Working from the Heart
Christina Hall knows NLP and has trained many thousands to use and teach it. She began working with both Grinder and Bandler. She remains as fascinated by people, language and creating change now as she was in 1997. In this 2007 Rapport Magazine article, she talks to Andy Coote about her experience and her values.
Some people can make you feel at ease in a moment. Christina is one of those people. As someone who wants people to ‘walk their talk’ she is certainly congruent with that aim herself. We spoke in late February after she had presented the first half of a Trainer training with Leicester-based Salad.
“Where did you learn to use language like that?” - It was her first encounter with NLP.
In 1977, Christina was a therapist with a Masters in Family Therapy and a PhD in Psychology and Language. Experiencing some challenges working with a particular client, she and the client went to visit her supervisor for his help “My supervisor did some amazing things with the client, like nothing I’d learnt in my graduate work, and I saw some amazing changes happening with my client – and, to an extent, with me.
I asked my supervisor “Where did you learn to use language like that? You didn’t use any techniques that I was aware of.” It was her first encounter with NLP.
Her interest engaged, Christina went to a workshop in Los Angeles on the use of language to make changes and found it “unique and unorthodox”. She was intrigued. “I went to everything I could go to after that. I was interested in change and what it means to someone to make changes and what was happening when those changes were being made. Richard Bandler and John Grinder were amazing together. The rest is history – I was hooked”
In the early days there were no practitioner programs, just a lot of experimentation and exploration. Within a year or two though, Practitioner trainings had begun. Christina took as many practitioner programs as she could, often working in support of the trainers. “I always learned something new – always expanded my learning.” Christina found herself becoming a trainer. “I didn’t get into NLP to be a trainer. I was quite terrified by being in front of groups but in a way, training chose me.”
"I called Richard ... and he felt that it could take NLP to a new level, so we spent some time developing it and called it the Swish pattern."
Working with Richard Bandler could be an unpredictable experience. “Just after I moved to Santa Cruz in 1981, Richard called and told me that a trainer had dropped out of a workshop the following day. “You’re coming with me” he said and hung up. I didn’t even have the chance to say yes or no”.
The development of the Swish pattern was part of a series of innovations that came “out of paying attention to how people perceive something and what it means to them and then asking ‘how can that be useful’ and experimenting until we could answer that question.”
Returning from training, Christina’s colleague “was talking about some challenges he was having. He said that it was ‘all blown out of proportion’. Still on a high from the training, I took him literally and asked him if he saw it as a picture ‘up close and in your face’. He replied that it was and that it was unmanageable, that he couldn’t do anything about it – it was so overwhelming. I asked him to try something as an experiment. I asked him to shoot the picture away from him until it was a small dot – the further away, the better. He did that and he told me that he could manage like that. I asked him to blow it back up again and he again found that it was unmanageable, so we made it small again.”
“I called Richard and explained what had happened. He felt that it could take NLP to a new level, so we spent some time developing it and called it the Swish pattern after the sound the picture made as it shrank into the distance.”
"Change is a process that can lead to WOW moments – and I like those moments ...
I want people to be able to impress and inspire themselves by what they find they can do for themselves."
These days, Christina travels the world, teaching NLP at a variety of levels and across many cultures. She takes the time to meet up with trainers and former students to “talk and explore”. Teaching is, she feels, “an opportunity to explore and to push the boundaries. I like to expand the range of people’s thinking – to help them achieve more change, more quickly than they thought possible. Change is a process that can lead to WOW moments – and I like those moments.”
There is no question that NLP has some great techniques, but, Christina feels, it is much more about purpose – both that of the practitioner and of the client. For example, “Rapport is an ongoing process, not a single event, but some people feel that all they have to do is to do a few matching techniques and you have rapport and you can do anything after that. You have to work from the heart, walk your talk and behave congruently.”
Outcomes are important but not at any cost. What matters is whether “the outcome is worth achieving in the context of the client’s purpose”. Christina views the use of NLP techniques for entertainment on the stage or TV by their purpose and ethical framework. “It depends how they do it, on their ethics and their purpose and whether it is simply to make money or impress. If it is purely manipulative, I can’t support it. NLP is not something done to someone, it is something done with them. I want people to be able to impress and inspire themselves by what they find they can do for themselves and not feel bad about the experience.”
"The trainer is part of the system and not separate. You don’t train or lead in a vacuum. When the trainer stops learning, they’ve changed jobs without knowing it."
Training, too, is always a shared experience. “I have learned a lot from training and a lot from people. We are all shaping this process. The trainer is part of the system and not separate. You don’t train or lead in a vacuum. When the trainer stops learning, they’ve changed jobs without knowing it.”
Christina spends a lot of time in travel around the world. She enjoys observing how “cultures shape people and people shape cultures”. Different cultures seem to share many values. “They include connection, a sense of belonging and love. Doing work that they really enjoy and where they feel that they are making a contribution, seem also to be shared values”.
When she first took her workshops to Japan, “people told me that the Japanese wouldn‘t do my exercises but with good pacing and observation, I found that they were happy to get involved and learned equally well as people from other cultures. It became clear to me that some of those comments were projections of the speaker’s experience of the culture and not the culture itself.”
In one part of the world, Christina was able to work with others to make a major difference using NLP. During a training in Switzerland, discussions centred on the trauma and tragedy that was taking place in Kuwait during and after the Iraqi invasion. Christina, along with Dr Dr Sybille Roskother, Robert Klaus and Ulrich Götzen, put together a package of solutions for psychological and therapeutic support for victims of the conflict to be pitched to the German Government. In the event, the package was not adopted for Kuwait, but did get used for victims of the war in Croatia. In 1991/2, Christina and her colleagues were away for two weeks in every six working with a group of professionals – including some Bosnian refugees - chosen by the German government. “We trained the professionals in a variety of skills and techniques so that they could go out and train people on the ground to use them – thus achieving a multiplier effect. There were some terrible things happening in that conflict and I’m extremely proud and humble to have been able to have taken part – it was a great opportunity to help people.”
"Even when you are highly competent, you should still practice and be open to new ways of approaching old tasks.”
Christina believes that practice is crucial to skills development. Planning also plays a major role. ”People are sometimes surprised to learn that I plan every workshop in some detail. They seem to expect me to wing it. Even when I plan, I find that the reality of a workshop is that I’m winging it a lot of the time. Without the planning – and years of practice – I wouldn’t be able to do that. As Grinder once said, “you only have the luxury of winging it if you have done your homework”. With practice, skills, like driving a car or playing piano, can become unconscious competences. Even when you are highly competent, you should still practice and be open to new ways of approaching old tasks.”
During an awards party in 1991 following 15 consecutive days of training, with several colleagues, Richard Bandler announced that he had a special award “for somebody who had given more to the field than most.” It was a new level of award – Meta Master Trainer. “When he called out my name, I was totally shocked. I appreciated the words from Richard and took them as meaning that he respected and appreciated that I continued to experiment and explore. That my attitude was one that he approved of.”
Need anyone say more?
(with kind permission of Rapport Magazine, summer 2007)