Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a psychological approach that involves analyzing strategies used by successful individuals and applying them to reach personal goals. It relates thoughts, language, and patterns of behavior learned through experience to specific outcomes. The name refers to the connection between the brain’s neural language (neuro) and its use of language (linguistic) to regulate body patterns encoded in the nervous system (programming).

Origins and History

NLP was developed in the 1970s by Richard Bandler, a mathematician and student of psychology, and John Grinder, a linguist. They analyzed therapists like Fritz Perls in Gestalt therapy and Virginia Satir to understand how they achieved results. This modeling formed the basis of NLP techniques. The first NLP models were termed the Meta Model, Milton Model and Sensory Experience cycles. NLP became popular internationally by the 1980s for communication skills training in business settings.

Key Principles

Some key principles of NLP include the idea that the map is not the territory i.e. our perceptions determine how we interpret the world rather than an objective reality. NLP proposes that body and mind interact constantly and every experience is multi-dimensional. The wholeness of the system must be considered rather than isolated traits. NLP also emphasizes sensory experience – how we filter information through touch, sight, hearing etc. An important concept is that people code, store and access information differently via preferred representational systems.

NLP relies extensively on modeling to identify effective thinking patterns. It is based on the concept that consuming large amounts of objective data is less useful than understanding the subjective experience of those who have mastered skills or mindsets. All behavior has a structure and logic based on how people subjectively organize information. Understanding these generative rules allows reproducing useful patterns. Read more about it here

Modeling Excellence

Modeling refers to discovering the sequence of thoughts and behavior that produces exemplary performance or desired results. It involves carefully observing individuals who demonstrate mastery in areas like communication, leadership, negotiation, health etc and analysing how they organize their thinking internally to achieve outcomes.

Modeling filters out personal style and idiosyncrasies to retain only the essential elements leading to success. These patterns can then be transferred to anyone motivated to learn them. For example, modeling the thought sequences of math geniuses allows structured thinking that solves problems innovatively. Similarly, strategies distinguishing top executives help others organize ideas effectively to command leadership roles.

Modeling deconstructs the structure of genius into learnable frameworks. It reproduces the brilliance displayed by artists, athletes and Nobel laureates as conscious competence available on-demand rather than a natural gift allotted uniquely to them. Specific capabilities like unleashing creativity, accessing flow states at will, or innovating scientific marvels become teachable.

The key steps are determining well-defined outcomes, observing those demonstrating excellence in attaining them, breaking down their sequences and transferring these patterns. Anyone can implement the internal workflow duplicated to integrate useful beliefs and behaviors learned from life’s greatest achievers.

Representational Systems

NLP classifies the way people internally encode subjective experience into visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory representational systems. Most individuals predominantly use one preferred system over others. A person with a highly visual orientation encodes memories as images and movies, while someone with an auditory preference stores information as sounds.

Understanding representational systems allows establishing quick rapport by matching predicates. Predicates are words that reveal sensory-based information like “I see what you’re saying” or “that sounds about right to me”. Picking up on speech patterns provides cues to align with another’s model of the world. Matching representation systems also aids precision in communication to ensure accurate translation of ideas into the speaker’s internal language.

Representational systems influence behavior, memory and learning. NLP techniques like submodality manipulation change properties of mental imagery to edit emotional triggers or learn new patterns. Working through preferred systems also creates better response in therapy and coaching by carrying directed suggestions straight into native cognition.

Rapport and Pacing

Kirill Yurovskiye How does Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP Work

Rapport refers to developing responsiveness by tuning one’s verbal and non-verbal behavior to create trust and influence reactions. Pacing involves temporarily matching or mirroring traits like speech patterns, posture, pace of breathing and predicates to guide subjective experience.

As rapport builds, the practitioner can lead client experience with intentional mismatches to generate psychological effects that encourage desired states. Reframing is used in coaching or negotiations once pacing ensures suggestions will be embraced. For example, a slower and louder tone paces heightened emotion while a sudden shift to quick, soft speech recalibrates feelings.

Matching and mirroring happen at both conscious and unconscious levels to link biological systems. Posture and physiology impact biochemistry to change energy levels while neural networks tuned to familiar gestures or rituals stimulate secure attachment. Rapport engineered through NLP thus remains covertly persuasive by aligning environments to activate specific neuro-associations.


Anchors in NLP refer to associations created between internal states and external sensory triggers. This allows a particular response to be activated easily later through the anchored trigger. For example, touching one’s wrist can anchor feelings of confidence associated with thinking of a successful public speech. Subsequently, touching the wrist accesses the resourceful state even in unfamiliar situations.

Anchors connect unconscious processing elicited through body chemistry and physiology with conscious sensory inputs like gestures to reliably reproduce the inner response mapped to it. NLP creates intentional anchors but they also form accidentally, like music evoking first love. Anchors exploited in propaganda link nationalistic imagery and anthems with strong emotion before uniting those feelings to political ends.

Simple visual or auditory anchors quickly relapse states useful for motivation – a compelling image, significant object or uplifting sound plays when needed to restore positivity or creativity. Kinesthetic anchors requiring specific physical sensations may persist longer. Mantras, meditation music and rituals consecrate objects with anchored experiences over time through repetition.

Language Patterns

NLP analyzes language subjectively as a structured code that organizes thoughts and perceptions rather than objective truth. Viewed thus, word choice and linguistic patterns reveal thinking. Reframing language reinterprets meaning.

The Meta Model uses questions revealing information hidden in imprecise phrases like generalizations. Specifying vague language transforms awareness. The Milton Model utilizes artful ambiguity like metaphors so the unconscious fills gaps with imagination to access inner wisdom. Other techniques like sleight-of-mouth patterns systematically shift perspective through linguistic frames.

Studying how influential communicators command reactions uncovers values, beliefs and reasoning used argumentatively. Language patterns embed or challenge assumptions to steer decisions advantageously. This forms the basis of neuro-marketing and political rhetoric as well as applications to coaching and therapy goals.

Timeline Therapy

Timeline therapy uses visualization to detach limiting emotions stuck in the past which continue influencing the present. Identifying traumatic memories and reprocessing them by observing disassociated from oneself diffuses related negative emotions. Guiding the client through future projections to desired outcomes also integrates helpful resources.

Applications and Limitations

NLP builds self-awareness and effective habits to achieve professional and personal development. However, there is limited empirical evidence about specific techniques. Critics argue that NLP oversimplifies the role of non-conscious influences in shaping thoughts and behavior. They also point out the difficulty in modeling subjective experience or consciousness itself through objective analysis alone. More research is essential to establish facts conclusively.