NLP core principles

The two people credited and acknowledged with the creation of NLP are Richard Bandler and John Grinder. The core attitude of NLP as proposed by Richard Bandler is 'to look at life as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to learn with a sense of curiosity and adventure.'

With this attitude Bandler and Grinder began to model the best that they could find in the world of therapy. They were:

Fritz Pearls – Gestalt therapist Click to buy book

Virginia Satir – family therapist Click to buy book

Milton Erickson – hypnotherapist Click to buy book

They modelled many others as well, but these three were known be to be among the best in their fields. It was from these three that much of the initial NLP work was created –perhaps most importantly and significantly the 'meta-model' – a methodological use of language to both elicit information and expand the subject’s experience of reality. It was from the use of the meta-model that most of what we have in NLP came about.

Shortly after Bandler and Grinder got together they were joined by others who had varying degrees of input into NLP creation and direction. They include Robert Dilts, Judith Delozier and Leslie Cameron-Bandler.

The originators and co-developers went on to model the best minds in business, sport and psychology.

NLP hit the mass market with Tony Robbins in the late 80s.

What does NLP stand for?

Neuro Linguistic Programming is the study of the structure of subjective experience. The name Neuro Linguistic Programming comes from:

Neuro: The study of the mind and nervous system (how we think), through which our experience is processed, how we represent the outside world to ourselves via our five senses: 

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinaesthetic
  • Olfactory
  • Gustatory

Linguistic: The study of language and how we use it. Language and other non-verbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered and given meaning. This includes:

  • Pictures
  • Sounds
  • Feelings
  • Tastes
  • Smells
  • Words (Self Talk)

Programming: The sequence of our actions, how we motivate ourselves to achieve our goals.

In other words, NLP is how to use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes.

The Key Principles of NLP

Many NLP Training Schools can summarise NLP into what are known within the community as the key principles. These are:

  1. The importance of rapport
  2. Sensory acuity
  3. Behavioural flexibility
  4. Well-formed outcomes
  5. The concept of modelling
  6. The cognitive thinking cycle – the conscious and unconscious mind
  7. The meta model – mind filtering
  8. The map is not the territory – communication model
  9. The presuppositions of NLP – empowering beliefs

In the following lessons we shall look at these individually.

The power of rapport

Rapport is the ability to join someone at their 'reality' or 'map of the world’ and to make them feel comfortable, that you have a strong common bond and that you understand them. These are the things that put people at ease, make them more responsive to you, persuade them to let down their guard and trust, like and befriend you. Essentially rapport is the most important skill that you can develop as a therapist and for that matter in your everyday life. Rapport is the ability to communicate successfully. Rapport is the ability to make someone understand that you can fulfil their needs as well as allowing you to get the insights that you need from them to fulfil your own.

The saying goes 'people like people who are like themselves.' The old cliché of 'opposites attract' is actually just a misunderstanding of the depth and subtlety that rapport goes to. When 'opposites attract' it must be that the so-called opposites both have the commonality of being excited by the new and different, the sense of specialness and uniqueness of being 'opposites.' In fact you will inevitably see in so-called 'opposites' that the underlying similarities, value systems etc. will be very alike.

How is rapport created?

First and foremost by finding things in common.

The most effective ways of doing this are by mirroring and matching – two concepts that originated in NLP. Mirroring and matching are essentially the ability to pay close attention to someone's language, beliefs, values and physiology and copy them either overtly or covertly, consciously or unconsciously.

  • 7% of communication is transmitted through the words themselves
  • 38% via how the words are said (tone of voice)
  • 55% through non-verbal communication (body physiology).

The concept of Mirroring and Matching

Mirroring is essentially copying without causing offence and without being obvious, essentially reflecting back the physical patterns of behaviour. Matching is almost identical as a concept but normally includes the person’s map of the world, language, beliefs etc. as well as the physical mannerisms. Matching in NLP is also a meta program pattern. For the sake of this manual we will be using the word matching as inclusive of the concept of mirroring.

Matching enables a high degree of control and influence over the individual that you are matching, in that it can make them feel totally at ease and fully responsive to what you have to say. This happens every day in our lives anyway. In NLP the structure has been studied so that it can be done with more success and consistency. For example, if you observe the other person tilting their head to the right you can adjust the tilt of your head to the right also in a corresponding fashion to match their movement. This can also be done in a great variety of other ways as listed below.

