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What Does NLP Stand For? What do you do with it?


Frogs Into Princes by John Grinder

Another question I got at the library: What does NLP stand for?

Short answer = Neuro Linguistic Programming.

The first time I heard of NLP was actually here at the library when someone came in raving about Tony Robbins. “And he does all this NLP stuff!” he said. “And and and!”

I only looked it up because it was annoying not to know what he meant.

Normally when someone asks about Tony Robbins I fake an illness and go home sick.

“And this one time I was at his seminar and he…” He had appeared at the desk again.

We didn’t have a lot of books on the subject, but I did wind up reading a book which, according to reviews,  seemed to be a seminal work on NLP:

Frogs Into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming.

I shan’t be reviewing it.

Since then, we’ve definitely been getting more NLP books in. I’ve seen NLP for business, NLP for magic, NLP for dummies, for excellence, for everything and anything.

Do any of you hearty readers have any experience with this? I know very little about it and don’t find the concepts particularly intriguing or new. It just sounds like a way to pay attention to how people speak and maybe be more adept at salesmanship.

I know that’s a really simple view. I’m ready to be enlightened by you geniuses.

“And then he!”



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Iain D September 29, 2011, 12:09 pm

    I’ve read a couple books on it, and some of the techniques are useful in influencing people. I wasn’t a very good speaker and some of the techniques helped me understand how I could improve my word choice to get the reaction I wanted.
    That said, it is a very over-sold concept.
    If you lookup Derren Brown on youtube, a lot of the stuff he does has NLP in it.

  • Shauna Palmer September 29, 2011, 12:47 pm

    We a had a 6-week NLP sales training session at work about 10 years ago. Basically, it was all about mirroring and matching. Everyone, including you and I, are mainly processing and sending info one of three ways; visual, aural, or kinesthetic. It can be a valuable skill in knowing how to follow the verbal and physical cues that individuals are putting out by knowing which form they are most likely to respond to and then use those cues to match their style in order to get your message across before you and your message are abruptly rejected. It was a little creepy at first getting over that naked feeling of realizing that you can really tell A LOT about what people are saying and feeling from the physical and verbal cues they are using…it was eerily accurate and those were the lessons of the first 3 weeks…practicing on each other (yeah, imagine knowing your co-workers like THAT). Holistically, the goal is to become more balanced in all three aspects in order to receive a broader perspective and receive more of the info that is being sent and received in daily life. It can be a very useful tool. A lot of people that are very good communicators are intuitively doing this .

  • Heather September 29, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Is this anything like Lenny Bruce’s “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People”? If so, I’m all in! 😀

  • Daisy September 29, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Seeing it from a different perspective, not of sales, NLP enables you to tap into YOU, your way of thinking, speaking to yourself, how you’re processing your experiences to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. It’s not only about understanding the way others communicate but how you communicate with yourself. There’s a lot of self-talk that takes place day-by-day, it’s whether you’re speaking words that your mind can process. For example, if you’ve had a bad car accident and are unable to get back in the car, it’s about breaking down that experience, what is it that you tell yourself that prevents you from getting back into a vehicle… NLP is very powerful 🙂

  • Josephine September 29, 2011, 8:07 pm

    NLP is indeed based on a powerful set of ideas. There are aspects that are useful for sales, i.e. the communication ideas that have already been posted. There are also aspects that can be used therapeutically to help individuals change unhelpful behaviour and or beliefs they hold about themselves. NLP does run the risk of being used manipulatively but when used in a helpful way and for helpful intentions, it opens up possibilities for people.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 30, 2011, 9:04 am

      Josephine, what is the core of the “powerful set of ideas?” What’s the least someone needs to know?

  • Celeste September 30, 2011, 12:17 am

    “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” has a clumsy, obscure name, the result of one of its founders (John Grinder) being an AI scientist. It was one of the first types of “cognitive behavioral therapy” and many off shoots of it are used in modern psychology to treat addiction, phobia and other mental illness. It was based in part on the work of hypnotherapist Milton Ericson and family therapist Virginia Satir.

    It has had mixed reviews over the years and gained a reputation in some circles as a ‘brain washing” technique because many of its principals and techniques were embraced by businesses eager to find new ways of persuading clients. This reputation was not helped by the second founder, Richard Bandler who may very well have used his powers of persuasion to such good advantage that he was acquitted in a murder could have committed.

