SAN DIEGO — How to win friends and influence people.
That was the question John Grinder, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and psychotherapist Richard Bandler set out to answer when they received a research grant in the early 1970s to study what makes certain people "super-achievers."
They appear to have found more than they bargained for.
About 14 years later, the results of their research are being touted as a way to reduce stress; make love relationships work; make anyone your friend; aid in education, business and child-rearing, and influence anyone to do just about anything. Their theories have been dubbed neuro-linguistic programming.
These claims sound like the sensationalized rantings of followers of the latest pop psychology craze. And like other trendy self-help therapies such as est and scientology, little scientific evidence has been found to support neuro-linguistic programming--or NLP--theories. Asking advice from experts is also a problem because many practicing psychiatrists and psychologists have little knowledge of NLP techniques.
53,000 People Trained
Despite these drawbacks, NLP is taken seriously enough to find its way into workshops held by such firms as Chase Manhattan Bank, Avon, Coca-Cola and IBM. And more than 53,000 individuals had taken NLP training as of 1983, independent studies show.
In San Diego, NLP training is handled by the nonprofit Human Development Institute, situated in Mission Valley. The founder and executive director of the institute is Francine Shapiro, a former high school English teacher.
"My research in NLP started when I was told I had cancer," Shapiro said. "Everything I learned about cancer showed that it was a stress-related disease."
Shapiro began to study alternatives to high-stress life styles. During the research she discovered NLP. Her cancer went into remission, but her interest in NLP remains. She came to San Diego in 1979 and, along with Shirley Phares-Kime, set up the Human Development Institute, which promotes NLP training and research.
"What Bandler and Grinder did was to study what made certain people super-achievers," said Shapiro. "Why some lawyers won case after case, why some therapists were able to consistently pull off cures in one session. They interviewed the top people in law, business, medicine, psychiatry. During the interviews they found that none of these people had a clue as to why they were able to accomplish what they did. They all said, 'I don't know how I do it.'
"Bandler and Grinder began to videotape sessions with these people--business meetings, court sessions and so on," she said. "That's when they discovered that all of these people were doing the same thing. They found that these people were able to set up an instant rapport with others, to tap into how people were communicating and thereby influence and guide that person to whatever decision or direction they wanted."
Based on Perception
NLP theory, Shapiro explained, is based on how people organize their experiences--their thoughts, feelings and behavior. According to the theory, each person experiences the world through three perceptual systems: visual or sight, auditory or sound, and kinesthetic or feeling. One system or mode of perception tends to dominate an individual.
Most people, about 60% of the population according to NLP theories, are highly visual. These are people who think in terms of pictures. They remember, for example, how people looked or what color a dress was.
Another mode, which comprises about 30% of the population, is auditory. Auditory oriented people think in terms of sound--what was said or how loud or soft something sounded.
Kinesthetic people comprise about 10% of the population. They remember how warm the sun was, how their mother's hand felt or how comfortable a bed was.
Visually oriented people, according to NLP, tend to express themselves in visual terms. "Do you get the picture?" or "Do you see what I mean?" are examples. Auditory people might say, "Does that ring a bell?" "I hear what you're saying," or "That doesn't click for me." Kinesthetic people might state, "Let me get a handle on this," "I don't grasp it," or "I'm not comfortable with this."
Body Language Clues
This theory, which can be fun to play with, becomes more than a simple parlor game when the NLP practitioners determine how the subject is thinking. This is done through a series of body language clues, which include how a person is breathing, the set of the shoulders and the position of the eyes. People thinking visually, for example, are said to look upward and breath shallowly. Normal breathing and eyes moving side to side signal that the person is in an auditory mode. Deep breathing and eyes cast downward mean the person is in a kinesthetic mode.
Also, visually oriented people tend to act and talk quickly. Auditory people are slower and kinesthetic people are the slowest.