NLP: What It Is and How Female Entrepreneurs Can Use It to Erase Self-Doubt and Other Obstacles
It's called neuro-linguistic programming and it can help you 'reframe' the mental barriers that keep you down.
The world of business and entrepreneurship has long been perceived as a “man’s world,” but plenty of evidence has emerged to show that this is starting to change .We're escaping the lingering remnants of the wage gap, for example, by starting our own companies. Or, we're staying put in the corporate world and helping younger women by taking on a mentoring role.
This is not to say that it's all good news, of course: Many women entrepreneurs continue to face an uphill battle due to the intrinsic biases the business world has always held. And, perhaps even more important is the battle women continue to wage against their own subconscious.
In a word, many of us have habits that we’d like to change so we can better achieve our goals. Yet, try as we might, we seem unable to remain calm during business presentations or to avoid wasting time on Facebook.
We may tell ourselves we want one thing, but our unconscious brain thinks we want something else. This can create serious roadblocks in our careers and personal lives. Thankfully, though, with the help of neuro-linguistic programming (or NLP), we women (and men) can take greater control of our lives and accomplish our goals. Here’s how:
First, what is NLP, exactly?
At first glance, the words neuro-linguistic programming will likely inspire thoughts of complicated jargon that only a psychologist would understand. But its core principles are surprisingly straightforward.
In an email, Amy Curran, CEO of 2 Empower You, an NLP coaching program for female entrepreneurs and others, explained the concept to me, saying, “NLP is a process that helps you develop a more cohesive link between your thoughts, language and external behaviors.
“Though there are many techniques we can use to coach someone," Curran continued, "The end goal is to help you gain full control of those unconscious motivators so you can achieve your biggest goals and become a stronger communicator.”
Still confused? A normal session consists of the practitioner learning about the client’s personal history and then using that information to understand how the client -- say we're talking about a female -- constructs her own reality. The NLP coach then tries to solve problems that stem from that belief, using mental exercises designed to change this woman's way of thinking.
Medical News Today has elaborated, reporting that, “[NLP] operates through the conscious use of language to bring about changes in someone's thoughts and behavior … a central feature of NLP is the idea that a person is biased towards one sensory system, known as the preferred representational system or PRS.”
In simple terms, once women -- or men, for that matter -- understand their or another person’s PRS, they can use the basics of an NLP framework to build rapport with that other person, gather meaningful information and set meaningful, action-inspiring goals to bring about reliable results.
Meeting with an NLP practitioner can help an entrepreneur push aside limiting beliefs and other mental roadblocks so the entrepreneur can formulate strategies for creating the desired future.
The most common NLP techniques
NLP isn’t limited to a single set of techniques; coaches or therapists use a variety of methods to address the unique needs of each individual. For example, the “swish pattern” encourages practitioners to visualize an action that leads to an undesired outcome. For a female businesswoman, this might mean the fear she feels at the notion of speaking at a board meeting to deliver an important presentation. She might feel that nervousness and stumbling through those slides will be the inevitable result.
But maybe not, with NLP: In an exercise Curran described, our entrepreneur woman mentally replaces her negative images with an empowering, positive outcome -- like a visualization of a standing ovation at the end of her presentation. NLP coaches often recommend repeating this visualization several times as a mental exercise to gear your mind for success.
Reframing is another common NLP technique, and one that is readily applicable to the business world. As licensed clinical social worker Linda Bloom has written in Psychology Today, “Reframing requires seeing something in a new way, in a context that allows us to recognize and appreciate positive aspects of our situation. Reframing helps us to use whatever life hands us as opportunities to be taken advantage of, rather than problems to be avoided.”
Reframing and visualization are just two of the many NLP tactics that can be used to address your own subjective biases and learn more positive behaviors. Personally customized strategies are created to ensure that you will be able to successfully incorporate the new habits you desire.
How NLP principles can help women in their careers.
The mental exercises used in NLP are much more than a way of controlling your emotions. These techniques can have a direct impact on your business practices. For example, reframing a problem is frequently cited as one of the best ways to spur innovative and impactful solutions in the business world.
The “swish pattern” principle referred to above shares many commonalities with visualizing success -- a tool used by everyone from successful business owners to star athletes.
The key takeaway here for female entrepreneurs is that these simple practices can help you develop the right mindset for achieving your goals. By taking control of your subconscious, you can overcome the hidden barriers that keep you from successfully scaling your business.
By overcoming your mental roadblocks, you can become a more influential or effective manager, or improve your persuasive ability in order to make a sale.
If you believe that you need help making these mental improvements, seeking the input of an NLP practitioner can prove extremely beneficial. The website for the American Board of Hypnotherapy and NLP provides a list of certified trainers. Sessions often start around $1,000 an hour. Though this is no doubt a big investment, there’s a reason why successful individuals ranging from J.K. Rowling to Oprah Winfrey have used this training to take control of their own futures.
Ultimately, the personal benefits you can derive from NLP training will also improve your business outcomes. As you develop greater confidence in your own abilities and eliminate bad habits, you’ll improve your productivity and better position yourself to progress in your career.
So, yes, mastering your subconscious sounds like a lofty goal -- but it’s far from impossible …
By utilizing tried and tested NLP techniques, you can teach your brain to help you achieve your goals, rather than distract you from them. Whether you’re a woman who’s starting your own business or one trying to climb the corporate ladder, this technique of mental mastery will get you that much closer to your desired outcomes.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor