“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.– Aristotle
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
If you can afford a full, high-quality NLP training, you will find it very gratifying and it will take your skills to an advanced level. This is true not only because of the material covered, but also because of the supervised practice and feedback that you will experience. There are also trainings that are brief, because they get you started on the most basic skills or because they are focused on a particular aspect of NLP. Then again, there are trainings that are brief simply because they make big promises to give you magical skills very fast. Unfortunately, these are usually the scheisters of the NLP world. Proceed with caution.
With that in mind, let’s go over the qualities of a good NLP training, whether it is a shorter or longer training.
Not just knowledge:
The training does more than merely present ideas or concepts. You can get ideas from a book or article. Books and articles, if they are good, have been prepared with a great deal of care so that the ideas are very organized. If you are going to take a training that is more information oriented, then make sure the presenter has a very organized mind. Unfortunately, many NLP trainers seem to have disorganized minds–even good trainers that have excellent NLP skills! This is why many training programs emphasize skill building and practice, and why the lecture part of the training is often somewhat scrambled or hard to understand. You’ll even see trainers with disorganized minds passing off their poor lecture skills as being an NLP technique! I have to admit that, up to a point, that may be true, but I would only trust that if people were coming out of those trainings with good skills.
Perhaps we can compare it to music. Many people have become good at performing music without understanding music theory (John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for example), and a good musician can learn music theory from books, especially if they already understand music intuitively. That intuitive understanding can actually feed their hunger to learn more of the theory of music. I think it works this way in NLP training. Many people have gotten good intuitive skills from training, and were then inspired to read voraciously in order to better understand what they, themselves were doing.
Not just confidence:
Some trainers put the high diving board over the short end of the pool, and get their participants very excited about diving from the high dive into two feet of water. This is what you get when you go to a training that does too much to motivate and build confidence, and too little to build insight and skill. This can be a disaster.
Without a good understanding of ethics, a person who is unprepared to deal with difficult problems may, without realizing it, be practicing psychotherapy without a license, and cause harm to clients.
Similarly, the student may botch an important sales or negotiation opportunity by mis-applying their limited skills with limited understanding of how they work, and how they can go terribly wrong in the hands of a beginner. Most likely, though, they will keep their common sense, but be stuck with mediocre results.
The way the trainer responds to questions, especially skeptical ones, is very revealing. If the trainer understands and handles skeptical questions in an honest, effective manner, this is very promising. A manipulative, defensive, sarcastic, or hostile response is not.
In the trainings, even if it’s a teaser training, what is the ratio of promotion to valuable content?
The training should not be a vehicle to upsell you to a more expensive training or to get you to buy products with a high markup. Of course, there is often a path of training that one can follow, and there’s no harm in having products available for purchase. The problem is that some trainers prepare a workshop that is really a teaser to motivate people to take a more expensive training.
In other words, you are paying for the privilege of participating in a prolonged commercial brain-washing experience. Often, the more expensive course is yet another stepping-stone to an even more grandiose upsell.
This one may be a bit difficult to be sure of, but try to get a sense of the trainer’s congruence.
That is, are they a living expression of what they teach?
This could be considered a controversial point, because there are trainers that have serious issues, but somehow manage to convey NLP skills quite well, according to training participants. Be that as it may, I personally feel that they convey much more than you and I are aware of, and they do this as models. Whether you know NLP or not, you are a natural modeler. Don’t you want to be around the most evolved people when you are absorbing skills from them?
You should look for consistency between what the trainer says and what they do.
Is their behavior in line with NLP presuppositions?
For example, are they curious, flexible, and able to improvise well?
Do they create rapport with most people individually and with groups that they train?
You can also look at less direct evidence.
For example, are the participants distracted and fidgety, or are they fully engaged in the training?
Good trainers usually don’t take themselves too seriously. That is, they can admit to mistakes, discuss ways to improve the program, and poke a little fun at themselves from time to time. Humor is a very valuable human trait. If the trainer’s humor is mostly about the weaknesses or vulnerabilities of others, that is a red flag.
