Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

The formal definition of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is: The study of the structure of subjective experience.

NLP was developed in the early 1970's by Richard Bandler, Ph.D., information scientist; and John Grinder, Ph.D., linguist. Bandler and Grinder were interested in how particular people were able to achieve excellent results in what they did.

They initially studied 3 people: Milton Ericson, a renowned hypnotist, Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, and Fritz Perls, the creator of Gestalt Therapy. These 3 people did what they did in an absolutely wonderful way, and they did it naturally, in an intuitive way, without knowing exactly how they did it.

Bandler and Grinder believed that if they could break down how these therapists performed into precise, specific and exact pieces, they could model them and achieve the same results. They used technology from linguistics and information science, combined with insights from behavioral psychology and general systems theory, to unlock the secrets of highly effective communication.

The technology, or methodology, that Bandler and Grinder used is known as human modeling; the actual building of models of how people perform or accomplish something. This modeling process can be used for any behaviour or process, and means actually finding and describing the important elements and processes that people go through to achieve excellence.

For example, if you want to know how to teach some particular skill or concept, you'd first find someone who does it extremely well. Then ask him or her lots of questions about what they do, why they do it, what works and does not work, and so on. At the same time, observing this person in action will often lead to new and better questions to ask in the process. Most of us do this already, though perhaps not systematically.

The addition of specific NLP technology makes it possible to discover much of what this human model does that he or she is not aware of. To do this well means to actually study the structure of people's thought processes and internal experience, as well as their observable behavior.

During their early studies Bandler and Grinder developed a unique system of asking questions and gathering information that was based on the fields of transformational grammar and general semantics. Later they and their colleagues discovered certain minimal cues people give that indicate very specific kinds of thought processes. These include eye movements, certain gestures, breathing patterns, voice tone changes and even very subtle cues such as pupil dilation and skin color changes (training of Practitioners of NLP includes the skills and knowledge to use these information gathering techniques and to notice and interpret the subtle cues).

NLP includes representational systems, whether someone processes events visually, auditiorially, kinesthetically or cognitively (logically and sequentially) and the submodalities, the specific details, that go along with these, meta programs, language patterns, parts integrations, presuppositions and much more.

NLP is this gathering of information to make models, based on the internal experience and information processing of the people being studied and modelled, including the part that is outside of their conscious awareness. The word "neuro" refers to an understanding of the brain and its functioning. Linguistic relates to the communication aspects (both verbal and non-verbal) of our information processing. Programming is the behavioural and thinking patterns we all go through. There is a relationship between perceptions, thinking and behaviour that is neuro-linguistic in nature. The relationship is operating all the time, no matter what we are doing, and can be studied by exploring our internal or subjective experience. NLP is used for education, sales, and therapy.

NLP theory is becoming more mainstream. For example in schools now teachers analyze how students learn, instead of assuming they are all the same. Many NLP techniques are taught in sales, and many Personal Growth Programs, or Coaching Programs incorporate many NLP techniques.

Presuppositions of NLP

    These are the basic principles or presuppositions of NLP, the basis of all the interventions, the things we take for granted:

    • Respect for the other person’s model of the world
    • The meaning of communication is the response that you get
    • If you change any part of a system, you affect every part of the system in some way that the mind and the body affect each other
    • The words we use are not the event or the item they represent
    • The most important information about a person is that person’s behaviour
    • Behaviour is geared for adaptation, and present behaviour is the best choice available
    • A person’s behaviour is not who they are (accept the person, change the behaviour)
    • People have all the ability they need to succeed. (There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states)
    • I am in charge of my mind, and therefore my results
    • The system (person) with the most flexibility of behaviour will control the system, In cybernetics this is known as the “Law of Requisite Variety”
    • There is no failure, only feedback
    • Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of rapport; there are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators
    • All procedures need to increase choice
    • Behaviour and change is to be evaluated in terms of context, and ecology
    • All procedures should increase wholeness
    • There is a solution to every problem
    • If it is possible for any other human being to do something: it is possible for me to do it, the only question is how
    • The intention behind every behaviour is positive
    • The map is not the territory
    • Individuals have 2 levels of communication; conscious and unconscious
    • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

    Submitted by Anne Goodman, MNLP, DH, EFT

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