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What is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Parul Solanki Jul 20, 2020
Neuro linguistic programming is an alternative therapy which seeks to study the patterns used by successful and outstanding communicators and apply the techniques to affect the way we think, learn, and communicate.
Neuro linguistic programming or NLP is a term used to describe the behavioral technology, which studies the structure of how humans think and experience the world. It encompasses three of the most influential components which drive the human experience, namely neurology, language, and programming.
Promoted by its co-founders, Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder as a psychological therapy in 1970, it is believed that NLP is a solution for psychological problems like phobias, depression, habit disorder, and learning disorders. It is a tool for developing behavioral competence and flexibility.

Understanding Neuro Linguistic Programming

The essence of neuro linguistic programming is derived from the three elements: neuro refers to the brain and the neural network, linguistic is the content, both verbal and non-verbal, and programming refers to how the content is modified to useful information based on individual experiences and feelings.
The fact that our reactions to a stimuli are regulated by previous experiences and feelings can be demonstrated by an example. If a spider is dangled in front of people with arachnophobia or the fear of spiders, the usual reaction is the imagination that it is too big or far too close. Spiders are usually mild mannered and hardly any of them venomous.
Then what fuels this irrational fear in people? The belief is that the difference between a person suffering from a particular phobia as opposed to someone who is not, is the interpretation of the signals by the brains. So while processing an information, the brain takes into account our biases, our opinions, and the value systems.
The study of NLP included the observation of people with similar background and training who achieved varied results. What made certain people more effective than others? The possibility of duplicating the behavior of these people, was what led researchers to zero in on communication as the aspect of excellence.
By looking into the patterns of communication in successful people, the researchers concluded that the brain can be taught healthy patterns and behavior which might help people achieve success.


There are certain conjectures which NLP makes which include:
  • Communication is more than mere words as the body communicates constantly.
  • People already have all resources to effect a change. The only difference is the resources being there at a right time and place.
  • People work perfectly, there is nothing as broken or failed. It is just a matter of finding the function now and correcting it to something more desirable.
  • Every behavior has a positive intention which may or may not be achieved. However, in the process one might learn behavior which have a positive impact.
  • There is a useful context behind every behavior.
  • There is no such thing as failure, it is just feedback.
  • If someone can do it, then it can be modeled to be taught to others.
  • The significance of a communication is marked by the response generated.
  • If the communication is unable to elicit the desired response, try something else.
  • The element with the most flexibility is what exerts the most influence for any system.
  • Having a choice is better than the absence of any.
  • The map is not a territory which signifies that by altering a person's map we can change the reality.

Representational Systems and Submodalities of NLP

The basic premise of NLP is guided by representational system which consists of visual (images), auditory (sound), kinesthetic (touch and feelings), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell). Every individual uses one of the senses or combines them to perceive and understand the world around him.
The qualities and attributes of the representations which an individual makes with the five senses, are referred to as sub-modalities.
There are other NLP tools that may be used by the therapists like Meta-Model, Sensory Acuity and Milton Model.
Meta-Model: Using a set of questions, a therapist can infer the explicit meaning of a person's communication.

Sensory Acuity: A person's thought process is tied to his physiology so one look at a person may tell you their feelings for example if he is sad or happy.
Milton Model: Developed by the father of hypnotherapy, Milton Erikson, this model uses linguistic patterns to guide someone. For example a vague question like "Think of a dog" would lead to an individual shaping the perception of the dog in his own way. It enables an understanding of a person's process of decision making, communication, and his motivations.
NLP helps in understanding an individual and others 'maps of reality', and based on it voluntary changes of behavior are made, leading to rewards and success. Although it has been disregarded by the scientific community due to lack of any substantial evidence, it has gained popularity in the management training, sports, life coaching, and self help.