Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a popular theory used in the world of coaching. It focuses on how people perceive and make meaning of their world and works with these perceptions to help people understand and make changes to the way they perceive their world.

In this article, we explore some techniques used by NLP practitioners.


As many of the current theoretical models advocate, rapport is an essential ingredient in building the relationship between coach and client. Within the theory of NLP, it too states that rapport is essential to any successful communication including the coaching environment and that it is one of the three essential elements for creating change (Collingwood & Collingwood, 2001).

Rapport, in NLP, is developed through the use of a number of aspects including:

  1. Matching the representation systems.
  2. Matching body rapport including posture, breathing, gestures and eye blink rate.
  3. Matching voice rapport including tone/pitch, volume, timbre/resonance, speed and intonation pattern.

Read through the following and have a go at the exercise in your own time.

Practising Rapport: “To practise rapport building, matching another person’s non-verbal signals; the rate and rhythm of their movements, the rate of their breathing, the rate of blinking their eyes, and the postures they assume. If they do something which would be uncomfortable for you, match it by doing something else in the same rhythm. This is called cross pacing.

When non-verbal signals are relatively easy to match, turn your attention to their voice. Match the relative pitch between theirs and yours; match the rhythm and speed of speech, the resonance and the intonation patterns” (Collingwood and Collingwood, 2001).


Reframing is a technique used in NLP to consider a situation or conflict from another perspective to bring about change. For example, Kelly has just separated from her husband of ten years and is feeling uncertain about her future. A reframe of this situation could be that Kelly can now go out and investigate what she likes and focus on herself for a while.

There are numerous techniques used by NLP practitioners working with clients to reframe a situation. We will now investigate one such reframing technique.

Reframing With Two or More Parts: This technique is used when two or more parts are in conflict with each other. For example, work versus leisure. It investigates the intent of each part (ie. Work pays my bills which makes me happy vs. leisure time make me happy) and invites them to work towards the same intent (makes me happy) to lessen the inner conflict (ie. I have to work to pay my bills so I can enjoy my leisure time and this makes me happy).

Let us investigate the steps that can be applied to coaching (adapted from Collingwood & Collingwood, 2001). There is an example of the steps on the script below.

  1. Externalise each part that has an interest in the conflict. This can be by imagining each part outside yourself, see a representation of the part, hear it as a voice, or feel it outside your body. See the diagram to the right for a visual representation. Refer to lines 9 to 12 in the script.
  2. Assume each part has a positive intention, purpose or function for its behaviour. Invite each part to state its intention both to conscious awareness and to the other part/s involved. This can be done by expressing the intent as images, in words or in feelings. For example, the intent of work is to earn money. The intent of leisure is to have fun. Refer to lines 13 to 14 of the script below.
  3. If the intents of the parts seem incompatible, investigate the intents further (ie. the intent of the intent of the intent) until coming to a mutually compatible intent. For example, the intent of work is to earn money to pay my bills so that I can live comfortably and have leisure time which makes me happy. The intent of leisure is to have fun to make me happy.
  4. Now ask the parts if they would prefer to integrate with each other to become one composite part or if they would prefer to work together in mutual cooperation. Acknowledge the responses and ask them to wait until you invite them to proceed. Refer to lines 21 to 22 of the script.
  5. Turn your attention inward and ask yourself if there are any objections or concerns in relation to integrating the parts. For example, how do I feel about these parts working together or becoming one? If there are objections, use the same process to establish intent and do not proceed until all objections are clarified (ie. go back to step 2). Refer to lines 23 to 24 of the script.
  6. Invite the parts to either integrate with each other to become one composite part or work together in mutual cooperation (depending on what was decided in Step 5). The diagram shows a visual representation of this step. Refer to lines 25 to 26 of the script.
  7. Now ask the new super part to integrate back into your body and spread evenly through all your physical and personal space. See the diagram for a visual representation. Refer to lines 27 to 28 of the script.
  8. Now imagine being in a similar situation where the conflict had arisen before and ask yourself the following questions: How is it different? Is it more comfortable, resourceful and useful? Refer to lines 29 to 30 of the script.

Adapted from: Collingwood, J., & Collingwood, C. (2001). The NLP Field Guide. Double Bay, NSW: Emergent Publications.


The transcript begins as a normal coaching session with the coach working towards establishing rapport with the client through matching voice and body movements.

Coach: Hello (name), welcome to your first coaching session. What brings you to my office today?

Client: Well, I’m just so frustrated with work at the moment.

Coach: Mm-hmm.

Client: I’m just sick of having to go to work… I just got back from holidays and it was great not to have to worry about anything and just have a great time.

Coach: So, you feeling frustrated with work and you’d rather be on holidays.

Client: Yes, that’s correct.

Coach: I’d like to do an activity with you to look at the situation at hand. Would that be ok with you?

Client: Yes that’s fine.


Coach: Let’s get started. Firstly I want you to externalise each part- one for work and one for leisure. I would like you to imagine the parts outside of your body as a representation.

Client: (Imagining that one side they see the word “work” and on the other side “leisure”).

Coach: How did you go with that?

Client: (using hands to explain the process) Great, I am visualising the word “work” on my left side and “leisure” to my right.


Coach: Now what I’d like you to do is to assume each part- work and leisure- has a positive intention. It is important for each intention to be positive so that we can move forwards. State each intention out loud for me.

Client: Ok… The intention for work is to pay my bills. The intention for holidays is to have fun.


Coach: Great… Let’s look at the intention of work for a moment… to pay your bills. What is the intent of paying your bills?

Client: So that I can afford to live comfortably and take holidays.

Coach: And what is the intent of you being able to live comfortably and take holidays?

Client: To make me happy.

Coach: Let us take a look at your holiday intent… What is the intent of having fun?

Client: I guess it is to make me happy also.


Coach: Excellent, so both underlying intents are to make you happy! Now for each part, ask them if they would like to integrate with one another or whether you would like them to work separately in mutual cooperation.

Client: They would like to integrate to become one.


Coach: Ok, now what I want to do to is ask yourself how you feel about the two parts becoming one. Are there any concerns or objections that you might have?

Client: (thinking) No, I am ok with that.


Coach: Now I would like you to visualise these two parts coming together in front of you.

Client: (thinking)


Coach: (pause whilst client is thinking) Once you have done that, I want you to visualise bringing this one super part back into your body spreading throughout your personal and physical space.

Client: (thinking)


Coach: (pause whilst client is thinking) I want to take you back to the thought of preferring to be on holidays and not going to work. How do you feel now?

Client: I feel ok with going to work because that will lead to my happiness.


  • Collingwood, J., & Collingwood, C. (2001). The NLP Field Guide. Double Bay, NSW: Emergent Publications.