What is NLP
“NLP is a modelling technology with specific focus on the set of differences that make the differences between the performances of geniuses and average performers in the same field of activity. The objective of modelling is to
explicate in a transferable and learnable way, a set of differences. The core activity of NLP is the mapping of tacit
knowledge onto an explicit model.”
Carmen Bostic St Clair & John Grinder, adapted from Whispering in the Wind
Founders and Background of NLP
NLP was founded in the 1970s by John Grinder and Richard Bandler at the University of California, Santa Cruz, by modelling three people, Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. In 1975 Grinder and Bandler presented the first two NLP models to the world in the volumes “Structure of Magic I and II.” The volumes published by the respected publishing house “Science and Behaviour Books Inc” put NLP on the map and interest in the new field of NLP spread quickly.
Gregory Bateson has been a very important inspiration in the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming, having served as a mentor to both Richard Bandler and John Grinder and introducing them to medical hypnotist Milton Erickson.
Other developers and contributors include Robert Dilts, Steve Andreas and Corrniare Andreas, Judith DeLozier and
“NLP is methodology for explicitly mapping and tracking human experience for the purpose of modelling, communicating
effectively and creating change.”
What is NLP?
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy.
It is the way of understanding, organising and changing our thoughts, feelings, language and behaviours to help
achieve desired outcomes for them. It is how to use the language of the mind to achieve our goals and desired
It is the study of subjective reality. It helps you understand how we create our mental maps and internal realities and
provides you with tools to transform it completely.
It's the most advanced development in mental productivity ever created. It's not psychology. It's not analysis. It's not
logic or guided imagery. It's the science of the structure of your own experience – how you think, how you have feelings,
how you perform every action, and how you can improve them.
NLP is a pragmatic school of thought – an ‘epistemology’ – that addresses the many levels involved in being human.
NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also
involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior.
NLP provides tools and skills for the development of states of individual excellence, but it also establishes a system of
empowering beliefs and presuppositions about what human beings are, what communication is and what the process
of change is all about.
At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity and mission. It also provides a framework for understanding
and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and
global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision.
We form internal mental maps on the basis of how we filter and perceive the information around us. It is unique to every individual.
Neuro - the nervous system (the mind) processes our experience via our five senses
Linguistic - how we code the information around us and internal thoughts to make sense of them
Programming - how our body responds to this information via behaviours and thoughts
The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (programming).
NLP training includes various levels, from Introduction level to Master trainee.
Respect for the other person's model of the world.
The meaning of the communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response that you get.
The mind and body affect each other.
People respond to their experience, not to reality itself. The map is not the territory.
Every behaviour has a positive intention. Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have available.
People make the best choice they can at the time.
Behaviour is geared towards adaptation.
Accept the person; change the behaviour.
Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ecology.
People have all the resources that they need to make the changes that they want. We already have all the resources we
need or we can create them. There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states.
Possible in the world and possible for me is only a matter of how.
The system (person) with the most flexibility (choices) of behaviour will have the most influence on the system
- Law of Requisite Variety
There is no failure, only feedback.
There are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators.
Having choice is better than not having choice. All procedures should be designed to increase choice and develop
greater personal flexibility.
All procedures should be designed to increase choice and wholeness.
Working of NLP
The varying interpretations of NLP make it hard to define. It is founded on the idea that people operate by internal “maps”
of the world that they learn through sensory experiences.
NLP tries to detect and modify unconscious biases or limitations of an individual’s map of the world.
NLP is not hypnotherapy. Instead, it operates through the conscious use of language to bring about changes in someone’s
thoughts and behavior.
For example, a central feature of NLP is the idea that a person is biased towards one sensory system, known as the preferred representational system or PRS.
Therapists can detect this preference through language. Phrases such as “I see your point” may signal a visual PRS. Or
“I hear your point” may signal an auditory PRS.
An NLP practitioner will identify a person’s PRS and base their therapeutic framework around it. The framework could
involve rapport-building, information-gathering, and goal-setting with them.
