After 13 years living in Indianapolis, Indiana, I feel entitled to claim that I am a “Hoosier.” The state is extremely inspiring: the windmills, the corn farms, and the music. Yes, I said the music!

One of Indiana’s pride and joy is the composer and songwriter Cole Porter. Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, the only child of a wealthy family. He achieved success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Last week, driving from a conference in Chicago, one of my favorite Porter’s songs played on my iPad: It’s De-Lovely.

The song is part of Porter’s Broadway success, Anything Goes. It repeats several times the importance of being delightful, delicious, and de-lovely. And that, my friends, is exactly the way your learners should feel in the classroom. Words, actions, and emotions have the power to persuade the mind and body.  They have the ability to upset equilibrium and can push a person in predetermined directions. If used carelessly, they can also produce unintended consequences.

Here are some neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) tips that will help you to transform your audience learning experience to delightful, delicious, and de-lovely.

Delightful

There are multiple physical and sensory elements that complete a learning environment. As soon as a student enters a room, she begins to experience those elements and they affect her attitude about the learning experience.

According to a 2008 article by researchers C. Uline and Megan Tschannen-Moran in the Journal of Educational Administration “a number of studies that demonstrate a relationship between learners achievement and building quality, newer buildings, improved lighting, thermal comfort and indoor air quality, as well as specific building features such as science laboratories and libraries.”

Delivering learning is an extremely important—and fun—part of creating a positive learning environment, but you also need to create a dynamic and engaging classroom for your learners. Here are some physical elements to keep in mind:

  • ensure your learners are comfortable with the temperature and lighting
  • relate décor to both your particular students and to the topic being taught
  • use the walls to re-enforce your core ideals, such as community, by posting photos of students, group photos, job-aids, and portions of the content covered during your training
  • if moving from room to room, have a portable poster for each group you teach to establish a similar sense of belonging.

Also, Music is a part of all cultures and, for many, is a very important part of their lives. For this reason, music is an exceptional tool when used in combination with session’s learning objectives. Facilitators, instructors, or trainers using music to create atmosphere and stimulate creativity, or using mime, mnemonics, analogies, skill set, and drama techniques to build confidence and add body language to speech acts are already drawing from the NLP repertoire. Until recently, however, classroom activities have WLP practitioners designed learning—specifically and overtly—based on NLP principles. It is our duty to make the learning experience delightful.

Delicious

When you eat while trying to work, it's likely to be "mindless eating." Your body is going through the motions, but your brain isn't fully aware you're eating. It is important to make snacks and food available to learners.

The human body loses approximately 50 calories per hour during studying, even when sitting. Therefore, instructors need to provide some nutritional fuel to learners. It would be great if there was  a magic pill that would replenish learners’ energy levels—and help them to be more productive and smarter. But that “pill” doesn’t exist yet.

As a result, instructors need to ensure a “delicious” learning experience, but with some nutritional strategy in mind. You can increase your learners’ brain's abilities by serving certain foods that "improve memory, mood, concentration and overall clarity.” Some delicious items to keep in the classroom include:

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  • Coffee: Caffeine helps boost mental acuity, and coffee is full of antioxidants that also help the brain function properly. Coffee contains caffeine, but be careful what you put in your coffee. Black coffee is best and the more you add to it, the less efficient it is. Green and black teas are also full of antioxidants.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits like blueberries and blackberries, or veggies like spinach are an excellent source of phytonutrients, which promote good health. These fruits and vegetables are also full of antioxidants to help promote healthy brain activity.
  • Chocolate: This antioxidant-rich treat improves focus and concentration. The darker the chocolate, the better.  Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and even some candy labeled as dark chocolate are so not good. It's best to go to an alternative grocer and buy a chocolate with a high percentage in dark chocolate on the label. Dark chocolate M&Ms are always a fun and easy choice.
  • Whole grains: Foods like oatmeal and whole grain bread help improve blood flow, and good flow to the brain causes fewer mental speed bumps. Stay away from fast carbs like bagels and white breads because they offer little nutritional value and actually making people more sluggish. Granola bars and trail mixes are great choices.

De-Lovely

As a facilitator or instructor, one of your duties is to create a rapport and environment of trust between you and your learners. Your audience will be very receptive of your intentions and emotion. 

In the book Verbal Judo, George Thompson talks about the importance of removing bias in the voice.  Condescension, anger, frustration, disbelief, sarcasms, and bad emotions can kill communication and build ground for the learners to stand against your wishes.  When words are spoken in a calm and assertive manner, communication will elicit a calm response.

Some people would argue and say they are there to facilitate not to make friends. This is a big mistake. A good facilitator of learning is responsible for a friendly environment. This is your chance to make the learning experience “de-lovely.”

What is actually learnt by adults is dictated by their own personal filters. NLP identifies these as beliefs, values, decisions, and memories—broadly defined as the way someone handles information. In NLP, these filters affect our model of the world and our behavior:

  • Learners make decisions based on beliefs and value judgments. They are often in a state of conflict because their previous learning experiences do not coincide with their current learning environment.
  • Values provide the basis for decisions about what is right and wrong, what they want/need to know and don't want/need to know. In certain cultures, some beliefs are disabling, in that they prevent learners adopting strategies such as risk-taking which teachers would like to encourage.
  • Memories and prior decisions create beliefs which affect our current behavior. Learners often revert to previously adopted strategies and require deconditioning, while it can be argued that adult learning patterns merely replace earlier learning strategies which have been forgotten.

With these simple rules, the WLP practitioner will be able to deliver learning in a delightful, delicious, and de-lovely ways.

The night is young, the skies are clear
So if you want to go walking, dear,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.
I understand the reason why
You're sentimental, 'cause so am I,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

Additional resources

Seymour, John; O'Connor, Joseph. Introducing NLP: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Conari Press; Revised edition (May 1, 2011).

Barnard, Neal. Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory. Grand Central Life & Style (February 19, 2013).

Thompson, George. Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion. William Morrow Paperbacks; New Updated Edition edition (March 2, 2004).

Porter, Cole. It’s De-Lovely.