October 24, 2015

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) FAQ

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) FAQ

By Chris Collingwood


  1. How is NLP useful for me?

As NLP offers a window (through modeling) into the way we function (our neuro-linguistic programs), it offers (as an application of NLP methodology) a technology for creating change. If you want to have more choices about your behaviour and emotions, to enhance your communication and relationships and develop new abilities in your thinking, then NLP can provide you with the technology for accomplishing that. It generates lasting life skills (one of the consequences of quality NLP training).

There are now multiple applications of NLP for psychology and counseling, education, business modeling, corporate cultural change, management development, sports performance, personal development and coaching.


  1. What is NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)?

NLP explores the relationship between how we think (neuro), how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programs) (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001).

It is both an epistemology, in that it studies how we know what we know and a methodology for creating practical descriptions of how we function as human beings. The purpose of NLP is to study, describe and transfer models of human excellence. (Modeling).

There are a number of descriptions of NLP. The founders of NLP, Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler defined NLP as the study of the structure of subjective experience (Dilts et al; 1980). Judith DeLozier and John Grinder (1987) define NLP as an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilization of patterns in the world. We think of NLP as a field that explores the patterns of organization of effective human intuition (Collingwood & Collingwood; 2001). Through modeling an expert’s intuitive application of their skill, we can as Neuro-Linguistic Programmers, have those patterns of organization for ourselves and / or make them available to others. Modeling is the core function of NLP, learning to model (self and others) the core activity of NLP practitioner and NLP master practitioner certification trainings.

For practical purposes, learning NLP thoroughly will sharpen your observation and listening ability and enable you to identify patterns in people’s behaviour and language so you can respond to the subtext of their communication. This will enable you to communicate more effectively and cut through distractions. At the same time, your own thinking will benefit from these skills as you learn to identify the direction you want to take in conversation and action. These benefits only happen with live training and practice. If you settle for a short practitioner course, the chances are you will be given a sheaf of scripts, which limit your ability to use the material in real life.


  1. In what ways can I explore NLP for my benefit?

Through reading books and articles, through coaching with an NLP trained coach or through a quality NLP seminar or training course. Note that you cannot only learn about NLP through reading. To learn to use NLP fluently in real time interactions there is no substitute for live experience. Reading is an excellent means of researching to help you decide when or whether you want to learn NLP. Then reading offers additional descriptions and background to enrich your live exposure.

Reading: There are over 100 books now written on NLP. The books range from support material for studying NLP through to applications of NLP to business communication, relationship counseling, education, psychotherapy and general personal development.

Coaching: Have a consultation or coaching session with an NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner or NLP Trainer and experience using NLP to make a change and achieve an outcome.

Seminars: Many NLP organizations have short seminars ranging from 1 day introductions through to 3 to 5 day application seminars. Note: In Canada, the courses range from 7 days to over 40 days of training, which are offered in chunks of time.

Training in NLP: You could do a professional training course in NLP. In the past Certification trainings were offered at the levels of Practitioner of NLP, Master Practitioner of NLP and Trainer of NLP.


  1. What standards should I expect for a Practitioner of NLP training?

Time: A minimum of 20 days and 130 hours is the recognized time standard for Practitioner of NLP training for most NLP Associations. Note: In Canada, there is the Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainers Training for NLP.


  1. What do Process and Content mean?

Process not Content: The field of NLP makes the distinction between process and content. NLP is a process (not content) model. Content models are not NLP! I have seen books marketed as NLP texts that contain content rituals under the guise of NLP techniques. Skilled NLP trainers make the distinction when teaching between process and pattern and content examples. NLP does not include mysticism or personality type labeling and training programs that include these classes of material are not teaching pure NLP! NLP does not include content beliefs!

Content is the story; opinion, gossip or interpretation that colours much communication. Process is the means of handling ideas and matters in the world. As an example of the distinction between process and content, artists paint pictures. They use specific processes to apply colour to canvas to achieve the effects they want. The content of a picture may be anything from an image of a person to a tree or an abstract composition. A commissioned artwork requires the client to provide the content while the artist provides the process.

An important area of NLP is how we use our attention. We can discover this most simply by participating in live experiential exercises and learn to refine and harness our natural abilities. This is a totally process based activity. On the other hand, many people in the NLP community use a list of finite examples of attention and profile individuals according to that list, thereby limiting those people’s development.


  1. What is the relationship between NLP and Timelines?

Timelines and timeline models are part of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Timelines as models in NLP originated in two forms. Mental timelines were modeled and described by Steve and Connirae Andreas, physical timelines by John Grinder and Robert Dilts. Most reputable NLP organizations teach more than one timeline process as part of their NLP Practitioner trainings and do not infer that timeline use is separate from NLP.

Timelines can be used to plan the future, review the past, re-awaken memory, manage projects and do change work. They can also be shortened, lengthened, re-shaped and adapted to improve an individual’s capacity for time management in a variety of contexts.


  1. What is the relationship between NLP and accelerated learning?

As NLP explores and builds models of how we do what we do (through providing a methodology that studies the relationship between how we think, communicate and behave), NLP provides a technology for accelerating learning. NLP deals in patterns of effective thinking and communication, so accelerated learning occurs as a byproduct of NLP methodology (multi-sensory teaching, multiple descriptions, pattern detection). NLP provides accelerated learning in and of itself without using the accepted rituals of Accelerated Learning (background music, coloured pens, scripted lessons, short activities). These were designed by Lozanov specifically for learning languages and later modified by Rose for wider application. They are part of a content description of a teaching method designed to engage the learners’ attention fully, in all senses and in different mind states. The engagement of these criteria is found in NLP without the content ritual of formal accelerated learning.


What is NLP?


Collingwood, Jules. Collingwood, Chris. (2001). The NLP Field Guide; Part 1. A reference manual of Practitioner level patterns.

DeLozier, Judith. Grinder, John. (1987). Turtles all the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius. Bonny Doon CA: Grinder, DeLozier and Associates.

Dilts, Robert. Grinder, John., Bandler, Richard., Cameron-Bandler, Leslie., DeLozier, Judith. (1980). Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1; The study of the structure of subjective experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications