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What is NLP? Neuro Linguistic Programming
You’ve heard of NLP and you’re asking yourself: “What exactly IS it? How did NLP come to be? Why should I learn it? You’ve come to the right place for information to these and so many more questions. Perhaps you’re asking yourself: “how can I use NLP?” Under the link “How is NLP used and learned, you will get fast yet detailed answers to these and more questions.
- NLP Overview
- The Term NLP
- What are the origins of NLP
- Advanced Information about NLP
- Why should I even care?
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP for short) was developed in the early 70s by Richard Bandler, John Grinder and Frank Pucelik at the University of Santa Cruz in California. It is a method by which one can understand, improve and optimize one’s own communication. The original model has been strongly developed by many great minds and talents over the years. NLP is used in a myriad of contexts today. The areas of therapy, sales, parenting, sports, spirituality, leadership and so much more have all benefited profoundly from NLP insights and techniques.
Since its origins there have been hundreds of thousands of individuals who enthusiastically use NLP in their private, work and public lives. NLP contributes to each and every area in which an optimization of communication has proven effective. Many consider NLP as something like a “Psychology for the Healthy”. It has also been called a school for “Applied Philosophy”. It can be effectively used for weight loss, quitting smoking, modifying less-than-effective personal habits, vivifying relationships and streamlining communication in all forms.
Salespeople, teachers, social workers, trainers and business leaders profit from NLP just as much as students, employees, job seekers and children. NLP has proven to be a boon in all areas of life in which true communication takes place. True communication is understood as, on the one hand, something which occurs between individuals and on the other, between conscious and unconscious habits and needs. That makes it easy to understand how NLP had its origins in the modelling of master therapists.
The Term NLP
The expression NeuroLinguistic Programming contains the roots NEURO, LINGUISTIC and PROGRAMMING. “Neuro” refers, of course, to the nervous system. Our nervous system is responsible for the awareness, integration and storage of information from our environment. Our awareness, our thinking, our feelings and behavior, all rely on our nervous system. “Linguistic” refers to language itself. We use language to communicate with others, yet also with ourselves. This communication often expresses more than we are aware. For example, if we say: “that looks good to me”, we’ve made it clear through our choice of language, that we are involved somehow in a visual process. When we say: “sounds good to me”, we’ve communicated more than just approval. We’ve just given voice to the fact that we’re involved in an auditory process. Perhaps we’ve even communicated that our filter system for understanding our world is primarily auditory. The listener who is aware of this has just gained an enormous advantage over the listener who is not: she knows how to talk to us! The individual who becomes aware of this auditory preference has an even greater advantage: she can now expand her awareness beyond this filter, simply through this awareness!
These are no small things. These are some of the profound advantages that NLP gives us. No wonder it’s become so popular over the years!
Programming refers to our automatic habits and reactions and to how we can systematically and optimally change them. Many have played with the term NLP and found delightful new abbreviations: New Liveliness Practice, New Life Perspective, New Learning Processes. Whatever you’d like to call it, NLP is more than just a collection of effective techniques. To a flexible and curious NLP practitioner, NLP is something like a “stand” that you take for your own life. It becomes a way of looking at the world and at people that gives you a distinct advantage through its higher perspectives, its positive outlook and its profoundly practical tools.
How did NLP come about?
In the early ‘70s, there was a movement, spearheaded by books like Peters’ and Watermans’ “In Search of Excellence”. This movement extended to many branches and asked the question: “what makes high performers high performers?” The idea was to model masters in their work. This idea of “modelling” was embraced by John Grinder and Richard Bandler at the university of Santa Cruz. Grinder was a professor of Linguistics, himself a student of the great Noam Chomsky. Bandler was a student of psychology, with a strong side interest in computer programming. Both were fascinated by “Modelling” and learning strategies. With a special focus on successful therapists and what makes some therapists successful and some not, they decided to use as their models the grandfather of Gestalt Therapy, Fritz Perls and the master of family therapy, the amazing Virginia Satir. In conversations with Paul Watzlewick, they decided to include the now famous “eminence grise” of Hypnotherapy, the brilliant Milton Ericson as a model as well. All three had one important thing in common: an almost magical ability to inspire situational trust in their clients. This trust was one of the secrets of their success. The steps they observed in all three of these master therapists were made into simple and eminently teachable steps. These steps were the origin of NLP and of the so-called “Formats” that NLP students learn. In this way Bandler and Grinder were able to teach some of the success formulas of these great therapists. NLP was born.
