NLP Strategies

Behind human behaviors are strategies that control and control it. NLP has developed methods to study the strategies of experts, e.g., the Walt Disney creativity strategy. In this way, motivational, learning, sales and decision-making processes can also be optimized.

Table of Contents

  1. What are strategies?
  2. Walt Disney Strategy
  3. The TOTE Model
  4. NLP Notation
  5. Eliciting a strategy
  6. Conditions for the structural Well-formedness of strategies
  7. Installing a strategy
  8. Examples of strategies
    1. Spelling strategy
    2. Flexibility strategy
    3. Love strategy
    4. Decision strategy
    5. Utilization of strategies
  9. Planning context tags and decision points
  10. Streamlining strategies
  11. Redesigning strategies
  12. Installing strategies
  13. Installing with the help of anchors
  14. Disrupting strategies
  15. Sources of error when installing a strategy

1. What are strategies?

Strategies are the way we organize our thoughts and behaviors to accomplish a task.

There are so-called macro and micro strategies. For example, if someone sets themselves the task of becoming a successful sociologist, then the macro strategy would be the gradual build-up of that career: graduation, doctorate summa cum laude. Publications, employment at a prestigious university, post-doctorate, etc.

The micro strategies relate to e.g., the way a person learns, writes or presents himself successfully and efficiently. These micro strategies can be analyzed as specific processes within the sensory systems. They describe a specific internal processing of sensory perceptions. This also means that strategies are formal structures - specific procedures - that are initially completely independent of the content.

Each strategy also includes certain attitudes and beliefs. In this case, for example, being successful is possible and important for me. I am talented and have the skills to pursue such a career, etc.

Strategies are like the recipe with which we bake a cake: what matters is the ingredients, the amount of each ingredient (whether an egg or ten) and the order in which we put them together. It makes a difference whether we add the egg before, during or after baking in the oven. That means, the order of what we do within a strategy is as important as what we do, even if everything happens within a few seconds. The ingredients of a strategy are the representational systems, and the quantities and qualities are the submodalities. The recipe is the broad strokes of the strategy, the individual steps like e.g., the mixing of the dough are the micro-units of this strategy. The beliefs in successful baking might be: baking a cake is possible / I can learn it and do it successfully / it's worth it, the cake will taste good.

In NLP we investigate such strategies with the aim of finding out what someone is doing exactly, if he is doing something successfully, then making this ability available to others to whom they have not yet been available. That is, strategies are an essential part of modeling.

Of course, we also analyze strategies that are less successful in order to find ways to improve them.

There are different types of strategies, namely, decision, motivation, learning, creativity, relaxation and recovery strategies, flirting strategy, mate choice strategy to name but a few.

The term strategy is used in NLP to refer to mental processes that enable a person to translate their abilities into concrete behaviors in accordance with their beliefs and values. In NLP we assume that these processes can be described consciously and / or unconsciously through a sequence of sensory representations (VAKOG). These VAKOGs, which lead to a certain action, are usually partly purely internal, partly outwardly directed procedures.

2. Walt Disney Strategy

What is the Walt Disney Strategy? Here, Walt Disney's Macro Strategy for goal setting with the positions of the dreamer, the planner and the critic is presented and instructions for implementing this strategy are provided.

3. The TOTE Model

The T.O.T.E Model shows in a simple way how human learning works. The basic structure of this model explains the usual steps of a learning process: Test - Operate - Test - Exit.

4. NLP Notation/Shorthand

Representational systems

A:auditory (hearing)
K:kinesthetic (feeling/sensing)
O:olfactory (smelling)
G:gustatory (tasting)


r: recalled
c: constructed
in: internal


+ positive
- negative

Aex : auditory - external
Ain : auditory - internal (inner dialogue, inner commentary)
Kex : kinesthetic external
Vc : visual constructed

Syntactical symbols

-> : leads to
/ : simultaneous auditory (hearing) and visual perception (synesthesia)
Vin -> K+ -> Ain -> K-

Sequence of sensory impressions and representations.
Translated: A visual idea (me on a palm beach) leads to a pleasant feeling (joy), followed by an inner commentary ("Crap, I have no time for this"), which then leads to an unpleasant feeling (frustration).

