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NLP Workbook: A Practical Guide to Achieving the Results You Want

NLP Workbook: A Practical Guide to Achieving the Results You Want

by Joseph O'Connor

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming is based on the idea that the human mind is a sort of computer – our verbal and body language are the programmes which allow us to change our own thoughts and influence other people e.g. using body language and speech patterns to create instant rapport with someone else.

We already use such techniques on a sub-conscious level – NLP


Neuro-Linguistic Programming is based on the idea that the human mind is a sort of computer – our verbal and body language are the programmes which allow us to change our own thoughts and influence other people e.g. using body language and speech patterns to create instant rapport with someone else.

We already use such techniques on a sub-conscious level – NLP simply helps us crystalise what we already know. This work book is a basic, at-home NLP course, providing easy-to-follow exercises and reflections to which the reader can return time and again. It addresses topics such as How to Change Emotional State, the Power of Language and Getting Results, and can be applied to all kinds of different areas e.g. business, sport, health.

The NLP Workbook is designed to be a basic manual for the beginner in NLP, and also a clear and easy reference manual for practioners and trainers.

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A Practical Guide to Achieving the Results You Want

By Joseph O'Connor, Jennie Dooge

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2001 Joseph O'Connor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57324-615-6



First things first. What is NLP? But this is a trick question. You cannot pin NLP down to a single definition. There are many explanations of NLP, each like a beam of light shining from a different angle, picking out the whole shape and shadow of the subject.

NLP studies brilliance and quality – how outstanding individuals and organizations get their outstanding results. The methods can be taught to others so they too can get the same class of results. This process is called 'modelling'.

In order to model, NLP studies how we structure our subjective experience – how we think about our values and beliefs and how we create our emotional states – and how we construct our internal world from our experience and give it meaning. No event has meaning in itself, we give it meaning, and different people may give the same event different meanings. So, NLP studies experience from the inside.

NLP began by studying the best communicators and has evolved into the systemic study of human communication. It has grown by adding practical tools and methods generated by modelling exceptional people. These tools are used internationally in sports, business, training, sales, law and education. However, NLP is more than just a collection of techniques. It is also a way of thinking, a frame of mind based on curiosity, exploration and fun.

The name 'Neuro-Linguistic Programming' comes from the three areas it brings together:

N Neurology The mind and how we think.

L Linguistics How we use language and how it affects us.

P Programming How we sequence our actions to achieve our goals.

Here are some definitions of NLP. Put them all together and they give a good idea of the field.

[down arrow] 'NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience.'

[down arrow] 'NLP is an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilization of patterns in the world.' (John Grinder)

[down arrow] 'NLP is the epistemology of returning to what we have lost – a state of grace.' (John Grinder)

[down arrow] 'NLP is whatever works.' (Robert Dilts)

[down arrow] 'NLP is an attitude and a methodology, which leave behind a trail of techniques.' (Richard Bandler)

[down arrow] 'NLP is the influence of language on our mind and subsequent behaviour.'

[down arrow] 'NLP is the systemic study of human communication.' (Alix Von Uhde)

[down arrow] 'NLP is the method for modelling excellence so it can be duplicated.'

And now for two stories – always a richer source of ideas than a straight definition ...

A boy asked his mother, 'What's NLP?'

His mother said, 'I will tell you in a moment, but first you have to do something so you can understand. See your granddad over there in his chair?'

'Yep,' said the boy.

'Go and ask him how his arthritis is today.'

The boy went over to his grandfather. 'Granddad,' he said, 'how's your arthritis today?'

'Oh, it's a bit bad, son,' replied the old man. 'It's always worse in damp weather. I can hardly move my fingers today.' A look of pain crossed his face.

The boy went back to his mother. 'He said it was bad. I think it hurts him. Are you going to tell me what NLP is now?'

'In a minute, I promise,' replied his mother. 'Now go over and ask Granddad what was the funniest thing that you did when you were very young.'

The boy went over to his grandfather. 'Granddad,' he began, 'what's the funniest thing I ever did when I was very young?'

The old man's face lit up. 'Oh,' he smiled, 'there were lots of things. There was the time when you and your friend played Father Christmas and sprinkled talcum powder all over the bathroom pretending it was snow. I laughed – but I didn't have to clean it up.' He stared into the distance with a smile.

'Then there was the time I took you out for a walk. It was a lovely day and you were singing a nursery rhyme you had just learned. Loudly. A man went past and gave you a nasty look. He thought you were being too noisy. He asked me to tell you to be quiet. You turned round and said to him, "If you don't like me singing, you can go and boil your head." And carried on even louder ...' The old man chuckled.

The boy went back to his mother. 'Did you hear what Granddad said?' he asked.

'Yes,' his mother replied. 'You changed how he felt with a few words. That's NLP.'