Whole body matching

Adjust your body to approximate the other person’s physical behaviour – head, arms, legs, toes, hands, feet, fingers etc.


Match the person’s gestures – hand waving, crossing of arms or legs, finger movements, head tilts etc.

Facial Expressions

Match movement of ears, eyebrows, eyelids, jaw position, nose twitch, mouth movement etc.


One of the best – pattern rate, depth, location.

Vocal Characteristics

Word and sentence length, volume, tempo, accent, common words/phrases spoken etc.

If this is done in an overt way the other person will obviously realise what is going on and feel that you are mimicking them, this will instantly break rapport. As with everything, practice makes perfect so it is a good idea to practise this in shops, family interactions and with friends. Push it until they notice but start very subtly matching a few of their behaviours. If someone is in a much heightened emotional state they normally become more sensitive to mimicking so caution is needed. You can of course get fired up with them or upset with them so as to gain rapport.

Perhaps the most effective way is 'active listening' which simply is listening to what someone has to say and repeating it back to them. They inevitably feel that they have been listened to and understood, and rapport is created.

The Concept of Pacing and Leading

Once rapport is created we then use it to ‘pace and lead' the client in the direction that we want (what is most beneficial to them). It is also a barometer to let us know when rapport has been broken. Pacing and leading is the process in which we pace (continually match) the client and lead them to more resourceful, constructive and beneficial states, behaviours and beliefs etc.

Sensory Acuity the representational systems

Using Handout No. 5

From an NLP perspective our experience of reality is made known to us through what have been labelled representational systems. We experience ourselves through our five senses – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting. These sensory modalities are also the way we organise, encode, store and attach meaning to the input that we get from the outside world. As we take in information, we process it or represent this information in a way that we can make sense of. The information is translated into corresponding sensory representations (known as maps in NLP) which create a memory in likeness to the original input.

So we have so-called reality, the external experience and our perceptions of reality (our internal experience) which inevitably are not the same or as NLP would say 'the map is not the territory.'

We come to believe that this internal perception of reality (subjective experience) is realityWe then increasingly filter out information that is not in accord with this perception of reality – thus limiting our potential for growth, change and new understanding. We believe that our perception is 'how it is.'

The filtering mechanism that we use is a set of systematic operations called deletion, distortion and generalisation. In NLP these are referred to as universal modelling processes or neurological filters. These filters are of great use in everyday life, if they were not there we would be overwhelmed to the point of total ineffectiveness by taking in everything – masses of irrelevant information. With these filters we are able to operate coherently with our existing models of the world. By understanding the nature, impact and application of neurological filters we can, through choice, expand our maps, our perception of reality to include more of what we want as well as limiting or eliminating that which we don't.

Our representational systems allow us to process reality in a manner that we can both cope with and deal with. However, large parts or chunks of reality are lost as a result. Perception changes constantly as a result of the continual generalising, deleting and distorting of information as it comes to us (as we filter it) from the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us throughout our every living moment. If we didn't have the ability to do this we would, as previously mentioned, be in a sense of continual overwhelm.

This leads to a profound context in which to work with ourselves and others, which is that people’s perceptions are actually accurate as based on their internal representations of the original input, however they are incomplete. This simple understanding allows us to remove such limiting concepts as wrong and bad and replace them with the more supportive concept of 'a limited degree of awareness.' After all, a map can always be expanded!

The representational systems are:

V – Visual – Sight

A – Auditory – Hearing

K – Kinaesthetic – Touch/feeling

O – Olfactory – Smell

G – Gustatory – Taste

When representational systems are discussed in NLP, usually there will be reference to the primary systems, the use of predicates, eye accessing and eye patterns.


Language is used to communicate thoughts, so the words we use reflect the way we think. Since we use words to describe our thoughts, our choice of words indicates which representational system we are using. Sensory-based words (adjectives, adverbs and verbs) are called predicates. Habitual use of one kind of predicate indicates a person’s preferred representational system. There are two types of predicates – sensory specific and non-specific. Below are examples of each.