5. Eliciting a strategy

A is a subject, B asks, C notes the sequences and observes.


1. Preparation

  1. Lead A to the experience

  2. Set the frame for the questions

2. Collect information

  1. Identify the broad strokes of the strategy

  2. Question for the sensory-specific steps of the strategy

  3. Find the beliefs and special submodalities that are part of the strategy

3. Summarize and test the strategy

The steps in detail

A. Preparation

  1. Lead the person into experiencing what they want to analyze, e.g., decide something, be motivated / creative, flirt, etc. Choose an acceptable, well-defined time span for the process, not months or years. Associate your counterpart with the experience: "Think of a specific time when you were truly capable of being creative. Make this experience as accessible as if it were NOW." (VAKOG)
  2. Set e.g., the following frame for questioning: "Suppose I had to represent you for a day. In what way would I have to do that, so that I could do what you are doing just as well as you do it?" In any case, get consent for more penetrating questions. Maintain rapport throughout the process.

B. Collect information


  • Pay more attention to the process, less to the content of the experience.
  • First find the broad strokes of the strategy and then work out the individual sequences.
  • Your counterpart is usually not conscious of the individual steps. Therefore, with the help of meta-model questions, ask for the corresponding sensory-specific details and calibrate yourself for his physiology. Pay attention to the non-verbal information that your counterpart provides (eye-accessing cues, etc.). For A, questioning towards discovering a strategy has a lot to do with trance (inner search processes). Adjust your voice and tempo accordingly.
  • Repeat the individual sequences to check if all the essential steps are included and take notes.

1. Find the broad strokes of the strategy: A first tells the entire process.

2. Question for the sensory-specific steps of the strategy

  • Now ask A to run through the entire strategy in a kind of slow motion. A strategy is like a movie that you can play back and forth, the steps are repeated over and over again.
  • B now uses meta-model questions to ask for the sensory-specific details of the strategy, paying attention to the non-verbal information that A reveals.
    • Eye movements, body posture
    • Movements/Gestures
    • Facial expressions, breathing
    • Ideomotor movements

Possible questions for “Unwrapping” a strategy:

Regarding the initiation of the strategy (Trigger):

  • "What exactly should I do to do it exactly the way you do it?"
  • "How should I start?"
  • "What happens first?"
  • "What procedure do you go through to make sure you're ready to do 'X'?"
  • "What tells you that it's time to do 'X'?
  • "How do you know this even earlier?"

Regarding the execution of the strategy (Operate):

  • "How do you know that ..."
  • "How would I have to do it exactly?"
  • "What else is there to consider?"
  • "What is happening now?"
  • "What happens next?"
  • "How do you do that exactly?"
  • "And what happens immediately before that?"
  • "Do you hear it, see it or feel it? Or does everything occur at the same time?" (synesthesia)
  • "Does it all happen at the same time or in succession?"

Regarding the conclusion of a strategy (Test exit criteria)

  • "How do you know that you're done?"
  • "How do you know that it worked?"
  • "What do you notice even earlier?"
  • "What lets you know that you are not done with your strategy yet?"
  • "How do you know that you are ready to move on to something else?"

3. Find the beliefs and special submodalities that are part of the strategy.

In most cases, a strategy also contains certain beliefs. An effective decision-making strategy probably includes a belief like this: "I decide correctly."

Possible questions regarding beliefs:

  • "What would I have to believe / what would have to be important for me in order to be able to do exactly what you do?"
  • "What thought is essential?"
  • "Is there perhaps something that you are quite sure of deep inside?"

In addition, certain submodalities may be crucial to the effectiveness of the strategy. For example, in a motivational strategy, the goal could be tall, bright, clear, and warm, or the moment of decision in a decision strategy could be experienced like a 3-D movie in stereo.