NLP came to Germany around 1980. The first trainers were Thies Stahl, Gundl Kutschera and Bert Feustel. All three are still practicing trainers. At first the GANLP was founded, which later became the DVNLP, the German Society for Neurolinguistic Programming. Besides this organization, there are several others with the same goal: to standardize and codify NLP practices. We will discuss the history of NLP at greater length later on.
Additional Information about NLP
The following information is taken from the guidelines to DVNLP. NLP describes, based on theory, practices and models from systems theory, linguistics, neurophysiology and psychology, (to mention only a few), how human beings…
- perceive themselves and their world,
- organize and utilize this information,
- behave according to this organization,
- communicate according to the above, and
- learn, develop and transform.
Based on studies and models of human cognition and information management, NLP makes our experience of the world and how we regulate this experience understandable and teachable. On this basis there have been, over the last few years, a dizzying array of models and so-called formats which make this readily accessible to all who are interested.
The profoundly useful techniques taught in NLP courses all serve to optimize both human communication and personal development.
NLP as a macro-discipline within cognitive theory and behavioral theory, is devoted to the precise study of human subjectivity. With help from the theoretical and practical background of said disciplines, NLP opens new possibilities for groups, organizations as well as individuals focused on goal-oriented and solution-oriented strategies. Along with so many other such modern disciplines, NLP is under constant development by its practitioners, masters and trainers. These individuals and groups effectively network with researchers in related disciplines to make NLP one of the most modern and flexible teaching disciplines on the planet. Because of its eclectic and practical basis, NLP is used in combination with many modalities too numerous to list. Individuals who devote themselves to the study and practice of NLP find themselves richly rewarded with a flexible set of soft skills which improve over time.
NLP gives its practitioners an expanded consciousness for the processes that regulate both behavior and attitude. They contribute to a more efficient and conscious use of the 5 senses and the ability to express needs and goals in ways which enrich experience.
The models and theories within the NLP experience have given professional communicators over the years the following:
- a finer calibration of interpersonal communication,
- a profoundly rich experience of empathy, the ability to enter into the experiential world of other individuals,
- a greater and more satisfying flexibility in all human interactions, and
- an expanded capacity to set, pursue and reach personal and group goals.
A Question of Perspective
If you take the time to study the literary and anecdotal material about NLP, you will soon discover people over the years express their experiences very differently. This diversity is part and parcel of the NLP experience. NLP has, since its origins, been used in a great many contexts and in a great many disciplines. In other words, NLPs perspective on the world is multi-contextual.
NLP is about COMMUNICATION
One of the founding principles of NLP can be summed up by the quote from Paul Watzlewick: “We cannot not Communicate!” Every gesture, every breath, our hair, our facial expressions, our clothes, our gestures, our words, our tone of voice, even our perfumes and odors have something vital to communicate. This communication is so profound and diverse, that it would be impossible to become conscious of it in its entirety. NLP teaches not only the variability of this consciousness, but also the precision of the filtering mechanism involved. In other words, NLP teaches practical and flexible communication. Because a vital part of communication is listening, NLP teaches the most effective techniques for good listening.
NLP is about LANGUAGE
How we use language influences how we, and others, think and react. Language also sums up and brings together, which has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages revolve around important deleted information within both the surface and deep linguistical structures. The important information that is deleted through this linguistical phenomenon, can, with good NLP techniques be retrieved into consciousness for the benefit of both the speaker and the listener.
