state of mind and emotions? What are they saying? What state are you in now?

2. Introduce some surprise into the state, focusing on the submodalities that matter most

  • What are the modalities of the current state? Visual? Auditory? Kinesthetic?
  • What are the visual submodalities, i.e. brightness, color, size, and distance?
  • What are the auditory submodalities, i.e. volume, direction, timbre, and tone?
  • What are the submodalities, i.e. locus of feeling, positive or negative, speed, and direction?

3. Deliver the interrupt

  • Do something sudden and very unusual, and for maximum effect, play on the submodalities from the prior step.
  • If a person's problems are "looming large" interrupt by pointing to that flock of birds in the far distance.
  • If a person's inner voice is negative and anemic, interrupt by mimicking Jim Carrey saying "AAAAALRIGHTY THEN!!!!!!"
  • If a person is feeling a weight in the chest, interrupt by deeply gasping in surprise at something going on behind them, even if it was nothing special.
  • For less dramatic effect, you could simply motion a "T" with your hands for a time out, or motion with your hand to wipe clear an imaginary screen.
  • You might also just raise or lower your voice by an octave, or speak in a sexy tone or an accent from some other country.
  • A famous NLP verbal interrupt that is also subtle and works in most situations is to ask, "do you smell popcorn?"

When To Use This Pattern:

Use a Break State pattern whenever you need to to jar or deliver a mild shock to your consciousness or that of a client. When the conscious mind is momentarily distracted and trying to make sense of the surprise, can a new pattern be introduced.

Pattern interrupts can also be delivered during an NLP intervention, while repeating shifts from one state to another. This repetition trains the client to be able to interrupt themselves on cue, and move to the new, more resourceful state.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Anchoring

The Idea:

In NLP, the process of anchoring is central to producing permanent change. We owe a debt to Ivan Pavlov, for making famous the notion that stimuli can lead to a certain behavioral response. Pavlov took dogs in a state of hunger, and rang a bell just before spraying meat powder into the dogs' mouths. After a few rounds, the dogs began to salivate at the sound even when there was no meat powder. NLP takes conditioning into the real human world, however. In NLP, an anchor is a certain precise stimulus delivered in a peak emotional state to link powerfully to an underlying meaning within our neurology.

Think of an anchor as a button that can be pushed by oneself or someone else any time we desire a certain response. Think of a certain voice that when you hear it can make your blood pressure rise. Think of a song that makes you remember your high school days. Think of a food that send you running to the bathroom. Think of the perfume reminds you of your first romance. These are all anchors, powerfully linked to a neurological meaning. These are the buttons. Once installed, those buttons are always available to be pushed. In order to uninstall an old button, or install a new button, we must be in a peak emotional state at the time, and at that moment the underlying meaning to which the button is linked must also be evoked.

When we choose an anchor to install, there are four characteristics that make that anchor a good choice:

  • Intensity: intensity of the feelings of the state at the time of being anchored
  • Purity: the distinctiveness of the state being anchored
  • Uniqueness: the more unusual the anchor, the less light leak it is to be pushed by accident
  • Timing: install the anchor when a person's state reaches its peak

The mnemonic of IPUT, can help you member these qualities.

The Pattern:

NLP Anchoring

1. Identify behavior, state, or response you want to access in the future, and a suitable anchor

  • What is the behavior or state you want to be able to produce on demand?
  • What kind of an anchor could we use that is obvious to you but discrete to everyone else?

2. Elicit the desired state

  • Invite the person to remember, imagined, or think about the desired state, and experience it fully, now.
  • Determine whether the person can make the state intense enough on their own to anchor it successfully.

3. Calibrate the person in the state, and amplify it

  • What are you feeling now?
  • What are the unique qualities of this state?
  • Now take those feelings and double them, and double them again!
  • Make the pictures bolder, brighter and closer!
  • Make this sounds louder, clearer and in stereophonic surroundsound!
  • Take the good feeling and spin it faster and faster!
  • Now stand and breathe confidently!