A wise man rode into a desert village one evening as the sun was setting. Dismounting from his camel, he asked one of the villagers for a drink of water.

'Of course,' said the villager and gave him a cup of water.

The traveller drank the whole cupful. 'Thank you,' he said. 'Can I help you at all before I travel on?'

'Yes,' said the young man. 'We have a dispute in our family. I am the youngest of three brothers. Our father died recently, God rest his soul, and all he possessed was a small herd of camels. Seventeen, to be exact. He decreed in his will that one half of the herd was to go to my oldest brother, one third to the middle brother and one ninth to me. But how can we divide a herd of 17? We do not want to chop up any camels, they are worth far more alive.'

'Take me to your house,' said the sage.

When he entered the house he saw the other two brothers and the man's widow sitting around the fire arguing. The youngest brother interrupted them and introduced the traveller.

'Wait,' said the wise man, 'I think I can help you. Here, I give you my camel as a gift. Now you have 18 camels. One half goes to the eldest, that's nine camels. One third goes to the middle son, that's six camels. And one ninth goes to my friend here, the youngest son. That's two.'

'That's only 17 altogether,' said the youngest son.

'Yes. By a happy coincidence, the camel left over is the one I gave to you. If you could possibly give it back to me, I will continue on my journey.' And he did.

How is NLP like the eighteenth camel? It could be that it is brought into the situation by a wise man, solves the problem quickly and then disappears as if it had never been there.


NLP has six basic principles. They are known as 'the pillars of NLP'.

1 You – your emotional state and level of skill

You are the most important part of any NLP intervention. You make NLP real by what you do. Just as a tool can be used to create beautiful art or rubbish, so NLP can be used well or badly. Your success depends on how resourceful and skilful you are. The more congruent you are, the more successful you will be. Congruence is when your goals, beliefs and values align with your actions and words, when you 'walk your talk and talk your walk'.

2 The presuppositions – the principles of NLP

The presuppositions of NLP are its guiding principles, those ideas or beliefs that are presupposed, that is, taken for granted and acted upon.

3 Rapport – the quality of relationship

Rapport is the quality of relationship that results in mutual trust and responsiveness. You gain rapport by understanding and respecting the way another person sees the world. It is like speaking their language. Rapport is essential for good communication. If you have rapport, others will feel acknowledged and immediately be more responsive. It is possible to build rapport at many levels, but all involve paying attention to and respecting the other person. Rapport can be built instantly and rapport over time evolves into trust.

4 Outcome – knowing what you want

A basic skill of NLP is being clear about what you want and being able to elicit from others what they want. NLP is based around always thinking of outcomes in every situation, so you are always acting in a purposeful way. An outcome is what you want; a task is what you do to achieve it.

Outcome thinking has basic three elements:

Know your present situation – where you are now.

Know your desired situation – where you want to be.

Plan your strategy – how to get from one to the other, using the resources you have or creating new ones.

5 Feedback – how will you know you are getting what you want?

Once you know what you want, you have to pay attention to what you are getting, so you know what to do next. What are you paying attention to? Is your feedback both precise and accurate? Most of the time this means paying keen attention to your senses – looking at, listening to and feeling what is actually happening. Your senses are the only way you have of getting direct feedback. You have only your senses to 'make sense' of the world. The information you get from your senses lets you know whether you are on course for your goal.

6 Flexibility – if what you are doing is not working, then do something else

When you know what you want and you know what you are getting, the more strategies you have to achieve your outcome, the greater your chance of success. The more choices you have – of emotional state, communication style and perspective – the better your results. NLP encourages choice governed by purpose in a relationship of rapport and awareness.


The 13 presuppositions are the central principles of NLP, its guiding philosophy, its 'beliefs'. These principles are not claimed to be true or universal. You do not have to believe they are true. They are called 'presuppositions' because you pre-suppose them to be true and then act as if they were. Basically, they form a set of ethical principles for life.

1 People respond to their experience, not to reality itself.

We do not know what reality is. Our senses, beliefs and past experience give us a map of the world from which to operate, but a map can never be completely accurate, otherwise it would be the same as the ground it covers. We do not know the territory, so for us, the map is the territory. Some maps are better than others for finding your way around. We navigate life like a ship through a dangerous area of sea; as long as the map shows the main hazards, we will be fine. When maps are faulty, we are in danger of running aground. NLP is the art of changing these maps so we have greater freedom of action.

2 Having a choice is better than not having a choice.

Always try to have a map that gives you the widest number of choices. Always act to increase choice. The more choices you have, the freer you are and the more influence you have.

3 People make the best choice they can at the time.

A person always makes the best choice they can, given their map of the world. The choice may be self-defeating, bizarre or evil, but for them, it seems the best way forward. Give them a better choice and they will take it. Even better, give them a superior map with more choices on it.