Sensory Specific


See, view, observe, witness, sight, spot, glimpse, glance, peer, peek, peep, survey, eye, analyse, appear, inspect, vision, illustrate, witness.

Visual Phrases:

An eyeful, clear-cut, in light of, looks like, spectator's view, mind's eye, paint a picture, bird's eye view, in view of, looks like, can see that, pretty as a picture.


Announce, rumour, gossip, remark, divulge, hush, voice, converse, utter, sound, report, listen, loud, utter, communicate, screech, talk, tone, silence.

Auditory Phrases:

Afterthought, blabbermouth, heard voices, can hear what you’re saying, hold your tongue, outspoken, rings a bell, loud and clear, earful.


Active flow, hustle, feeling, stress, stir, whipped, tied, fondled, panicky, solid, firm, motion, pressure, sensitive, bend, grasp, hit, climb, fall, catch, chew.

Kinaesthetic Phrases:

All washed up, get a handle on it, hand in hand, can you feel that, get in touch with, hothead, light-headed, pain in the neck, sharp as a tack, pull some strings, stiff upper lip, get the drift of, control yourself, boils down to.


Aroma, essence, pungent, stench, stinks, sweet, smells, rotten, musty, odour, fresh, reeks.


Bitter, tasty, burnt, zesty, spicy, sweet, bland, tangy, sour, delicious, yummy.

Non-specific (not related to specific senses):

Activate, wonder, think, how, know, consider, learn, create, develop, understand, manage, realise, enable, process, decide, appreciate, sense, have, work, become, want, believe, experiences.

In regards to rapport you will have greater success and ease by using the language that the client presents and be able to utilise predicates that are in alignment with the client's dominant rep system. You might well need to use predicates from all of the systems just as much as from just one or two. Active listening will be the key to knowing which.

Behavioural flexibility

Behavioural flexibility suggests the more flexible and open we can be, the more options and opportunities will be open to us.

The person with the most flexibility will have more choices and therefore have the most influence in any system. Having a choice is better than having no choice and more choices are certainly better than fewer choices. Similarly, if what you are doing is not working, do something else. This highlights the need to change one’s behaviour and do something else, again and again if need be, until the desired outcome is achieved. In other words, one must be able to change readily to meet new circumstances.

NLP presupposes that every one of us is responsible for our own life. We may not be able to control external events but we are capable of controlling our reaction and response to those events. If we keep reacting and responding in the same way, we will always get the same result. A person with flexibility will change his behaviour repeatedly whenever something he is doing is not working. He changes to trying something new until he achieves his goal.

Flexibility applies as much to our behaviour as to our thought. Rigid attitude or thinking reduces the desired outcome in our interaction with other people. When successive attempts at wooing a member of the opposite sex fail to gain headway, is it not time to switch tactic? This NLP presupposition applies to business organisations as well. In any workplace, flexibility in management and individual employees encourages productivity and contributes to a harmonious working environment.

Always be flexible enough to explore and search for an appropriate strategy whether for a better life or a better learning habit rather than being continuously stuck with something in the present that does not work. It’s patently obvious that if you want something new, you have to do something new and anything new could well be better than maintaining what is not working.

Changing our behaviour is not all that difficult when we believe there are many alternatives which we can choose and that a solution to every difficulty is always available. We just need to be prepared to try hard to seek it out. All one needs is to be flexible.

Well formed outcomes

Well-formed outcomes utilises numerous NLP techniques and works on the principle that if we state our desired outcome in advance, we can plan the appropriate steps one step at a time to ensure we achieve the outcome desired. This can involve conscious and unconscious actions.

An example of steps to achieve any desired outcome are:

  • State in the positive what you want the outcome to be
  • Be aware of representational systems to be engaged. E.g. be able to see, hear, feel, taste and smell the desired outcome
  • Make the steps possible and achievable
  • Have all the resources required or accessible
  • Have a defined time frame
  • Be ecological in considering the cost and consequences for oneself and others affected.

Well-formed outcomes utilises numerous NLP techniques and works on the principle that if we state our desired outcome in advance, we can plan the appropriate steps one step at a time to ensure we achieve the outcome desired. This can involve conscious and unconscious actions.

