All the techniques used in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy have specific purposes. But as complicated as some names might seem, methods tend to center around only a handful of principles. In fact, when it comes to something as effective as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (or NLP), there are just 4 operational principles of NLP that every practitioner follows.

Of course, NLP is quite different to other methods. It uses a set of powerful techniques from different disciplines to maximize the likelihood of having a successful, positive impact on a person and fast and effective behavioural modification. You might expect it to be quite complex, then. In fact, NLP is simple.

The operational principles on NLP exist to ensure that the highest standards of practice are applied. It is an operational philosophy that guides the application of each technique. And because they make sure that the techniques are applied properly, the results are sure to be the right ones.

So what are the 4 operational principles for NLP? And why are they so important?

Operational Principles of NLP

1. Know What You Want To Achieve

It might sound logical that you should know what you want to achieve before setting out to do so, but as is often the case with people, many don’t follow such rules. Some don’t actually have a conscious outcome in mind, while others seek to achieve things they think they ought to achieve. Others still, just know what they don’t want and do what they must to steer clear of that outcome.

NLP trains you to target the things you want. It can take a little time to identify what exactly it is but, once you do, you can begin to progress towards it. To counter the temptation to set wild aims, there are some conditions to the outcomes.

  • they need to be stated in ‘positive terms’, which means it is what you want; not what you don’t want.
  • they must be ‘achievable’. If they cannot be realized then the whole idea is undermined.
  • they must be ‘testable and demonstrable’ in sensory experience so evidence can be gathered to measure progress made.
  • they must also be ‘sensory specific’. You must be able to say what you would look like, sound like and feel like if you achieved the outcome.
  • they must be initiated and maintained by the person who seeks it. It means the subject controls and holds responsibility for achieving the outcome. Remember, you want to change your thought patterns and behaviour.
  • they must be ‘appropriately and explicitly contextualised’, which basically means that they are specific rather than general. NLP tries to make choices or responses available in the right circumstances.
  • they must preserve any positive product of the present state.
  • they must be ecologically sound, with no damaging consequences for either yourself or other people.

2. Have ‘Sensory Acuity’ 

In case you are not sure, ‘Sensory Acuity’ means having a clear understanding of the direction you are going in. In essence, you have to know if you are progressing or regressing, moving towards the desired outcome or away from it.

NLP helps people to learn how to interpret others, and if they have changed. The most commonly clues to alterations are found in muscle tone, in the skin (whether its colour and complexion has altered), the size of the lower lip, and the breathing rate. These details can then be used to know to stop when the other person is in the state that you desire.

3. Have a Flexibility of Behaviour

The third operational principle of NLP is to have flexibility in your behaviour. With the benefit of flexibility, you are able to fine tune your behavior to drastically improve the chances of achieving your outcome. This is because it allows you opportunities to respond to developments, so that if an approach is not working as it should, and leading you away from your desired goals, you can change tact.

Of course, if everything is going as you had hoped, then you can continue but with a careful eye mapping your progress step by step.

4. Avoid Complacency, Take Action Now

The principal motivation behind NLP is to change your life. This can only be done through positive action, so it is important to cast away any complacency and adopt a firm ‘take action now’ attitude. For practitioners and learners alike, the challenge is to enhance the skills necessary to discover the issues hidden deep within the subconscious, and to then replace the old negative thought pattern with a new positive one.