Does the training include plenty of hands-on experience?
Like I said, you can get information from a book, but advanced skills come most effectively and efficiently from supervised experience with useful feedback. If you get great feedback about a training program, make sure the person is not dazzled by the motivational content and the charisma of the trainer.
Does the promo tell you what skills you will learn, specifically?
Will there be a way to verify that you are learning and using the skills properly?
The trainer should be able to answer these questions without a lot of hemming and hawing. The trainer (and not his or her sales manager) should be able to tell you what you are learning and should provide feedback that gets you going in the right direction. Of course, trainings often include hypnotic or metaphoric material, during which you will not be told what you are learning. In good NLP training, this is not a smokescreen. The results that prior students are getting can help verify that.
Because NLP developed mostly outside of academia and was subjected to little in the way of research, it has become a storehouse for many opinions that may prove to be clutter. That is, extra beliefs that are the junk DNA of the field. If the training previews or graduates talk about such ideas, that means the training is diluted and may be too questionable.
For example, although NLP is not built upon metaphysical beliefs, some trainers have folded in concepts from energy psychology (such as muscle testing) or new thought (such as affirmations causing things to happen). People who represent such things as NLP definitely have a poor grasp of NLP. This brings everything else they say into question.
Recognition and Certification
After putting a lot of time and money into training, people expect a certificate to show that they have achieved a level of training or mastery. It may look good on your wall, and may even impress some clients or relatives, but remember that it is not recognized by any other professional groups or licensing agencies.
Many NLP certificates are handed out with no testing of the skills of the participants. Where there is testing prior to completion, the testing may just be a written test that does not measure skill. This is not to take the wind out of your sails (or sales), but to put things into perspective.
How to “Test” the Training
Let’s talk about how you can develop confidence in selecting a program. You’ll want to consider multiple means of getting your impressions of the program, including word of mouth, and direct experience, not to mention the criteria we’ve already covered.
Consider getting some kind of free preview or less-costly shorter workshop so that you can be comfortable with the trainers and their methods. You may get more out of this than any amount of Internet chatter or book reviews. Think about what it was that affected you at a gut level, perhaps using some NLP submodalities work to deconstruct your reaction.
What are you really reacting to?
You can combine your intuitive sense and your conscious criteria in evaluating a training program. Make sure that it is not just charisma or sleight-of-hand that is moving you, for one good reason: it won’t last for long. Soon enough you’ll get back home and the trainer isn’t going to follow you around all day and keep your energy high.
Don’t forget to look for online video. Watching them present online is almost as good as being there, and will save you a lot of money if you would have to travel a long way in order to experience their training. Many trainers post videos on their sites or major video sites such as YouTube.com or even Facebook.com.
Writings and media:
Although it is no substitute for directly experiencing a trainer, you can learn a lot about how they think, about their values, and about their “voice” by reading their material.
What do people say about the trainers you are considering? Be sure you really know who will be providing the training, and how much of the training they will actually provide. You could get the wrong impression from the flyer, only to realize when it is too late that the big name trainer they listed will not do much of the training.
You can consider how much they have contributed to NLP through their writings, media, and trainings.
How original are their ideas?
Do these original ideas mean that they are contributing seminal ideas or simply that they are eccentric or grandiose (or both)?
What are people saying online or in the community?
How positive are the reviews or comments on their books or other media? And who wrote those reviews? Always look for credentials and authority in reviewers, as it could be just as easily the trainer’s competitor, posting anonymously to promote their own agenda.
Skills of previous participants:
Find a way to learn about the new skills of people who have attended the training. What are they doing with their skills, besides convincing new people to come to their trainings or become their clients? There’s a big difference between wealth that comes from a pyramid scheme, and success that comes from new skills.
Are the participants just really enthusiastic, or are they really getting good, new results from their interactions based on NLP skills?
You would expect those results to show up in at least one area of their lives, such as in their career, families, and friendships. Have they started showing uncharacteristic success in any of these areas?
I hope this gives you the confidence to move ahead with NLP, regardless of how much you have to spend or how much time you have.