An example of steps to achieve any desired outcome are:

  • State in the positive what you want the outcome to be
  • Be aware of representational systems to be engaged. E.g. be able to see, hear, feel, taste and smell the desired outcome
  • Make the steps possible and achievable
  • Have all the resources required or accessible
  • Have a defined time frame
  • Be ecological in considering the cost and consequences for oneself and others affected.

In setting outcomes, we need to consider very carefully the consequences of achieving that outcome. Ecology is the study of consequences; of considering how any change you make impacts on the wider system of which you are a part. Ecology is having an awareness of the overall system and an ecology check is tracking the consequences of the change made in all aspects of that system.

When life coaching it is common practice to use outcome-focused goals as part of one's vision and overall plan for achieving a desired result. In business well-formed outcomes form part of the short, medium and long term business goals to achieve the business vision.


The methodology used throughout NLP is known as 'modelling.' It is a process of recreating and replicating excellence. In other words what are the thoughts, behaviours, skills, beliefs, values, and other attitudinal qualities that people use to be excellent in what they do?

As we mentioned earlier, when Richard Bandler and John Grinder modelled the strategies of Virginia Satir, they were trying to achieve what many others before them had attempted. They wanted to duplicate her extraordinary results in family therapy.

As we explained in the introduction to NLP lesson...

Attitude will get you moving, but won't get you the results. To get results, you need a methodology.

The methodology that they created is called 'modelling'. Modelling is an NLP term for a precise way of copying, where you find someone who is excellent at what they do, ask them questions (elicit information), observe them and adopt what you have learnt very specifically. In brief, to model someone you would observe:

Physiology – what they do with their body

Language – their use of words

Thinking – how they construct their inner reality.

The NLP Practitioner level is a working introduction to the cornerstones that make up NLP, the core purpose of which is the application of the technology to human relationships, be that within oneself, another or between groups of individuals. As such NLP Practitioner is a personal development course as well as training in how to use this technology with others.

The cognitive thinking cycle

It is accepted within the therapeutic community that our conscious thinking determines how we feel and subsequently impacts on how we behave. This is known as the Cognitive Thinking Cycle (see Handout No. 8). As NLP practitioners we go one level deeper still and work on the basis that our conscious thinking is driven by our unconscious processingTherefore our behaviour comes about as a result of our subliminal unconscious experience.

The Conscious and Unconscious Mind

According to the theory of NLP, the mind functions on two levels: the conscious mind and the sub-conscious mind.

Our sub-conscious mind remembers everything, every thought, feeling, conversation, sound, experience, interaction, everything. The sub-conscious mind is where every belief, value and behaviour is stored as well as our habitual responses and inner self-talk.

The conscious mind is our current awareness, what we are focusing on at any given point in time. The conscious mind we have direct control over, the sub-conscious indirect control. Two analogies make these aspects of the mind very clear. Imagine you are in a huge warehouse at night looking for something and you only have a flash light to guide you – this is analogous to your conscious ability. Wherever you direct the light you are able to see that and just that. Then you turn on the main warehouse light switch which enables you to see the entire warehouse and all it contains, this would be similar to the process of the sub-conscious mind.

Now let's imagine that the sub-conscious is like a filing cabinet with all our memories and experiences collected over the years and filed away. Every time the conscious mind wants to make a decision or focus on something, first it has to check through the files to see what information is already there, which it then bases its behaviour, messages to the body, perception and decisions on. As you can well imagine if we have not updated our files recently we can be making all our decisions based on outdated information that is no longer relevant to our life (a very common situation indeed). Imagine an office that did this, which had not updated its files since the 70s – it certainly would not be able to keep up with what was happening in today's world, and exactly the same happens with us. We might have had an experience many years ago and we are still basing many of our current choices on it when in fact we are no longer that person and the behaviour that we are generating is no longer in alignment with how we want to be now.

The conscious mind is that which is in present or current awareness and the unconscious mind is basically everything else. The conscious mind is like a narrowly focused band of awareness which can be directed on whatever we think is currently important. It can process seven, plus or minus two, chunks of information at any one time while the sub-conscious has an infinite capacity to process information. It is estimated that the unconscious can process 2.3 million bits of information per second.

Erickson believed the unconscious to be the storehouse of all our memories, beliefs, identities, values etc, as well as containing a complete record of everything that we have ever heard, felt, smelled, tasted and said to ourselves.

