ABSTRACT: The essence of NLP is in this question: 'How helpful would it be if you could understand, predict and influence other people's behaviour?' Well NLP can help you do that, it takes some study, a great deal of practice with other people under the guidance of experienced trainers; but some snippets learned and practised well will gain you more of and understanding of why and how we do what we do, and help you deal with the most intractable people.1

NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming is a revolutionary approach to human communication and development. By changing how you think, you can transform what you think. It will help you modify your thought and behavioural patterns to suit your projected goals. It literally re¬programs your mind and your life for faster learning, better relationships and greater success.

NLP has helped millions of people overcome fears, increase confidence, enrich relationships, and achieve greater success.2

Too good to be true?

Well I’ve seen it work and I’ve used it too. Those who know me well will confirm the changes in me they have witnessed. I recently completed the NLP Practitioner certificate. The most useful lesson was how to lose ‘don’t’.

We are constantly telling people what we don’t want them to do – especially children. Don’t run, don’t touch that, and so on. Our brains delete the word don’t and we do what we were asked not to. It’s more effective to tell people what we want them to do instead – for instance, “Walk” instead of “Don’t run”; or “Look at this” in contrast to “Don’t touch”; or “Put your goggles on before entering the room” instead of “Don’t enter this room without your goggles”. Try it out on some of the notices and rules you have around your practice!

By far the greatest benefit of NLP is its ability to change the beliefs and behaviours that are holding us back in life. For me, what is so amazing is that you can change beliefs and behaviours in as little as one session. Evidence suggests that situations, which usually take months of counselling sessions to deal with, can be changed in minutes (dependant on the person’s desire to change). And for some of you, just trying it out will make a difference and help you to improve the quality of your communication.

In veterinary nursing, NLP gives you the knowledge and understanding that you always have choices. You can choose how to deal with those people you find difficult in a way that serves you better. How are you treated by those around you?

Do people’s reactions to you surprise you? Start observing your behaviour, notice how you speak to people, what tone you use, what language you use. When you become aware of these behaviours, you have the power to modify them to get the results you want.

Classic communication issues arise when you make assumptions about the people with whom you are communicating, something we all do naturally. The assumptions come from our own model of the world – which is very different from everyone else’s. One way to minimise the aggravation this causes is to believe that people behave with positive intentions.

Have I made myself clear?

I booked a family holiday to Tenerife. My sister and her boyfriend decided to join us. They booked their flights from Aberdeen, we were flying from Edinburgh. They arranged to arrive in Tenerife about the same time as us, so we could share transport to the resort. We arrived very excited and the weather was fantastic! We looked at the arrivals board – the Aberdeen flight was in. We waited patiently for them to disembark and collect their baggage.

An hour had passed and we started making assumptions about what might have happened. My phone rang – their luggage hadn’t arrived and they had to fill in a load of paperwork! That explained the delay. I described where we were waiting – at the Avis car hire desk -and hung up. Another half an hour passed – no sign of them!

We were hot and sweaty, tired and wanted to get to the resort for a swim and a beer. I called my sister – “where are you?” she screamed. “We have been stood at the Avis desk and you are not here!”

We both described our surroundings – they were completely different. “You must be at the wrong desk!” I replied, annoyed at their incompetence.

She went away to find out where in the airport the other Avis desk might be. Eventually she called back – we had been hanging around for over two hours now and everyone was getting annoyed at the time it was taking for them to find us.

“We are at a different airport!” Stunned silence. Tenerife has two airports, North and South. Their flight had arrived at the North airport, ours the South.

Had I given more detailed information about where we were flying into and not assumed they would know which airport, the situation would have been very different. Consider when in your life have people caused you frustration because they haven’t done what you’ve asked them to do. Go back and observe what instructions you gave them. Take responsibility for the situation and offer clear instructions. Helping someone to do things right is much more satisfying for them and for you, than telling them off for doing it wrong, and blaming them.

People behave with positive intentions

So how will this help you get what you want? NLP is the art of excellence in communication. When you have great communication skills you are almost there.

People see things differently. Everyone has his or her own model of the world. To create this model, we use three filters: we delete information, distort things and generalise. George Miller an American psychologist wrote a paper called ‘Seven Plus or Minus Two’.3 He said that the conscious mind can only handle seven plus or minus two bits of information at any one time. And we delete the rest. Using the process of deletion, we filter out lots of things without being aware of it, or consciously aware of it. Distortion occurs when external information is changed into something else, for instance, hallucinations. Generalisation is about how we unconsciously generate rules, beliefs and principles about what is true, untrue, possible and impossible.

For example, some people who have been bitten by a dog believe that all dogs are bad and develop the rule dogs are not to be trusted. “Deletion, Distortion and Generalisations are the filters which create our model of the world. As well as seeing things differently, we think differently.”4

Language is the code we use when we talk to other people about the experiences that started out as images, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes (Figure l).5

Figure 1: The code of Language

These are also known as representational systems. By listening, we can recognise people’s preferred thinking styles and we can mirror them to build rapport.1 It is also important to be aware of your own preferred thinking style.

Overall, NLP offers a structured, systematic approach and reliable, effective techniques for dealing with the most challenging aspects of managing people – and ‘people’ includes you!

If you are interested in some coaching to help you deal with your challenges, or want to learn more about NLP, contact wendy.sneddon@freespirit-enterprise.com

The author would like to thank Rosie O’Hara for contri
buting to this article. 


Wendy Sneddon MSC MinstLM

Wendy worked with Vets Now through its rapid growth phase. She is currently a director of Freespirit Enterprise, a company offering practical hands-on business support to veterinary practices. Wendy is a qualified entrepreneurship coach and holds a Diploma in NLP. She is also a full member of the Institute of Leadership and Management. Wendy is chair of the Fife Area Board for Young Enterprise Scotland, and also advises schools.

To cite this article use either

DOI: 10.1111/j.2045-0648.2010.00027.x or Veterinary Nursing Journal Vol 26 pp 96-97


1.   O’HARA, R. (2009) Diploma Manual, NLP Highland.

2.   ANDREAS, S. and FAULKNER, C. (1994! NLP – The New Technology of Achievement.

3.   MILLER, G. (19561 Seven Plus or Minus Two.

4.   CHARVET, S. R. (1997) Words That Change Minds, 2nd edition.

5.   LILLIECRAP, B. http://www.ologybusiness.com/index.htm

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 26 • March 2011 •