By Claire Andrea Zammit
1. What is NLP?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming explores how we know what we know and how we do what we do. Neuro means brain, linguistics language and programming refers to coding (representation). It examines the relationships between thought, communication and behaviour.
NLP is an “epistemology” meaning the study of how we know what we know. You could think of it as a way of exploring the patterns of organisation and behaviour of human intuition (neuro-linguistic programmes).
NLP is also a “methodology” which allows us to unpack how we do what we do. By using NLP as a methodology we can explore how people organise their thinking processes, their beliefs and their behaviour so that we can replicate their skills and capabilities in particular areas. Those skills and capabilities can then be transferred to others. See our What is NLP? FAQ.
2. So how is it useful?
If someone is very skillful and has spent years developing a particular capability, we can use NLP to build a description of how they perform that capability. We can replicate the patterns of organisation that make up their intuitions and then those skills can be transferred to other people, so others can learn the same capabilities far more rapidly than would be possible through the usual ways of learning.
We modelled one of Sydney’s best futures and commodities traders. This gentleman gets a very high return on his trades. His average was 70% return per annum for the past seven years before we worked with him. We were able to unpack how he made such effective trading decisions and other important patterns concerning his trading. As a result we are able to work with other traders, coaching them to enhance their skills in derivatives trading.
In terms of application, there are descriptions of patterns of organisation from great psychotherapists, educators and business people available through the NLP community and generic NLP models for gathering high quality information, exploring thinking processes and enhancing relationships. If you want to learn how to learn, how to think and enhance your communication skills then NLP is useful.
3. Can NLP be used to make fast changes?
Some people get very rapid change. With others a number of consultations is more appropriate. It depends on the client, the context and the client’s outcome. An NLP practitioner will design a series of interventions to help each client create changes in an ecological time frame (a time frame that supports positive consequences for the client and their significant relationships). The relationship between client and practitioner is very important. Usually the greater the rapport, the greater the potential for change.
4. Can you give me an example of some of the fastest changes?
There is an NLP process for reducing phobias that helps some people in 20 minutes. The perceived speed of NLP change work is relative to the time needed for an equivalent piece of work using other methodologies. However the quality of lasting change with NLP is more important than the shorter time frame. NLP provides a methodology for detecting and using patterns enabling clients to make lasting changes in their lives in a few sessions rather than years of therapy. A skilled practitioner designs an approach for each client rather than fitting clients to technique or philosophy.
5. How is NLP itself different from its applications?
NLP explores how we take information in from the world, how we represent the world in our mind, organise ourselves and then shape our behaviour. With NLP we can build descriptions of how people organise themselves. We look at embodied patterns of organisation that enable the expression of mental, emotional and physical activity. That is what NLP is: an epistemology and a methodology for modelling human excellence.
Now from that epistemology and methodology, multiple applications from NLP have arisen (and many more yet to be derived). There are applications to psychotherapy and counselling, education, business, management to leadership, negotiation, artistic endeavours. There are applications of NLP to almost every major area of human endeavour.
6. It’s very important that people appreciate the distinctions between the applications of NLP and NLP itself.
Often people are more interested in the applications, probably because they can measure results immediately. I think for personal evolution, learning NLP as an epistemology and methodology has a marked flow on effect throughout a person’s life. In contrast, learning set procedures or an application of NLP to just one context can be limiting. For example, if you learn specifically to create a compelling future, or to sell or do effective psychotherapy, it will be harder to transfer those skills to other contexts. Someone may be a very good negotiator but have a lousy relationship at home. By learning NLP itself, people generalise the principles and underlying patterns into multiple areas of their lives and get much richer value.
7. So how is it different from other techniques?
NLP is not a set of techniques or a collection of formats. Many techniques have been developed through the epistemology and methodology of NLP. Now if we compare NLP processes to other techniques, the significant distinction is that a skilled NLP practitioner or trainer understands the patterns behind the techniques. They will use the processes to frame a context where the client can have a rich experience of the underlying pattern (or patterns).
With a rich array of patterns of organisation in your system of mind, then in any context (e.g. psychotherapy), you can design interventions on the spot and tailor processes for each client, rather than robotically using existing formats for clients in general. NLP trained people who rely on technique (poorly trained) tend to have inflexible responses to our rich and diverse world.
8. So it is unfair to say that NLP is just a set of tools?
Yes, when people think of NLP as just a set of tools’, probably they have only experienced the applications of NLP, not NLP as an epistemology and methodology for modelling. Their training may have over emphasised procedure; I call it doing NLP by numbers (like painting by numbers).
NLP is a system that creates tools (including techniques / formats) as a by-product. Rather than focusing on tools, it is more useful to attend to NLP as a system that promotes the personal enrichment and skill development for people, their families and communities as a byproduct of modelling human excellence.
9. So is NLP a way of thinking?
I like to think of NLP as a useful approach for exploring the different ways of thinking that skilled and capable people have in their lives. If you model a group of excellent teachers you can build models of their range of expertise. All fit with the outcome of excellent teaching. Instead of having one way of thinking, with NLP you can have many approaches to any outcome in the appropriate context/s where you want to have that outcome. It naturally supports and enhances creativity.