NLP teaches techniques and models of questioning which help us to form our communication in ways which are deeply satisfying for our individual needs, be they professional, private, spiritual or familial. NLP makes abundantly clear how strongly we influence ourselves and others through our use of language and modifies this influence to our highest moral and ethical standards. Language itself is full or abbreviations, generalizations, codes, deletions and shortcuts. When these are no longer helpful or even deleterious, NLP offers its users ways of refining our use of language to better suit our real needs.
The way sentences are constructed, for example, influence, merely by their construction, how we take in the information. Imagine for example, that someone says to you “You are intelligent, beautiful and successful, BUT…” Often you will tend to ignore the first three compliments and, just by nature of the structure of the sentence, focus on what comes after that “BUT”! This often less-than-conscious process within the structure of language has been used by advertisers, politicians, religious leaders, dictators and parents for centuries to manipulate people to do what they want. The knowledge that NLP teaches, makes this abundantly and precisely clear. Looked at this way, NLP serves as something of a “consumer protection agency” for language users. In other words, after becoming familiar with NLP and its techniques it is close to impossible for someone to manipulate you into doing or believing something without your conscious choice.
NLP is about Skills
Because the basis of NLP was the modelling of excellence, advanced skills in the area of communication are of paramount importance. NLP models and describes how we perceive our world. In addition, NLP offers its students techniques to efficiently modify said perceptions to match our personal goals and ideals. How exactly do we do what we do? How exactly can we do it better? How exactly do I find myself insecure or fearful in this or the other situation? How exactly can I get myself to a place where I feel comfortable, secure and competent? NLP offers practical answers to all these questions and more. Because of this, it has become known as a technique for self-regulation and personal state management.
How is it that I can learn music super-fast, but have trouble learning texts? How is it that although I may be a talented athlete, when it comes to math I feel like an idiot? How can I take the skill set from one context into the other? NLP offers, in the form of so-called sub-modalities, answers to these important questions as well. How do I experience myself as unique? How can I fall in love with that experience? How can I encourage others to do the same? Questions in the realm of confidence and self-respect are answered in ways which resonate with each individuals model of the world.
Communication without Borders – Areas of practical NLP usage.
NLP can be used in widely varying contexts:
- In Psychotherapy
- In Business (Management, HR, Aquise, Consultations, Trainings, Interview Question formulation, Change Management, to mention only a few)
- In Teaching
- In Fitness and Sports
- In Health practices
- In Spiritual Development
- In Politics
- In Child-Rearing
- In Law
- In Creative Endeavors
- In Hobbys
NLP in Business and the Workplace
The most basic to the most advanced NLP techniques have proven themselves indispensable for business, commerce and the workplace. Any trainings involving an optimization of anything resembling “Soft Skills” or “Mental Training” are given a high-octane boost through the inclusion of NLP techniques. That makes it easy to understand why so many firms in Europe and North America make constant use of the coaching and communication skills learned and practiced in NLP trainings. These skills enhance the workplace atmosphere and practical communication in all its forms. Any form of communication difficulty or breakdown between colleagues, in team meetings, through intercultural misunderstandings, etc., etc. becomes a learning tool in the hands of an NLP practitioner.
Presentations and pitches in all their forms, yet also trainings involving rhetoric and charisma are all enriched through the practices of NLP. Speakers, presenters, lecturers or leaders who once became nervous in front of a crowd discover their own strengths and resources through NLP and become confident, charismatic and professional communicators. Individuals who study mediation and conflict management have their skills strengthened through NLP as well.
Discover YOUR own potential
What exactly IS “Potential”? Philosophers have spoken of “Entelechy” for centuries, the in-dwelling ability of a structure to grow within a form. The “Human Potential” movement assumes this Entelechy for each and every individual on the planet. When you begin to become curious, how you can grow into your own potential and begin to find individual answers to the above questions, NLP offers you an entire methodology to discover even more. When you’ve done this with yourself for a while, perhaps you feel your own potential to do this with others as well. This is how coaches are born. Communication is not only how you speak to others, it is also how you speak to yourself! What tone of voice? What is the volume? What is the content? And perhaps most important; how can you optimize this self-talk to enhance your own motivation and self-acceptance? NLP offers not only answers to these questions and more, but also delivers structures and “Meta”-structures to improve the quality and usefulness of both the questions AND the answers. If you’re not living the life you wish to live, NLP gives you the means to begin.