Based upon comparative research, the autonomic nervous system would also be a part of the unconscious. It is also believed by many that every part of the body contains these memories and patterns (Pribram’s Holographic Universe) and that everything in the body is communicating with everything else and it is all happening unconsciously.

Another analogy that is commonly used to describe these processes and their individual scope, is that of the ship's captain and his crew. The conscious mind being the captain and crew, and the ship, the unconscious. The captain’s main responsibility is to set the course and direction of the ship while the crew and ship carry out the captain's orders. The captain delegates all the tasks to complete the journey as well as looking after the crew and ship, and in return the crew and ship carry out the orders and make them happen.

What often happens and is often the cause of the client's problems, is that the overactive conscious mind, like a harried captain, tries to take too much control, trying to do every job himself rather than trusting the unconscious to get on with it and do the jobs it was designed to do. If the crew were to need the captain they would make their presence known otherwise they would be trusted to get on with it. When the two parts are working in harmony the individual strengths are enhanced and the journey is smooth and effective.

The sub-conscious is also called the unconscious. In hypnotic language using the term unconscious is beneficial as in 'you're unconscious now.'

The Features of the Two Minds

The two minds have different uses and different approaches, from the chart in Handout No. 7 you can see why engaging the unconscious is so useful. It allows access to resources that are incomprehensible to the conscious mind. It is in effect this lack of comprehension that is the cause of all problems at one level – something that is discussed in the in-class training, but also something for you to have a think about now.

The meta model - mind filtering

To be able to expand our maps of the world, to be able to make change, we need to know what to change and where to find the right bit of information that will allow the change to take place. We need a working model that will help us to elicit this needed information. This is the meta-model. It was found that by challenging generalisations, distortions and deletions we could systematically get the required info. To be able to function in the world without continual overwhelm we need to be able to filter out information – we do this by deletion, distortion and generalisation. Our perception of reality is a deleted, distorted and generalised version of reality – it is our map but not the territory.

Our Filters


Without deletion we would be faced with far too much information for our conscious mind to handle. Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to particular aspects of our experiences and not others.


Distortion happens when we make shifts of data in our sensory data, by making misrepresentations of what is real. For example, this can happen when we mistake somebody for someone else or even 'imagining’ how the interior of a room would look before you decide to decorate.


This is where we draw like conclusions about someone or something based upon one or two experiences. To generalise helps us to learn and teach by taking the information we have and drawing conclusions about the meaning of the effect of those conclusions. However, generalising at its worst can allow us to form disempowering beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities, which can hold us back for the rest of our lives.


Our values are an evaluation filter. They are how we decide what is good or bad, right or wrong. They help us decide how we feel about our actions. Values are aspects of life that are important to us. They are essentially a deep, unconscious belief system about what matters to us. They can change with context and can be very closely related to how we are influenced from a very early age. You will have values about what you want from a relationship or what you want from your career. They are arranged in a hierarchy with the most important one typically being at the top and lesser ones below that.


Beliefs are assumptions we have about the way the world is, and can either empower or be disempowering for us. If you are working with somebody’s beliefs, it is important to elicit or find out what beliefs they have to cause them to do what they do. You also need to discover what disempowering beliefs they hold which do not allow them to do what they want to do. Often we inherit other people’s beliefs such as parents. It is important when working on yourself you understand and separate your beliefs from other people's. As your beliefs directly influence your feelings and behaviour (cognitive thinking cycle), you could be behaving and living your life based upon other people's beliefs which could cause an internal conflict and create blockages for you later on.


Language describes experiences. Words are labels, they are not the experience itself. People’s language will influence their view of the world. For example bilingual people frequently say that they feel and/or behave differently depending on the language they are speaking. Even for two native speakers the same word may have a slightly different meaning for different people.

The NLP Communication Model – the Map is not the Territory

Originally conceived and developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, based upon the NLP Presupposition 'the map is not the territory.'

The 'map is not the territory' is the idea that the way we see the world isn’t reality itself. We don’t respond to reality. We respond to our internalised map of reality. We represent things by our interpretations. Interpretations may or may not be accurate. Once we can accept that our reality is just our perception of reality (our map) and not reality itself, our reality as we see it can be changed.

