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How to Use NLP to Predict People’s Behavior and Decisions

Behavior and decisions.

Once someone has taken NLP training they begin to notice that people are shockingly predictable in their behaviors and decisions. Don’t get me wrong, there is no segment in an NLP training literally called, “How to make people predictable”. However, you will find that even the Practitioner tools go a long way in figuring out how people will behave and the decisions they will make.

Today I will teach you 10 ways to use NLP to predict people’s behavior and decisions. Next week I will teach you 10 additional ways, but I’ll use personality typing, psychology, and non-verbal communication instead.

Predicting Behavior and Decisions Using NLP

Using NLP to Focus on Away and Toward Motivation

People unconsciously have preferences in the way they code and filter information (delete, distort, and generalize). These are their default “thinking strategies,” if you will. The NLP metaprograms are incredibly useful in breaking down and identifying these default strategies. One of the easiest NLP metaprograms to use for predicting how someone will behave, or the decisions they will make, is their motivation strategy.

Away Motivation

Some people are motivated by what they do NOT want – that thing that gives them a negative outcome or emotion – a pain impulse. An away-motivated person tends to talk a lot about what they do not want and becomes very predictable in their behavior and decisions. They do not jump into action and step forward into transition or change unless they feel a sense of discomfort or outright pain.

An away-motivated person may procrastinate when the pain impulse isn’t there. For example, a person who is continuously bailed out of a tough financial situation might not find a job – or keep one – unless they are forced to experience discomfort as a consequence.

Toward Motivation

When people who are motivated by what they can attain or become see the next stepping stone in front of them toward something they want, they will go for it!

A toward-motivated person will procrastinate and get stuck if they aren’t clear on what they want, what they should be moving towards, or what the requisite first steps are.

Using NLP to Focus on Internal & External Reference

Another useful and easy-to-learn NLP metaprogram to predict someone’s decisions or behaviors is understanding whose and what standards they are trying to meet. Think of standards like success or failure, right or wrong, good or bad.

External Reference

Someone who is externally referenced needs other people to set the standards and communicate them. By knowing whose standards someone is using, you can predict their decisions or behavior based on what that other person’s standards are. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that by interviewing the significant other, parent, best friend, co-workers, or boss about what their standards are, you will be better informed about how that externally-reference person will behave, or the decisions they will likely make.

Internal Reference

An internally referenced person uses their own standards. They decide wrong from right, good or bad, based on their own values. You need to start asking them questions about what their standards, rules, and criteria are. Having that information will allow you to understand what drives their behavior or choices, making them much more predictable.

How to use NLP to Predict Best & and Worst Case Scenario Thinking

Surprisingly, the metaprogram that isn’t taught by all NLP Training companies is the best-case or worst-case-scenario thinking strategy.

Worst Case Scenario Thinking

People who prefer worst-case-scenario thinking tend to focus on the obstacles they will encounter while doing a project or accomplishing a goal. They will be focusing on what potentially could go wrong. Sometimes this will allow them to mitigate or navigate risks well, but other times it can completely immobilize them.

Best Case Scenario Thinking

People who think in terms of the best-case scenario also are predictable. You can spot them because they focus on the potential opportunities in any project they step into. They become predictable in that sense.

The the 2nd Perceptual Position of NLP Part 1

If you float your awareness into someone else’s shoes and see what they would see, hear what they would hear, and feel what they would feel, they become predictable. You can get an understanding of what drives them, and a sense of how they will choose, act, or behave.

The 2nd Perceptual Position of NLP Part 2

From the space of the second perceptual position:

1. Experience their movie from the moment that the trigger for their behavior or decision happens. This can be an emotion, an event, something being said, etc.
2. Continue to see what they would see, hear what they would hear, and feel what they would feel until the moment they display the behavior or make the decision.
3. Keep playing that movie until the time after the behavior or decision – see the outcome or consequence(s).

Because people move towards pleasure and away from pain, they become predictable.

Using the 3rd Perceptual Position 1

Float your awareness out of your own or someone else’s shoes, into an observer position. A place of non-emotion. Do you get a better sense of how they will behave or decide this way?

Using the 3rd Perceptual Position 2

Also here, play the movie from before the behavior or decision all the way through, until the outcome – and even well after that.

How to use NLP to Predict Behavior and Decisions Using the Positive Intent

There is a positive intent that motivates every good or bad behavior. Making a decision is also a decision.

What specifically is the positive thing a person is trying to achieve? Think of things like safety, protection, love, acceptance, connection, etc. Understanding a person’s positive intent allows you to predict their behavior and decisions.

Values, Criteria and Beliefs

What are the criteria or unconscious drivers a person has? What is the foundation they stand on? What are their limiting beliefs? Understanding someone’s values, criteria and beliefs is perhaps the best way to begin using NLP to predict their behavior or decisions.

How to use NLP Eye-Accessing

Reading eye-accessing cues allows you to understand how someone uses their brain.

NLP Eye-Accessing: How to Know How Someone is Thinking

Conclusion: How to use NLP to Predict People’s Behavior and Decisions


NLP and Making Decisions Short Term


Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence – Shelle Charvet

Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move – Any Stanley

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions – Brian Christian

We are looking for former students who are willing to write an article about behavior or stragegic decision making.

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