5 minute expert guide to NLP

All you need to know about neuro linguistic programming

The term ‘neuro linguistic programming’ (nlp) was coined around 30 years ago when Californian university researchers Richard Bandler and John Grinder got together to ‘solve’ the mystery of personal excellence. They developed a methodology that can establish the difference between someone who does things with ease and excellence, and someone who does not. A close (accountant) friend recently told me: ‘I used to believe that everyone thought the same as me!’ But nlp helps us understand why people are different, and more importantly gives us a methodology for eliciting the ‘difference that makes the difference’.

What does nlp mean?

Neuro – the thinking patterns that make up the mental aspect of our strategies. We hold information in our minds in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (feeling) ways. For example, to increase exam confidence you might try to see yourself in full-colour doing the exam with ease. You might hear an internal voice saying that things are going well. You might have a confident feeling in your stomach as you turn the pages of the exam paper.

Linguistic – the way we use language both inwardly (our internal dialogue) and outwardly in conversation. Nlp reveals the patterns in our own and others’ language, and the effect these patterns have on our results. For example, if someone told you that they could not do something, your response may be: ‘Why not?’ – which may prompt an even greater resistance. An alternative response, which will get a different result, would be: ‘What would happen if you did this?’ The tone of voice also affects the result you get from the words you use!

Programming – our strategies for getting results in all areas of life and work. We are similar to computers in that we run codes for tasks such as spelling, learning, communicating and so on. To do any task better we might need to run a slightly different programme. For example, the modelling of a large number of excellent spellers shows that they look (visual) for the word they want to spell and then see if it feels (kinaesthetic) right.

How does nlp work in action?

A leading accountancy firm wanted to reproduce the outstanding performance of some of its top project leader coaches, so decided to use nlp to model their strategies. Sue Knight, a Certified Trainer of nlp, was invited to model the top performers. She watched them in action and talked with them about their beliefs, values, and their identity and purpose.

A consistent pattern emerged. Those who achieved results significantly above the norm all had a quality of selflessness, and held values such as love and care for others. They were all skilled in the use of metaphor and visionary thinking, and were so dedicated to meeting the needs of their trainees that if they weren’t satisfied they might (temporarily) feel physically sick. Once Sue discovered key elements of their personal strategies (and there was much more), she could present this to others who had not yet achieved the same level of excellence.

Chris Cain is a certified trainer of nlp and regional director at FTC 


"nlp helps us understand why people are different, and more importantly gives us a methodology for eliciting the ‘difference that makes the difference"