When I began my NLP training in 2002, I quickly embraced the myth of the NLP “quick fix.”
To their credit, my trainers were fairly low-key about what NLP could do. But they did promote the idea of NLP working “much faster” than alternatives, such as conventional therapy.
During training, my fellow students and I were often able to rapidly fix some of our own and other people’s problems. Sometimes these were issues that had endured for decades, yet with NLP we could resolve them in half an hour or less. Gaining the power to do this seemed miraculous.
Many of us NLP students, including me, quickly developed overblown ideas of what NLP (and we) could accomplish.
Inevitably, I then encountered problems I couldn’t fix right away.
Now, in many cases where one NLP quick fix doesn’t work to resolve a client’s issue, a different quick fix will work. It often makes sense to try a few. If an issue can be solved with the right fast method, best to find that out at the beginning, rather taking multiple sessions to do the same work.
But quick fixes don’t always work. My training didn’t encourage me to expect some issues to take longer to resolve.
Sometimes my focus on a “quick fix” kept me from even noticing evidence that a slower approach might work better. Or noticing where a quick fix might prove inappropriate or could cause harm.
Encouraged to be arrogant
By partway through my NLP training, I had gotten overconfident about NLP’s power and my own skills.
In retrospect, I became dangerously arrogant.
Unfortunately, the NLP community I encountered didn’t provide counter-examples to the “quick fix” idea, or encourage me to be humble. Instead, much of what I heard and read fed and inflated my arrogance.
Used inappropriately, NLP can damage people. I feel very lucky that I only did significant harm to two people that I know of. (One of them was me.)
It took me several years working as an NLP developer, and years struggling to work through my own issues, to realize that NLP is not the comprehensive quick fix many people claim it to be.
Quick fixes aren’t always possible or appropriate
Problems and issues have structures. NLP’s emphasis on simplicity and dealing with the minimum amount of structure to get an issued resolved is usually useful.
However, NLPers tend not to distinguish between issues where a “quick fix” is and isn’t structurally appropriate.
To use a simple analogy, let’s say that Juliet comes to you for help because she has trouble running.
- If the issue is a stone in her shoe, you can find and fix the problem quickly and easily. Here, a quick fix is appropriate, while longer “treatment” is not.
- If Juliet has trouble running because she hasn’t exercised in 5 years, she needs to get in shape. Fixing this problem ecologically requires a systemic approach. You would not help Juliet by encouraging her to take amphetamines so she can immediately run faster. Or by convincing her that she can instantly gain the ability to run marathons by changing her beliefs. With a systemic issue like this, a quick fix might simply fail, or it might make the problem worse.
- What if Juliet has a stone in her shoe and she’s out of shape? You can instantly boost her performance by removing the stone. Such dramatic results might convince both of you that a quick fix approach works. But removing the stone can’t and won’t fix Juliet’s systemic performance issue. Trying to remove more stones from her shoes is a waste of time. Once the rock is gone, she needs to get in shape.
NLPers often complain that conventional therapies, especially psychoanalysis, can take years to fix a problem NLP can fix in 5 minutes. As a NLPer, if you get a client with a systemic problem, do you have the wisdom and humbleness — and the calibration skills — to notice when a quick fix isn’t appropriate?
Solve all your problems instantly with NLP!
I think we in the NLP community harm our clients, our fellow NLPers, and the general public by promoting the idea of NLP as a universal quick fix.
I also think we cause harm by allowing NLP practitioners and trainers to make ridiculous claims without being publicly criticized or held accountable for the results they actually get.
The “quick fix” appeals to people’s near-universal human desires to get instant gratification and something for nothing. But how many clients that NLP could help instead stop doing NLP because it doesn’t work as fast or completely as they were unrealistically led to expect?
Death to NLP hype!
I think NLP will be better off when we NLPers talk honestly with clients about what we offer. When we openly discuss what NLP can and can’t do. When we encourage clients to develop realistic expectations. When instead of hyping NLP, we market the amazing results NLP really can and does produce. And tell clients that resolving longstanding issues might happen quickly and completely, but more often takes time.
Most of the professional NLPers I know who had serious, ongoing issues in their lives — the kind clients come to us to fix — took years to resolve them fully. That includes me.
Why should we NLPers promote NLP as if it will fix the client’s problems instantly, when it didn’t do that for us?
What’s your opinion? Please add your respectful and intelligent comments to the community dialogue below.