NLP in Psychotherapy, Coaching and Consulting
A great deal of the original research regarding NLP was done on the above-mentioned therapists whose work bordered on the magical. Earlier, the only way to understand and utilize the skills of these masters was to be in daily contact with them. Since the human potential movement, cybernetics and studies of excellence, we have now made many of these skills learnable and teachable to a broad mass of interested individuals. This is NLPs claim to fame.
In the work with phobias, for example, Sigmund Freud said that a true phobia was incurable. Carl Gustav Jung disagreed and stated that it required 3 to 5 years of intense therapy. Richard Bandler demonstrated successful work with phobias inside of one hour. Now NLP masters regularly free their patients of phobias inside of a few minutes. This is but one of many examples of the strength of NLP language patterns to positively influence people in highly individual ways. The so-called “ECO-Check”, built into NLP techniques and patterns assures that each process is client-centered. That means that whatever is done, is done BY and FOR the client. This step ensures that not only the individual needs of the client are served, but also most importantly, the social and systemic needs.
NLP and Coaching
NLP has made a name for itself most especially in the area of coaching. In business, industry, psycho-social branches, yet also in the arts and in sports, NLP has made valuable contributions. Many professional coaches and trainers have been using the powerful NLP techniques in their work with individuals, groups and organizations of all kinds. Any branch that seeks efficient solutions, change management, conflict resolution and effective strategies or communication is well served by coaches with good NLP backgrounds.
NLP in the Health Branches
The principles and models of NLP have shown themselves useful for health modalities as well. NLPs communicative interface with medicine, psychology and research has placed it well to be used by doctors, nurses and anyone who deals with health seekers. Medical professionals have been known over their years of practice to occasionally become less than empathic to their patients. The soft skills of communication around the so-called “bedside manner” of doctors can, by the use of NLP be vastly improved. Much research has shown that this alone can make the difference between getting healthy or not. The proven yet little-understood “Placebo Effect”, having something to do with the patient’s expectation of what will happen, can be a major factor in healing modalities. NLP can profoundly contribute to a patients’ attitude towards healing, thereby improving the tempo and quality of healing enormously.
NLP has developed communication techniques that have been shown to help doctors and nurses to improve their cooperative relationships both among colleagues as well as in doctor-patient relationships. The general atmosphere in health facilities along with effective ways of communicating with patients have contributed greatly to NLPs reputation in the health branches.
Research in NLP areas of interest of late have involved,
- how personal health and fitness can be enhanced,
- how negative stress can be reduced,
- how the bodies’ own healing resources can be strengthened,
- how the relationship between attitudes and beliefs contribute to health.
The basic question is: “what exactly is the difference between a patient who gets healthy after a given illness and one who does not?” The research into this vital question continues.
NLP and Creativity
An enormous quantity of artists, writers and musicians have been helped by NLP. What is it about the creative mind that makes it different? However you answer this question, NLP techniques make these processes consciously stronger. Books with titles like “The Inner Game of XXX”, (and there have been many over the years) make it clear that whatever “Mental Training” is from case to case, its understanding is vital to creativity. Any musician who has been frustrated, any writer with ‘writers’ block’, any actor facing creative hurdles can tell you that effective mental attitudes and habits can make the difference between success and failure. That is precisely what NLP specializes in. The many strategies and techniques developed by NLP practitioners over the years have served as a boon to the creative mind and the individuals who possess them!
NLP in Training and the Classroom
The basic focus of NLP, its methodology and techniques is on how we learn. Learning strategies are central to any work in the classroom. Unfortunately, there is much too little focus on young students’ ability to learn exactly HOW they themselves learn. One of the big secrets in pedagogy is that this process differs profoundly from one student to the next. Less than effective teachers assume, rather simply, that how they learn is how students should learn. This unfortunately leads to something of a class system or hierarchy in the classroom: the talented vs. the untalented, the intelligent vs. the unintelligent, the good learners vs. the bad learners. The great, magic question for NLP is not who is intelligent and who is not, but rather; “how can I bring the best out of each and every student in my class?” With well-executed NLP techniques a teacher can inspire and motivate each student in the class to not only learn, but also to learn exactly HOW they learn. This stands or falls with the teacher as role model. When the teacher demonstrates clearly her ability to learn how the student learns and to sensitively modulate this ability over time, she demonstrates to the student an important principle of learning; it changes over time and from one context to the next.