4 People work perfectly.

No one is wrong or broken. We are all executing our strategies perfectly, but the strategies may be poorly designed and ineffective. Find out how you and others operate, so a strategy can be changed to something more useful and desirable.

5 All actions have a purpose.

Our actions are not random; we are always trying to achieve something, although we may not be aware of what that is.

6 Every behaviour has a positive intention.

All our actions have at least one purpose – to achieve something that we value and that benefits us. NLP separates the intention behind an action from the action itself. A person is not their behaviour. When a person has a better choice of behaviour that also achieves their positive intention, they will take it.

7 The unconscious mind balances the conscious; it is not malicious.

The unconscious is everything that is not in consciousness at the present moment. It contains all the resources we need to live in balance.

8 The meaning of the communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response you get.

This response may be different from the one you wanted, but there are no failures in communication, only responses and feedback. If you are not getting the result you want, change what you are doing. Take responsibility for the communication.

9 We already have all the resources we need or we can create them.

There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states of mind.

10 Mind and body form a system. They are different expressions of the one person.

Mind and body interact and influence each other. It is not possible to make a change in one without the other being affected. When we think differently, our bodies change. When we act differently, we change our thoughts and feelings.

11 We process all information through our senses.

Developing your senses so they become more acute gives you better information and helps you think more clearly.

12 Modelling successful performance leads to excellence.

If one person can do something, it is possible to model it and teach it to others. In this way everyone can learn to get better results in their own way. You do not become a clone of the person you are modelling – you learn from them.

13 If you want to understand, act.

The learning is in the doing.


NLP brings about self-development and change. First you use it to work on yourself to become the person you really want to be and can be. Also, you work on yourself so that you can effectively help others.

I do a lot of air travel and at the beginning of every flight, when you have sat down and put your seat belt on, the staff have you at their mercy and they go through the safety procedures. At this point the frequent fliers bury themselves in the in-flight magazine, because they have heard it all before and some of them could recite it by heart. But I always remember one thing about those safety procedures – if the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks drop down and you should put them on before helping anyone else. Why? Because if you don't put your own mask on, you could pass out and then you are no good to anyone – yourself or another person.

Self-development is the equivalent to putting your own mask on first. The more you know about yourself, the more you are able to help others.

NLP is not about fixing other people and neglecting yourself.

Put your own mask on first!

When you approach change and self-development, you need to be congruent, in other words you need to be determined to succeed and believe in what you are doing. Congruence means that you are committed to making the change, so that you do not sabotage yourself.

Secondly, you need to establish rapport, in other words work within a relationship of trust and mutual influence.

Thirdly, you need to establish what you want to achieve in that change.

Then you can apply one of the many patterns, techniques or combinations of patterns that NLP has developed for change and learning.

Your result must be ecological, so it fits into the wider picture without any unfortunate consequences for yourself or others.

Lastly, you 'future pace', that is, you mentally rehearse the new change and learning. This reinforces it and means that you will remember to act differently when the time comes to test what you have learned.


Ecology is a concern for the overall system. An ecology check is when you consider how the change you are making fits into the wider system. You check that what looks like a good change in one part of a system does not cause problems in other areas. Many personal and organizational changes fail because the system boundary is drawn too narrowly and the 'side-effects' turn out to be major headaches. An ecology check is like checking a drug for bad side-effects even if it cures the illness.

As part of an NLP technique, an ecology check ensures that NLP does not become manipulative, that your actions do not lead to your gain and another person's loss. You also check that the change another person makes harmonizes with the rest of their life and relationships. An ecology check for yourself ensures that you do not manipulate yourself, forcing yourself into some course of action that you will come to regret later or that will hurt another person badly.

All actions have consequences beyond their specific context. Our lives are complex and a change will ripple out like a stone dropped into a still pool. Some changes make stronger ripples than others. Some ripples will wash away; some may disturb the surface far more than you thought. A few may even become tidal waves.

Internal Ecology

An internal ecology check is when you check with your own feelings that a course of action would be a wise one to follow. The ecology of your physical body is shown in your physical health. Your mental ecology is shown by your feelings of congruence or incongruence.

Incongruence is the feeling that the change has consequences that are uncertain (so you need more information), or are negative (so you need to think again). Incongruence is not bad, but you need to be aware of it and explore why you are feeling it.


Excerpted from THE NLP WORKBOOK by Joseph O'Connor, Jennie Dooge. Copyright © 2001 Joseph O'Connor. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Joseph O’Connor is a writer, teacher, trainer and pyschotherapist, and leading training workshops around the world. He has published 9 bestselling NLP titles, including ‘Introducing NLP’ and ‘Principles of NLP’, and his work has been tranlated into 14 languages.

Brief Biography

Dublin, Ireland
Date of Birth:
September 20, 1963
Place of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland
B.A., University College, Dublin, 1984; M.A., 1986; University College, Oxford, 1987; M.A., University of Leeds, 1991

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