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Neuro Linguistic Programming

What is NLP?

Derived from modelling successful behaviours, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) can be defined as a set of techniques that help people become more effective in many ways and to communicate better. NLP demonstrates the connection between the mind (neuro) and both non and verbal communication (linguistic) to describe how we can change the way we think and behave (our programming).


Think of it as a ‘technology of change’. NLP teaches us not so much what to do, but ‘how to’ learn and grow. It’s a game-changing set of ideas that increase our understanding of how emotions, beliefs, behaviours, and language all work together to build human performance. As such, it’s also a powerful coaching methodology that is used by high performing organisations and coaches to improve relationships, resilience, and help leaders lead more effectively.


The Premise

Human beings think and act much of the time out of learnt conditioning, automation.  This can be very useful as it simplifies many things for us such as walking, talking, speaking, driving etc.  It can help us become more efficient.  Think about how you learnt these things, some of which literally took years of practice to become proficient at.  Repeating experiences, calibrating, adjusting based on our emotions and behaviours are how we learn. Making mistakes is a vital part of this process, enabling us to build on our learning.


However, frequently we’ve also learnt many things in a somewhat arbitrary way. This learnt conditioning relates to many fundamental ways in which we live our lives, such as how we think about ourselves, others and the world around us.  If we grow up in an environment that is not supportive and reflects back to us that we have little value, for instance, then this ‘belief’ is internalised and this becomes a filter through which we engage with the world. Hence, these learnt ways or beliefs don’t always serve us or drive successful behaviours and thoughts.  Most of us have learnt conditioning that holds us back on a daily basis. Negative beliefs drive negative thoughts and produce unhelpful emotions.


For instance, many of us experience thoughts like “I’m not good at this …”  or  “that bad thing always happens to me” or “I don’t deserve that good thing or person …”. This negative self-talk can relate to deep-seated programmes driven by our historic experiences. These may have been learnt through either repeated, or strong negative experiences.


NLP teaches us that these are just learnt experiences and ones we can change if we become conscious of them.  NLP can be used to both identify and improve such learnt conditioning. It also helps us understand how we learn, grow and perform better, not least by showing us that we are not our behaviours and that we can go beyond our programming and our past.


Our operating systems

When we understand how our programming works, we can use it to communicate, learn and change more effectively.


We don’t all see the world the same
The way we take in information and our preferences around how our senses see the world is called our  ‘representational’ system. This determines how we take in information, understand, communicate and learn. How this system works varies person to person. Some people read and understand the world more visually, working with images and pictures in their minds, others are more auditory (more focused on sounds), others kinaesthetically (more by the physical, touch and sense) and some have a preference for a combination of these.

How we each view the world and other people is different and defined by our perceptions of how we think we see, hear or sense the world around us. By understanding this process of perception and how our body and mind work with them is the essence of NLP.


Non-verbal cues mean something

Someone’s gestures, facial expressions, eye movements and body language all reflect their thinking and their emotions. It’s therefore powerful to learn how this all works and how to read these signs to help manage emotions more positively.


NLP techniques are therefore used by some of the world’s best therapists, advertisers and world leaders who all have one thing in common – their success is closely based on their ability to influence thinking and behaviours.


Ways we can change our beliefs and thinking


– Journaling your thoughts and emotions reveals your inner world beautifully

– Notice what negative thoughts you have and write short, positively framed antidotes to these and repeat these out loud every day

– Write a gratitude diary of all the things about yourself, your life, your success, what you have to be grateful for and share it with someone who cares about you – discuss them.


Benefits of NLP


  • Gives us a powerful model for understanding people
  • Improves understanding and control of negative thoughts & patterns
  • Improves ability to communicate
  • Enables better relationships, collaboration and people-reading abilities
  • Increases positive mind-set and persuasion
  • Improves conflict-resolution and negotiation skills
  • Establishes a framework for improving many areas of life and work

NLP Techniques

NLP techniques help with;

  •  ‘Reframing’ challenge & failure as part of our resilience training
  • ‘Chunking’ to help better manage difficult conversations and meetings
  • Powerful listening skills techniques: to build empathy, relationship & team-building skills
  • Rapport & trust building for leadership & group working
  • Setting goals you’re more likely to achieve using (‘Well-Formed Outcomes’)
  • Building motivation & collaborative working
  • Influencing mood by understanding different people’s communication styles
  • Being more self-aware, successful, happier and healthier

    That’s why high performing coaches and organisations use NLP techniques.

History of NLP

NLP History

NLP was created by two men, a linguist, John Grinder, & a mathematician, Richard Bandler. They modelled great communicators and influencers, particularly Milton Ericsson, a renowned hypnotherapist. NLP is used to great effect in therapy (e.g. in hypnosis) to challenge and change beliefs and phobias and by stage hypnotists who demonstrate the power of influencing the subconscious*.

Clean Language

Clean language is an NLP technique based on the belief that we all have a very personal view on the world. As a coach, it’s all too easy to inadvertently introduce our own view of things into the coaching conversation or allow it to get in the way of how we communicate with, and support, clients. This can contaminate their models or view of their world. In coaching, this can undermine rapport, making it harder to support and work with clients in their best interest, whereas clean language can enrich a coaching session powerfully and quickly. The same technique can be employed in everyday listening and rapport building skills if we wish to engage more effectively with people.

Clean language does not mean that our language and gestures don’t influence the process of coaching or a client because almost all non and verbal communication influences in some way. It simply means we should work ‘from’ a client’s perspective and systems of understanding. It’s a great reminder to put yourself in another’s shoes and use their reference points to communicate best with them.

Example: If we asked a question during coaching  ‘What does that look like?’ or ‘how does that sound to you?’ these appear to be general open questions. However, they each have subtle restrictions on a client’s ability to respond because of their perception (hidden assumption) of a ‘visual’ or ‘auditory’ way of viewing or connecting to something.

Such phrasing builds assumptions into our communication and can disempower a conversation or coaching. Entering the world and metaphor of a client means allowing them to explore their own potential in ways that mean most to them.

Therefore, where appropriate, we incorporate an awareness of clean language into our coaching.

NLP process

A simplified representation of the key elements of the NLP (communication) model


Our senses ->Internal representations


Emotional state





Mental filters, programmes- beliefs etc.


Our behaviours

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