Did you know that manipulation and influence aren’t the same? One is conducted for selfish reasons, the other, to improve or change. While we know that outright manipulation is a negative thing, we cannot say this 100% about influence.

For example, we influence our children in hopes they will become mature and respected adults, right? Yes, and influence can also be used in the workplace to help employees improve on the job. Scientists call this neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and it can also be used for both good or bad reasons.

What is neuro-linguistic programming and where did it come from?

NLP is a psychological method that involves using body language, patterns, and expressions to gauge and influence someone in one way or the other. This influence is designed to achieve a goal, either negative or positive.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder came up with the term “NLP” in the 70s’. Abandoning “talk therapy”, they decided to focus on tactics that bring behavioral change instead, and this is what neuro-linguistic programming was about. In fact, it’s an evolution of certain aspects of hypnotherapy.

But unlike hypnotherapy, which requires the subject to be under suggestion while in a trance, NLP uses subtle suggestions on the subconscious mind of a person who is wide awake. And this person never even knows it’s happening.

How does it work?

By watching slight clues, a person can use NLP to determine a few basic things about another individual. Neuro-linguistic programming looks at nervous movements, skin flush, dilation of pupils, and even the movement of the eyes. These little indicators answer three questions.

  • What sense is the person using? (sight, hearing, smell)
  • Whether they are lying or not
  • Which side of the brain is currently being used
  • How their brain storage works and how they utilize the information

After these questions are answered, then the NPLer can mimic these. Copying these indicators helps build rapport between the two. In order to “influence” someone, it’s best to be in a sort of agreement with their body language.

While it can be difficult to completely change the mindset of another person, you can use NLP to guide them toward a decision they were rolling over in their brains just by copying them.

However, this technique can be used on you, and you might not even know it. No matter if it’s manipulation or influence, it can definitely feel like you’re being unwillingly persuaded if not used in a completely positive manner  – a manner that is productive leading to an improvement in your life.

Regardless, here are signs that say NLP is being used on you:

1. Copying your mannerisms

Pay attention to those around you. When you do certain things, or use certain body language, does someone seem to be copying those things? If you’re with a friend, is your friend doing this to you? Watch them.

Are they crossing their legs when you do? Are they pushing strands of hair away from their face right after you make this movement? Some people are better at covering these movements than others, but if you really watch, you will catch them.

2. They use the magic touch

Neuro-linguistic programming enables a person to have what seems to be a magic touch. For instance, if you’re upset about something and they touch your shoulder, and then, later on, they touch your shoulder again and you get upset about the same topic, they have anchored you.

According to Bandler and Grinder, this actually works. If you notice it happening, then you know someone is using the NLP technique on you.

3. They use vague language

If you’ve ever been hypnotized, then you’ve been under the power of vague language. This type of gibberish doesn’t mean anything. It’s used to get you into a certain state of mind. It’s not really nonsense, as far as understanding the actual words, it’s just sentences that seem to say a lot but actually say nothing.

Let me see if I can give you an example of this:

“I see you are entering the space of your present being and letting go of what you are in the present but repeating the present in order to enter that space.”

Whew, that was hard for me to concoct, but hopefully, it made no sense so I could prove my point. Anyway, NLPers use this sort of language.

4. The pressure to make quick decisions

You will notice that someone is using neuro linguistic programming when you are being pressured to make a quick decision about something. If you’re like me, you need some time to think things over before making many choices. Not everything in life can be a quick yes or no.

In fact, along with pressure for quick decision making, you will be pushed ever so slightly toward the answer they want to hear. Watch out, and tell them that you need more time.

5. They use layered language

People who are skilled in neuro-linguistic programming use layered language to get what they want. In case you don’t know what layered language is, here’s an example: “I think we should all be productive, sharp, and brave enough to make quick decisions…you know, not like slackers.”

Remember, I just mentioned pressuring people about making quick decisions. Well, that layered language will work in two ways, it will pressure you and it will intend to bring about guilt for needing time to think about things. Watch out for hidden tricks within sentences.

6. Giving permission to do what they want

One of the most interesting signs of those who have undergone NLP training is permission pressure. If you’re the NLPer, then maybe you want someone to give you money. Just say,

“Go ahead and let go of your selfish nature. Here, try it with me”, or “Feel free to use me as the next first selfless deed.”

While these may not be the best decisions, I think you can get the idea of what I’m saying. You’re supposed to think that your interests come first and they are important, but with negative usage of NLP, it’s the opposite.

You will know them by the way they give you permission to do what they want. It sounds twisty and it is. They will say, “Feel free to let yourself go and have a good time”, all the while they are getting to take advantage of you.

If they happen to have good intentions, then maybe they’re truly trying to help you relax. Either way, be wary of anything like this.

Honestly, NLP can be used for good or bad

Yes, it’s true, while there are those who try to take advantage of you with neuro-linguistic programming, there are also those who use it to help you become a better person, slightly nudging you toward something you need to do. In this case, it’s a good thing.

If you have a good heart, you may want to learn neuro-linguistic programming to help someone. You can learn to detect when something is wrong with someone, or when you need to intervene in order to sway their decision-making process, which is rare but sometimes needed. You see, it can serve as a good tool for many people.

However, I will just leave it at this. You should always be aware of your surroundings, no matter what. If someone is your true friend, you will know it soon enough.

If you gain the ability to use NLP, make sure you use it for the good of society and not for the bad. Let’s keep moving forward.

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Jan C.

    Great in-depth words written here!
    Awesome work Sherrie! 🙂

    1. Sherrie Hurd

      Thank you for reading, Jan. I hope you enjoyed.

  2. Hrvoje

    I like this article it explained NLP very well. Gret job.
    Only one thing has to be changed

    What sense is the person using?
    Instead of this (sight, hearing, smell)
    (visual, auditive, kinesthetic) type of pearson

    Keep it that way. 🙂

  3. Xel Wilbur

    I, absolutely, LOVE this information. I’m stumbled upon NLP while researching for my podcast and this gave me what I needed and more. Thank you for this.

  4. Heather Rachelle drennon (young)

    What steps do I need to take in order to prove my ex and his well connected friends have intentionally done this to make me suffer horribly?

  5. Mat

    Very insightful. Thank you

  6. linda

    im waiting for heathers answer as well

  7. Chris


  8. Edith Hellyer Felker

    I think it is negatively used on me, but I still don’t understand how to tell. What is the technique that is used that when you get exasperated (my husband left chickens in the oven overnight two nights in a row) they can then use it on you to scream the next day when you are not a screamer and can use it to get you to criticize when you have only criticized when it is life-threatening to change your personality and make people dislike you. These same people have poisoned me multiple times and I have always been known for my sweet personality so this is very discouraging. My niece Lucia told my mother she was getting a PhD in NLP. I saw that Tony Robbins was teaching it on his website and I am afraid of him. It has been used as a weapon against me extensively and I am suffering today from it.

  9. Parker

    Would also like to know heather’s answer. :/ You’re not alone girl!

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