What is Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)?

The evolution of NLP

A model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationships between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them. – Richard Bander

Neurolinguistic Programming (or NLP) for short is a collection of behavioural models and techniques that originated from the work of Drs Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Bandler and Grinder believed that our neurological processes, language and our behavior are all connected. By focusing on certain skills, we could use the connection to our advantage and possibly treat problems ranging from phobias to psychosomatic illnesses. Their work in the 70s and 80s focused around modelling the approaches of people in the field of therapy and change who demonstrated excellent results. These included:

  • Virginia Satir (Family Therapy)
  • Milton Erickson (Hypnotherapy)
  • Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy)
  • Gregory Bateson (Systems Theory and Cybernetics)
  • Alfred Korzybski (General Semantics)
  • Noam Chomsky (Transformational Grammar)

The resultant models and concepts demonstrated remarkable results as tools for behavioural change and human performance. Popularity grew in the 80s and 90s and these concepts have been developed and expanded by numerous experts in the field such as Robert Dilts and L. Michael Hall.

The tools and techniques have moved beyond traditional therapies and in to all areas of business and personal development, including Selling, Leadership, Coaching, Mentoring, Problem Solving, Team Building and Creativity.

Central concepts of NLP

The term neuro-linguistic programming could also be viewed through each component.

  • Neuro refers to the neurological system – the world is experienced through the senses and the sensory information is translated into our thought processes, both consciously and unconsciously. These thought processes in turn could have an impact on our physiology, emotions as well as behaviour.
  • Linguistic refers to how we use language to make sense of the world – Because language has a role in the way you capture and conceptualize the world around you, the words you use can influence your experience of the world.
  • Programming refers to the process of learning things – We all use the different internal strategies and patterns to learn things and make decisions.

The benefits of applying NLP to coaching

I’m a certified NLP Master Practitioner and I’ve used NLP techniques in a variety of coaching programmes to help clients get the results that they are looking for, including:

Reduced anxiety

Most therapeutic approaches are naturally effective in helping people with anxiety and NLP is no different. There has even been a study, which showed NLP helped people suffering from claustrophobia during MRI scans to alleviate the feeling of anxiety.

Part of the reason NLP can reduce anxiety and stress is its linguistic mechanism. Most people, who are anxious, feel calmer when they are able to talk about the anxiety problem. The guided sessions can also provide the person a better sense of the situation as well as reinforce the response mechanisms for stressful situations.

Boost business success

NLP can have a huge impact on your professional life, as you can change your behaviour to better suit your business goals. The system can effectively help you become more productive without having to slave for hours at the office. Since you are able to harness the good behavior and eliminate the bad habits, you are sure to see business success.

I’ve often seen people become better leaders as a result of understanding how humans perceive the world, giving them more objectivity, and the ability respond in more flexible ways, as well as becoming more effective communicators.

Furthermore, the simple fact NLP is focused on learning and improving your strategies to learn is hugely influential in boosting business success. Because it helps you understand how human behavior is taught, you are better able to reinforce the good business mechanisms within your business.

Enhanced creativity

NLP techniques and strategies can also help you be more creative. By understanding the impact different sensory elements have on your own behavior, you can start experimenting with different ideas and strategies. This can help you see common problems in a different light.

Remove phobias or fears

Since NLP focuses on understanding strategies that guide your behaviour and change them for better, you can use it to remove phobias or fears you have. With the help of NLP, you can change the internal response you get when you see an animal you are scared of, for instance. If you are afraid of public spaces, you can learn strategies that help you control your emotions when you need to take the stage

Matthew Hatson Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Matthew Hatson Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Further Reading

Bandler, R. , Grinder, J. , Andreas, S. (ed), Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming. 1979. Real People Press. Link here.


Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

One thought on “What is Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)?

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!