4. Install the anchor

  • Once the person has reached a peak state, and you can easily discern it I calibrate a make the noise, say the word, touch the arm, or make a face that will serve as the anchor in the future. Remember intensity, purity, uniqueness and timing.

5. Break state and test the anchor

  • ask, which we did you drive to get here this morning? Nice weather today, isn't it?
  • Now, what happens when I do this: (fire off the anchor).
  • When the anchor was fired, did you get the desired response? If yes, you're ready to test in the real world. If no, repeat steps two through four.

When To Use This Pattern:

In your life you can using anchoring to reinforce excellent behavior. Whenever you catch yourself doing something great, amplify the great feelings and then fire off an anchor that you previously selected for its purity and uniqueness. This action will associate the anchor with the neurological meaning underlying those great feelings. Then, in the future when you need to access this state again, you can fire the anchor and it will be there for you.

Use the Anchoring pattern with your clients, during interventions when new state-dependent behaviors are being installed. This works great in relationships, when seeing their partners should evoke a good feeling. Having an anchor associated to a good feeling can put your client in a good state in a flash, whenever he or she needs it.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Positive Intent

The Idea:

In NLP, there is a powerful presupposition that at some level, every behavior has some positive intent behind it... even those behaviors that seem negative. Though many people outside of NLP might disagree philosophically with this presupposition, we stand by its power to deliver great results in change work, or in an arbitration setting between two parties. As we address problematic emotions and behaviors, we assume that they serve or have served some useful purpose, and so by learning what that positive intent is or was, we can find a better substitute motion or behavior that delivers that same intent.

In order to replace a negative emotion or behavior with a more positive one, we must first give it an audience, hear and honor it for its positive intent, and ask its permission to do something else instead. Once the positive intent is satisfied, then the negative emotion or behavior is no longer required in order to achieve it.

The Pattern:

1. Identify and negative emotion or negative behavior

  • What is the problem or trouble that seems to serve no useful purpose for you?
  • What difficulties do you struggle with that seem to be negatively motivated?
  • Is there a part of you that makes you act selfishly, hesitantly, brashly, irresponsibly?

2. Find the part responsible for the negative behavior, and address it directly

(Remember that there are really no "parts", but there are aspects of our personalities that we can address as though they were distinct parts.)

  • Close your eyes and go inside yourself, and get in touch with the part of you that causes you to behave that way.
  • Ask that part, what is the positive reason or intent for that behavior?
  • Ask that part, what other positive reasons or intentions might there be?

3. Ask questions that chunk up on a positive intention until you arrive at a level where new agreement can be made

  • When that part of you gets what it wants for you, what does that get you?
  • And when you get that, then what does that get for you?
  • And when you get that, is the intention fully satisfied?

4. Ask permission of that part to find a new way to achieve that highest intent

  • Is it okay now for your unconscious mind to find a new way to achieve that intent?
  • Are there any aspects of that part of you that might not allow you to find a new way to achieve your intent?
  • Is there any other part of you that objects to finding a new way to achieving that intent?

When To Use This Pattern:

Use this pattern in your own life when trying to replace that nagging voice in your head with another voice is more soothing, encouraging and positive. Use this pattern to understand the positive intent of others who might have ignored, shamed, or otherwise harmed or hurt you. This does necessarily mean that those who might have gravely harmed you should not be prosecuted, but it will help your unconscious mind to reach a place of understanding, leading to forgiveness, so that you can move on with your life.

Use the Positive Intent pattern with your clients to help them understand that it's okay to find better ways to achieve a positive outcome. This pattern is great for diminishing guilt, self derision, and for helping to repair or improve relationships.

Use the Positive Intent pattern in negotiations when two parties cannot agree on the details, but may agree by chunking up to a higher level.

The Positive Intent pattern also works great with kids and teenagers, and is a life skill to be developed early and often.


Michael Hall, and others.

Wholeness NLP Patterns

NLP Techniques: Keeping It Together

This section is dedicated to NLP Techniques and Patterns for helping us become more congruent and whole.

