What is NLP, and how can it help me?

What is NLP, and how can it help me?

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Since: Jun 13

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#1 Jun 21, 2013
This is a fun question, and it comes up quite a lot, especially when I’m meeting new people and they ask me what I do. I start by telling them that I work as a coach using NLP (neuro linguistic programming), helping people from all walks of life overcome previous barriers and create better futures for themselves. By this time their eyes have glazed over, as they say “neuro… linguist… what?” That’s right, because at this point in time, although the field is expanding rapidly, and having great results with people, it isn’t exactly that well known.

So for those of you who are interested in finding out what NLP is, and how it can help you. Here’s a quick breakdown:


The ‘neuro’ part refers to our nervous system, and predominantly is referring to how we obtain information from the outside world using our 5 senses. These are Visual (what we see), Auditory (what we hear), Kinaesthetic (what we feel), Olfactory (what we smell), and Gustatory (what we taste).


The linguistic part is about how we code this information inside our heads. In simple terms, it’s how we give meaning to all this data that we take in through our senses. The way we code this information is in the form of Pictures, Sounds, Feelings, Smells, Tastes, and also our Words and labels for things (this also includes our self-talk).


What is meant by ‘programming’ in NLP, is that this is the way that we discover and utilise the patterns and different models, both conscious and unconscious, of how we do certain things.
The easiest way to get a grasp of this is to imagine a computer. In order for it to work, it needs to have certain programs running it inside, which enable it to do certain tasks. Our brains work much the same way. We have certain ‘programmes’, which we have learnt and adopted in our lives, that structure our beliefs, values, strategies for doing things, and determine everything that we do. NLP uses mindsets, tools and techniques, which enable us to discover these ‘programmes’ in our selves and others and change them if necessary to make positive changes in our lives.

Ok, so how did NLP come about?

Well the mindset of NLP is one of curiosity, and it started with an attitude of wanting to find out how excellent people do what they do. The founders of NLP: Richard Bandler (who had a background in Mathematics), and John Grinder (who was a linguistics professor), used their existing skills to ‘model’ people who were exceptionally good at what they did. This meant asking a serious of specific questions which resulted in retrieving information about what these people were doing inside their heads while they were doing it. They first began to model a series of excellent psychotherapists named Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls, who were getting amazing results with their clients, and then moved on to model the late Hypnotherapist Milton Erikson who was also exceptional at what he did.

These first ‘models’ became the basis of NLP, and it expanded from there. Various study groups took on this way of thinking and began modelling other people who were also exceptional at what they did. Even more new ‘models’ and techniques were created by these other pioneers of the field including Tad James (the creator of Time Line Therapy®), Robert Dilts, Steve and Connierae Andreas, and many more.

So in short, NLP is a collaboration of many different people's work, from many different fields, about how to be great at what you do. This has formed certain beliefs, or presuppositions as we call them in NLP, along with techniques, which help people take control of their mind and body, in order to live happy and purposeful lives.

NLP now has applications and uses in Therapy, Business, Education, Spirituality, Leadership, Health, Personal Development, Parenting, Philosophy and many other sub-categories.

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