5 NLP Techniques Every Life Coach Should Know

NLP techniques offer something that is surprisingly hard to find in the field of life coaching: Step-by-step tools for change.

This is the number one reason life coaches come to the iNLP Center for training. We hear this all the time, “I want to learn NLP coaching because I need tools and that’s what I’ve heard NLP is all about.”

Yes. Even coaches who have their certification already come to learn NLP, saying, “I know I have my coaching certification, but now I need practical skills.”

That alone is interesting. Why didn’t they get practical skills in their first life coach training? No matter! The point is, NLP has a brilliant reputation among life coaches as the ultimate set of life coaching skills.

NLP techniques are typically step-by-step processes that serve as recipes for change. Follow the recipe as if you were baking a cake and change will soon follow. It doesn’t work like magic. Rather, these methods are well-considered and thoroughly tested processes.

Each NLP technique is intended to deliver a certain kind of solution. Once you understand what to do when, you’ll have an impressive tool kit that will serve you and your clients over many years.

NLP techniques make Neuro-Linguistic Programming one of the most powerful transformation skills in the life coaching industry.

Where Do NLP Techniques Come From?

Originally, NLP techniques came by modeling gifted psychotherapists like Milton Erickson, Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir. The point of modeling these therapists was to break down the patterns of their success so that others can learn to get similar results.

The most impressive thing about the NLP techniques is that they work! Proper use of NLP techniques requires training but the potential for radically improving your effectiveness as a coach is staggering.

How easy is it to learn NLP techniques?

That depends.

Imagine you are visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. As a tourist, you are enjoying an introduction to French culture. Of course, once the vacation ends, of course, you will not leave France knowing what the locals know. That would be impossible unless you actually lived like a local for an extended period of time.

Sometimes learning NLP techniques is like buying a tourist guidebook. Imagine learning a few simple French phrases. 

  • Good morning
  • My name is…
  • Excuse me
  • Do you speak English?

Once you have mastered 20 phrases like these, you may be able to get around Paris a little easier, but you are far from fluent in the native tongue.

It’s easy to learn the basics of NLP; no more difficult than learning a few phrases in a foreign language. Unfortunately, many who learn a few basic NLP techniques believe they have mastered the entire field.

Many popular NLP trainers fall into this category. They position NLP as a set of magical techniques and promote it as a quick fix to life’s toughest challenges. It’s like claiming a two-week vacation will turn you into an expert on the culture.

It’s perfectly fine to learn the lite version of NLP for some specific reason or out of pure curiosity, just like learning a few phrases of French can be helpful for tourists. Life coaches, however, need a deeper and more holistic skill set.

5 NLP Techniques Every Life Coach Should Learn

A lot of coaching centers teach NLP techniques without crediting NLP. It’s ok if you just want to get the outcome, although it’s a good idea to learn in context if you want to go deeper and have more possibilities.

#1: Rapport Building

concept on the theme of communication between people, vector

How do you inspire people to make difficult changes? It begins with rapport. In the absence of this kind of goodwill, it’s hard to get people to do anything, really.

If you have high enough rapport, however, people will take your ideas and questions seriously. And what is the basis for rapport?


We all tend to like people who are like us. And we tend to be wary of people who are not like us. If you were tasked to meet a stranger at a bus stop and build rapport, it might occur to you to strike up a conversation and be on the lookout for shared interests, right?

NLP takes commonality to an entirely new level. While most people seek to build rapport by finding things in common verbally, NLP practitioners also seek to build rapport by finding common ground non-verbally. This is why NLP rapport techniques work so well. Non-verbal communication is much more influential than verbal communication.

Non-verbal matching and mirroring are the NLP techniques used to create rapport. Once you use them, you’ll swear by them as much as we do.

#2: Perceptual Positions

There are three sides to every story. My sideyour side, and the truth. And no one is lying.

~ Robert Evans

And no one is lying! If a coach doesn’t know how to discover all three sides of a story, it will limit the coaching. This is where NLP perceptual positions come into play.