10. Can a person develop their individuality through NLP?
I think so. Each of us is unique and NLP does respect the uniqueness of the individual. Instead of claiming one ‘right’ way of doing something, with NLP you can explore and add many choices to your life, your family and your community. Skill in detecting and using patterns is a key to having many choices available. Having choice supports both individuality and co-operation with others.
11. Can NLP be used for deep level personal development?
You can use NLP to choose the way you want to be in life, and the skills and capabilities you want to develop. You can use NLP to explore your own patterns of thinking and behaviour. You can model yourself. In other words you can replicate the best examples of your own skills and capabilities access them more consistently. Also you can use NLP to explore other people’s skills and capabilities and increase your range of behavioural choice.
12. How can you tell if someone has really mastered NLP?
There is a natural quality to their communication and behaviour and a smoothness in their movement. Often it is easier to spot someone who has a partial or poor training in NLP. With those people you can see procedural behaviour as if they were following a set of instructions. A skilled in NLP practitioner is very natural and it can be quite difficult to detect their NLP background.
13. How long would it take to achieve a level of mastery with NLP?
It’s quite an individual matter. As a rule of thumb it is useful for a person to attend practitioner and master practitioner two or three times in two or three years and to practice processes regularly until those skills are totally integrated. With NLP it’s great to take a pattern, to practice it until it becomes familiar and then forget about it consciously while it becomes part of your repertoire. Then move your conscious attention to the next pattern you want to incorporate.
14. What is the best way of learning NLP?
My personal opinion is that learning NLP experientially through live seminars where you are immersed in the experience of the NLP patterns is most effective. I think watching videos and listening to audio tapes can help but not as a substitute for hands on training.
15. I’ve seen lots of NLP courses advertised ranging anywhere from seven days to 21 days for practitioner training. What would be the advantage of a longer training?
NLP is best learned experientially. The more live training days where you are actively engaged in your own learning as a participant, the better. Also the quality of the trainers is very important. You want to have skilled and experienced trainers. It can be difficult to find out if a trainer is highly skilled. Generally you would be better off trained by people who studied with one of the originators of NLP, in contrast to fourth or fifth generation trainers. It is like a game of Chinese whispers: The closer you are to the source, the higher the quality of information. If someone claims to be trained by Grinder or Bandler, ask them how many days and at what level. There are trainers who make this claim on the strength of a single day’s participation in one the originators’ seminars.
In the last few years the length of training for practitioners has been shrinking. Some training promoters are claiming that “using accelerated learning methods” they can teach “practitioner” training in a very short amount of time. Our response is that NLP patterns are the basis for accelerated learning, and that the people who benefit most from shorter trainings are the trainers themselves in terms of lower overheads, increased earning capacity, and more free time.
Full length trainings do not necessarily cost more than short ones, and you will usually find the trainers running them are committed to a thorough transfer of NLP (experientially and conceptually with the emphasis on the experiential acquisition of the patterns).
16. What could I expect at the end of Inspiritive’s practitioner training?
Expect an enrichment of your skills in communication with others and in communication with yourself; skills in choosing your emotional and psychological states; skills for enhancing your relationships (professional and personal); skills that explore and develop your thinking processes. Skills that enable you to model and replicate your own talents, behaviour and capabilities, even refining, enhancing and enriching them.
Please note that since this interview our NLP Practitioner program has been superseded and replaced by a new post-graduate credential – the Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
17. How do NLP practitioners help clients?
By creating a context where clients can explore, discover and experience the resources that they need to assist them with the outcomes they have set for the session. By resources I mean skills, behaviours, understanding, beliefs; anything that makes a difference in the ability of the client to achieve their outcomes with positive flow on consequences.
18. Can practitioners assist clients to discover their outcomes?
Practitioners create a context where clients can explore and develop their outcomes, discover what they want, how they would know if they got it, what resources they would need to develop to achieve that outcome and the costs and consequences of achieving that outcome. See our article on creating a Well-Formed Outcome.
19. How do you know if someone is a good NLP practitioner or trainer?
There is a congruence in their communication; an alignment in their body language and their verbal language. The practitioner or trainer has a focus on the relationship between themselves and the client or student. They will ask questions and suggest trains of thought that enable the individual to make their own discoveries. Also avoid anyone who describes NLP as a way to manipulate and control people and get them to do things for you.
20. Can NLP be a tool for manipulation?
NLP is a neutral field of endeavour. Like anything else with wide applications that works, it can be used or abused. Responsible practitioners and trainers assist clients and students to discover their own outcomes and to consider those outcomes in relation to their whole life system before acting on them. Responsible practitioners do not try to impose their will on others but they may invite clients to question beliefs that could be limiting them.
21. How do I know if I’m getting good training?
The evidence is in the results you get by the end of the training. Compare the level of skill you had before the training with the level of skill you have after the training and your outcomes at the beginning of the training with how effectively you have achieved them. Also you may discover enhancements in the quality of your communication skills, your thinking skills, your expression, your relationship to the outer world months or even years after the training.