Not only do we sometimes have disagreements with others, but we also have disagreements with ourselves at certain times, and around certain topics, issues and desires. We can't seem to get any momentum on the things we really want. We spin our wheels in one place, unable to get ourselves unstuck.

Say hello to our "parts". Our parts are purely fictional, facets of our whole person, or more specifically, part of our emotional mind-body system. Still, "parts" are a useful metaphor that we easily understand, and commonly refer to in everyday conversations, such as:

Sound familiar? Did you notice all the "buts"? If you count more than a few buts in your own language, it's probably time to look inside for the incongruencies, so they can be heard, respected, and brought to agreement.

NLP Has Some Good News...

The good news is that it is also easier to resolve conflicting parts with NLP Techniques than you might think. When all of our "parts" are recruited, enrolled in support of a common motivation, and not stepping all over each other, life suddenly becomes easy. The following NLP patterns will help you find congruence in yourself, and make your life more whole:

NLP Techniques: Collapsing Anchors

The Idea:

You remember anchoring from the foundational NLP patterns, and now it's time to learn how to set two anchors (a negative and positive anchor) on a collision course with each other in order for the positive anchor to cancel out the negative one. The Collapsing Anchors pattern is useful when we observe two radically different states operating within us at the same time, interrupting each other, interfering with each other, or even worse, creating self-sabotage. Examples of opposing states would be:

  • Feeling happy, while feeling anxious
  • Feeling motivation, while feeling hesitation
  • Feeling attraction, while feeling fear

Crashing these two opposing states into each other within the neurology creates a strange starburst of a reaction, resulting in temporary confusion, disorientation, or even light amnesia, after which the force of the negative state is consumed and digested by the positive state.

Personally I don't like the name "collapsing anchors", as much as I like to think of this pattern as negative state annihilation, because I think this is what's really happening inside neurology. Whatever you call this pattern (others call it "integrating anchors"), it really works, but don't try it until you first master setting anchors one at a time.

The Pattern:

NLP Collapsing Anchors

1. Access and anchor the negative state

  • What state do you get into often that interferes or interrupt you when you're involved in something important or critical?
  • What buttons do you have that you find others pushing?
  • Access that state right now... go into it now and see what you see, hear what you hear, and feel what you feel when you're at the height of the state.
  • When you're feeling that completely, now, I'm going to touch you right here (touch the left knee or left palm).
  • Test the negative anchor and calibrate the negative state.

2. Break state

  • Is that smoke on the horizon? Naw, maybe that's just a cloud.

3. Access and anchor the positive state

  • Now, what would you like to experience in that situation?
  • See what you'll see, hear what you'll hear, feel what you'll feel when you're in that resourceful state fully.
  • Now take that feeling and double it... spin it faster... make the colors bolder, and the picture larger. Add your favorite rock music to the feeling, and turn it up!
  • When you're feeling that completely, now, I'm going to touch you right here (touch the right knee or the right palm).
  • Test the positive anchor and calibrate the positive state.

4. Break state again

  • What's your favorite holiday? And what's your second favorite holiday?

5. Fire the negative and positive anchors simultaneously

  • When I touch your left knee and your right knee like this, just notice what happens now...
  • (important: hold the two triggers for a few moments while the collision happens, and allow for the neurological dust to settle).
  • (Important: release the negative anchor a few seconds before you release the positive anchor, to allow the positive energy to fully absorb the remaining negative energy).

6. Test the collapse of the negative anchor

  • Most people say that this NLP pattern feels strangely good... perhaps a bit confusing, but in a good way... and that means it's working.
  • Now when I fire the negative anchor, has all the energy drained out of it? If no, return to step 5. If yes, proceed to step 7.

7. Reinforce the positive anchor

  • Now, I want you to recall that positive state in its full strength. See what you saw here which you heard and feel what you felt you were at the very peak of the positive state.
  • And now as you feel this very strongly, I'm going to touch you right here (touch the right knee or the right palm).
  • That's right. And now you're going to be able to invoke this resourceful state whenever you need it!

