NLP appears for the first time in literature around 1970, the name coined by the co-founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder.
- N-Neuro: how one thinks
- L-Linguistic: how one speaks or the words one uses
- P-Programming: how one acts or one’s patterns of action
It may be unfortunate, but NLP has had more than one definition, thus leading 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.
NLP as a methodology: NLP has actually been created as the result of modelling work done by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They were modelling Fritz Perls at the time. Using a clear methodology to describe and understand what Perls was doing, Richard Bandler was able to reproduce similar results when working with his own client. The interesting thing was that Perls’ own students were not always able to achieve similarly good results. So NLP was born as a methodology of reproducing excellence by modelling. Later on, Bandler and Grinder went on to model Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, and wrote The Structure of Magic, Volumes 1 and 2. And later again they modelled Milton Erickson, a famous hypnotherapist, and wrote Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, Volumes I and II. NLP is thus the search for excellence, either by modelling excellence, or by finding excellence within oneself. We call it the search for developing a strategy for being at our best.
NLP as an epistemology: From the Greek epistēmē, meaning ‘knowledge, science’, and logos, meaning ‘study of’, epistemology is the study of knowledge. NLP is all about the science of knowledge and its study, both leading to that quest for excellence. This study of knowledge connects NLP with a branch of philosophy interested in the nature and scope of knowledge. And this leads us to our third definition.
NLP as an attitude: All NLP practitioners agree ‘you do not do NLP, you become NLP’. NLP concepts are based on integrating information at both the conscious and unconscious level; or we could say integrating the cognitive and non-cognitive processes. More precisely, we talk about the integration at the conscious level of information held at the unconscious level. Unless we are NLP and fully integrate the NLP concepts, we are not able to use NLP fully.
There is no need to rewrite what has already been so well written, and for more information on NLP history and its influences, we definitely recommend reading Sue Knight’s book NLP at Work, or Lisa Wake’s book NLP Principles in Practice, particularly chapter 2, tables 1 and 2.
What’s the implication then when knowing the three aspects of NLP? To be able to use NLP fully, we must develop the NLP attitude, get the NLP knowledge, and apply the NLP methodology. And this is how we teach NLP through our NLP Practitioner, we teach an “NLP approach to life”, and you will see that this actually increase your power of self-leadership.
In an interview I had with Chris Collingwood, an NLP trainer in Australia, Chris, inspired by John Grinder, describes NLP as a set of patterns, and understanding how to utilize patterns in the world. NLP is all about the ‘how’ we do things. Within those patterns we include patterns of communicating, both good and bad. Yes, communicating is at the heart of NLP; communicating within us or with others.