After summarizing the strategy using NLP shorthand, check if all the essential elements are included:

  • Have all steps been captured by the T.O.T.E model??
  • Is the strategy intrinsically logical or does it lack vital connectors?
  • Does A also believe that all essential steps have been included?

6. Conditions for the structural Well-formedness of strategies

A. A strategy must have a sensory defined goal.

A strategy should have an information gathering and feedback operation that can build and / or modify a representation of the desired goal.

B. A strategy must contain all three main representational systems (V, A, K).

Each representation system (RS) has capabilities to receive and process information that others do not have.

C. A strategy cannot get to the starting point without going through the decision point.

  1. No strategy without EXIT point: A loop can occur when the operation phase is so minimal that a significant change can occur when representations are tested (comparison / contrast). However, this can also result from an inadequate test.

  2. No two-point loop: A loop like this occurs when a person shuttles back and forth between two RSs.

  3. Ways to stop a strategy with an endless loop: Counting or Time! After the loop has run a certain number of times or has run for a certain amount of time, the strategy must come to the decision point.

D. A strategy should have an external check after “n” steps

n depends on the type of activity. This check is necessary to obtain the external information needed when drawing, operating, playing the piano or something similar.

7. Installing a strategy

To install a strategy means to make available to a person a strategy (which they do not yet have in their repertoire) so that this strategy can be "automatic" in the future. Possibilities are:

  1. the use of a chain anchor (in which the individual links of the "chain" correspond to individual steps of the new strategy),

  2. the deliberate practice in using the strategy sequence. Here, e.g., a person is persuaded to change their body in harmony with the accessing clues of the new strategy (for example, to make exactly the right movements with the eyes),

  3. the disruption of existing, heavily ground-down strategies, e.g.
    • a) by overloading with (too) many (new) sensual impressions, or
    • b) by distracting (confusion)

8. Examples of strategies

Spelling strategy

  1. (Test) A person hears a word (auditory external stimulus),

  2. (Operate) Person constructs a visual image of the word,

  3. (Test) Person compares this image with the memory of the image of a word he has read somewhere before (visually constructed vs. visually remembered) and (decision point) develops a feeling (kinesthetic) for the congruence or incongruence of these two images.

  4. (further loop, loops) If the test is negative [-], the process starts over (another visual image is constructed ....). If the test is positive [+],

  5. (Exit) the word is written down.

The optimal strategy for English spelling is a two-step process: from visual memory to kinesthetic review. Those persons who are very good at spelling, see an inner picture of the correctly spelled word and have a "feeling" whether they wrote it correctly of incorrectly.

The procedure described below is for installing this spelling strategy. This approach is primarily intended for individual work with students with learning disabilities, who usually use an auditory - and thus inefficient - spelling strategy.

A. Preparation:

  1. Gather information about the person's visual accessing: asking questions about visual memory, organized normally? (eye movements)

  2. Anchor resources:
    Find positive experiences in which the person has already successfully learned something difficult, e.g., bicycling, ability to see and evoke images: cinema screen, television screen, imagination, photos, joy, curiosity, etc.

B. Installing a V/K pattern

  1. Write words on strips of paper and hold them 30-40 cm in the student's Ve position; Pupil should now follow the letters with his eyes, memorize the word (imagination: colored, with background, ...); take a snapshot and remove paper strips

  2. Have him write the word off the snapshot; internally compare with the picture in the imagination; "See if it feels right." (V/K); if not correct: 1. repeat; if word looks right and feels right: anchor

  3. Go through the strategy several times in order to internalize the V/K pattern by letting him look at the word more and more briefly (as above), let his eyes get into in the Ve position, then put word in sentence context

C. Future pacing:

While the person imagines that he will learn new words or take a spelling test in the future, fire the anchor.

