Communicating better at work

There are three things to avoid when we want to communicate clearly.

1)    Generalisations

These are when we suggest in our feedback that someone ‘always’ or ‘never’ does something, when ‘everyone else does/knows’. This can’t possibly be true and there is richer feedback in looking at the exceptions.

For example, focus on the positive and point out that when they did x the result was excellent rather than the many times they did not and the result was unsatisfactory.

A classic example of a generalisation is ‘I can’t…’ either verbalised or when the thing they think they ‘can’t do’ is avoided. Some people avoid applying for that new job because they ‘can’t’ give presentations. This is a choice we make to ‘not be able to do’ something. You may be in the situation where you are telling someone ‘I can’t give you more responsibility’ or ‘I can’t give you that territory’ but what if you could?




2)    Deletions

In order for feedback to be helpful you need to provide detailed examples so one can learn from it. Simply saying ‘You’ve worked much better this year’ or ‘I’m pleased with your progress’ deletes the important detail about specifics. When giving feedback be armed with plenty of precise examples to demonstrate the behaviour you want to focus on and encourage.


3)    Distortions

There are three different ways we can distort communication

  • Assumptions – when we assume we know the other person’s feelings for example ‘You must be pleased with the sales figures this quarter’. You don’t know this and it may seem like a reasonable assumption but it will be more respectful to ask the question than assume the answer.
  • Mind reading – similarly predicting the future can be unhelpful in a feedback scenario. An example of this would be saying ‘You’ll want to apply for that new job in Marketing.’ That may well be what you think but it may not be their intention at all. Again it is better to ask than mind read.
  • Cause and effect – no-one can make you feel a particular way; that is your choice alone. Putting the responsibility for your feelings onto a colleague is another type of distortion. An example of this would be ‘You make me really annoyed when you come in late every Monday morning’. It would be more respectful to simply own your own feelings and say ‘I feel very annoyed when you come in late every Monday morning’ and discuss what can be done about it. The colleague isn’t coming in late to annoy you, this is a distortion.

Do you feel criticised when you get feedback that is in any way negative? Do you take it personally?

Some feedback, however positively reframed, is still not welcome; possibly because we think it is unjustified. If that is the case, the first thing to do is ‘disassociate’. This is an NLP technique which invites us to imagine we are an impartial witness, maybe someone else in your team or company. Would they give you the same feedback? Is it possible that other people would also give you that feedback? If so, act on it and behave differently. If you want a different result it is you who has to change.

Maybe it isn’t the case and the feedback is indeed unjustified. Rather than take it personally, which we often do, take the opportunity to present your case with detailed examples and challenge the feedback……….in rapport.

Rapport is essential to clear and ‘clean’ communication, without distortions, deletions and generalisations and using the VAK preference of the other person.

Truly ‘clean language’ can be achieved by reflecting the language of the other person by simply repeating what they’ve said but adding an upward inflection as if to ask them to continue.


“I find it difficult to get on with my boss, he keeps putting me down.”

“He keeps putting you down?”


You can also get more clarity with a question like, “In what way do you feel he puts you down?” or “And how does he do that?”


We can also use metaphors to gain clearer understanding without putting your own ‘stuff’ in. For example, ‘what is it like, when you feel he is putting you down?” Note that in all cases the other person’s words are repeated, not interpreted or replaced.  Metaphors allow us to use our own images and feelings and provide much richer communication than just words and work extremely well across cultures as they transcend boundaries.

If you want to know more about using NLP in the workplace you could buy NLP for Work


Happy 7th Birthday NLP Kids

I’m celebrating seven years of running NLP Kids this week and so I thought I’d share my thoughts and feelings about turning 7 years old! That’s the same age as many of the children I treat and see in my workshops so I’m currently thinking cutting and sticking, glitter, One Direction, pink and fluffy, cuddlies and footballs.

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If only life was always so full of fun and of course it is much of the time but I see a lot of sad children who worry about making friends, bed-wetting, struggle with reading and who find it difficult to manage their anger.

Over the last seven years I’ve helped loads of children and teenagers but I’ve probably helped more parents. Why? Because if I can sort things out on the phone or on Skype, sometimes even over a coffee, without the child coming to see me, then I feel I’ve equipped a parent to cope with so much more than just whatever is facing them right now.

I remember what it was like for me as a parent of four children before I knew anything about NLP. I seemed to just swing from one drama to the next, fire-fighting and struggling to cope with my emotions. I constantly felt a failure and compared myself to all the yummy mummies around who seemed to look immaculate, stay calm, take their children to loads of great activities, holidays and still have a life themselves. I was juggling work and family but not very well really, constantly stressed and feeling guilty.

