me kay cooke

Is the playground any different to the workplace?

NLP Coaching For Resilience – with Mia who has been experiencing a situation with a girl we will call ‘B’ who clearly doesn’t like Mia.

B has been spreading unkind and untrue rumours amongst Mia’s friends, saying that Mia has been bitching about each of them behind their backs. B is trying to divide the friendship group and Mia feels her only option is to convince each friend that the rumours are not true. She is exhausted and worried that she will lose her friends.

The situation has brought back memories of a bullying experience we had worked through 12 months earlier (different environment, different girl). She is feeling stuck and un-resourceful.

We initially chatted about the difference between ‘bully’ and ‘bitch’ to loosen Mia’s thinking, to clarify differences, and have her dissociate from the previous bullying experience.


I asked her what she perceived the ‘problem’ to be.


A: “B doesn’t like me”


Q: “OK and what’s the worst thing about that for you?”


A: “No-one will talk to me because B spreads rumours that I’ve been saying things about my friends, when I haven’t.”


Q: “How have you been coping with this so far?”


A: “I have to prove to my friends that what B says isn’t true.”


From this brief exchange, I’m now focusing in on three aspects of the Mia’s perception of the problem:

Distortion (complex equivalence): B doesn’t like me = no one will like me.

Generalisation: ‘no one’ will talk to me.

Strategy: disproving rumours.


We began by challenging the generalisation: no one will talk to me


Q: What’s the probability that this will actually happen – that your friends will actually stop speaking to you because of B’s influence?


A: 20% chance that they will stop speaking to me.


Q: Which leaves an 80% chance that this won’t happen?


A: Yes.


Note the reframe from 100% to 20%


Q: How many friends in your friendship group?


A: About 20


Q: And of the 20 friends, how many might actually stop talking to you?


A: About 5


Q: And how many would never stop talking to you?


A: About 5


Note the affirmation of friendship


Q: How long do you think it would take for you to disprove the rumours?


A: About 1 week.


We drew a pie chart to illustrate the results so far: there is a 20% chance that 25% of your friends will stop talking to you, unless you spend one week disproving the rumours spread by B?


A: I suppose so.


Note the loosening belief


Q: So you have 20 friends – 5 of whom you really trust, 5 who you don’t trust and 10 who you moderately trust?


A: I guess so.


Note the different perspective


Having chunked down into some detail to dispel the overwhelming notion that she would have ‘no one speak to her’, we then began looking at the distortion of meaning.


In order to identify the mechanics of her complex equivalence I asked Mia to finish the following sentences:


I’m afraid no one will talk to me because …


A: “I don’t know whether my friends believe what she says about me or not.”


This is a problem because …


A: “I don’t want my friends thinking those things are actually true.


I shared some ‘stories’ with Mia, about when my kids were little and having done something naughty, they would often give the deed away by telling me what they ‘hadn’t done’ and therefore drawing my attention towards the very thing itself.


I asked her to explore the difference between ‘defending’ herself (which pre-supposes there is ‘something ‘ to defend) and ‘gathering more information’ through genuine enquiry by asking questions like “really – you think I said that????” “When exactly?” “Where specifically?”


We also explored the Shakespeare quote ‘the lady doth protest too much’.


I invited her to contemplate the words ‘I have nothing to prove’.


I drew 2 figures on the white board.

A: Mia

B: B


B’s strategy was ‘to try to influence the friendship group (against Mia)

A’s strategy was ‘to try to influence the friendship group (to disprove B)


Both strategies were ‘fight’ strategies – was there another way?


NLP Milton Model Sub modality/parts/squash:


I had Mia place ‘I have to prove (myself right/the girl wrong)’ in one hand and in the other hand place ‘I have nothing to prove’. We explored the sub modalities of each.


I then asked her to raise up her right hand which held the part ‘I have nothing to prove’ and squash it into the left hand which was holding the part “I have to prove (right/wrong)’.

At the same time I reminded her of her personal power pack within (using previously set anchors) and had her expanding sense of peace and power generalise through and travel through her arms into the closed palms.


She revealed a new set of sub modalities balanced in both hands.


After a break state, I asked her if she had any questions.


“What would you do in my situation?” she asked.


I offered a wide range of strategies that I have evolved based on my own similar experiences in many differing environments. Some of my strategies might seem abhorrent to Mia; others may feel useful for her to model. The emphasis being that there is no ‘one way’ to be resilient and that situations like this one occur in all walks of life.


We referred to neuroscience and simple mechanisms of stress that involve fight/flight/freeze OR she could FLOW in resilience.


We practised again the ‘one point’ exercise to centre, balance and feel strong from the inside out.


Finally, Mia wrote out some phrases to practise – creating them from a new place of ‘I have nothing to prove’ and ‘I am resilient’.


Mia immersed herself in a big mind stretch to facilitate stronger feelings of self confidence, more choice of behavioural strategies, new attitude of grace and authenticity, and a choice not to engage with, or mirror, B’s battle strategy.


Mia is 13 years old.


Playground based thoughts, feelings and behaviours are really not so different to those found in the workplace. Age may make problems more complex, less honest, more accomplished. The processes rarely change.

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