Application and Uses of NLP
Therapy for psychological disorders such as anxiety, phobia, depression
Business - sales, leadership, negotiation, presentations, customer relations
Coaching - helping clients achieve goals, overall sense of fulfillment, more confidence
Education - learning, dealing with learning difficulties, teaching
Health - allergies, weight loss, chronic illness
Sports - improved focus, overcoming bad performances
Benefits of NLP
Some of the benefits of NLP include:
Clarity of vision, purpose and values
Neutralise/Eliminate negative thoughts
Improved soft skills and greater confidence and command in activities such as public speaking
Overcoming limiting beliefs
Gained control of life
Improved communication, management, leadership, presentation and coaching skills
Improve leadership and teamwork skills
Developing stronger & healthier relationships
Become more resilient
Reduce stress, anxiety and tiredness in life using skills and coping mechanisms
Peace within self and with others
Helps to get over unwanted/bad habits
New Code NLP
New Code NLP was developed by John Grinder initially with Judith Delozier, and then Carmen Bostic St Clair. When
creating the New Code, Grinder originally sought to correct what he perceived to be coding flaws in the classic code.
Another outcome was to create fast and effective change processes for working with clients.
It works on the following principles:
The unconscious of the client is explicitly assigned the responsibility to select the critical elements – the desired state,
the resource or new behaviors.
The unconscious is explicitly involved in all critical steps.
There are precise constraints placed upon the selection of new behavior(s) such that the new behaviors satisfy the original
positive intentions of the behavior(s) to be changed.
The manipulation occurs at the level of state and intention as opposed to the level of behavior.
New Code NLP operating principles also includes the chain of excellence
The format of New Code NLP is as follows:
The change format in the new code is a single ordered sequence consisting of four simple steps. It is essential for a coach
to calibrate the player.
Identify the context where the client wants a difference in experience from 3rd position
Associate to the context of where the change/state is desired. (1st position), Fully access circuitry associated with the issue.
Separator state/Break State
Enter know nothing state, or high performance state via game or some other means
Coach manoeuvres the client to the context with neural pathways fully activated from high performance state.
Table 1: Difference between Classic NLP and New Code NLP
The New Code finally fulfills the promise of transforming the process of change into “generative change”.
NLP Strategies and Techniques
Nlp has many tools, strategies and techniques, a few of which are mentioned below.
The basic NLP Allergy Technique has now been applied thousands of times in clinical and training settings and has
been effective in changing a vast majority of allergy symptoms. This pattern has a reputation for reducing or eliminating
symptoms of allergies. The types of allergies have included those to airborne material, such as smoke, pollen, perfume,
etc., to various foods, and even in cases involving asthma.
An anchor is a stimulus (stimulus, trigger) that causes a certain reaction in a person that is always the same.
In NLP, “anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some external or internal trigger so
that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, re-accessed.
Components of a good anchor include timing of anchor, intensity of the state, precision of repetition, uniqueness of the
anchor and purity of the state.
Setting an anchor means consciously linking an external stimulus with an existing experience. All sensory channels can
be used for anchoring (pictures, sounds, sensations, smells, tastes). Anchors can be set and released by oneself or by
others (self-set, external anchor). Firing an anchor means triggering the stimulus, reactivating and experiencing the
previously anchored experience.
You can merge, chain and collapse your anchors as well.
NLP Anchoring is used to facilitate state management. It is also used to help remove mental triggers that cause you to
experience unpleasant emotions due to a past event.
You experience anchors every day, whether you are aware of these or not!
Clean Language is a simple set of questions developed by counselling psychologist David Grove. These questions are
used with a person’s own words to direct their attention to some aspect of their own experience.
Asking these questions in the right context often results in an interesting new insight or the recognition of some new
possibility. And if that new possibility is then questioned using Clean Language, the result can be quite profound.
Clean questions invite people to consider their experience from different perspectives and they are often surprised
by their own capacity to generate new, powerful and useful ideas about their own experience. They are used in many
different fields, including coaching, therapy, business, health and education.