This of course presents many lightbulb moments when we suddenly realise this concept with specific reference to individual opinions and points of view. As everyone processes information differently and it is simply their individual perception of what’s going on, they are not right or wrong, it is just their perception. Imagine how powerful it would be if you could get inside your boss’s map and match him or her on every level. You can see straight away how powerful this model might be.

People can perceive the same events differently. Some people have to ‘see’ certain relationships between things (V – visualise), some will need to ‘hear it’ (A – auditory), others have to ‘get a grasp or a feeling’ (K – kinaesthetic) for the relationships, whilst others have to have it explained and fully understand (AD – auditory digital).

The NLP Communication Model explains how we process the information that comes in from external events and demonstrates the processing steps we use internally, which then determines our state, physiology and external behaviours.

All maps are inaccurate to some extent. A map of a street would need to be as large and detailed as a street to be accurate. A map is a summary of what we deem to be the important features.

If we have inadequate maps, we don’t see all our choices. Re-mapping is an important problem-solving strategy. Our language reveals the maps and models we use to guide our behaviour. Communication is how we explain the world to others and ourselves. This is why the meta model is such an important tool, it enables re-mapping.

If we accept our map is simply our perception of reality by definition it can be changed. It's the same in business. Managers, leaders and staff are simply running programmes that represent their perception of ecology, what's going on around them. These programmes with skill can be changed. In the world of NLP this is known as shifting modalities and we will look at this later in the course.

Imagine for now you have the skills, knowledge and influence to change your manager's perception of you and the work you do, you can even change how your partner or spouse view you – how powerful would that be?

See Handout No. 3

NLP has a set of 'assumptions' that it makes about the world – they are often referred to as 'the lies'. The word ‘lies’ in the NLP context is used as a consistent reminder that we don't know for certain exactly how things are. However these 'lies' seem to get consistently useful results.

  • The map is not the territory
  • The meaning of the communication is the response you get
  • The more flexible you can be in any given situation means more opportunities and options will always be available
  • The ability to change the process by which we experience reality is often more valuable than changing the content of our experience of reality
  • Our five senses can usefully represent distinctions in how we relate to our environment and our behaviour
  • The resources an individual needs to effect change are already within them
  • The positive worth of the individual is held constant, while the value or appropriateness of behaviour is questioned
  • There is a positive intention motivating every behaviour and a context in which every behaviour has value. People are not their behaviours, there are no un resourceful people, only unresourceful states
  • To be a successful communicator one needs to accept and utilise all communication/behaviour presented to them
  • All results and behaviours are achievements, whether they are desired outcomes for a given task/situation or not
  • I am responsible for my life (cause and effect). To have maximum power over all situations you encounter in life, you need to take responsibility for everything that happens in your universe.


Think about how powerful the impact would be if you started living your life abiding by these empowering beliefs, think about the improvement you could make in your life, your family, your work colleagues, your team.

We do look at this in more detail later in the course.

Case Study Exercise

Pick a work colleague who you feel may be unhappy, perhaps they are not as cheerful as they normally are. Ask them if you can complete a coaching exercise with them.

1. Ask them to write down the company's values as they understand them.

2. Then ask them to write down their own values and subsequent beliefs.

3. Ask them to choose their favourite big 5 beliefs and values.

4. When they have committed to their BIG 5 ask them to write them down.

5. Finally ask them to reframe their thinking and replace their BIG 5 with the most appropriate BIG presuppositions of NLP.

6. Check how they are feeling. You will be surprised at their response.

Understanding Body Language – Actions Speak Louder than Words

Do you ever wonder what people really mean when they are talking to you? Are they telling the truth or is there some hidden message or meaning that you are simply missing or don’t understand? How do you get to the bottom of what they are really thinking?

Wouldn’t it be great to have the power to be able to tell truth from lies, to know what your boss or partner really thought of you?

When Doctor Richard Bandler and John Grinder were investigating the art and science of human behaviour and NLP back in the 1970s, several lessons were learned. Some of the most notable were the lessons learned in the art of communication. They discovered over 90% of communication was non-verbal, i.e. unconscious communication.

Up until this point we communicated by talking to each other consciously. Bandler's and Grinder's findings suggested we communicated far more unconsciously than we had ever realised. Their studies along with those of others paved the way for the progression of our understanding of how we communicate unconsciously most obviously with our body language.