When to Use This Pattern:

Use the Collapsing Anchors pattern when you want to rid yourself or your client of unwanted thoughts or states that seem to arise at just the wrong time. When this pattern is done effectively, the negative state will just effortlessly melt into the anchored positive state all by itself.


John Grinder, and others.

NLP Techniques: Parts Integration

The Idea:

The Parts Integration or Parts Negotiation pattern is useful for times when we hold conflicting values, each having a great importance within ourselves. Strong values or desired outcomes are backed by mental and emotional resources, such that when these conflicts happen a real internal struggle can ensue, and one part of ourselves can find itself at war with another. We feel like there is no way out of these dilemmas or conundrums except to let the parts go on fighting.

Occasional dilemmas are a part of life, but when these battles rage on for too long, it can become debilitating. Fortunately whether the conflict is occasional or constant, we can use this NLP pattern to arrive at a win-win or no-deal solution.

The Pattern:

NLP Parts Negotiation

1. Identify the parts, and check for "yes" and "no" for each

  • Get in touch with the part of you that does or believes in X... Does it have a name?
  • What signal would X like to give us to mean "yes", congruently?
  • Now get in touch with the part of you that does or believes in Y... Does it have a name?
  • What signal would Y like to give us to mean "yes", congruently?

2. Determine the desired outcomes and positive intentions of each part in turn

  • Let's start by giving X an audience... What positive outcome does X want for you... and when X gets that outcome, what does that do for you... and what does that outcome do for you?
  • Now, let's give Y a turn... What positive outcome does Y want for you... and when Y gets that outcome, what does that do for you... and what does that outcome do for you?

3. Engage the parts in understanding the interests of the other

  • Does X understand and agree with any of the positive intentions of Y? Which, and how much?
  • Does Y understand and agree with any of the positive intentions of X? Which, and how much?

4. Negotiate an agreement

  • Can X can agree not to interrupt or sabotage Y when it is expressing itself through you?
  • Go inside and check for a congruent "yes".
  • Can Y can agree to wait its turn to express itself when X holds sway in you?
  • Go inside and check for a congruent "yes".

5. Make a deal

  • Can both sides agree to cooperate respectfully of each other for the foreseeable future?
  • If either side becomes dissatisfied with the other, would it please give a clear sign so that we know it is time to renegotiate? Can that sign be given amicably?

6. Check for ecology

  • Are there any other parts of you that disagree with this deal?
  • Are there any other reasons not to implement this plan now?
  • If there are are any incongruencies, return to step 4.

When to Use This Pattern:

This pattern can be used whenever you pick up on emotionalized speech like "on the one hand..., and on the other hand... I can't decide, and I wind up hating myself!", or "I feel torn by this constant dilemma...!", or "that's the conundrum!" Use this pattern whenever you hear yourself or another using these speech patterns.

Remember that parts are not separate, but just different aspects of our one-self. The goal is always to bring more congruency into more contexts, even when some urges must wait their turn for expression.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, and others.

NLP Techniques: Six-Step Reframing

The Idea:

The Six-Step Reframing Pattern indirectly engages the unconscious mind. When there is a shadowy part of you that you just can't put your finger on, but you know is behind some of your inappropriate behaviors, wouldn't it be great if you could just enter into dialogue with that part? If it could just show us a sign, then we could begin to understand it's purpose, and from there negotiate a peace.

During this process, we might never know the name or put a face to this unconscious part of us, but that should not stop us from being able to communicate with it. Think of this part as a kind of "dark knight" within you, which though it communicates obliquely via shadows, is really on your side if you can just discover and satisfy its higher intent. This is not unlike Batman, who must ally with Commissioner Gordon and DA Harvey Dent in pursuit of public safety and justice, is it not?

The Pattern:

NLP Six-Step Reframing

1. Identify a behavior that is causing you trouble

  • What behavior do you wish to change, which is subject to inner resistance?
  • What compulsive thoughts or actions would you like to change, but can't because there is part of you that won't cooperate?