An NLP Embedded Command is a command that is inside a longer sentence marked out by voice, tone or gesture.
It is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique for "planting" a thought (state, process, or experience) within
the mind of another person beneath the person’s conscious awareness. This is done through presuppositions,
which are assumptions implied within verbal structures.
NLP Embedded Commands are useful in many contexts. They are particularly effective when leading a meeting or
facilitating training. In the business world, NLP Embedded Commands are extremely effective, this is because many
organisations are sharing high volumes of information on a daily basis (more than the conscious mind can process).
MATCHING AND MIRRORING
Mirroring refers to the simultaneous ‘copying’ of the behavior of another person, as if reflecting their movements back
to them. When done with respect and discretion, mirroring creates a positive feeling and responsiveness in you and others.
Mirroring behaviors can include:
Movement of Feet
Matching, on the other hand, can have a built-in ‘time lag’. For example, if a seated client uncrosses his legs and leans
slightly inward while speaking, you should wait for a few seconds and then discretely adopt the same posture.
The meta-model in NLP or neuro-linguistic programming (or meta-model of therapy) is a set of questions designed to
specify information, challenge and expand the limits to a person’s model of the world.
It responds to the distortions, generalizations, and deletions in the speaker’s language. The meta model forms the basis
of Neuro-linguistic programming as developed by then assistant professor of linguistics, John Grinder and Richard Bandler.
Distortion is the process which allows us to make shifts in our experience of sensory data. Distortion is the process of bringing
in information through your senses and then playing with that information in your mind to create new concepts, ideas
and understandings. Types of Distortions include - Mind Reading, Performative, Cause and Effect, Complex Equivalence, Presuppositions.
Generalization is the process by which elements or pieces of a person's model become detached from their original
experience and come to represent the entire category of which the experience is an example. Types of
Generalisations include - Universal Quantifiers, Modal Operators (possibility and Necessity).
Deletion is a process by which we selectively pay attention to certain dimensions of our experience and exclude others.
Types of Deletions include - Nominalisations, Unspecified Verbs, Simple Deletions, Comparative Deletions.
Meta Model is used:
To gather information
Bring someone out of trance
The function of the Meta Model is to help us identify problematic deletions, distortions and generalizations in our
internal thinking patterns and our linguistic interactions with each other, and to propose ways of transforming them
or revising their use in certain contexts.
Meta Programs are mental processes which manage, guide and direct other mental processes. In other words,
they are processes about or at a higher level than (meta to) the mental processes they affect.
They are internal representations of your external experience of reality. They determine how your brain pays
attention to things and what it pays attention to. It’s a form of pattern recognition, where your brain attempts to
sort through what the body is sensing and experiencing.
Different NLP developers and authors describe different sets of Meta Programs, sometimes with considerable
overlap, sometimes with specific contextual purposes, and sometimes with great originality.
The most common Meta Programs are:
Towards vs Away
Match vs Mismatch
External (Other) and Internal (Self) Frame of Reference
Sorting By Self vs Sorting by Others
Possibility vs Necessity
Attribution Style: Best-Case vs Worst-Case Scenario Thinking
Big Chunk thinking vs Little Chunk thinking
Association vs Dissociation
Any given Meta Program is neither good nor bad outside some specific context and desired outcome.
NLP modeling is a method or strategy of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating
patterns of language and behavior observed in others.
The three most common goals of NLP modelling are:
Developing techniques to improve performance.
Modelling bad behaviours as a way of knowing which strategies we need to avoid or to change.
Using modelling to understand or know someone better. The more we’re aware of the way our clients think, the
easier it is to develop rapport.
Modeling can be used for improving meta-cognition, improving performance, achieving a specific result,
transferring to other content.
Robert Dilts designed the model of logical levels in the mid 1980s. He formulated them according to
Bateson's logical levels of learning.
