Select Page

Calibrating in NLP: Explained [What To Look For?]

Calibrating in NLP: Explained [What To Look For?]

Calibration is one of the most important things in an NLP Practitioner Training: it is used during every technique and intervention. What is calibration and what exactly should you pay attention to? You read it here.

What is calibration?

Simply put, calibration is noticing what is actually going on, so concretely observable, in other people. You first measure  how the person was first by means of a 0 measurement , and then you can observe the differences.

For example, if you want to apply an NLP technique to help someone with a phobia or addiction, do the 0-measurement by talking about the phobia / addiction while using your sensory acumen. What do you see and hear from the client? Keep this in mind so that at the end of your NLP technique you can notice if anything has changed when you talk about that same phobia / addiction.

You pay very specific attention to changes to the face or body, or the physiology, of the other. You link that to a state of mind , or state, that you know that the other person is in at that moment. One of the NLP principles is that the body and mind form a unity. If your body changes, your feelings can change with it.

Calibration of other people’s moods, and what goes on inside them, largely determines how effective your communication with them will be.

All verbal utterances should be considered unverified rumors unless supported by sensory-specific evidence.

Doesn’t calibration mean that you are filling in (judging)?

No, because you prefer to calibrate for a change and that in itself can actually be observed , in other words ‘ storyless / judgmentless ‘. Once you’ve noticed a change, the only fact you can be 100% sure is that  something has  changed.

You do not know what has changed, and you are therefore not going to fill in it. That piece is a guess, but there is a solution for that too: you can simply indicate that you have noticed that something has changed, and  then ask  for more information about what exactly has changed.

In addition to using calibration skills, it is still important to remember ANNA: Inquire Everything, Accept Nothing.

When you see a frown, don’t say, “I think you have doubts,” but say, “I notice you frown. Can you tell me what’s on your mind? ‘ In this way you apply the TOTE principle : always check, always ask.

You must have prior knowledge of what it means to that person if, for example, you suddenly see a frown. If you don’t have that prior knowledge, the solution is: ask about the meaning of your perception. When you see a frown, don’t say, “I think you have doubts,” but say, “I notice you frown. Can you tell me what’s on your mind? ‘

The meaning that you can always deduce with 100% certainty anyway is the fact that something has changed in the other person’s state of mind at all. This is extremely useful if you are talking to or want to get in touch with someone. For example as a trainer, manager or coach.

By the way, if you are working on an NLP intervention, you do not even have to ask what exactly has changed: then it is enough to know that something has changed. The client can keep the content to himself.

NIVEA: Do not fill in For Another. Fortunately, calibration is purely factual and sensory perceptible observation without linking an interpretation to it. The only conclusion you can draw is that something has changed. You don’t just know  anything .

What can you pay attention to when calibrating (calibration)?

Visual cues:

  • Skin color
  • Perspiration
  • The degree of sensory glow on the face
  • Changes in the lower lip (size, thickness, color, wrinkles, tightness …)
  • Facial expression, eyebrows, jaws, mouth
  • Facial lines
  • Other changes to the face, such as the cheeks, forehead, or mouth
  • The position of the corners of the mouth
  • The vibration of the eyelids
  • The moisture of the eyes
  • The energy of the eyes: alert scanning or sleepy …
  • Pupil dilation / enlargement of the eyes
  • More or less blinking
  • Degree of eye contact
  • Symmetrical face becomes asymmetrical or vice versa
  • Otherwise swallow
  • Breathing changes: location, speed, depth
  • Heart rate changes
  • Softening or hardening of the muscle tension
  • Neck and head movements
  • The position / angle of the head / body
  • Changes in micro muscle movements

Auditory cues:

  • Volume
  • Show
  • Intonation
  • Speed ​​/ pace
  • Breaks
  • Rhythm
  • Words
  • Mistakes and hesitations
  • Emphasis and strength on certain words, or weakness in pronouncing certain words

Gestures and body:

  • Position of the legs
  • Movement of the legs
  • Movements in hands and fingers
  • A change in the position of the spine
  • Fewer or more movements
  • The person’s overall energy
  • Acceleration or deceleration in reflexes
  • Self-touch, for example at the throat
  • Other involuntary movements

Do you want to calibrate how bad someone’s spider fear is? Get up and say, “Okay, I’ll just grab a spider now.” Watch the reaction. Also ask about submodalities , such as: “Where is the feeling in your body?”

Use your calibration skills to provide feedback in real time

Before someone will give a verbal answer, you can already see that something has happened.

  • For example, if you have paid attention to the eye patterns , you can already know that someone has visited his / her gut. You can name this for powerful feedback. If you are teaching, you can mention this to the audience while the demonstration is in progress.
  • For example, with a visual squash intervention, you can  already know that the integration has taken place without anyone needing to tell you. Calibrate the body and especially the face.
  • If someone is looking at the direction for Ad, ask, “What are you saying to yourself?”
  • When someone looks up, ask, “What do you see in front of you now?”

Calibrate in advance what the desired mood is. Afterwards test: ‘How are you now? I can see it in you. ‘

Calibration exercise

Calibrate a practice partner on two states of mind: one where he thinks about someone he likes very much, and one where he thinks about someone he doesn’t like at all. After you have calibrated, ask questions such as: who is older, who lives closest, etc. and your practice partner does not give a verbal answer: you can know who he is thinking through calibration.

You can also train only on the auditory cues by not seeing each other (by sitting with your backs to each other). Your practice partner talks substantively about something neutral while thinking about one person, and then while thinking about the other person. You guess who he thinks by paying attention to the auditory cues.

Variation: do the same but with food. Person A thinks about something he likes and then thinks about something he doesn’t like. B and C both calibrate states. Then they name random foods and check, by means of calibration, whether A likes them or not. This way, you can come up with all kinds of variations in which you can cold read your practice partner . For example, with activities he likes or dislikes doing.

For more exercises related to calibration, see the article on sensory acumen and observing instead of interpreting.  In addition, the ‘don’t assume’ principle is important to apply.

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!