2. Establish communication with the part that triggers this behavior

  • Go inside now and ask for that resistant part of you to reveal itself. Is there a feeling, a sound, a movement, a color or a sensation that let's you know "I'm listening"?
  • Ask that part of you if it is willing to communicate with you, and try to discern a yes or no.
  • If you get a no, it may be that it does not trust your intent, and so you must assure that part that you will respect its intent, and not abreact, whatever it is.
  • If you get a yes, thank the part, and you are ready to proceed.

3. Discover the positive intent of that part

  • Ask the part if it is willing to reveal its positive intent to conscious awareness. Trust that the answer will come, and be willing to wait for a yes or a no.
  • If you get a yes, then probe the part further to learn if it trusts your conscious judgement.
  • Do I allow this positive intent to be expressed?
  • Is there a more useful behavior that expresses the same positive intent as well? If you get a no, then you have more trust-work to do here.
  • Your part does not trust that solutions you have come up with will work as well.

4. Access creative resources

  • Ask your creative center to come up with 3 alternatives to present back to that part. These must be 3 new ideas, different than what you have tried before.
  • When you feel that these ideas will really work, then communicate them to this part.

5. Broker a deal and commit the part to the more resourceful behavior

  • Will the part that ran the old behavior be willing to run one or more of these new behaviors instead?
  • Will the part that ran the old behavior identify the triggers for the new behaviors? What are they?

6. Check for ecology

  • Is there any part of you that disagrees with running the new behaviors when triggered?
  • Are you fully congruent about this?

When to Use This Pattern:

There are parts of us that look out for us, but prefer to remain unnamed. They protect us, but in ways that are suboptimal. Try this whenever you struggle to name the part that manifests this behavior, but you want to seek its cooperation toward a better solution.

The Six-Step Reframing pattern is based on the metaphor of an unconscious "part". You must be very comfortable with this metaphor for this pattern to succeed. If you or the client feel awkward or confused about parts, then try something else.


Michael Hall, and others.

NLP Techniques: Agreement Frame

The Idea:

The Agreement Frame pattern is useful when two parties cannot agree on something. There are generally 4 strategies one can choose when dealing with disagreement:

  • Get Out
  • Give In
  • Take Over
  • Go for the Win-Win

There are certainly times when getting out, giving in, or taking over is the appropriate response, usually determined by whether the one's safety, or relationship or the outcome is the primary concern, and the other concerns are subordinated.

Going for win-win is the context where this NLP pattern is most effective, because the effort to walk through the pattern takes time and effort up front. When both parties decide the outcome and the relationship are both worth preserving, then it is worth their investment of time, effort and emotion.

When it is established that both parties must have a stake in a favorable outcome, then it is time to begin. Now let's revisit why disagreements happen in the first place... People operate from their frames, consisting of values, priorities or categories of things in the world. When these frames are misaligned and the two parties are too inflexible to see the matter through the frames of the other, then it is time to go meta... or rather assume a higher frame that encompasses the frames of the two parties.

The Pattern:

NLP Agreement Frame

As you walk through this pattern, it really helps to write down the answers you will get, so they are not lost sight of during the process.

1. Identify the present frames of both parties

  • Ask each party in turn: What specifically do you want?
  • Ask each party in turn: What is important to you about that outcome? 1 - 10?

2. Identify common themes or elements of both frames

  • Is there a common ultimate outcome for both parties?

3. Identify a higher-level meta-frame that encompasses both sets of frames

  • Ask each party in turn: If you get what you want, what will that do or get for you? What does it buy you?

4. Use meta-level outcomes of both parties to create an even higher meta-frame

  • Ask each party in turn: And when you get that higher outcome or purpose, then what does that get for you?

5. Frame the negotiation in terms of the meta-meta-frame

By now, if there is no common ground... DO NOT PROCEED! Check again to reconfirm that both parties want to resolve the issue, and establish common ground, then backtrack as necessary until a common frame is established. If it is clear to everyone where the common ground is, then proceed.

  • Ask each party to contribute solutions to making sure both sides meet the terms of the higher frame generally, while getting both parties specifically what they want as much as possible.
  • If specifics must be traded off, then what can those specifics be while preserving the relationship and meeting the terms of higher frame?

6. Confirm the agreements

  • Once agreements are reached and written down, confirm the understanding of the terms of the agreement with both parties mutually. Clarify, backtrack and revise as required.

When to Use this Pattern:

Use the Agreement Frame pattern when the relationship and the outcomes are both too important to sacrifice either one. This works in business, marriages, and between friends.

Sometimes the process takes only a few minutes or hours... or it can go on for days or weeks whenever the stakes and complexity are high. Very complex issues require professional and often legal counsel.


Michael Hall, Stephen Covey, Dudley Lynch and others

NLP Techniques: Aligning Neurological Levels

The Idea:

Aligning Neurological Levels, or the Aligned Self Pattern is one of my very favorite NLP patterns, because it can be a whole intervention in itself. It is based on the work of Robert Dilts, who discovered that people operate at different levels at different times, and when these levels are out of alignment with each other, people not only feel stuck, they are perceptibly stuck.

Like the Circle of Excellence, this pattern works extremely well both with individuals and in groups. This pattern is good for both remedial and generative work.

The Pattern:

NLP Agreement Frame

1. Create 6 Spatial Anchors 1-Step Apart on the Floor

Lay down 6 cards or coins about 1 step apart on the floor extending out in front of the explorer.

Each one of the cards will be spatially anchored as follows:

  • Environment (i.e. times and places)
  • Behaviors (i.e. behaviors, thoughts and states)
  • Capabilities (i.e. resources and skills)
  • Values and Beliefs (i.e. what's important or necessary)
  • Identity (i.e. who and what you are)
  • Spirit (i.e. highest intent and purpose, who else is touched)

2. Step Into the Environmental Spatial Anchor

  • Think of the times and places where you will want and need to be as congruent and resourceful as possible.
  • Think of another time and place where you will want and need these resources.

3. Step Into the Behavioral Spatial Anchor

  • Now, take a step forward into the next space, and think of all the behaviors you will need to achieve your outcome... your state, your thoughts and attitude, your posture and breathing, the way you speak and move.

4. Step Into the Capabilities Spatial Anchor

  • Now, take a step forward into the next space, and think of all the resources, skills, knowledge, people, information, strengths and abilities you will need to achieve your outcome...
  • Make sure these resources are ecologically sound... good.

5. Step Into the Values and Beliefs Spatial Anchor

  • Now, take a step forward and imagine the kinds of beliefs and values that serve you in achieving your outcome.
  • Take a moment to state those positive beliefs to yourself and notice how they support you in achieving your outcome.
  • Take a moment to organize your values so that first things come first... good.

6. Step Into the Identity Spatial Anchor

  • Now, take a step forward to notice how well who you are aligns with your pursuit and achievement of your outcome.
  • Take a moment to more perfectly align your identity with this pursuit... good... that's it.

7. Step Into the Spiritual Spatial Anchor

  • Now, take a final step into the realm of the eternal. Reflect on the positive legacy your contributions have left for mankind and posterity.
  • Take a moment to experience how that will look, sound and feel to have done something positive for others, and allow that experience to soak in, now.

8. Reinforce the Spiritual Spatial Anchor

  • Now, turn around 180 degrees and face the direction you came.
  • Take a moment now to reflect on how this highest purpose and intent can inform, modulate and enlighten all other aspects of your life.

9. Reinforce the Identity Spatial Anchor

  • Now take a step forward, and having experienced the eternal perspective, notice now how your identity has been deeply shaped in powerful ways.
  • Take a moment to project how this more powerful you will engage in the world.

10. Reinforce the Values and Beliefs Spatial Anchor

  • Now take a step forward, and having updated what it means to be you now, notice how your beliefs and values are informed, revised, updated and aligned naturally and easily.
  • Notice how easily it is to recognize and place first things first. Now imagine how those important things will easily get done, and how the less important things can also get done in due time.
  • Notice how confident you feel that you are also doing the right things.

