How the Media Uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming*
By Krisztina Fazekas
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) describes the fundamental dynamics between mind and language and how their interplay affects our body and behaviour.
- Neuro: Concerns the brain and the things that go on in your mind. Also the rest of the neurological system, including the five senses.
- Linguistic: This relates to language, both verbal and non verbal.
- Programming: The unique way you put all this together to create your behaviour.
The History of NLP
NLP was created by Dr. Richard Bandler and Dr. John Grinder in the early 1970’s in California. They wanted to discover how successful people – sales executives, negotiators, public speakers, trainers, and leaders – achieve their results and then learn how to model their behaviours. They believed that their success strategies could be learned and might produce positive emotional and physical effects. Many people live a very reactionary life; things happen and then people immediately respond. NLP offers a “better way” by giving us the tools to become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
Experimenting With NLP
In an experiment (refer to video below) conducted by Dr. Bandler and Grinder, two men (“Mr. Nice” and “Mr. Nasty”) were placed into a controlling position where they had to talk to volunteers about different subjects. They were both asked to change their sitting position in a certain way during the discussion. The subjects talking to “Mr. Nice” were found to copy his moves by unconsciously starting to mirror him, while those talking to “Mr. Nasty” did not do this at all.
Human beings generally prefer people who are similar to themselves, and will unconsciously copy each other’s body postures and movements, voice tone and pacing. Highly successful people, or users of NLP, are aware of this tendency and use that knowledge to their advantage, copying our behaviours deliberately in order to exert control. From the 1990’s onward, NLP has become a very popular tool in advertising, marketing, and politics, and it is likely that many of us have fallen victim to this kind of manipulation at least once. The most commonly used techniques are:
Matching & Synchronization
After paying very close attention to the person NLP users are interacting with, they match or mirror our mannerisms. The more familiar the person is, the more attraction there will be. Once rapport is achieved, the NLP user can lead the interaction and influence the client, combining this technique with mimicked language patterns and leading questions.
Things they usually match include…
– Physiology: body posture, position, movement, gestures, breathing
– Voice Tone: speed, volume, pitch, timbre, rhythm
– Language: key words
– Values: what people hold as being true and important
– Experience: common interests
Note: The sets of neurons that are responsible for the capacity of learning by imitation are the mirror neurons.
Mirror neurons help us to read other people’s minds and to understand how they feel. When we know the intention behind an action, a different system (involving mirror neurons) in our brain is activated: we follow a sequence of action, and when we can predict that sequence we can determine the implications of that sequence. For example, someone grabbing a bottle of water makes us think that the person would drink from that bottle rather than, say, throw it at us. Therefore, mirror neurons become active when a person makes a certain action and also when he/she is observing another individual making a similar action.
After creating the comfort zone, the ‘victims’ will have a certain urge to please the NLP user. Being mirrored generally leads to the point where “victims” drop their social guard, because the person they are talking to is “just like them.”
Rapport often develops naturally, so most of us probably don’t even realize when it’s happening. Once rapport is established, NLP users can lead the conversation and influence the client with bold statements such as, “Do you see what I am saying?” or, “Look at it this way.”
How to Avoid Being a Victim
When it comes to self improvement NLP certainly has its benefits. However, it has been used by many organizations and individuals to influence our behaviour and thereby exert a measure of control over that behaviour, to their advantage. We end up buying whatever it is they are selling, be it product or idea.
- Watch out for people copying your body language. Pay attention to those who are sitting the same way as you and consider testing them by making some random movements.
- Pay attention to eye movements. An NLP user often looks deeply into your eyes because he/she is watching the movement, not because they are that interested in your thoughts. After a certain time, they will know not only if you are lying, but also what side of your brain you are using.
- Watch out for vague language.
- Wait before making big decisions. Never make any decision if you are not sure, especially financial ones. Take a moment to think about it more thoroughly.
NLP in the Media
For those that are interested in learning more about how NLP is used in the mainstream media, the following video is quite in-depth in exploring its potential use. Check it out and see how you feel about what is presented: