Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at diversophy.com
Finally NLP for intercultural work
Fresh technologies in the intercultural field are rare but significant events and the full professional application of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is one that is long overdue. SIETAR colleagues Gesa Krämer and Stephanie Quappe have written an excellent introduction to NLP theory and practice for interculturalists, situating it well in the context of the existing models and tools of intercultural work. The work, which currently only exists in German, will we hope soon find an English edition.
Trying to find its place in the academic and entrepreneurial fields has sometimes left the intercultural field somewhat defensive and resistant to disciplines that might hurt its understanding among consumers of intercultural services. So it is not surprising that the authors take ample time at the beginning of this book to situate NLP solidly in the history and practice of intercultural learning and application, providing a fine précis of the various contributions that have built up the field before launching more deeply into the special contribution of NLP. Indeed, IC field ideas, models and practices are throughout the book related to and expanded through the tools of NLP.
The concept of culture as “mental programming” has been around for sometime. Rooted in the work on Computers and Cognition by Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd at Stanford, it was ultimately made “an intercultural household phrase” through the work of Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars. Neither of these men, however, ventures into how this programming actually works. In computer terms they spend most of their time looking at “applications” how the mind applies its programming to various situations in order to create solutions that bridge differences.
NLP, however, to continue the “programming” metaphor, looks at how lines of programming are created and anchored in the mind’s operating system itself. This opens the door not only to how one thinks culturally, but also as to how one can see how one thinks culturally, and therefore can broaden perception and change the programming or enhance it. Identifying misperceptions, biases and stereotypes and then “resetting” the mental framework to use such insights is what NLP can contribute to our praxis.
As one reads about the theory and application of NLP to intercultural work in learning and training, the reader is invited to participate in a series of thirty exercises and activities that bring home the point of each section. These exercises are conveniently gathered and explained in the Praxis (Coaching and Training) section of the book. This in itself will be a rich resource for consultants and trainers.
In its earlier incarnations, NLP was introduced to the world as a kind of “magic.” Like the work of Gestalt Therapy, it too appropriated fresh insights into perception, the working of the mind and the emotions that were in a number of cases able to unfreeze and change human behavior and heal psychological hurts in the twinkling of an eye. Indeed exploitation of some of these features both oversimplified the processes as well as temporarily tarnished the reputation of this new technology. It has, however, continued to develop, has stood the test of time, has been refined and today stands ready to offer new possibilities to intercultural communication and relations.
Neurolinguistic programming, at the intersection of psychology, linguistics and cognitive science has developed a significant language of its own. Consequently the authors have provided a glossary of close to 50 pages covering all aspects of NLP in the intercultural context. Indeed the glossary is so comprehensive that it could almost provide a second way of reading the book.
Reading this book does not make one an NLP professional per se, but does provide some of the more really useful insights and activities that seasoned practitioners may explore and apply. As in computer menus, certain functions are labeled for “advanced users,” not all NLP practices should be undertaken without some specialized training. Nonetheless, Krämer and Quappe have opened the doors to a basic understanding of NLP and it relationship to cultural work. They invite us to enter and explore and to ask questions of our praxis in the light of what we learn in this newly-added room of our intercultural shop.