The 6 Essential NLP Skills to Master for a Firm Foundation

Having trained and mentored hundreds of NLP Practitioners and coaches over the past few years, I recognize that so many practitioners (new and experienced) do not have a firm foundation on many of the core skills of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

While it is possible coach somebody or even run an NLP pattern with somebody without necessarily having these skills dialed in… when someone has these foundational skills mastered is when the change work really begins to come together and operate like magic.

When I really locked in these foundational skills for myself is when I began to get much more consistent results, my change work became much more smooth, and I became much more attuned and present to the person I was working with rather than the ‘technique’.

In the beginning practicing NLP can be a bit like learning to drive a car…. so many things to pay attention to… but whether you are a beginner, novice, or NLP pro — take some time to lock in these NLP essential skills for a dramatic increase in results.

Skill #1: Rapport

I know it seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how often I see coaches/practitioners get lazy or completely overlook getting rapport with their client/the person who they are communicating with.

Do you ever forget to build rapport in your communications?

Do you ever overlook rapport building as too basic or unimportant?

How quick are you to recognize when rapport is broken in a conversation?

How effective are you at rebuilding rapport once it is broken?

Without rapport communication is met with resistance, and when resistance is present the conversation is going nowhere until rapport is re-established.

To be an excellent communicator and coach requires knowing when and how to build rapport, as well as the ability to recognize when rapport is broken.  It also requires having the behavioral flexibility to take full responsibility for any break in rapport and the capability to shift yourself in order to reestablish it.

Skill #2: Calibration

Calibration is when the NLP practitioner uses their senses to take a ‘baseline’ snapshot of the verbal and non-verbal cues of another person in a particular context.  These baselines are held in the practitioner’s memory for future reference to see if any shifts have occurred.

When we don’t calibrate to the people we are communicating with/coaching we miss out on valuable information that lets us know whether we are moving closer to achieving our outcomes.

How strong are your calibration skills?

Do you remember to calibrate the different states in your client throughout your conversation?

Do you use your senses to recognize whether or not a change has occurred, or do you have to ask your client?

So often I see coaches and practitioners so deep in their own thoughts and what they are going to say next that they completely miss out on the important non-verbal cues in their clients.

Without effectively calibrating to the verbal and non-verbal cues of those whom we are communicating with it is extremely difficult to recognize if we are being effective.

Skill #3: State Elicitation

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is all about working with states.  As coaches and practitioners we need to effectively elicit problem states, outcome states, as well as resource states in our clients if we expect to get lasting results.

How effective are you at eliciting states in others?

How many different methods do you have to elicit states? And to break states?

Can you do it directly? Indirectly? Overtly? Covertly? 

How good are your calibration skills to recognize your effectiveness?

If we aren’t effectively eliciting states our clients will tend to talk about experiences, changes and transformations without necessarily experiencing them… a big no-no for a Coach/Practitioner!

Skill #4:  Anchoring

In my years of experience as an NLP Trainer I have found that a lot of practitioners are extremely weak in their anchoring skills.   Either they were poorly trained in how to execute a proper anchor, they didn’t take time to practice anchoring, or they just ‘trusted’ that their anchors worked well and never took the time to actually test their work and get the feedback they need to improve.

So with that being said…

How effective are you in your anchoring skills?

Can you anchor overtly? Covertly?

Can you anchor in all representational systems?  

How effective are you at self-anchoring?

Getting smooth with my anchors was a key to dramatically increasing my effectiveness as a coach.  It saves me a lot of time in my coaching conversations, creates magical seeming results and adds another layer of resources that I can use to facilitate my clients to achieve their outcomes.

Skill #5: Outcome Setting

Another set of questions that seem obvious but…

How often do you set outcomes for yourself?

Do you set outcomes for your clients for each coaching contract?

Do you set outcomes for your client in each and every session to measure your effectiveness?

Do you hold them accountable to the outcomes that you set?

Do you check the outcomes against all of the NLP well-formedness conditions?

While setting well-formed outcomes is not the flashiest of NLP skills and tools it was by far the most influential and life-changing for me when I first learned NLP – and is a foundational skill in terms of becoming a masterful practitioner.

Skill #6: Precision Questioning

Precision questioning was the original model that all of NLP was built upon, and it remains as one of the most important skills now as much as ever.

How often do you recognize the generalizations of your clients as opposed to getting sucked into them as truths?

How effective are you are grounding your coaching conversations into real life experiences rather than having a nice fluffy conversation about life?

How skilled are you in making subjective outcomes and experiences measurable so you and your clients can track your results, celebrate your progress, and justify your work together?

Practicing the precision questions of NLP and getting a firm foundation with the NLP Meta-Model is an absolute requirement to being effective as a coach, self-coach, and practitioner.


So there you have it!  Mastering these 6 skills will dramatically increase your effectiveness as a coach and practitioner and will build you the firm foundation you need to be masterful in endeavour your set yourself out on.  What do you think about that?

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out or comment below. I’m here to help!

To setting strong roots on which to grow,

Jason Schneider

Founder of Perception Academy

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