11. Reinforce the Capabilities Spatial Anchor

  • Now take a step forward, and having updated and revised your priorities, values and beliefs, notice how your learning is accelerated, focused on what you'll need when you'll need it.
  • Notice also how your confidence and competence have also grown up side-by-side and how they support each other. Notice yourself in a flow state, enjoying being good at what you do now.

12. Reinforce the Behavioral Spatial Anchor

  • Now take a step forward, and see yourself as a detached observer, performing with confidence and competence those new skills and capabilities, and notice how your thoughts, emotions, posture, breathing, expression, speech, motions, decisions are all enhanced and perfected.
  • And now just step into that experience as yourself and see, hear and feel yourself doing these things as naturally, smoothly and easily as you saw your self when detached... good.

13. Reinforce the Environmental Spatial Anchor

Finally, take a last step forward, and bring all of these new resources, skills, powers into real-projected future places and times. See yourself doing everything fully congruent in these situations, notice what day and time it is, what you are wearing, who is present, and just feel great!

When to Use this Pattern:

Align Neurological Levels as a great group introduction to NLP. This is also an excellent exercise to finish off a chain of NLP interventions, because it reinforces and integrates learnings covering the gamut across all levels of experience.

Do try this exercise, it comes highly recommended. NLP Comprehensive also favors this exercise during their integration week at the end of Practitioner training, and for good reason!


Robert Dilts

Self Identity NLP Patterns

NLP Techniques: Who am I?

Of all aspects of life that Neuro-Linguistic Programming can assist with, helping to define and enhance our self-concept is among the most powerful. I personally love working with identity, because self expression is one of the strongest urges our experience. A change in identity has profound changes in all other areas and activities of life.

The clearer we become about who we are as individuals, the more naturally we stand out and simultaneously integrate with others in the world.

In life, we can evolve through stages of dependence, through independence, and then achieve inter-dependence as Stephen Covey says. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says growth and one's identity (self) is supported by a purposeful life filled with flowful experiences. Flow creates increasingly complex people that are at once more individuated and more integrated. Joseph Campbell's work tells that human life can be a journey wherein the hero of the story (one's self) progresses from a naive dependent individual through a series of adventures which define him or her. The hero then becomes a master of two worlds: the inner world, and the outer world being shaped by the inner and outer worlds, and shaping it in turn. Socrates urged us all to "know thyself". This is the ideal life.

Yeah, but who am I?

When is the last time you have asked yourself a question like one of these:

Our identity is a fragile thing. It is constantly under threat of entropy and disintegration. One sure thing is that who we are is always changing. We are not the same person we were a day or a month or a year ago. We've changed in subtle or obvious ways. Sometimes who we are changes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Thousands of books, movies and songs turn on this truth.

We often get stuck, or all twisted up, or sideways as our self concepts develop in less than optimal ways. Often we grow up to become what others want or expect us to be, wearing a mask as it were, and creating inner resistance. Other times, our concept of self is tamped down by critical voices coming from outside or inside ourselves. Abuse during childhood is a direct attack on the child's own self concept, which NLP techniques can help to redefine. At other times, we are simply not aware of our own possibilities, and NLP patterns can help here too.

How Can NLP Help?

This section presents proven NLP Techniques and Patterns that can help the individual define him or herself in new ways, strengthen and tune up one's already healthy self concept, or re-imprint a stunted childhood self-concept with a more empowered and resourceful one. Once we know who we are, why we are here, and have resources at our disposal to fully express ourselves, the details just seem to work themselves out, do they not? Let's get started...

NLP Techniques: Disidentification

The Idea:

Many times circumstances and emotions rule our lives precisely because we think that we are our circumstances and emotions. Outside of NLP, disidentification is a central theme to many spiritual and self-help movements. Eckhart Tolle points to identification with our problems as the source of all human suffering, and he may be right.