I am therefore so happy to share what I have learnt about NLP, the skills and techniques and of course how I have adapted them to use with kids which of course has been published as ‘Be a happier parent with NLP’.

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As well as training existing NLP Practitioners in working with children and running my own kids coaching practice I also train parents and teachers in NLP and take NLP into schools. I have a new course starting in May in fact. It’s just an hour a week for 12 weeks (term time only) and its on Skype so you can do it from home. You’ll have to practice on children as part of your homework but you’ll enjoy seeing how they enjoy it and how they benefit.

Plans for this year include writing NLP for Sport and NLP for Weight-loss as well as the latest Teach Yourself ‘Secrets of the NLP Masters’ which comes out in August.

I have a series of children’s workshops happening between March and July so if you live in the Home Counties of the UK join my Facebook Group NLP Kids where you’ll find all the information about them. If you don’t and want to know whether there is an NLP Kids Practitioner in your are, get in touch because there may be workshops near you.

I am always available for a chat on Skype if you have a question so connect judy.bartkowiak on Skype or call me 01628 660618.






Limiting beliefs

This month’s workshops are entitled ‘Overcoming your limiting beliefs’ so I thought I’d write something about what this is for those of you who are wondering if it might be appropriate for your child.

Firstly let me explain what a belief is. It is not a fact. A fact is an undisputed truth that everyone would agree on and can be proved. A fact would be something like this, ‘David Cameron is our Prime Minister’ or ‘Today is Wednesday’. Many children take their beliefs to be facts caste in stone that are undisputed and universally agreed. They are not. A belief is simply something we hold to be true right now, in this moment. Things change though. We may once have believed in the tooth fairy or Father Christmas but we have since learned that they don’t exist and that it can be in our interests to believe it otherwise we may not get any presents! This is therefore a resourceful belief as it pays us to believe it.

Father Christmas

Not all beliefs have such a lovely pay off though. Many beliefs actually stop us from doing something we either want to do or need to do. They are limiting us from achieving our potential. They are often expressed as ‘I can’t’ and accompanied by body language that is hunched up with shoulders rounded, head down, eyes down and the desire to withdraw. When you see this in your child, it is very tempting to comfort, take over and do it for them and rationalise. We might reflect that we too found those things hard so it’s easy for us to understand. However, by doing this, we are colluding with them. We are confirming that this is a viable belief for them to have and that it could possibly even be a fact because as a grown-up, our views are taken to have more worth than the child’s.

In my workshops children examine these limiting beliefs and consider where they came from. Do they still want them or is there some benefit? They are encouraged to decide what positive benefit they are getting from having this limiting belief. Limiting beliefs often result in a bit of extra attention, hugs from mum, encouragement and some special treatment. We discuss what other ways they can still get the benefits without the limiting belief. These type of discussions encourage children to realise just how much of a non-fact their belief is and how they have the power to change it if they so wish.

We look at what’s stopping them from changing their belief and what form this takes. Many children see this as a brick wall , a high one that they can’t see over. We then use what are called sub-modalities in NLP to allow them to change this wall into something softer like a pizza that they can nibble a hole in so they can look through and see what could happen if they step through and take on a more resourceful belief. Some will represent their limiting belief as an annoying voice in their head saying ‘ I can’t’ or ‘Don’t be stupid’. This they enjoy changing into a silly voice that they can more easily ignore or even laugh at. Some will respond more kinaesthetically with a sick feeling or head-ache and they soon learn to tell it to go away when they realise it’s intent.


Once they’ve overcome their limiting belief using some great NLP techniques that I show them, I teach them how to anchor their resourceful and empowering belief and we all finish with giving ourselves a ‘feedback sandwich’.

If you’d like to find out more about these workshops, get dates for your child’s age or better still, book, then please complete this form or contact me via the Facebook Group NLP Kids.


NLP Parents’ Workshop

I regularly run NLP for Parents workshops in my local area as do my NLP Kids Practitioners and I can really recommend them. If you don’t live near one of us then I can suggest using my Engaging NLP book – NLP for Parents as a good and practical way to explore your parenting and learn some handy tips. Parenting is one of those skills that have to evolve as our child grows up and as their needs change. Sometimes we need to stand firm and other times we need to be more flexible. Sometimes we need to lead and other times we need to follow. It’s all about choices. The more choices you have, the more control you have. NLP is about choices, showing you how the beliefs you have can be limiting or resourceful and how to change those that hold you back so that you can move forward with confidence.