The NLP logical levels (also known as the logical levels of change, the logical levels of thinking and the
neurological levels) are very useful for assisting with or understanding change from an individual, social or
organization point of view.
The Logical Levels provides us with a structured way of understanding what's going on in any 'system'
including the human personality, a partnership or marriage, a family, a team, a department, or even an organisation.
PACING AND LEADING
Pacing and Leading is a popular Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique.
Pacing is when you enter the other persons model of the world on their terms. Like walking beside them at
their pace. Once you have paced another person, established rapport and shown that you understand where
they are coming from then you can lead them.
Leading is when you use the influence that you have built up from pacing. When you scratch your nose they go
on to scratch theirs.
Pacing and Leading are NLP techniques associated with Building Rapport
Today's NLP theory of Perceptual Positions was originally formulated by John Grinder and Judith DeLozier in 1987.
Perceptual Positions is a simple technique that enables you to see the other person’s point of view; to gain greater
understanding of the other person’s perspective of a certain situation.
Understanding the situation from the point of view of other’s not only helps in letting go of the negative emotions
associated with the situation but also has a potential to provide powerful insights in terms of strategies to handle
similar situations in the future more effectively.
This technique is widely used in business, political conflict situations and transformational development. In addition
to being useful for improving one to one interactions, it’s great for sales teams to consider the position of the customer.
It can also be used for presenters considering the position of the audience. The process will enhance your opportunity
for success and expand your thinking and awareness.
It can be used before important interactions to prepare, or after in order to learn from the experience.
Perceptual positions is an exercise with roots in NLP and an amazing way to build up four things:
first, self-awareness and better understanding of our own perception of the world;
second, empathy and better understanding for others;
third, strengthen the objective view on the situation;
fourth, discover new (cognitive) perspectives and insights into any situation or relationship.
The fast phobia cure is an NLP technique that is quick and effective for overcoming phobias and unpleasant feelings
associated with trauma.
It uses image alteration. The phobic person is guided to make changes to each submodality. You can change the
speed at which you experience your fear. You can alter the colors. Or you can put a funny soundtrack on the movie.
By changing how you experience the fear situation, you break the link between the object and the fear. The fear is
no longer automatic, so the fear goes away.
You can apply the fast phobia technique to a wide range of phobias and irrational fears.
Reframing is a tool used in NLP and maybe actually used by people in their daily lives. It
literally means changing the frame of reference. Changing the frame of reference or
constructing a new framework involves taking in a new perspective, meaning and
Reframing is the process of making a shift in the nature of a problem. It is the process of changing a
negative statement into a positive one by changing the “frame” or reference used to interpret the experience.
The purpose of reframing is to help a person experience their actions, the impact of their
beliefs, etc. from a different perspective (frame) and potentially be more resourceful or have
more choice in how they react.
Reframing includes 2 basic forms of frames – Content Reframing and Context Reframing.
Content reframe is when we change our behaviour to suit the place and time. Context reframe is when we keep the
same behaviour but change the place and the time of that behaviour.
Bandler and Grinder developed the six step reframe technique from their study of Milton Erickson
(ideomotor signals) and Virginia Satir‘s work with parts.
These 6 steps can be used with any habit or behaviour you want to change, even psychosomatic
symptoms and medical ailments.
The six-step reframe is reframing a positive intention behind poor or less desirable behaviour.
Reframing is the process of making a shift in the nature of a problem. It is the process of changing a
negative statement into a positive one by changing the “frame” or reference used to interpret the experience.
Sensory acuity is the ability to be acutely aware of the detail in front of you, for example: mouth turned up or
down, changes in skin tone, where the client is breathing from or changes in breathing.
People give out huge amounts of information from moment to moment. Changes in their emotional states
and in what they are thinking about cause changes in their physiology. Sometimes these changes are subtle,
sometimes they are very obvious.
In NLP, sensory acuity enables the practitioner to stop ‘mind reading’ and start to have more accuracy in
calibrating (determining by criteria, not guessing) what the body language (including facial muscles and
tones of voices) is telling them. Obviously this is crucial in any person to person interaction and will
enhance any chance of knowing that person deeply or working on a substantial level with them.
