Most of us reading this will already have a good understanding of what NLP is. But, what if there was a different opinion to ours? What if there were another way of looking at NLP that could compliment our own understanding, or even spin our definition to be even better? I don’t know about you, but I’m always curious about how others describe NLP. I’m curious about how people use NLP. I suppose its this curiosity that Richard Bandler was talking about when he said that “NLP is an attitude and methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques”.

To me that ‘attitude’ is one of curiosity. 

So, lets look at the curiosity of NLP. Here is my ‘simple’ definition of NLP, then we’ll look at it a bit practically.

NLP is a tool to understand how the language of our mind creates and runs the patterns we have in life.

Yes, but what about modelling? Isn’t NLP about “modelling excellence” – isn’t it just a modelling tool? My answer. Maybe.

If we look at the words of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming, we see mind, language, pattern. We have patterns for EVERYTHING we do – how we learn, fall asleep, get motivated, procrastinate, fall in love, eat, exercise, keep a job, get frustrated, be happy, EVERYTHING. And, the world of psychology tells us that there is a chemical reaction to every thought we have; therefore each pattern is pre-empted by a thought (conscious or unconscious) and a chemical which is produced in the brain. So – a thought and our mind. 

Of course NLP is about modelling. We know what we know in this great field due to learning from others. From modelling what people do so well. At first, the group of NLP explorers modelled Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls (or rather, Gestalt Therapy). The underlying question “what are they doing that is working so well?”. Curiosity.

From this curiosity they modelled their excellent strategies and created processes which could be applied in a variety of situations. So, let me expand on my definition.

NLP is a tool to understand how the language of our mind creates and runs the patterns we have in life. Once we have this understanding, we can apply a variety of NLP processes to enhance, change or alter  our patterns of thought, behaviour and emotion.

To me – this fits. It won’t fit for everyone, I know. To me however, it fits.

If I meet a mother who is having problems with her child – I want to understand her patterns. What is she saying to herself? What emotions is she having? What behaviours? What patterns? Then, when I have a better understanding, then we can apply some of the NLP techniques. Lets say for example that her child is prone to bouts of anger and the mother has a pattern where she retreats from conflict. I could help her perhaps by altering that pattern so that she is able to confront his anger in a supportive and loving way. I could perhaps utilise a variety of NLP techniques such as the Swish Pattern, Parts Integration, Neuro-Logical Levels Alignment, Reframing, Clearing Emotions, Reimprinting, etc. The art of NLP comes with practice – knowing which process to do when. 

For some people, NLP is: a communication tool, a way to negotiate better, a skill of persuasion, tools to use in sales, a set of coaching strategies, parenting techniques, a modelling tool, a natural therapy, a way of life.

You know what I say to those answers? They are ALL right. NLP is all of that, and it is even more than all of that. 

Now, I turn it over to you with this question: What is NLP?