£10 for one parent/£15 for two
£10 for one parent/£15 for two

Come with your partner or another parent and find out how by altering the way you communicate, both your body language, voice tone and pitch and the words you use, you can get a different result. It’s play-time! Yes of course parenting is a serious business but it’s something that defines us, it’s our identity. So how can we ensure that we communicate what we mean and get what we want?

We have all the resources already to be the excellent parents we can be, but do we always use them? Do we just always do what we’ve always done and wonder why we still get what we’ve always got? When will they do what they’ve been told? When will they realise….? When will they stop doing………? Learn how to set compelling outcomes, visualise them being successful outcomes and learn how to use feedback as learning rather than feeling like a failure again.

We’ve all been there. I have four children and certainly know that feeling but I have to say that the days of feeling like that are long gone thanks to NLP and I’d really like them to be for you too because it doesn’t need to be like that. Nor do you have to wait until your children have their own children in order for them to appreciate you.

I also run workshops for children and teenagers so join my Facebook Group NLP Kids to find out when they’re on or check out my free app NLP Kids. Get in touch using the form below or email me

If you try , you won’t succeed

How many times a day do we ask children to ‘try’ to do something? We remember perhaps our own parents urging us to ‘just try your best’. Yet there is built-in failure in the word ‘try’. Notice when you use this word and reword your sentence without the word ‘try’ so children will be more motivated. ‘Try’ presupposes they will find it difficult so they are expecting to give up on the exercise more quickly than if your expectation was that they could do it.  


Imagine there are two boxes in front of you and I ask you to pick up the first one. You will pick it up quite easily because you assume it must be light. Now I ask you to ‘try’ and pick up the other. Immediately you expect the other box to be heavier and you may have difficulty picking it up. If I then said, ‘try hard’ or ‘just try it’, I am emphasising the difficulty and you may look at it wondering how heavy it is and even consider asking for help. In fact the boxes are the same weight. The only difference is our expectations of how heavy the second box is.

You will sometimes be presenting harder exercises and children may find them difficult so present the exercise as something they can do rather than something they can’t do and will need to ‘try’. There is an element of struggle about the word ‘try’ which is not enabling in a teaching environment. Just ask them to ‘do it’.

When children in your class respond with the word ‘try’ such as ‘Well I’ll try and do it’ or if you ask them to behave and they say ‘I’ll try’. Your resourceful and encouraging response is ‘You know you can do it’.

I asked a child recently what his goal was for the new term. He said ‘I’m going to try not to get into trouble this term’. This is not going to work. Firstly, using the word ‘try’ means he already expects to get into trouble so it won’t be long before he does. Secondly, his goal is an ‘away from’ goal in that he is aiming for avoiding something rather than having a positive ‘towards goal’ of achieving something. Thirdly, he is focussing on what he doesn’t want rather than what he does want. What you focus on is generally what you get. So we reworded his goal as about listening to what his teacher asks him to do and doing it quickly and quietly. We also discussed ways to make friends with his classmates so he would feel happier and more secure.

Judy Bartkowiak is the author of NLP for teachers available from her website also  ‘Teach Yourself: Be a happier parent with NLP’ and other workbooks for children, tweens, parents and teens.


Teachers – there’s no failure only feedback

There is no failure only feedback

Feedback is the nature of the response we get from the class, an individual child, parent, a colleague or the Head. It can be a verbal comment, body language, an email or phone call. The feedback can be directly to you, overheard or passed on to you. The problem is not the feedback itself; the problem is how we react to it.  So how can we as teachers improve the nature of the feedback we give?

One of the best ways is to use ‘clean’ language free of generalisations, deletions and distortions.

1)    Generalisations

Words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘no-one’ are generalisations. They can’t possibly be true and there is richer feedback in looking at the exceptions. Focus on the positive and point out that when they did x the result was excellent rather than the many times they did not and the result was disappointing.

Another classic example of a generalisation is ‘I can’t…’ either verbalised or when the thing they think they ‘can’t do’ is avoided. Some children give up before they start a lesson because they ‘can’t’ do maths. This is a choice we make to ‘not be able to do’ something. It is the same in self-talk. Have you ever thought ‘I can’t teach that class’ or ‘I can’t get this child to listen’ but what if you could?

 2)    Deletions

We need to give detailed examples so children learn from feedback. Simply saying ‘You’ve worked much better this term’ or ‘I’m pleased with your progress’ deletes the important detail about specifics. When giving feedback, be armed with plenty of precise examples to demonstrate the behaviour you want to focus on and encourage.