NLP and Parenting
NLP principles and techniques have shown themselves valuable in an optimization of the relationship between parents and children. Parents discover positive and encouraging forms of communicating and, as mentioned above, how to communicate with each child in ways as unique as the child himself.
Imagine, for example, a child in the so-called “Terrible Twos”. In this phase of child development it’s important for children to learn object constancy and borders. They do this, as a rule, by repeating two words often and emphatically; “NO” and “MINE”! Every parent recognizes this sometimes challenging phase. Now imagine a child who says “NO, MINE” every time another child wants to play with his toys. Now imagine a mother who scolds the child: “you’re selfish, selfish SELFISH! You are a very selfish boy!” What message is the child getting from the all-important mother figure? What introject, what mental habit, what form of self-identification is being taught here? If you think about it, it’s basically just the opposite from what the mother actually wants. Now consider another mother, one who has either studied NLP or is using its principles. She says; “I know how generous you can be. I’ve seen it. Those are YOUR toys. You decide who plays with them. And I know for sure that sooner or later, you’ll let that other boy play with yours!” What do you imagine that will do? What identification and introject is the mother teaching her young child? It’s obvious by these two examples that the second parenting technique is more in line with what the mother actually wants from her child. The important clue is: she’s more likely to achieve it by using the second technique. This is an important NLP pre-assumption: state your needs and desires in positive ways. Or, as Dale Carnegie might say, “give people a fine reputation to live up to!”
Parents who understand the value of this positive expectation for their children are bringing more and more well adjusted human beings into the world.
We understand NLP as an enormous and very fillable toolbox, into which go techniques, theories and experience of thousands of NLP practitioners the world over. At the same time, NLP is a methodology, an attitude, a “stand” which its practitioners take when experiencing their own lives. This stand has much to do with character. It has much to do with resilience and it has much to do with a highly realistic and practical positive attitude towards living. When an NLP practitioner says: “I’ve gone from becoming a brain owner to a brain user!”, he’s referring to a specialized understanding of his own brain and nervous system and how it works most effectively. This is the promise of NLP: that which the ancient Greeks called (Γνῶθι σεαυτόν), Gnṓthi Seautón “KNOW THYSELF”. This self-knowledge, this self-acceptance, this self-love, when practiced regularly, is the key to “The good life”! Making your life a creative endeavor, re-creating yourself over and over and over again requires just exactly the tools in the NLP toolbox.
As we all know, this involves communicating effectively with others and with ourselves. The goal here is to make our communication so congruent and so lively, that our life is worth living no matter what happens. As you’ve probably guessed, communication is an important key.
This key opens the doors to:
- personal development
- an improvement in interpersonal communication
- a greater ability for true intimacy
- greater self-assertion
- greater self-knowledge
- conflict resolution
- leadership skills
- being a support system for others
- more efficient goal setting skills
- improvement in family life
- team building
- “good-enough” parenting
- a heightened ability to understand your own real needs
- an understanding of personal joy, bliss and happiness
- effective coaching
- a better understanding what motivates others
- improved sales
- much, much more!
On our website you will find more information how NLP improves your soft and hard skills
If you are looking for a set of skills, modules, theories and practices to improve how YOU live YOUR life in all areas both internal and external, LOOK NO MORE. NLP gives you the tools you need to not only understand yourself and your world, but to influence them in ways aligned with your own needs and your own ethical standards. Even more important, it gives you the tools by which YOU can create your own tools and techniques for future projects that you may not even be able to imagine right now. If you are a seeker and what you seek is a passionate outlook on your own life, then welcome. NLP is what you are seeking. Begin NOW!