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what is nlp

NLP is the difference that can make the difference

Richard Bandler describes NLP as “the study of the structure of subjective experience” or how any experience effects any future potential experience and how these experiences are formed and filed. If you only knew how your brain filed and gave value to information and experiences so much would be so much clearer.

NLP (neuro linguistic programming) was originally developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 70’s as they began to model excellence. This page includes:


NLP Myths

  • NLP is a therapy -  this myth came from the basis that a large proportion of the work that formed NLP was build on modelling leaders in the psychotherapeutic world. NLP is actually a tool for modelling excellence that can be applied in many ways
  • NLP is for manipulating people into buying or doing things they do not want to do. This myth has been built on the back of unscrupulous people and can be easily said of any field who studies human interaction and applies the findings to behavioural change.
  • NLP is a series of techniques – I will expand on this below but this myth is built on poorly trained people applying the methodology as fixed techniques taught by rote.
  • NLP is pseudoscience – this myth is spread psychotherapists, among others, who have since backtracked and developed NLPt (neuro-linguistic psychotherapy) so they can use the methodology without directly admitting its worth. NLP has much of the same model as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which is now the preferred approach of the NHS yet one is seen as an evidenced based therapy.

Attitude, Methodology, Technique

The attitude is one of curiosity and adventure, a desire to learn the skills to be able to find out what kinds of communication influences somebody, to look at life as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to learn; an epistemological journey. This lead to the methodology which states that all behaviour has a structure and that structure can be modelled, learned, taught, and changed (re-Programmed); the way to know what will be useful and effective are the perceptual skills. From these skills or exploration and experimentation NLPers have developed techniques, but techniques are not NLP they are just tools to explore applications of NLP methodology e.g. fast phobia cure which applies sub-modality work, or anchors which picks up on our sensory filing system.

What’s in it for me?

What is it you want to change or understand and effect more usefully? Coaching, leadership, sales, training, presentation skills, therapeutic intervention, behaviours, beliefs etc etc. One of the key presuppositions in NLP is ‘the map is not the territory’ or the word is not the thing (Alfred Korzybski). The basic premise is that issues are due to incomplete maps and the methodology of NLP is applied to find the gaps and fix the gaps.

The simplest and one of the most powerful tools of NLP is to build rapport, and therefore trust, so that communication becomes clearer and more valuable. Effective communication is fundamental in all areas of our lives yet little or no time is spent understanding its importance and developing the skills. NLP is a powerfully influential model of behavioural change and surprisingly straight forward to learn, a sort of user manual for the brain if you will.

Want to know more?

It is said in NLP that if you want a well formed answer ask a well formed question, so please ask how you will benefit from attending our NLP training courses and we will help you choose how to take the next step. Request a call back or contact us via the contact page

For a list of our courses please visit our NLP Training page.


Four Pillars of NLP

Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed a series of tools including the meta-model, Milton-model, eye accessing cues, presuppositions etc . along with the four pillars (Dilts) outlined below:

  • Rapport -  A relationship of mutual trust and respect developed through matching, pacing and leading; match and pacing body language, spoken language, emotional response etc. to develop a sense of ‘being on the same wave-length’;  the NLP presupposition for this would be “people like people like themselves”
  • Sensory acuity – this is more than just ‘tuning up’ your 5 senses to really pay active attention, this is noticing the structure of peoples language, use of metaphor, noticing incongruence etc.
  • Behavioural flexibility – the ability to adapt based on the person and situation; the importance of this is highlighted in the quote that opened this article. To paraphrase another presupposition “there are no difficult staff just inflexible managers”.
    Please remember I am not judging your current approach I am just stating the NLP approach. All models are prone to constraints due to their nature of application/criteria. You would have to consider what does flexibility mean to you.
  • Outcomes – well-formed outcomes, or goals, are key to achievement. It is a human condition to focus on what we don’t want rather than what we do want, to the point that these unwanted goals become ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’.  Outcomes should be stated in the positive and should be imaging ‘as if’ they are real to ensure both conscious and unconscious commitment (belief).


The Meta-Model uses a series of specific questions to recover generalised, deleted and distorted information. Examples are “This is never going to help” – never is a generalisation and can be challenged with “Never, when specifically didn’t it work” and help is a ‘comparative deletion’ in that it is being compared to some sort of measure that is unspecified so can be challenged with “how will you know when it has helped” or “what difference would be enough to be considered helpful?” Distortions are when things are distorted to mean something greater and used as evidence. “this treatment wont work because nothing has worked so far”. This statement has all three in it so see if you can spot them; the distortion is (A=B) nothing has worked = nothing will work.

Milton Model

The Milton-Model is the inverse of the Meta-Model and is full of ambiguity; the aim is to use the generalisations, deletions and distortions to your advantage e.g. “many people have really benefited from this, lets see how much it can help you”. Here you haven’t said it will definitely help or even defined what ‘help’ means. You’ll start to sound like a politician who says a lot but says nothing. The people you talk to will read into it what is perceived as useful for them.

These tools enable those trained in NLP to more clearly understand, to be more clearly understood and even influence communication. Here, applying the presupposition “You cannot not influence”, is where NLP comes into its true value – to overcome limiting beliefs (unconsciously influenced map limits).

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Date: 26 July 2024


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