Can you tell me more about NLP?

This past weekend, that friend of mine asked me again: ‘NLP, I got the acronym, Neuro Linguistics Programming, but can you tell me more about it?’ So here I am, picking up again the challenge to distil in a few words the spirit of NLP.

NLP appears for the first time in literature in 1970, the name coined by the co-founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder. The acronym stands for N-Neuro (how one thinks) L-Linguistics (how one speaks or the words one uses) and P-Programming (how one acts or one’s patterns of action) . NLP has had more than one definition, maybe unfortunately this leading still to confusion. Lately a consensus seems to land on the fact that NLP is at the same time a methodology, an epistemology and an attitude.

–        A methodology: NLP creation was actually the result of the first exercise of modelling made by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They were modelling Fritz Perls, at the time, and thanks to their clear description and understanding of what Perls was doing, Richard Bandler was then able to reproduce similar result, that what Perls was achieving, when working with client, results that Perls’ students were always able to achieve. This becomes the first NLP exercise of modelling, modelling the excellence of Firtz Perls. NLP was born as a methodology of reproducing excellence by modelling it. From then onward, Richard Bandler and John Grinder modelled Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, and wrote ‘The Structure of Magic, volume I and II’, then later on Milton Erickson, a famous hypnotherapist, and wrote ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, volume I and II (where volume 2 was written with Judith Delozier). Modelling is an important part of NLP, where NLP is the research for excellence, either by modelling excellence or by finding excellence within oneself.

–        An epistemology: from the Greek epistēmē, meaning “knowledge, science”, and logos, meaning “study of”. NLP is about the study of knowledge or the science of knowledge, both still leading to the quest for the research of excellence, and as well connecting with a branch of philosophy interest in the nature and scope of knowledge, which leads us to the third definition.

–        An attitude: and all NLP believers will agree ‘you do not do NLP, you are NLP’. NLP concepts being based on the integration of information at both conscious, and unconscious, or otherwise said the integration at the conscious level of information held at the unconscious level, unless you are NLP and have fully integrated the NLP concepts, you will not be able to use NLP fully, you will not ‘be NLP’.

This current effort in discussion is not to rewrite what has been already so well written by others and for more information on the NLP history and its influences, I would recommend the reading of Sue Knight’s book, NLP at work, or the reading of Lisa Wake’s book, NLP Principles in practice, particularly the chapter two, table 1 and 2 (extract available at Amazon)

To summarise all this, to be able to use NLP, you need to have the right attitude, the NLP attitude, and you need to know the knowledge, the epistemology, and last you need to understand the process, the methodology. I call this ‘the NLP approach.’

Another way to talk about the NLP approach is to see NLP being about understanding patterns in life and -learning to recognize the patterns of excellence and reproducing them -as well as learning to recognize unwanted patterns to then replace them with alternatives options, giving actually more choice to the person. NLP is about the process, about the ‘how.’ As mentioned by Chris Collingwood, and inspired from John Grinder, ‘an old description of NLP, back to early mid-80s, it is describing NLP as set of patterns, and understanding how to utilize patterns in the world.’ Of course, as part of those patterns, we include patterns of communication, patterns of great communication as well as unwanted patterns of poor communication. Communication is actually at the heart of NLP, communication within ourself and within our own processing of information.

© 2011 Florence Dambricourt –

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