What is NLP

Neuro Linguistic Programming – Changing Behavior and Thinking

Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP in the 70’s. They wanted to find out what made two of the successful communications experts so effective. Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir seemed to have little in common except that they got great results. Bandler and Grinder later studied hypnotherapist Milton Erickson and made the NLP model even better.

Exceptional results are probably a great basis for a model if you think about it. Bandler and Grinder didn’t focus on different schools of thought. Credentials and theories didn’t divert their attention. They wanted to know how it worked. What did someone actually do to get someone to change?

How experts do what they do

There had been attempts to study these masters before. The difficulty with having a skill of course is it becomes unconscious. If someone wanted to know “How do you read/write/talk so effectively?”, most of us would not be able to explain.

I find it interesting to read interviews with experts about their good leadership skills for instance. Mostly experts only think they know what makes them successful. The executives of Enron in its heyday truly believed they had all the answers. Jeffrey Skilling decided that actual balance sheets were inconvenient.

By asking, “What do these incredibly effective change therapists have in common?”, Bandler and Grinder created an entirely new model.

What does Neuro Linguistic Programming mean?

The term Neuro Linguistic Programming, actually came from Alfred Korzybski. It was not something they made up, as some have said. Misunderstandings and hype surround NLP, which includes Ericksonian hypnosis. Skeptics have seen it as

  1. Manipulative
  2. Some kind of voodoo magic
  3. Something that either does or doesn’t “work”

There is even an NLP seduction community wanting to exploit its “powers”.


We experience the world through our senses, and neurology, and thus create our view of reality and act accordingly. That is, all behavior results from how we use our senses sight; hearing; touch and feeling; smell and taste and then process this information through our brains and nervous systems.


Linguistics refers to language and other non-verbal communication systems. It’s about how we communicate to others and ourselves. A Jungian approach would say there is a spiritual ground of being that underpins our journey as human beings. That “language” evolves from our first cry — our first attempt to communicate and reach out. It’s about pattern recognition.


The “programming” part interprets human experience in very logical terms. Every day we organize our thinking and behaving to get results. Our behavior is not just random. Most of our thinking and feeling has a structure and a sequence. If we understand the structure, we can largely predict the result. If we have a recipe – know the ingredients and the method of combining them, we know if we will end up with a cake or a stir-fry. If I think I can’t do something, I am usually right.

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