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NLP, or to give it its unabbreviated title ‘Neuro-linguistic Programming’, gets mixed reviews. This seems mainly due to a hitherto lack of meaningful research into it and secondly because, in the 1970s, it was used almost exclusively by sales teamsto manipulate deal closures. However, it has come of age recently and some very supportive research has emerged from Surrey and Durham Universities and also from within the NLP community.

Powerful results

I’ve been using it for over a decade as an integral part of the coaching and mentoring support I offer to clients and schools, and I’m reminded daily of the power of the tools, strategies and mindsets that it offers. I recall a teacher victimized by students, for whom the only option seemed to be to leave her job. The use of a small number of NLP strategies to change her perception of the situation give her enough confidence to seek support from her team. This helped her find the strength to carry on day to day whilst the situation was resolved, which ultimately saved her career. It also sent a positive message to students and teachers alike that bullying, from wherever and from whomever it came, was not tolerated.

The ‘Points of View’ tool

I’d like to share with you a classic NLP tool called ‘Points of View’. It’s the perfect tool for helping someone re-vision a situation that is difficult for them and involves another person or other people. It’s particularly useful when you’re dealing with adults or children who are in conflict with others.

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Overview and purpose

This tool helps you to gain an insight into situations that involve other people. In particular, it helps you gain a more sophisticated understanding of your behaviour and that of others involved in the relationship, thereby bringing new understanding to complex relationships. It requires the person being coached to imagine themselves in three situations and drawing on the insights they gain from these.

Instructions for use

This tool can be used with both young people and adults. There needs to be plenty of time for the person being coached to respond deeply to the questions, and the stronger the coachee associates with each situation, the more insight will be gained. Work through the four steps in order – instructions and questions for the coach to read are printed in italics.

How it works

The coachee gains greater awareness of a situation by considering the perspectives of others and by associating themselves with these different perspectives. Each has the potential to bring new insights and understanding. The tool also helps the coachee gain a more objective view of themselves and their behaviour.


Jess is aware that her relationship with Bryan, her second in department, has been strained for quite some time. Using the ‘Points of View’ tool she realises that she has not been supporting Bryan through some important curriculum changes and this has affected his confidence in the classroom. It comes as a shock to her that she has not been supporting a close colleague in this key area, and she resolves to take action to restore the relationship and make sure that Bryan gets the support he needs at this unsettling time.

Follow-up work

The coachee could be encouraged to ‘self-coach’ themselves through future relationship tensions at work by using the ‘Points of View’ tool and the alternative perspectives. This will provide them with an ongoing tool with which they can try and resolve any future relationship difficulties themselves.



What is the problem or situation?


Get into the problem – now really pretend you are right in the problem yourself.

  • What are you feeling?
  • How are you responding?
  • What are the rules you have about this situation?
  • What are you learning?


Now repeat the process in Step 2 pretending you are the person or group of people with whom you are having the difficulty

The coach should allow plenty of time for responses in this step.


Now be a third party looking at the problem from the outside – really pretend you are them for a moment.

  • What are you feeling?
  • How are you responding?
  • What are the rules they appear to be working with?
  • What are you learning?

OK, stop now. Bring with you everything you have learned. Describe what you have learned and what’s different now.

This tool is based on one that first appeared in the ‘Coaching Solutions Resource Book’ (Will Thomas, 2005)

NLP is a philosophy

NLP is, of course, about much more than simply a toolkit. It’s a whole philosophy for supporting people to be brilliant. It includes guiding principles which can help in so many situations where there is conflict within a person or between people. NLP is also packed with fascinating linguistic patterns which, when used correctly, can lead to changes in the beliefs of individuals through simple discussions; the sort of approaches that can be used easily and unobtrusively in any conversation to bring about perceptual shifts in others.

Find out more

Will Thomas is running the very popular education-specific NLP Diploma (Part A) on 4 and 5 December 2014 and the Part B on 8/9 January 2015 in Birmingham and in London later in the new year. Drop us a line at or call Teresa on 07904 287065 if you would like further information.