We are not our circumstances, nor are we our emotions. We are more than that. We are not our bodies, we are more than that too. The gist of this pattern is to reframe one’s thinking, so that we come to know experientially that we have a body, but we are not our body. We have circumstances, but we are not those circumstances. We have problems, but we are not our problems. We have emotions, but we are not our emotions. We have thoughts and experiences, but we are not those thoughts or experiences. At the core, we are the consciousness having all of these things, and while these things can change, our core remains safely untouched.

Separating our core identity from these aspects of experience is powerful. It is the beginning of wisdom and the start of a new life for someone who is completely identified with his or her illness, relationship, job, wealth, or story. It is also very scary when identification with these things is very strong. It can feel like part of their identity is being severed at first, and then the realization comes that what was severed was not their identity at all, but only a figment… a hallucination. This being said, realize that this pattern will be met with resistance by most Westerners, and Americans in particular. The Western mentality holds a deep fear of separating one’s identity from one’s thoughts and feelings. At worst, it seems like a kind of death, and at the very least a challenge to separate one’s identity from their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and story will make no sense at first.

The Pattern:

NLP Six-Step Reframing

1. Test willingness to accept higher core identity

  • Do you accept the notion that you are more than your circumstances, health, wealth and relationships?
  • Do you accept the notion that you are more than your thoughts and feelings?
  • Do you accept the notion that you are more than your roles and duties?
  • Do you accept the notion that you are more than your body?
  • Are you willing to explore these ideas further to get in touch with that higher self?

Note: If they are not willing to go further, stop here. You may ask them to say more about their unwillingness, but do not continue with this pattern until they are ready to play.

2. Use linguistic patterns to start to dis-identify

  • How does it feel to you to say “I have a body, but I am not my body”?
  • How does it feel to you to say “I have a job, but I am not my job”?
  • How does it feel to you to say “I have money, but I am not my money”?
  • How does it feel to you to say “I have a religion, but I am not my religion”?
  • How does it feel to you to say “I have a _______, but I am not my _______”?
  • How could you express this in a way that seems better or more true to you?

3. Induce relaxation to strengthen the dis-identification

  • As you relax into a comfortable and safe state of mind… invite a higher self capable of thinking transcendentally about who you are to become activated.
  • Allow that higher self to step back, and safely and objectively evaluate the differences between your essential core, and other aspects of yourself that are separate from that essential core.

4. While in trance, separate self from circumstances and functions

  • As you fully come to realize those aspects of your former self as being only an extension, a function or a tool of your core self… notice how safe and valuable your core self can remain with or without them.
  • Notice how those extensions are not the same as who you are at the core.
  • Notice how from the higher self you can call upon those extensions, functions or tools as required.

5. Ask the brain to create a higher self

  • Have you gotten in touch with the you that is above and beyond your things, your thoughts, emotions and feelings? Some people call this the watcher, the listener, the observer or the master of what goes on in the body-mind.
  • Ask your brain to create a space for that higher self to be. Have you got it? Good.

6. Strengthen the higher self as a permanent and ongoing entity

  • Would you be willing to allow your higher self to freely observe your thoughts, feelings and attachments into the future?
  • As you contemplate this new kind of mindfulness into the future, are there any parts of it that make you uncomfortable?
  • Take some time to be with the higher mind as you go into the future. Let that integrate into your work life, home life, relationships, etc.

When to Use This Pattern:

Use this pattern with yourself, a loved one or a client whose emotional overreactions to stress, loss or feelings of doom are overwhelming. They may feel like they are dying in the face of changing circumstances, health, wealth or relationships. Using this pattern can help them to explore and come to know for themselves that bad things can happen to them, but their core self will remain safe and secure. This pattern is particularly useful in cases where fanatic behavior is driven by identification with some cause.

Warning: Only do this pattern with their consent! It is not OK to delve into matters of identity against their will. If you try to do so, you will be met with overt or covert resistance, as the ego is fighting for its very existence.


Michael Hall, and others.