Neurolinguistic Programming

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), the brilliant quick-change technology developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, has such broad applications that many practitioners find it somewhat difficult to define. But in essence, NLP can be labeled the psychology of excellence.

Richard Bandler
Richard Bandler
John Grinder
John Grinder

One definition of the term 'Neurolinguistic Programming' is that it refers to the effect of words on the nervous system, both the words a person uses when they speak to themselves and the words they use when communicating with others.

For example, if I accuse another person of being stupid, the resulting negative effect may reverberate far beyond the present moment.

If I'm a significant person in that listener's life, my words may have the effect of programming the person to perceive themselves as stupid and therefore to act in stupid ways. The more emotion I use when I make my accusation, the more powerful the effect on my victim.

In similar fashion, if I substitute the word 'beautiful' for 'stupid', my words will have a positive effect on the nervous system of the listener. In a nutshell, words are powerful tools so it's important to use them wisely.

Another definition that emerged from the early days of NLP is:

NLP is a methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques.

So what is this methodology? In a word - modeling. Because Neurolinguistic Programming evolved from a study of excellence, it is based on the premise that human beings who excel in any area can be studied and the processes they use taught to other people. Many of the early NLP processes are strategies learned from role models and refined by Bandler and Grinder.

While some NLP practitioners decry the reliance on techniques, for many people caught in the throes of a crippling problem the techniques are lifesavers. NLP Practitioner and author Joseph O'Connor claims that Neurolinguistic Programming filled a gap in the psychological thinking of the 1970s, which was dominated by the behaviorists and the humanists:

What was conspicuously missing was the "how to" – the capability level. NLP stepped into this gap by providing step-by-step procedures to make excellence easily learnable.


What follows is a very brief look at the various aspects of Neurolinguistic Programming. While this information isn't a prerequisite for using NLP as part of your wealth creation strategy, reading the following summary may help you decide if you want to pursue the subject further. NLP trainers offer Practitioner, Master Track and Trainer's Trainings around the world, as well as a variety of shorter courses on the many sub-categories of Neurolinguistic Programming. Most of these trainings can be found via the Internet.


Neurolinguistic Programming emerged from a study conducted in the early 1970s in Santa Cruz, California. John Grinder, a linguistics professor at the University of Santa Cruz, and Richard Bandler, a mathematician, computer programmer and psychology student, received a grant to examine the attributes of excellence. The subjects they chose were three of the legendary therapists of the time – Milton Erickson, the world's leading medical hypnotist, Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy, and Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy.

Through their acute powers of observation, Bandler and Grinder were able to identify the key verbal and non-verbal skills utilized by each therapist to precipitate a life-changing experience in their clients. By defining these actions, Bandler and Grinder were able to duplicate the techniques themselves. Within a short time, they were achieving the same miraculous results with their subjects as the three role models did with their clients.

Bandler and Grinder then began teaching the skills in workshops and seminars and Neurolinguistic Programming was born.


But NLP is not simply about effective therapeutic techniques. What it really promotes is the concept that any activity in which another human being excels can be modeled or duplicated, providing you discover the key ingredients or strategies that the person (or role model) uses.

Since its beginnings, NLP's modeling techniques have been applied to a variety of areas, including

  • Sales
  • Public Speaking
  • Performing Arts
  • Education
  • Writing
  • Olympic Sports
  • Team Sports
  • Rifle Shooting
  • Golf
  • Animal Training
  • Fire Walking
  • Board Breaking
  • Meditation
  • Communication
  • Therapy

There are very few human activities that can't be modeled using Neurolinguistic Programming techniques.

When you find a model who excels in the area you wish to master, you can utilize a number of NLP techniques to adopt their behavior. The New Behavior Generator is one visualization technique for achieving this. Deep Trance Identification is a hypnotic approach to modeling, while Leslie Cameron-Bandler's Emprint Method is a step-by-step approach to eliciting a role model's strategy through interviewing.


The purpose behind studying mentors is to discover their strategy or recipe for achieving the results they do. When all the steps are revealed, they can be duplicated, leading to similar results. There is a strategy behind every human activity; the key is to find the most effective ones and model those.

An Owner's Manual For The Brain

Through their studies into sensory experience, Bandler and Grinder have synthesized some important discoveries about how the brain functions.

One basic premise is that we filter all incoming information through our past experiences and the resulting belief systems, perceiving what fits in with what we believe and ignoring or rationalizing away anything that does not. This internal blueprint is labeled our 'map of the world'. Neurolinguistic Programming helps people pay attention to information they habitually ignore that might actually improve their situation. By enlarging and modifying our maps of the world, we can live more fulfilling lives.

One Neurolinguistic Programming premise is that people work perfectly – they automatically create their worlds based on their internal maps. The problem occurs when they don't like the results they get. And the solution is to change the internal map.


Neurolinguistic Programming has also discovered that people generally have all the resources they need for most situations; they just don't have access to them at the time when they need them. Physiology and anchoring techniques are methods that provide the necessary access.

Sensory Experience

One of the key areas that emerged from Bandler and Grinder's study was the importance of the five senses. They are the means through which we process all information, and we can use this knowledge to get whatever we want.

People store and process information visually (in images), auditorally (in words and sounds) or kinesthetically (through feelings). You can discover your own and other people's preferred systems by asking specific questions, observing eye movements and listening to language patterns. This information can be utilized for positive results in therapy, sales, and in any human interaction.


One of the central conclusions that emerged from the original study was the importance of establishing rapport. The powerful techniques used by Erickson, Satir and Perls, as well as those of other master communicators, are taught in most NLP trainings. Rapport is created through physiology, language, voice tone and visualization techniques.

Pacing And Leading

One of the intentions behind rapport is to meet other people at their map or model of the world and respect their individual differences, rather than trying to impose your own model of the world on them. This does not preclude helping people to access more useful resources in themselves. You can do this by first creating rapport with the person and then gently leading them to a more resourceful state.


The visual system is favored by approximately 45% of the population. Neurolinguistic Programming offers several ways to turbo-charge visualizations, one of which is the use of submodalities. Changing the color, distance, sounds, and position of internal images can dramatically increase their potency. From these observations, NLP developed the swish patterns, a very dynamic form of visualization. Many legendary Neurolinguistic Programming processes - the Erasure Technique, the Phobia Cure, Change Personal History and Conflict Resolution - are all visualization techniques.


Language is a large component of the Neurolinguistic Programming approach. Bandler and Grinder originally developed a process called the Meta Model, a series of provocative questions aimed at discovering what was missing in a person's internal map of the world. They also developed the Milton Model, based on Milton Erickson's hypnotic language patterns, to create the opposite effect. Instead of helping a person get more specific, this use of generalized language effectively leads the client into generating his or her own solutions.

NLP also uses internal dialogue to help people change an unwanted situation. As opposed to affirmations, questions are utilized to elicit a person's belief system as well as changing their emotional state.


Through exploring the correlation between body posture and state, Neurolinguistic Programming has developed a number of techniques for changing emotional states through physical movement. Physiology, anchoring and the rehearsal techniques all utilize this premise.


Neurolinguistic Programming uses the notion of parts to explain the often-conflicting impulses we have about following through on a particular action. One part of us might want to go forward while another wants to hang back. NLP deals with this conflict through techniques such as Reframing, Parts Integration and conducting a Parts Party.

One central aim of NLP is to create congruency, or rapport with yourself. When all parts of a person are in alignment, there are no obstacles to taking action and pursuing whatever outcomes the person desires.

Rewriting The Past

In keeping with the concept of updating our internal maps of the world to more useful ones, Neurolinguistic Programming utilizes a number of techniques to change how past events are stored in the brain. The purpose is to modify the affects of stored memory on present behavior, as well as nullify conflicts arising from unresolved issues from the past. A skilled NLP practitioner can achieve this without eliciting any details of the actual memory involved.


Bandler and Grinder also focused on the brain's ability to absorb new information and learnings through storytelling. Metaphor is an important part of Neurolinguistic Programming and is utilized in a number of effective ways.

The Timeline

Another important NLP discovery is that people store time spatially:

  • People who visualize their past behind them, the present in front of them and the future somewhere ahead of the present may have a difficult time with planning. They can only focus on the present moment.
  • Some people imagine their past directly in front of them, with the present and future veering off to one side. They literally can't focus too well on the present or future because the past is intruding too much on their attention.
  • Other people imagine time as a straight line in front of them. While they may be excellent at planning and being objective, they may be less capable of enjoying the present moment.
Using the Neurolinguistic Programming timeline processes to change the way a person stores time will have a dramatic affect of their lives.

