NLP State Management in Business

Jul 6, 2014 | Business, High Performance, Influence/Persuasion, Personal Change, Sales | 0 comments

Do your emotions drive you?
Or do you drive your emotions?

by Jonathan Altfeld

One of the most impressive people I had the pleasure to meet was a consulting project manager at HP (Hewlett Packard).  At the time I was a senior Artificial Intelligence / IT consultant working for an AI consulting firm.  He and I (and others) were collaborating on a proposal for a huge AI project being considered at a major credit bureau, a few years before I began doing NLP training in 1997.

During the 2-month proposal project, we encountered and brain-stormed our way through multiple logistical problems, technical issues, and political storms.  We attributed this to having so many different companies involved in the proposal.  It was a mess, that we somehow eventually navigated from chaos, into brilliant order.

Yet through it all, that HP project manager kept his cool.  Things could erupt at any point into emotional turmoil, yet he never lost his cool. When he spoke, calmly, everyone listened.  He wasn’t monotonous, but he was measured.  His words were well chosen, on target, and respectful of every view in the room. Everyone in turn respected him. And when he wasn’t in the room, people repeatedly commented on how professional he was. We were all glad he was there.

He didn’t let anything break his calm, cool demeanor.  He became a natural leader even though we were all roughly equal parties to the proposal.  No matter what was thrown at him, he remained eminently resourceful.  That, to me, to this day, makes up part of my ideal model for state management, and pre-dates my experiences in NLP. That’s saying a lot, because I have even higher expectations for what constitutes great state management, today.

NLP State Management in Business isn’t limited to staying calm, though!

Sometimes a circumstance calls for finding and maintaining a certain level of passion for a task that would otherwise be boring. That’s another form of NLP state management.

Sometimes a manager irritates an employee (or vice-versa). NLP State Management in this case might mean remembering a circumstance when you appreciated them the most so far.  This could allow you to let the other person indulge their personality glitch, without it damaging your relationship with them.  Be the bigger person if you can.  Even better, once they’re calm, find good ways to enable them to be an equally bigger person.

Sometimes even if you’re not feeling 100% confident, you may need to go on an interview, where you’ll need to find your confidence and maintain it. NLP State Management helps enormously here. Science backs you here, as well:  Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy studied “Power Postures.”  She found that if people spend 2 minutes in a bathroom stall just before an interview, standing in a powerful victory posture, we WILL do better in the interview.  Act as if we feel confident, and we start feeling more confident.  True!

However, diligence is still needed… because the effect is temporary!  This isn’t a permanent fix.  So its important to ask:

What aren’t we paying attention to?  What happens 5-10 minutes after doing a power posture?

What Amy Cuddy HASN’T yet studied:   How quickly does a posture-induced state diminish back to lower confidence, inside an interview, without NLP state management skills. That is where NLP helps us excel measurably further than relying on a brief bathroom victory posture.  It’s not just about initiating a great state – it’s about maintaining it over time!   Can you maintain confidence on your own even in low-confidence circumstances, for an hour?   A great 10+ day NLP Business Practitioner course WILL enable you to do, at will.  Also, amplify this skill with NLP Anchoring, and you’d never need to repeat the brief bathroom victory posture again!

Sometimes you just don’t like a client or vendor, but for whatever reason you continue doing business with them. Perhaps because they have the best product, or the best price, or they pay the most, or give you the most business referrals. In such cases, check in with your values, and decide if maintaining the relationship is a price worth paying.  If it is, then do what it takes to convince yourself you like them, for the duration of time you need to spend with them.

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen to me, except when I occasionally turn down a client.  I mostly get to work with people who are ready to make their lives better.  Generally, clients deeply value progress they make, and any insights and techniques that bring them closer to what they want.  I have the privilege of working with fabulous high-quality people with great personalities, interesting backgrounds, unique skills.   In almost every case, my clients desire to live more congruently, manage change, and handle challenging issues. When I help them, we both get to radiate deep gratitude.  It’s very rewarding to inspire change and see it happen to good people!

Developing Flexibility, and Radiating Great States

Step One in NLP state management is that you’ll want to be able to feel, and radiate great emotional states. I’m referring to states like credibility, openness, warmth, confidence, passion, curiosity, connectedness, and more. You’ll want to use these (and others) as needed, developing the flexibility to jump into the most optimal emotional responses for any given situation. This is foundational NLP material – being able to learn to feel these states at will, trigger them in the perfect situations, and maintain them as needed.  One of the most common NLP exercises to develop Step One, is called “the Circle of Excellence.”

Step Two in NLP state management is learning to redirect certain emotions (often but not always unresourceful), into more optimal emotional responses.  For example, redirecting “annoyance” into “calm, cool and collected.”  Or, from “worried” into “focused and passionate.”  Possibly from “fear” into “bring it on!”  Any number of other emotional transitions might be experienced as far more preferable by other people.  Some of the more common NLP Techniques for developing Step Two, include “Swish”, “Reframing”, “Kinesthetic Squash”, and Emotional State Chaining.  If you’d like to learn more about Emotional State Chaining, I train it in my “Creating the Automatic Yes” audio program).