3)    Distortions

There are three different ways we can distort communication

  • Assumptions – when we assume someone else’s feelings such as ‘You must feel pleased with your test result’. Although it may seem like a reasonable assumption it is more respectful to ask the question. Maybe they were aiming for a higher mark?
  • Mind reading – this is predicting the future. An example of this would be saying ‘You’ll do well in your exams’.  Again it is better to ask than mind read.
  • Cause and effect – no-one can make you feel a particular way. That is your choice alone. Putting the responsibility for your feelings onto a child or a colleague is a distortion. An example of this would be ‘You make me very cross when you talk in the lesson’. Instead own your feelings and say ‘I feel very cross when you talk in the lesson because…..’ and go on to explain why this is.

NLP for Teachers

Judy Bartkowiak is the author of NLP for Teachers available from her shop website  and ‘Be a happier parent with NLP’.

You can book an NLP workshop for your teachers,a group of children at your school or a fund raising event by contacting Judy at 

NLP for Dads

It is no longer unusual to see Dads with children during the week, it used to just be weekends but now there are significant numbers of parents for whom the choice of who will stay at home and look after the children is not the traditional one. The recession has caused most of us to rethink what’s important to us and although we all have bills to pay; many parents are weighing up the costs of childcare against what they could earn and deciding that the best option from everyone’s point of view is for Dad to be Mum. Hence a new breed of ‘Mr Mums’ has been created.


This strikes at the identity level on the NLP logical levels and Dads will be questioning who they are if they have stopped being the main breadwinner and have become the main child carer. If this is your first child you are in a special position because you can make the role your own with no template to follow set out and established by your partner. No comparisons can be made and you are on pretty safe territory. If however, this is your second or third child and your partner was stay at home or main carer before you may be struggling to make the role your own as you try to follow in your partner’s footsteps.

The first thing to think about is your identity. Who are you? What are your strengths and skills? What are you good at? Although your skills may be inextricably linked to your work role, think again! You are probably really good at negotiating, managing, delegating and rapport with all sorts of people you have worked with, clients, customers, colleagues. These skills are very useful in childcare. Write a list of all the things you are good at.

Now apply them to your new role. How can these skills work for you in a different way?

Mums take their children to coffee mornings and toddler gym, music groups and so on. Dads don’t always want to do that but dads will do other things with their children that mums don’t usually do such as long walks, playing football and cycling. There is no one way to be a main child carer and children will respond to having the attention of a parent who loves them. Be the parent you want to be, rather than copying others.

There are now many groups of dads who have started clubs and activities for other dads so they can have the sort of conversations about football and things they enjoy rather than having to join in mums’ conversations at the school gates or at toddler groups. They share ideas and join other dads and children for activities.

Men have always been criticised (often in jest) for not being able to multitask and they worry that this makes it hard to be a stay at home dad but do children want a multitasking parent or one who gives them undivided attention? Working mums complain that dads at home don’t do the cleaning or do all the tasks they used to do but are they actually giving children more attention by being focused on one task at a time?

Self esteem often suffers for dads not working because for years they have valued having status, money and a working life outside of the home. If you are externally referenced and benchmark yourself against others and what they think of you, this will be more of a problem. Instead work on being internally referenced. Weigh up your esteem by how well you think you are doing and if you still feel a sense of low self worth, remind yourself of the skills you are using every day.

You will be happier in your new role if you have a desirable outcome. What do you want to achieve as stay at home dad? Work towards this goal, with ‘towards thinking’ rather than ‘away from’ thinking which may be about not doing something. Positive thinking with an end goal in mind tends to make us feel happier as parents.

Sometimes there will be moments when you think ‘I can’t do this’ to which the answer is ‘but what if I could?’ because you can do it. Put limited beliefs about your ability aside. We all have times when we lack the patience or feel despondent but you have the resources you need. Remember when you did have the patience or sense of humour or whatever you feel is lacking. It may have been when you were working or at school or college or simply last week. When you remember having had that skill, capture it and use it now.

If there’s a skill you really feel you never had then find someone who does and model it. This means finding someone who you think does this skill with excellence. Watch them and ask them how they do it. Ask them what beliefs they have about themselves that enable them to do it so well and take on those beliefs for yourself.

Dads are not Mr Mums they are Dads and you can be the dad you want to be with your children and carry your own identity, values and skills into the role to make it your own.

This was taken from Be a happier parent with NLP. Buy your signed copy from me at my online bookshop or of course from Amazon or other bookshops.

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