NLP Liverpool

Coaching Tips

The Keys To Effective Coaching.

Part 4 - Unconscious Behaviours.

“Man is largely a creature of habit, and many of his activities are more or less
automatic reflexes from the stimuli of his environment.

G. Stanley Hall (American Psychologist d. 1924)

A picture of squared papre and the sum 5 times 5 equals
Five times Five is...

What is it you do, that you don’t have to think about? What skills have you learnt, that seem to come naturally? What are the unconscious skills and behaviours you have learned that keep you safe or let you achieve?

Our unconscious is very powerful, it generates behaviours that are vital for our survival. Without these unconscious behaviours, we’d have to actively think about how to do everything we do, and I really do mean everything! Breathing, walking, talking, driving a car, playing an instrument, all these actions, to a greater or lesser degree, involve unconscious behaviours.

Some things we learn as babies, like crying to attract attention and communicate. New parents quickly come to recognise the different cries a baby makes, there’s the one that says “I’m hungry”, the one that says “I’m uncomfortable, you need to change my nappy” and of course, there’s the one that says “I’m awake, I’m bored, give me some attention”.

As time goes on, we learn more and more things, like reading, writing, arithmetic and how to behave in certain situations.

Some of the things we learn are helpful, they keep us safe, happy, productive and creative.

Some of the things we learn are, perhaps, less helpful. Of course, they have a positive intention driving them, yet the outcome may not be ideal.

Fears, phobias, anxieties, procrastination, and bad habits will often limit us and they are all driven by unconscious behaviours. If you had to actively remember you were afraid of spiders, you’d probably forget. Instead, people who are afraid of spiders will instantly exhibit the fear or phobia even at the mere mention of them. (My apologies to those people reading this article, though I’m sure you get my point.)

This is why, when we are helping our clients achieve the results they desire, we need to help them change these behaviours at the unconscious level.

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
John Dryden (English Poet d.1700)

Drawing attention to unconscious behaviours helps prepare the unconscious mind to make changes at this unconscious level.

Think of it as the final raking of the seedbed before sowing a new lawn. I mean, sure, you could simply dig over the soil once and sow the grass seed. Some of it may grow and some of it may not, but you’d end up with a very uneven surface that would be unsightly and of little recreational use.

Instead, if, after we’ve ploughed or turned over the soil, we use something to break down the large clumps of earth and turn it into a fine, even tilth, we’d have an ideal seedbed to accept the new grass seed. Once we’ve sown the seed, we’d then use a roller to firm the seedbed around the seeds and create a level surface for the new lawn that will be both attractive and useable. (There’s a lot more to this… a story for another time.)

So, what are the unconscious behaviours that we can draw attention to?

“… like multiplication isn’t something you do consciously,
someone says “five times five” and bam! 25 pops out of the middle of nowhere”

Richard Bandler

Multiplication is a great example of unconscious behaviour that is learned at an early age, I suspect almost every adult can multiply 5 times 5 without much thought. Leading the client to multiplication as an example also helps to make enhancing submodalities even easier. When we instruct the client to “Double the size of the image…” they have already been reminded of how easy multiplication can be, and so doubling the image becomes an automatic process. Once again, we know unconsciously how to double something, so it requires very little conscious thought to process the instruction.

Other examples could be simple tasks like brushing our teeth, opening our front door, feeding ourselves etc. etc. – all these tasks are learned early in life and become unconscious processes.

Choose examples that your client can relate to – a musician will practise something until they get “muscle memory” for the piece, a footballer will train until they can effortlessly place the ball where it needs to be etc. etc. For corporate work, you might choose more complex examples, like logging into the IT systems etc. The important thing is that we use examples that require very little conscious thought.

What examples would you choose?

Next time, we’ll look at the power of “Pattern interrupts”.

© NLP Liverpool Limited 2023

A picture of old keys -The Keys to effective coaching
The Keys to effective coaching