    In the hands of a good therapist NLP is a set of wonderful tools capable of changing lives for the better. I have had the privilege of working with several and it has always life changing.

    For expert information ask my partner who is an NLP master practitioner. He edited two of Richard Bandler’s later books and studied with Steve and Connie Andreas, who are nationally acclaimed experts in the field. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne September 30, 2011, 9:03 am

      Thanks Celeste, let’s talk more if we ever wind up in the same building again.

  • Anders Ronnau September 30, 2011, 5:45 am

    Wow Josh, that is so much below your normal standards that I am genuinely surprised!

    Saying that NLP sounds like a way to pay attention to how people speak and maybe be more adept at salesmanship – is like saying that kettlebells are a way to pay more attention to your body and maybe be more adept at walking.

    It is not just very simplified, it also does not give credit to the massive specialization that goes into using your language for personal transformation, therapy, sales (granted), speech writing, sports, and as many different areas of life as you can come up with.

    So yes. NLP is about paying attention to language, and it is probably like using kettlebells for working out: Until you try it for real with real instructions – it looks like it is not adding anything new.

    I use NLP transformational tools every day working with clients with ADHD, OCD and Tourette, helping people change their inner states and get over their most debilitating problems. I think that it deserves more than what you just put into it. 😉


    • Josh Hanagarne September 30, 2011, 8:08 am

      Anders, what are you talking about? I admitted that my knowledge was superficial and asked for clarification from anyone with experience with it. So far the comments have been exactly what i had hoped for. Every book i have scanned is either a sales pitch or a screed, so i if anyone could steer me.

      There is nothing below my standards about saying “here are my impressions after an early look, can anyone tell me more?”

      When i need answers i ask questions. The title of this post is a question.

  • Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave September 30, 2011, 5:51 am

    a quick google search brought masses of description, my favorite section being, “…It has also been promoted as a “science of excellence”, and applied within management training, life coaching, alternative medicine, large group awareness training, and the self-help industry.”

    • Josh Hanagarne September 30, 2011, 9:02 am

      What makes that your favorite section? This is why I decided to ask everyone. There seem to be a zillion different ways to look at it, and of the descriptions I’ve read, some are positive, some are negative, some sound like snake oil, some sound like ignorant ranting against something that someone doesn’t understand. Very little objectivity.

  • DC5 September 30, 2011, 5:42 pm

    I used to date a lady who once worked for Tony Robbins, and lived near him at one of his places in Fiji. She said she’d personally seen Robbins hold a gathering of thousands of people spellbound with his talks and demonstrations–so much so that not a single person would leave to go to the bathroom for fear of missing something he said. Interesting character.

    I’ll admit to not having read much beyond Robbins’ first book, though I recall being quite impressed by it.

  • Crysta October 3, 2011, 9:30 am

    Interesting. I hadn’t heard of this “NLP.” NLP also means “natural language processing,” or how computers can understand human language through algorithms and machine learning. The biggest example is IBM’s Watson project, which had to be “trained” to understand all the grammar, puns and phrasings that a game like Jeopardy uses. (Disclaimer: I work for IBM but am completely uninvolved with the Watson project.)

  • Josephine October 3, 2011, 12:47 pm

    Josh, the presupposition ‘The map is not the territory’ is as good a place as any to begin to understand some of the principles that NLP rests on. It embraces the idea that we all represent our own version of reality (the map) and not reality in itself (the territory). Our representation of reality is influenced largely by our prior experience and more specifically influenced by the way we filter incoming information through deleting, distorting, and/or generalising. Our internal representation of reality influences our physiology (and state) and subsequently our behaviour. This is a useful model when understanding conflict. Let me make a generalisation here in order to drive home the point: when there is an argument between two people for example, if you pay close attention, you may notice that more often than not each one is claiming their version of reality as being reality itself. So they argue over the territory as opposed to appreciating and accepting that each individual has their own map (version of events). Accepting this is the first step towards resolving the conflict in this example.

    This principle is useful in therapy because in order for me to help my clients I first have to accept and understand their map of the world in order to pace and then lead then towards their desired outcome. If I imposed my map I wouldn’t get very far in helping them. So ‘The map is not the territory’ is always a useful principle for me to begin with. In agreement with other posts here, it is also useful to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal communication as they give clues to how people represent reality.