Sensory acuity can also be referred to as sensory awareness and is a fundamental pillar of NLP.
Submodalities refer to the various qualities our thoughts and feelings take on. In NLP, we learn that
people process information through their five senses, three of which get more attention: seeing, hearing
and feeling. Each of these is referred to as a modality, i.e the visual modality.
Submodalities are the fine distinctions we make within each representational system. They help us remember
what we have seen, heard, felt, smelt and tasted both externally and imagined. For instance, we are more
likely to remember a large bright picture than a small dull one.
Different kinds of submodalities include - visual, kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory and gustatory.
Submodality interventions are very powerful and they are an excellent way for you to be
able to help the people you work with to create more choice in their lives.
An NLP Swish Pattern is the process of taking a behaviour or state and changing the submodalities to
enhance a new behaviour or state, sometimes accompanied by a noise like “swwwwishhhh” at the time
of changing them.
It is very useful for replacing an unfavourable emotion or behaviour with a more useful one.
Time Line Therapy (TLT) is a powerful therapeutic process that has evolved from hypnosis and NLP,
developed by Tad James, PhD in the 1980s. It was developed by applying a therapeutic process to
the concept that we store our memories in a linear manner in an internal memory storage system.
TLT provides one of the most powerful processes and techniques for personal change and growth by
facilitating the elimination of the painful emotions attached to memories or events in the past. TLT also
focuses on what we can learn from those events and use what we learn as a resource for the future.
Time Line Therapy is a process that helps us to :
let go of Negative Emotions from the past
let go of Limiting Decisions from the past
create our future the way we want it.
Time Line Therapy techniques and practical processes produce long-lasting transformation much quicker
than what is currently called "brief therapy", with a minimum of discomfort to the client. Some examples of
painful emotions include anger, rage, sadness, hurt, regret, fear, guilt, and remorse.
Additionally, feelings of being unworthy or of low self-esteem can be eliminated.
TLT also enables you to clear limiting beliefs that can leave you stuck in the past and stops you from
creating what you want in your life. Both unwanted negative emotions and limiting beliefs influence every
area of our lives.
VISUAL KINESTHETIC DISSOCIATION
VKD involves reviewing traumatic events via visual imagery from a different perspective. In most instances,
events may be visually replayed from an overhead view, or from the viewpoint of a bystander. The idea behind
the different perspectives is that the person can relive the trauma in a less-stressful environment, as they are
not directly involved.
It is also known as the Rewind technique.
Not only is the goal to reduce traumatic memories, but also to allow the patient to learn from the event,
and understand why it happened.
This technique is favored by those suffering major traumas or phobias, as the participant does not need
to be exposed to unnecessary emotion, and also does not need to verbalize details of the event to the counselor.
WALT DISNEY STRATEGY
The strategy was devised by Todd Epstein and Robert Dilts, two NLP trainers. They modelled the method
used by Walt Disney to turn his ideas into reality, especially in the form of his animated films.
They recognised that Disney used three types of thinking – day dreaming or fantasising, planning, and
being constructively critical.
The NLP Disney Strategy provides us with a systematic way of turning dreams into workable plans – or,
as is sometimes the case, evaluating the dream and recognising that it’s simply not workable.
There are many more such tools and techniques that are found and used in NLP.
NLP is now in its third decade as a field of study and has evolved considerably since its beginnings in the
mid 1970s. Over the years, NLP has literally spread around the world and has touched the lives of millions of people.
NLP has become very popular over the years. This popularity may have been driven by the fact that
practitioners can use it in many different fields and contexts.
It provides practical ways in which you can change the way that you think, view past events, and
approach your life. It shows you how to take control of your mind, and therefore your life.
You may not be able to control the world, but you can control how you react to it.
This article is written by Rucha Lidbide who has been a part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). Rucha is a student of psychology. She is in her final year of graduation.