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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
NLP: Principles in Practice
Article Type: Suggested reading From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 19, Issue 6
Lisa Wake,Ecademy Press, 2010, ISBN: 9781905823789
Neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP, is not an easy subject to get one’s head around. Having bought a copy of Frogs into Princes by the originators of NLP Richard Bandler and John Grinder, some 20 years ago, I have remained in a semi-aware state ever since.
During this time, I have also been rather concerned by the often evangelical approach presented by some exponents and the suggestions that it is the solution to all personal and organizational problems. I once attended an introductory session to NLP and, when someone asked for evidence of the effectiveness of the strategies, the trainer responded that this was not necessary because it worked and the only thing required was to follow the guidance and put the approaches into practice.
NLP was initially developed by psychotherapists Bandler and Grinder, who drew upon the work of three main therapists – Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson. Bandler and Grinder believed that there was a connection between neurological processes, language/linguistics, and experience or behavioral programming, hence its term.
Unfortunately Bandler and Grinder fell out and there was a lawsuit that was eventually resolved in 2001 with both agreeing to be recognized as co-founders of NLP. This dispute resulted in the establishment of a number of bodies to represent NLP and, in addition, various approaches have been developed and numerous strategies have been incorporated within NLP.
The result of all of this trauma and change has been that NLP has grown in many directions without a clear and universally recognized unifying content. The result has been a “discipline” that has no clear agreed definition of purpose. Some external commentators question its credibility and evidence of success.
NLP: Principles in Practice, by Lisa Wake, is intended to provide insights into the subject and inject an evidence base into the practice of NLP. The book targets a wide readership, including those who wish to underpin their existing knowledge and those who want to study the subject further.
There are 12 chapters that describe the main tools and techniques and the book incorporates a wide range of literature both supporting and challenging the subject matter.
The book takes the reader on a tour of the various tools and techniques and the index enables quick access to these descriptions. The coverage is quite extensive and represents a suitable reference source for the inquisitive reader although it is unclear why different subjects are given greater or lesser discussion. For example, discussion of the “4 Mat” learning-styles typology, based on Kolb’s learning cycle, takes a whole chapter although the author admits that she could find no empirical evidence to support the approach.
One strength of the book is that each chapter has a section devoted to the evidence base of the approach. Although this is relatively short, it represents a genuine effort to bring a critical analysis to the subject and thus attempt to bring a greater credibility to NLP by bringing it closer to mainstream therapies.
The book describes a great many approaches and it is up to the reader to make the connections, if any, between them. It would benefit from a greater discussion of the relationship between them and how they might be employed in conjunction.
Some of the research would also benefit from a closer analysis. For example, on page 43, Argyle is presented as proposing that 55 percent of a message comes from observing body language; 38 percent from voice qualities; and 7 percent through words. It is then suggested that the research of Mehrabian supports that of Argyle with exactly the same percentage scores, which is quite a coincidence. In fact, Argyle was only reporting the work of Mehrabian.
The final chapter discusses the developments regarding the regulation of the psychological professions and makes a good case for a more professional approach. Wake rightly raises the issue of ethicality and supervision of NLP specialists.
The book is a welcome step forward for NLP and will be a useful source for practitioners and those wishing to learn more. There is considerable potential for NLP and Lisa Wake, who possesses a very good understanding of the subject, brings it more credibility.
Reviewed by John P. Wilson, of the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
A longer version of this review was originally published in Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 2, 2011.