Step Three in NLP state management is learning how to maintain a state even with (or in spite of) the onslaught of efforts by others to pollute it.  After all, what good are steps One and Two if the slightest provocation by circumstances or other people derails your good intentions and throws you off your game?  I include this critical step in my courses.  Few do.  I can, because a 10 day certification course allows us the proper time to engage in these critical exercises.   There are some fascinating ways to develop this skill.

All behaviors are state-dependent!

Remember that when feeling all of these states, these emotions give us access to (or cause) certain behaviors that might never be available to us in other states. Many behaviors are contextual to our emotional states.  For example, we would never…

  • yell at someone angrily when we’re feeling calm, or generous, or nurturing.
  • congruently and gently smile widely at someone when we were feeling livid, or depressed.
  • give an employee a good review or a big raise or an ex-employee a great referral, if we were feeling deep disappointment.
  • hire a new vendor if we felt deep distrust (and if other options were available).
  • show up late every day for work when we truly love what we do (unless you and the company share the value of flex-time!)

Whole areas of behavior can become possible or impossible depending on our emotions.

An Example of State-Based Business Coaching

I worked with a client (a professional insurance company executive) who was worried about his voice.  He said he wanted voice coaching to make his voice more compelling and influential.

Often when a client tells me a desired outcome, they’re describing for me just one of the potential ways of solving their issue.  They’re telling me just one means (to an implied end), but they may not be telling me the actual desired end.  So, I like to investigate and unpack their outcome.  I asked him, “So you want to have a more compelling and influential voice.  What would that enable?”

He said “I’d be taken more seriously.”

So of course, I took him seriously, and asked for more information.  I asked, “Why don’t people take you seriously enough, currently?”  (Note:  I could either ask more about being taken seriously, i.e. the solution state, which is one valuable direction.  By asking what I did, I was asking about the problem state, which helped me to build a map of what was actually not going well.)

He replied, “Well, sometimes, when I’m confident, my voice is great, and people take me seriously.  When I’m not confident, my voice gets all tinny and sounds whiny, and no one takes me seriously.  So I need voice coaching.”

His Premise was myopic, and flawed.

If you, like me, were a voice coach AND an NLP Trainer, what you would be hearing in his words are the following:  Emotions are the cause.  The voice is the effect.  The effect causes a result.  

He believed he couldn’t change his emotions, and couldn’t change the responses he was getting to a whiny voice. 

And, he was assuming that, because he “couldn’t change those things”, that he had to do voice coaching.

As a voice coach, I’m all for voice coaching!  Yet, my client had a nice voice when he sounded confident.  It was his confidence that people enjoyed listening to, and charismatic personality that brought people closer.

From experience, I knew it would be a difficult if not impossible battle to train him to sound good when feeling low confidence.  I also know that it’s easier to train NLP state management than to train someone to fight or mask low confidence.  So I recommended some coaching that would help him manage his emotions more effectively.  And we did just that.  By enabling him to manage his emotions better, he learned to short-circuit the less-confident state.  The whiny and tinny voice wouldn’t be heard from again!

Remember, emotions drive the potential behaviors we can engage in.  Resourceful emotions lead to resourceful behavior.  Unresourceful emotions lead to unresourceful behavior.  This has both positive and negative implications, but all of the implications tell us…

More NLP state management is better than less state management.

After all, if a customer inappropriately accused you of something, you might not want to bark back at them angrily.  You might instead prefer to calmly inform them of the facts, and tell them you don’t appreciate the insult.  Possibly you’d get a better result by offering them something generous you’re willing to do to make them feel better.  That would give them a way to save face, instead of responding in kind, or worse, escalating.

On the other hand, if a customer repeatedly demeans people, you might not want to operate out of fear.  It may be that they would only respect or hear someone communicating similarly to them. This does happen on occasion, that it can be brilliantly effective to meet someone exactly where they’re at, emotionally, and then dialing it down to feeling calm again.

All of this speaks to behavioral and emotional state flexibility — which is ever so valuable and useful!  So I hope you’ve learned some great ideas above.  Take them into your life and play with them!

Want to go further with NLP State Management in Business?

Great NLP training should provide this.  If it doesn’t – it flat-out isn’t great NLP training.  Great state management skills require ample time and active practicing, ideally with trainer observation and feedback.   This helps you develop the requisite reflexive emotional awareness, so this is yet another reason for avoiding short NLP certification courses.

Alternatively, if you took a short certification course already, why not take an NLP Business Practitioner course with me?  This would help you acquire the depth of skills described above.  It won’t be “repeating the course” because my course won’t look, sound or feel anything like a 5 or 7-day Practitioner course.  I focus on enabling students to acquire integrated skills, not book knowledge.  Afterwards, you’ll describe it as having been more experiential and applied; less theoretical and academic.


author: Jonathan Altfeld