Flexibility strategy

  1. What is a typical situation in which I could really use the flexibility strategy? AD

  2. Anchor the initial state in this situation. K-

  3. When have I approached any upcoming challenges creatively?

  4. Anchor the initial feeling in this situation. K+

  5. Chain the two anchors, so that joy (or similar) becomes the direct result of frustration. Hold anchor # 1 first and then, after releasing it, immediately hit anchor # 2. Make sure both anchors do not merge. Hold anchor # 2 pressed in the next step.

  6. What can I do now to creatively master the challenges ahead? AD

  7. Visualize five possibilities: see myself in the process. Vk

  8. Associate into each possibility until feeling in the situation is palpable (VAK).

  9. Select the option that creates the greatest feeling of challenge. K+

  10. Yeah! Let’s go! Do it! AD

Love strategy

Can you remember a time when you felt loved?
Can you mentally go back to this situation and experience it again ... (you induce the state)

V: What must your partner do so that you feel that deep sense of love?

  • Must he take you out?
  • Must he give you presents?
  • Must he look at you in a very special way?

Is it essential for you that your partner shows you his love in exactly this way so that you feel loved? (Decide on the physiology of the person, whether the desired state occurs.)

A: Is it essential for you, in order to feel that deep sense of love, that your partner tells you in a certain way that he loves you? (Decide on the physiology of the person, whether the desired state occurs.)

K: Is it essential for you, I order to feel that deep sense of love, that your partner touches you in a certain way? (Decide on the basis of physiology, whether the desired state occurs.)

Elicit the submodalities now. How exactly? Check the strategy. (Decide on the basis of the physiology whether the desired state occurs congruently.)

Decision strategy

Selecting from a menu is a good example of a decision strategy. Not everyone decides equally well! The quality of your own decision-making strategy has far-reaching consequences for our lives.

Typical problems with decision strategies

  1. Problems in producing alternatives:
    • Difficulty in constructing anything at all; everything is remembered.
    • The number of alternatives is too small.
    • Only one option.
    • Only an either-or-alternative.
    • No stop when generating alternatives. No EXIT.

  2. Problems in representing alternatives:
    • The alternatives are not represented in all RSs; this makes it difficult to properly assess the alternatives.
    • Inadequate data. The person would have to go outside to get new and more data.
    • The alternatives are not adequately represented in the circumstances. In Sudan, you should get a different idea of a meal than in a gourmet restaurant.

  3. Problems in assessing alternatives:
    • The criteria for evaluating the alternatives are inappropriate, inadequate. For example, choosing the therapist based on what brand shirt he wears.
    • The criteria are not ranked appropriately, especially PRICE and other pre-selection criteria.
    • The various criteria are considered independently. For example, one alternative after another is not evaluated in accordance with all the criteria, but the evaluation jumps from one alternative to another, each using a different criterion. A polarity reaction is an example of this. Someone would like to shop cheaply taking advantage of a sale, but that person finds the goods unattractive, whereas and the ones he wants are too expensive for him. Two parts are arguing with each other.
    • The alternatives are not being compared directly, point by point.

Utilization of strategies

Utilization can best be described as the process of applying an existing strategy that has been evoked.

Pacing a strategy that has been discovered. Our most important means of utilizing a strategy is to pack and represent the content of the present situation or task in such a way that it complies with the sequence and steps of the client's evoked strategy.


  1. Evoke a creative strategy in a person by identifying their inner processes at a time of creativity. Find out by questioning and observing which sequence of representational systems led to the creative result.

  2. The person should identify an area of life or past or present event where he or she "gets stuck" or feels blocked or wants to have a greater choice of behavior.

  3. Use the creative strategy you evoked as a resource for this situation. Let the person relive the experience, either through a current experience on the spot or through imagination and memory as part of their creative strategy. Lead the person through the creative strategy by letting him reflect on the situation through the representational sequence he uses when he's creative. Through this process, the person will automatically generate or create a number of new choices.

New definition of anchor

In essence, an anchor is any representation (generated internally or externally) that triggers another representation, quadruple, or series of representations or quadruples (i.e., a strategy). Any part of an experience can be used as an anchor to trigger another part of the experience.