Using perceptual positions mentally and emotionally prepares the client to adopt three very different points of view (self, other and observer). As the client explores each position, the shift in perspective is unavoidable.

With the smooth and rapid mindset shifts that accompany this NLP technique, clients commonly find the missing piece; the key awareness that reframes everything. How can you not feel differently when actually seeing a situation from a totally different point of view?

And how much wiser are those who are not limited to one narrow perspective?

#3: Milton Model

The Milton Model shows the practitioner how to communicate in ways that resonate with the client’s inner truth. Some call it hypnotic language, which uses the same concepts that lead people into a trance when hypnosis is used.

In this case, however, the NLP coach uses hypnotic language to help the client discover inner resources and apply them in ways the client determines most beneficial. Who knew you didn’t need to go into a formal trance in order to draw out the unconscious mind’s resources?

#4: Meta-model

nlp meta model technique for life coaches
pin with You Are Here text, stuck into a map with magnifying glass

You’ve heard people use over-generalizations by saying something like “Everyone does that” or “I’m always late.” You know it’s not true but at the same time, is it really worth challenging?

In coaching, it may very well be worth challenging our clients’ generalizations. In fact, when you examine language from the perspective of the Meta Model, you learn all manner of precise ways to get more specific.

The meta-model shows us how to get results like the following real client case in which a manager was discussing an employee.

Client: My assistant, John, is always late! It bugs me so much. He’s on the verge of getting fired. I’ve about had enough.

Coach: Yes, I can see that. Is John always late? Has he ever showed up on time for anything at all?

Client: Well, not always. Not literally every single day.

Coach: How often is he late, specifically?

Client: I guess I’d have to check my records. Yeah, ok, John is late an average of 2 days per week. That’s still not OK but not as bad as I imagined.

Coach: Given that John is late two days per week, what’s the best approach in your opinion?

Client: I suppose it would be to figure out if there is a pattern to it that makes sense. Is it the same two days every week? I’d have to check. But I should figure out what’s really going on here.

Now the conversation looks very different, doesn’t it? By clarifying one common generalization, this client changed her perspective and decided to learn more about the situation before taking action.

The NLP meta-model is a systematic approach to getting the right information on the table.

#5: Timeline

nlp techniques - timeline - inlp center

Some people believe that dealing with the past is strictly within the real of psychotherapy or counseling. Life coaches, they say, have no business referencing the past.

This would be merely silly if it were possible, but it isn’t. There is no way to speak to someone about improving their circumstance in life without referencing the past. Everything you know how to do; every word that comes out of your mouth is informed by your past.

Reading this blog post wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t able to draw upon a vast array of learning that took place in the past.

Among the classic NLP techniques, Timeline is more than a step-by-step process to create personal change. It’s an actual mental structure that outlines how your unconscious mind organizes the past, present, and future.

Knowing how to help the client discover and use their built-in timeline is a shortcut to drawing on resources from the past and creating a compelling future as well.


If you move to France and immerse yourself in the culture, over time the language will begin to sink in. Not only the language, but the customs, history and daily habits of the locals will expand your awareness like no guidebook or 2-week vacation ever could. Then, a whole new world of experience opens before you.

In time, you are speaking French fluently, without needing to translate the words in your mind. You even begin to dream in the language. The language and culture have taken on their own meaning for you. When you return home, you are a different person with a much broader perspective on the world that would not have been possible otherwise.

In the latter experience, you haven’t just learned so many French words and phrases. You’ve learned a new form of communication. You can combine words and phrases, often with all of the subtlety and nuances that a native speaker uses, to form the precise meaning you want. More than that, you’ve made new friends and adopted a new culture that will forever influence your life.

The unconscious mind and non-verbal communication patterns represent a second language for all of us. Learning a few NLP techniques is the tourist guidebook version of NLP. This is fine for personal development tourists but not for tour guides.

To get an in-depth education in NLP, consider an NLP Practitioner training. This will give you excellent training of the most popular techniques and teach you how to use them to improve your life and those around you.

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