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Hear And Now

An innovative listening technique may be the key to improving communication.

Stuart Kirk used to rely on facts, logic and reason when he was talking to someone. That's understandable--he's a trained mathematician and statistician, and worked as a corporate information technology director before founding Taconic Woods Consulting, a one-person Yorktown Heights, New York, leadership and communications training firm.

But Kirk says of his former ways, "I don't think it worked very well at all." Now when he sits down to speak with a client or business associate, he thinks less about facts and logic and more about hypnotic language and using words or gestures as anchors. This works a lot better, he says, especially when it comes to creating a sympathetic mood with others. And, says Kirk, "the ability to sit down with somebody and establish rapport quickly and easily makes a tremendous difference to your presence in a meeting."

Kirk's new techniques--and the arcane terminology used to describe them--came from a self-improvement and communication discipline called neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. The concept was developed 25 years ago to help psychotherapists. Since then, it's been applied as an agent of personal change, most notably by motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Now, however, NLP is filtering into business, where it's presented as a solution to many managerial problems.

NLP's promise that it can help people improve their rapport with others is especially attractive to salespeople, who are among its biggest fans. But NLP also helps people better interview job candidates, negotiate contracts, run meetings and motivate employees, says John Emerick Jr., a former NLP trainer and author of Be the Person You Want to Be: Harness the Power of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to Reach Your Potential (Prima).

Companies such as Reuters, American Express and Sony have trained salespeople, customer service representatives and others in NLP, according to Rachel Hott, co-director of the NLP Center of New York in New York City. "That's one of the great things about NLP," she says. "It's very easy to apply in [a business environment]."

Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, writer specializing in business topics.

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hear And Now.

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