Anchors and accessing cues are the two most important tools in the utilization of strategies. We can use them to systematically trigger suitable representations in the right place within a strategy. Accessing cues can be thought of as self-constructed anchors.

9. Planning context tags and decision points

Old results and the strategies related to them that have become inappropriate for most situations, can still be effective in a few contexts. In such cases, the programmer installs a decision point where any representation serves as a context tag. This should indicate in which situations which strategy is appropriate.

If this measure is omitted, ambiguity or overlapping of the two contexts can create a disruption that could cause the person to initiate both strategies simultaneously. The person does not know which strategy to use. By reacting to both strategies, he becomes immobilized. Something tells him to do this, but something else looks or feels better.

The representation that serves as a tag can assume any content. It could be a certain sound threshold, a particular word or class of words, a positive or negative kinesthetic feeling, or an image or a distinction perceived in the environment. The purpose of the tag is to distinguish which context is appropriate for which strategy.

10. Streamlining strategies

The process of streamlining is necessary for strategies that are too cumbersome or inefficient to achieve a desired result.

E.g., a reading strategy: people who have incorporated an auditory-digital step in their reading strategy must speak the words aloud before they make sense to them (before they trigger the relevant stored experience). The strategy looks like this:

The speed reader's strategy runs immediately from seeing the written word to triggering the internal quadruple.

For most people who subvocalize or speak words inwardly, the synesthesia pattern becomes so strong that they actually cannot capture written text merely by sight - they have to visualize the words.

Those who already have the Vr - synesthesia pattern as a natural resource benefit most from this training. The effectiveness of speed-reading courses depends on whether they induce the reader to construct a Vex synesthesia pattern, because the reader has no time to rehearse the words inwardly.

11. Redesigning strategies

The goal in redesigning strategies is to create strategies that efficiently and effectively ensure a given outcome. The programmer has to recognize:

  1. Which information (both for the input and for the feedback) must be collected in which representational systems.

  2. Which tests, distinctions, generalizations and associations are necessary in the processing of this information?

  3. What special operations and outputs must be evoked by an individual or organization to achieve the result.

  4. Which is the most efficient and effective sequence in which all tests and operations are to take place?

12. Installing strategies

The goal in redesigning strategies is to create strategies that efficiently and effectively ensure a given outcome. The programmer has to recognize:

  1. Anchoring strategy steps and their implementation.

  2. Letting the client practice the strategy sequence (form of self-anchor).

It is best to always use both: While the person is "guided" through the strategy, fire the anchor that you have previously set up.

Goal of the installation

  1. Each strategy step must automatically trigger the next one.

  2. The strategy sequence must be associated with the appropriate context - the sequence is tied or anchored to a stimulus (to a context tag).

First of all, installing a strategy effectively requires you to break up or disrupt the existing strategy in the right place.

13. Installing with the help of anchors

There is a basic difference between anchoring in the context of utilization procedures and anchoring during installation. When it comes to utilization, you set anchors in order to control the content of certain strategy steps. When installing you have to control the strategy step yourself. In this case, you will not anchor a particular content, but the act of using a particular representational system for a particular step. You set the anchors so that they provide access to the use of particular representational systems or a sequence of representational systems.

A. Anchoring an entire strategy sequence

If a strategy sequence already exists, then it can be anchored with a single anchor so that it can be inserted as a whole in a new sequence that is being drafted.

It can also be inserted into a situation in which it was not previously available as a resource; it is then tied to contextual stimuli that characterize this situation, allowing a different choice of behavior within that context. It is installed as a resource in situations where the client desires choices in setting goals.

In such cases, the strategy is usually taken from a context in which it occurs naturally and installed in a context in which it does not occur or has not previously occurred. In this operation, it is important that you separate the strategy sequence as such from the "trigger" (the triggering stimulus) that previously triggered that sequence in the context from which you took it.