Goal Setting


Along with teaching effective goal-setting strategies, Neurolinguistic Programming focuses on the ecology or resulting effects of goals on both yourself and the people around you. A person's values and beliefs must also be taken into account to ensure that the goal does not conflict with deeply held convictions or ideals.

NLP also utilizes the concept of 'chunking down' in several ways: first, to move from the general to the particular, thereby becoming more specific about what you want, and secondly, to break down large goals into smaller, more attainable steps, which is an effective way of overcoming resistance. Other Neurolinguistic Programming processes can also be utilized to enhance motivation and to bypass resistance.


Neurolinguistic Programming uses the hypnotic techniques of Milton Erickson in both formal hypnosis and informal communication. All the NLP techniques lend themselves to enhancing the hypnotic process.


Neurolinguistic Programming does not promote a specific belief system or set of values. It simply offers a series of effective techniques to change what doesn't work; it is up to the individual to decide what he or she wishes to change and then to make the changes.

But NLP offers a series of presuppositions or working hypotheses – ideas that are helpful to adopt in order to effectively apply the techniques. Rather than decide if the ideas are 'true' or not, the focus is on whether they are useful. Some key presuppositions are:

  • All human behavior is purposeful
  • All of a person's parts have a positive intention
  • People do the best they can with the resources they have available at the time
  • People respond to their maps of reality, not reality itself
  • We already have all the resources we need; we just need to learn how to access them
  • If we don't have a necessary resource, we can create it
  • Choice is better than non-choice


A number of Neurolinguistic Programming techniques lend themselves to metaphysical exploration. The Change Personal History and Timeline techniques can be adapted to include past lives and genealogical history. The Questions techniques can take a person to very deep meditative levels. Visualization techniques can be used to explore the periods 'between lives'. The focus is on whether the process fits with the client's belief system and offers a useful result, not on whether the concepts are factually based or not.

Remedial Versus Generative Change

While Neurolinguistic Programming is extremely effective in a therapeutic setting, there is an underlying trend away from the level of 'fixing problems' towards a more expansive objective of broadening the person's choices and enabling them to live a more fulfilling life. This is defined as generative change and is the ultimate goal of any NLP intervention.

While NLP students have been criticized for treating the subject like a new religion, their enthusiasm will become understandable if you begin to explore the field for yourself. It is so all encompassing, touching on so many aspects of the human experience, that a person would be hard-pressed to explore all the ramifications in several lifetimes. The delight in discovering such a treasure trove of information can temporarily transform the most levelheaded scholar into a babbling devotee. Eventually this transmutes into a deep appreciation and respect for the material.

Bandler and Grinder encouraged their students to take the NLP methodology out into the world and use it to discover their own techniques. Many of them did, taking Neurolinguistic Programming into new areas and occasionally changing the label as they molded it to their own unique viewpoints. NLP has now infiltrated so many other forms of therapy, athletics training, sales training and assorted disciplines that often only a trained practitioner will recognize its influence.

That's as it should be. Bandler and Grinder learned from the masters, and in the process became masters themselves. Their genius was to see beyond the practice of excellence to its structure, and to make that structure available to the rest of us. That their students have taken on board their mandate and become creative with their discoveries is a testament to their skills as teachers and role models.

Your Next Step:
  1. If you're ready to attend your first NLP event, you can't go past the master, Anthony Robbins. Despite labeling his techniques 'neuro-associative conditioning', much of what Tony teaches is NLP-based, enhanced by his twenty plus years of experience working with thousands of people.

  2. A more recent addition to the NLP training field is Chris Howard, a charismatic presenter who offers workshops in the USA and Australia. You can check out the schedule for his FREE 2 day seminars at his web site, The Power Of Influence. Like Tony, Chris's focus is on creating wealth and success through adjusting your mindset.

  3. Another excellent wealth creation trainer is Canadian T. Harv Eker, who blends a variety of quick-change methods in his popular workshop, The Millionaire Mind. Check out his web site at Secrets of the Millionaire Mind to see if he's still offering two free tickets to his workshop with the purchase of his recent book.

  4. Meet more of the geniuses behind NLP on our NLP Mentors page.

  5. Browse our list of recommended NLP Authors on the NLP Resources page.

  6. Find more books on NLP at the Amazon web site:

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Disclaimer: This site is purely educational and we make no claims or guarantees with regard to the information presented. Please consult a certified NLP practitioner for individual coaching in the use of NLP techniques. We strongly advise consulting a financial industry professional before embarking on a wealth creation journey.

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