What the heck is NLP?

“Linguistics is very much a science. It’s a human science, one of the human sciences. And it’s one of the more interesting human sciences.” – Samuel R. Delany


Now – there’s a question … and if you were to ask 50 different NLP experts the very same question you would get 50 different answers. NLP is such a big subject with so many amazing applications, backed by science and serious study, that to try to encapsulate what it is in a couple of sentences is a bit of a stretch.

However, it is also simple, effective and very practical and the best way to answer the question is in a simple, effective and practical way.  So, here’s a plain English, no jargon, everyday relevant take on NLP and what the heck it is!

What does NLP stand for?

Number one – NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming – yeah, I know, tells you nothing.  But when you strip it down you can get some clues.

The Neuro part is all about how you think, what your ways of thinking are and if they are useful or not.

The second is Linguistic, which means the words you use and how you react to the things that others say to you and you to them.

And finally, Programming – just like a computer you have set ways of reacting to the stuff that goes on in your life, which is sometimes useful and sometimes not so useful.

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So, its all about how you think, how you speak and how you behave – and that’s pretty interesting stuff to know.  What’s even more interesting is knowing what’s going on and how:

  • What’s going on when you think in certain ways?
  • Why do you use the words you use?
  • How it is that you react and behave in the way you do?

What about knowing how to change the ways you think, speak and behave when they are not useful, for ways that are?  Now that’s REALLY interesting.

Now for the no jargon science part of NLP

Amazingly, we are only aware of less than 10% of what is actually going on around us, and even less than that is available to us at any moment in time and put to conscious memory.

We have 5 senses that give us every bit of information about what’s going on out there, and, we can only pay attention to a little bit of what our senses tell us (or we would go mad being overwhelmed by information) AND there are thousands of processes going on in our brain and body that we will never be aware of.  So, what’s looking after all of the stuff that we are not conscious of? It’s our very clever servant – the Unconscious mind.

How do we know this? Psychology and Neuroscience have revealed much of what we know about the mechanics. And what’s this got to do with NLP?

Without getting too deep, there were a couple of Psychologists (Richard Bandler, Frank Pucelik) and a Professor of Linguistics (John Grinder) who started the constantly evolving discipline of NLP back in 1970.  They were curious about how certain high-profile therapists were so much more successful that anyone else, and for the next 10 years they observed not only what those therapists did, but how they did it and how they thought about what they did.  They were looking for the ‘difference’ that ‘makes the difference’.

It turns out that naturally very successful people think, speak and behave differently to everyone else.  Years of study revealed that the unconscious mind plays a huge part in their thought, language and behaviour patterns and that these could be stripped down into easy to copy processes.

Knowing how your unconscious mind works is like learning how the engine of your car works.  When you tinker with the engine you can make changes so that it works better.  If the car is your life, then your unconscious mind is the engine, and you can make changes to the way you think and behave to run your life better.

It’s powerful stuff, but really simple, and knowing just a little will get you big results.  Just like knowing something as little as how to change the engine oil will give you a better running car.

So, in a nut shell, that’s it – NLP, the most powerful knowledge available to make your life the way you want it.  Based on science and robust study it has been growing and evolving over the past 40 years.

The body of knowledge that is NLP today is still finding new ways to help people live better lives all over the world. It is used ever increasingly in the field of mental health and in treating PTSD, sport science has been using it for decades and is firmly rooted in every leadership and communication course every written.

If you’re looking to take your personal skills and abilities to another level, seek out professional help and support from skilled practitioners who can help guide and train you and your team.

Straight talking from Yorkshire Powerhouse on NLP and self-development
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