Body language is the means by which human beings convey information to each other through conscious or unconscious gestures, bodily movements or facial expressions.

Body language seems to have several broad uses as a conscious and knowing replacement of speech. Using body language in place of speech in its basic and most recognised form includes giving people the thumbs up as a signal of approval, and on the reverse the V sign in place of insults.

Very often hand signals and gestures are used to reinforce points being made vocally.

Certain people may sit in business meetings or at social gatherings and may not speak a word but their body language can speak volumes. Just looking at people’s eyes, face, hands, torso, legs and arms can improve our understanding of what they are expressing on the inside.

Body language is much more important and powerful than most people realise. Bandler's and Grinder's research shows that what people say is often less impactful than how they move their body.

Here are some basics which will help you read what people are really saying or telling you unconsciously without realising it.

Look Into My Eyes.

The eyes say it all and give away a lot.

Blinking – increased blinking correlates with heightened anxiety or attentiveness.

Controlled blinking – even if only milliseconds slower than spontaneous blinking together with longer i.e. closure is often associated with deception.

Pupil dilation – eyes enlarge when light dims but also when someone is excited, aroused, happy or engaged in problem-solving activities.

Sporadic eye contact – suggests a lack of confidence generally and is often accompanied by lots of shuffling and looking away.

Let’s Face it

The most obvious and commonly used and recognised body language is that of facial expressions. Our faces disclose a range of feelings from anger to sadness disappointment to elation, jubilation to surprise and so on.

Let’s now look at a selection of typical examples of slightly more complex body language and see what they mean.

Are they really listening?

Lowering body, averting eyes and moving away are non-verbal cues that signal submissiveness.

If someone standing nearby points her feet near or towards you it indicates they probably have positive feelings for you. If the feet are pointed away from you while their body faces you that is a sign of discomfort.

A person wrapping their foot behind their leg during a conversation can suggest a defensive posture as a result of part of the conversation.

When you find someone leaning away from you, or looking up at you from the chair that can suggest they are uncomfortable in the situation or with the conversation. Others of the same to watch out for are hand over the mouth, crossing of the legs, or arms, dry mouth or a slightly more obvious sign in underarm or facial sweats.

An old favourite of mine is when someone appears to be listening to you intently however has a hand placed on one of their face cheeks or a finger on one of the temples, which immediately suggests there is an awful lot of inner dialogue going on and they are probably not listening to you at all. Playing with the nose is a definite indication they are miles away and touching of the watch or movement of the watch face or strap definitely confirms they want to be as far away as possible and haven’t taken in a single word over the last few minutes and can’t wait to leave.

Positioning of either foot at right angles in the air suggests impatience or anxiety and a difficulty in staying focused. Racing through the agenda and focusing on the back page within seconds of it being given out indicates we are working out when we will be free to leave and go and do something else.

Who’s in charge?

A person with higher status may pat you on the back, shake your hand or place their hand on your arm. You will have always remembered President Bush putting his hand on his visiting King or Prime Minister's back and leading him into the room or meeting indicating a higher status belief. You will I am sure recall President Obama doing the very same thing on his first visit to Number 10 Downing Street.

Can you imagine putting your hand on your boss's back and leading him into a meeting? Why not try it and see what happens?

In the same way lowering the body, averting the eyes, shuffling or moving away indicates and signals submissiveness.

Does She Like Me?

Courting signals can include a crossing of the legs, playing with one’s hair, fiddling with a pen, standing or sitting with legs apart or one leg tucked under the other. And one most definitely for the ladies sitting with legs crossed – dangling a shoe half off.

Does He Like Me.?

Smoothing the hair, continual straightening of the tie, playing with the shirt or collar, perhaps it’s hot in here, and sweeping imaginary specks of dust off the shirt sleeve or jacket.

Course Exercise

Pick someone you know and write down on a piece of paper what you think they think of you.

Spend 5 minutes matching them, building rapport and paying particular attention to how they interact with you.

Write down on a separate piece of paper what you now think they think of you.

Compare both pieces of paper. Were you right?

This is a great exercise to do with your partner or your boss. These are the 2 biggest relationships of your life according to experts.

Complete and Continue