Take a good look at yourself

by Alex Lai

This is the first article of a special series on personal branding - Neuro-linguistic programming

Stepping into someone else's shoes can make you a happier person

Alex Cheung, principal consultant & master trainer Professional Training & Strategy Ltd
Photo: Courtesy of HKET

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has boosted communication awareness across different areas of society since its introduction in the early 1970s. Alex Cheung, the first International Association for NLP accredited fellow member trainer in Asia, refers to it as his "new life programme".

According to Dr Cheung, NLP provides practical tools and techniques that assist individuals, teams and organisations in achieving success through effective communication. It relates people's skills and values to their goals and helps to constructs a healthy state of mind. "Our behaviours are usually influenced by our states of mind, which are often affected by our surrounding environment," Dr Cheung says. "NLP is a method, a set of techniques, or a personal development system that can help us see things more clearly."

Both sides now

At a recent NLP seminar Dr Cheung invited attendees to applaud themselves by clapping their hands first to themselves then to those around them. "We need to appreciate ourselves. We are sometimes judgmental when expressing our personal feelings and this can instigate arguments. Yet by stepping into others' shoes we can appreciate their feelings and engage in effective communication," he explained.

To further illustrate his point Dr Cheung raised his hand to the audience and asked them if there is any hair on it. The majority responded "no", but Dr Cheung exclaimed "yes". As his palm was facing the crowd and he saw the back of his hand, from Dr Cheung's viewpoint it was obvious that his hand has hair on it. "We usually see things from different angles," he explained, "Two sides in an argument can be correct." By applying the "peace-fostering theory" of NLP, Dr Cheung believes everyone in society can benefit.

Communicating your mind

NLP teaches that languages and behaviours are highly structured and that a structure can be "modelled" into a reproducible form. By using NLP, Dr Cheung said, people can model more successful parts of their own behaviour in order to reproduce them in areas where they are less successful, or lead another person to affect belief and behaviour changes to promote more effective communication. "If someone excels in an activity, we can learn specifically how they do it by observing certain important details of their behaviour," he remarks. "Our body is a messenger for our minds. It interacts with our emotions directly and a certain kind of communication is formed upon the impression perceived by both parties."

People have a tendency to care primarily about our own feelings and neglect others', but NLP allows us to interpret signals with a new insight. In a wider framework, leaders and colleagues in offices can use NLP tools to foster positive interpersonal teamwork skills among members and thus develop strong relationships.

As an approach to personal development or therapy, NLP involves understanding that people create their own internal "map" or a world that is not necessarily what actually exists. NLP requires users to recognise unhelpful or destructive patterns of thinking which are based on impoverished maps of the world, and then modify or replace these patterns with more useful or helpful ones.

Mastering the MBA

Dr Cheung notes the relations between and the importance of three elements known as MBA: mind, body and attitude.

"Imagine you are in the MTR station and the person in front of you is having difficulty swiping his Octopus card," he says. "You become instantaneously annoyed and quickly form negative impressions of this unknown person." When considered in greater context this reaction becomes pointless and futile.

Emotions and the environment are also factors. "We often ask ourselves 'why me' when confronted with uneasy feelings, which encourages us to recall bad experiences and negative feelings from the past," Dr Cheung said, "Whereas NLP prompts us to think of 'how' we can reach possible solutions by understanding our emotions. It is a forward-looking and active approach."

Neuro-linguistic programming

  • Neuro refers to the nerves and nervous system. We perceive the world through our five senses: visual (pictures), auditory (sounds), kinesthetic (feelings), olfactory (smells) and gustatory (tastes)
  • Linguistic refers to verbal and non-verbal communication with ourselves and others
  • Programming refers to habitual behaviour, strategies and thinking patterns. Through a series of NLP skills, we can upgrade our mind's "programmes" in the same way as we might upgrade computer software
NLP motto

  • People cannot not communicate
  • The meaning of communication is the response you get
  • There is a positive intention behind every behaviour
  • Respect other people's "model of the world"

Taken from Career Times 06 July 2007
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