Is NLP Becoming More Popular than Old-Fashioned Magic?

Is NLP Becoming More Popular than Old-Fashioned Magic?

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Neuro-linguistic programming – known as NLP – is often touted by any people as being the new way of thinking and developing as a person, as well as a professional. In some ways, it is a way of changing how people think and their perceptions of an event, which is how magicians have long performed their craft.

What is NLP?
NLP is the practice of understanding how people organise their thoughts, emotions, language and behaviour to produce that results that they do.

When you understand your own pattern, according to NLP practitioners, you change your thought processes which should produce different results.

It is also a means by which people can model themselves on others. For example, Richard Branson has had phenomenal business success. My understanding how he thinks, using language, understanding his emotions and so on, people can ‘copy’ these trains of thought – and possibly emulate his success too.

NLP acknowledges that we create our own unique mental maps of the world around us, utilising our five senses. The three key elements of NLP are defined as:

  • Neuro – everyone establishes their own unique filtering system for the millions of bits of data that we absorb on a minute by minute basis. We create internal images, sounds, tactile awareness, sensations, tastes, and smells.
  • Linguistic – we then go on to assign personal meaning to this information we receive. This is the second mental map and from this our conscious awareness is raised.
  • Programming – this is the behavioural response to these filtering processes.

NLP and magic – is there a link?
The likes of Dynamo and Derren Brown offer an intriguing insight into how we perceive certain visual information and clues. There are those of which we are aware, but there are also cues that we process without being conscious of them, or overtly aware.

In essence, illusionists and magicians take advantage of a fundamental fact – attention is limited.

For example, some people say that no one reads online. What their intended meaning is, is that people do not give the written word on the screen the full attention that it needs. They take a quick look, maybe skim read over a paragraph or two in order to get an idea of what the intended meaning is.

Science tells us that our attention span is limited. We focus on a small amount of content and then everything outside of this content although still in sight, is essential ‘blurry’. These blurrier parts are known as the ‘fringe’ and the ‘margin.’

By focusing on one small spot, you miss all kinds of information that goes on in the fringes and the margins. With so much information bombarding us, we miss a lot of this information.

Magicians and illusionists manage our attention.

It is as simple and as complex as that. There are other people who manage our attention:

  • A psychologist does it as part of an experiment
  • When a pick-pocket does it, they steal something from our person, and it is a

Love it or hate it, magic is a means by which perception and awareness are altered by the person performing the magic. Most of the time, people see this as fascinating, cool and at times, simply incredible. It is also fun and light-hearted, with magicians or illusionists rarely using it as a means to instil fear into someone.

This is how NLP and magic are similar but this is true of many other things in life too:

  • Anticipate objections – every day, we make judgements based on our own objections and assumptions. When this spring into our minds, we answer them.
  • Intentions – when an illusionist carries out a trick, they are deeply aware of how their audience with define and reflect on the information being given to them. No one can walk on water, but Dynamo did – and he did it on the surface of the River Thames in London.
  • Re-direct attention – people will look for the secret platform, hidden beneath the surface of the water. Dynamo understood that this is what people would do; it is an obvious assumption and action don’t you think? So he drew attention away from this by redirecting people’s focus on to another part of what he was doing (or not doing).

NLP is used in all kind of facets
From marketing and promotional work, to magicians and psychologists – changing how people think and their perceptions of an object or a process is something that happens to us every day.

From a magician understanding at what point the audience will object the trick and showing them something else, to an advertiser understanding that drawing attention away from something less than perfect is an accepted promotional technique, completing Neuro Linguistic Courses provide a great platform for improved understanding of what makes people tick – and why.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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