22. If I have already done some training with another organisation and I am concerned with the quality of training I have received what can I do?
I suggest reviewing the outcomes you had for doing that training, reflect on if or how deeply you explored those outcomes with the trainers at the beginning of the training. Ask your trainers about it. If you are still not happy with what you have achieved you may like to consider what you want from NLP and you can call us at Inspiritive to talk about your outcomes. You may be able to get those outcomes through repeating a practitioner training with us. (Discounts available for Certified NLP Practitioners you want to repeat practitioner training).
23. Is NLP training expensive?
Good quality training is relatively inexpensive. For around Aus. $340 per day, for what you learn it is extremely good value for money. In Australia self education expenses are tax deductible. And frankly, in terms of the benefits of learning NLP how can you afford not to accelerate your personal evolution.
24. How long have you been involved in NLP?
I first read about NLP back in 1979. I read an article called “People who read People” written by Daniel Goleman in a magazine called Psychology Today. By the end of the article I knew that this was what I wanted to do. At that time I had to import all three books that had been published. It took three months for the books to arrive! I was so fascinated I read them over and over again. As soon as I could I completed an NLP Practitioner training. By the end of 1981 I was counselling people using NLP full time in a Doctor’s surgery. In 1983 I started training in NLP. In 1984 I met John Grinder and I’ve never looked back.
25. What excites you the most about NLP?
Through the epistemology and methodology of NLP a person can create their own personal culture and have choice about what they do and where they go, what they create, how they express themselves. I think it provides a personal renaissance for people.
I am deeply satisfied when I think about many former students who have blossomed in terms of their own evolution and experience of life through NLP. They are out in the world more capable, doing what they want to do, following their dreams and creating what they want to create.
26. Who are the originators of NLP?
NLP was originated by Dr. John Grinder, an associate Professor of Linguistics, Richard Bandler and Frank Pucelik back in the early to mid 70’s while John was working at the University of California Santa Cruz. See our interview with Dr John Grinder.
27. Who are some of the people who have developed NLP?
In the early days there was a small group of people around John and Richard, many of whom have since contributed to NLP. Judith DeLozier and Carmen Bostic St Clair co-developed new code NLP with John. Leslie Cameron-Bandler has made significant contributions with models for working with emotions and personality. Robert Dilts had a lasting impact on NLP. See our Who’s Who in NLP.
28. Does Anthony Robbins use NLP?
Anthony Robbins was an NLP trainer. Now he applies NLP to teach personal success. Many people who enjoyed his seminars then decide they want to study NLP and come to our courses. During the 24 day practitioner training people have the opportunity to learn NLP as an epistemology and methodology and immerse themselves deeply in the NLP patterns to develop skills and capabilities of their choice. I am grateful for the work that Robbins has done to inspire people to go further into learning NLP.
29. Is there a relationship between Time-Line processes and NLP?
Timeline processes are products of NLP. Mental timelines were developed by Steve and Connirae Andreas, physical timelines by John Grinder and Robert Dilts. Mental and Physical time lines are explored in quality practitioner trainings. This includes time line elicitation, modelling timelines (self and others) and using time lines for change. See the Steve and Connirae Andreas article A Brief History of Timelines.
30. What is the difference between Classic and New code NLP?
A useful way of thinking about the difference between new code NLP and classic code NLP is in terms of emphasis.
Classic code emphasises technique, mechanistic metaphors and the production of NLP technicians. It uses conscious explicit models that are often divorced from their original context. With Classic code you often hear the questions “where do I use this technique” and “how do I know which technique to use”? There is a tendency for classic code trained practitioners to try to fit clients to procedures, rather than creating interventions with clients.
New code emphasises the relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds of the individual, their relationships with others and their relationship with the world. It works towards the personal evolution of the participant. New code promotes unconscious competence. Training drills are used in service to pattern incorporation and the development of unconscious competence. The balance between the conscious and unconscious minds is paramount. This is known as the conscious / unconscious interface. New code is directed towards the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world, with an emphasis on patterns. A new code practitioner often creates a process spontaneously in response to a particular context. In new code participants do a lot of exploration of psychological states. They learn to recognise, inventory and change states. This work connects in with the development and incorporation by each participant of a modelling state. A state of mind for modelling excellence. Another aspect of New code is attention training (essential for modelling). That is learning where and how you place your attention, how that relates to state, perceptual position and context. My understanding is that Grinder and DeLozier (and then Bostic St Clair) developed new code as a second description of Neuro-Linguistic programming to create a system for learning NLP which is more likely to foster the development of systemic wisdom in the participant. If you want to learn more about New code read Turtles All the Way Down by Judith Delozier and John Grinder and Whispering in the Wind by Carmen Bostic St Clair and John Grinder. For an article on the New Code please read The New Code of Neuro-Linguistic Programming; a paradigm shift in NLP by Chris Collingwood.
For people who want a comprehensive training in NLP we teach a postgraduate qualification – 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This NLP program incorporates the original classic code NLP key models within a New Code NLP design as well as many of the New Code NLP models.
© 1999 Chris and Jules Collingwood, Claire Zammit.
Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP