What is NLP (Mega Article)

“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 Richard McHugh.

“NLP is methodology for explicitly mapping and tracking human experience for the purpose

of modelling, communicating effectively and creating change.”

Michael Carroll

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 outcomes consistently.

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

It 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.

NLP Presuppositions

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

Improved concentration

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 Practitioner Course 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).


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:

Body Posture

Hand Gestures

Facial Expressions

Weight Shifts


Movement of Feet

Eye Movements

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

Clarify meaning

Identify limits

Give choices

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.