Step 1 shows that a particular external visual stimulus in context A naturally initiates the strategy sequence Aid .... Ke. This entire sequence is now anchored with the anchor.
In step 2, the strategy unit is anchored in context B, in which so far a particular external auditory stimulus had initiated a Ki- Vi- loop. So, the person is now able to access the strategy from context A in context B as a resource.


Anchoring a person’s motivational strategy

The person should remember a time when he was motivated to do something he did not enjoy doing. The steps of this strategy are now evoked by questioning and observation. Each step is anchored to the same kinesthetic anchor on one of the person’s knees. Then a behavior is proposed that does not particularly excite that person (for example, walking around the room carrying a chair over his head or picking up a pencil that has been thrown on the floor). The person is asked often to establish the fact that he really does not like that very behavior. The motivational strategy is then triggered by "firing" the anchors. Once the strategy has been well anchored, the person will automatically gain access to the strategy sequence for motivation and apply it to the current context.

B. Anchoring individual and unconnected strategy steps

Individual representation steps can be taken out of strategic sequences that are not related, anchored, and then anchored together in order to form a new strategy.

The anchors used to trigger each strategy step may be kinesthetic in nature (e.g., touching various body locations). However, they can also be performed in other representational systems, e.g., as internal or external visual stimuli. Of course, words are also anchors; their advantage is that they are culturally standardized to some extent. The programmer can also put representations into a sequence with verbal anchors (colloquially this would be called "giving instructions").

You can increase the effectiveness of your anchoring procedures by pairing or combining multiple anchors for a particular strategy step. When installing a strategy sequence, anchors can be paired from different representational systems to increase their effectiveness.


The basic method of testing anchors is that the programmer instructs the client to practice the transitions as they go through the various strategy steps while the programmer provides a number of different contents for them.

14. Disrupting strategies

Sometimes an existing strategy runs on well-trodden paths or has heavily ground down. If the result of this old strategy disturbs your attempts and if it causes behaviors that do not allow you to obtain meta-results, then it is best for the client to disrupt the existing strategy.

There are three basic ways of disrupting a strategy:

  1. Through overloading

  2. Through distraction

  3. By “spinning out” the strategy
  • Regarding 1) Overloading occurs when more information flows into a strategy or strategy step than it can handle. "Overwhelmed with emotions, stunned by the smell, etc.".

    The behavioral outcome of overloading is that a person's strategy cannot complete its cycle. When a strategy is completely disrupted, the individual stands without a next behavioral step and will jump to the next step that the situation offers him. People in such a situation have a strong tendency to respond to every anchor for reactions offered to them out of the situation. You can use this phenomenon to install a new strategy, if you correctly time your anchors.
  • Regarding 2) A strategy is distracted when a particular input diverts the representational sequence away from the current strategy. A person deep in thought is interrupted when a sound or a movement draws his attention to the external environment. The stimulus does not overburden the person's strategy, rather it takes him out of the current sequence and shows the behavior to another location.

    Strategies can be interrupted and distracted by moving one's hands back and forth in front of a person's eyes, disrupting their eye positions. A depressive person can be quickly and effectively removed from his negative state by being asked to just sit down, hold his head high, breathe fully in his chest.
  • Regarding 3) Disrupting by “spinning out” a strategy

    A strategy "spins out" when the end of the strategy is anchored with its beginning, so that the strategy always returns to itself (like the snake in the proverb swallowing its tail). Because the strategy cannot end, it is forced to continue in a loop. Most strategies have a built-in test - it could be called a meta-test - that leads the program into a completely new strategy, if the strategy's operations prove ineffective after a while. “Spinning out” exists for that purpose.

15. Sources of error when installing a strategy

If a strategy does not work, then check the following points:

  1. Calibration of the strategy (The chain is not stronger than its weakest link)

  2. Smooth transitions between the strategy steps

  3. Verification of congruence (clarification of personal history, assurances that no step anchors multiple responses - contextual tags)

  4. Well-formedness

Zurück zum Seitenanfang