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This page contains answers to a variety of questions we are frequently asked about neuro-linguistic programming, usually referred to as NLP. Feel free to email us if we can address other questions for you. Click on any question below for an expanded answer.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a body of practical techniques derived from studying the mind and how it packages and structures subjective experience. Described functionally, NLP is the use of communication, emotional, and sensory feedback systems, both internal and external, to achieve maximum effectiveness.
NLP studies the internal processing of the mind and how that processing shapes external behavior. A fundamental thesis of neuro-linguistic programming is that behavior flows from internal state. If my inner state is joyful and expectant, I behave one way. If my inner state is anxious and uneasy, I behave differently.
Drawing on this principle, NLP then examines the mental processes we use to create specific internal states. By learning how to create more resourceful states (and to "short-circuit" unresourceful ones), we empower ourselves to behave more effectively and to generate greater options for responding to life. Thus, unlike schools of psychology that ask why we do things, neuro-linguisitic programming is more interested in how we do them.
The founders of neuro-linguistic programming came from backgrounds in linguistics and computer programming. It's not surprising, then, that terminology from both disciplines is part of the NLP vocabulary, including the name "neuro-linguistic programming."
The term "neuro-linguistic" recognizes the intricate connection of language to the neurology that controls behavior. In the simplest terms, language (whether in the form of words, symbols, or non-verbal communication) fires off internal states. These states, in turn, shape our response to the external world.
Language does more than merely trigger neurology, however. It also molds neurology. Through our own self-talk and by internalizing what others say about us, we learn to view ourselves in a certain way. And each time we see ourselves in that light, certain states activate within us, giving rise to set patterns of behavior.
This language-state-behavior sequence can be analyzed as though it were a computer program. Hence the name, neuro-linguistic programming. Using NLP techniques, it is possible to interrupt non-productive programs and replace them with programs that serve our purposes more fully.
All behavior has a content (what a person does specifically), a pattern (when and where the behavior manifests itself), and an internal process that generates this pattern. Of the three, neuro-linguistic programming is least concerned with content. This sets it apart from self-help approaches that focus on what a person does and why he or she does it.
NLP is far more interested in how a person effects a given behavior. In answering this "how" question, looking at behavior patterns is far more useful than studying the content of the behavior itself. To examine patterns, we ask questions such as these:
Once patterns of behavior are understood, we can identify the starting point and the ending point for the process(es) behind them. At this point we can zero in on the process and modify it. Working at the process level allows us to disrupt counter-productive patterns and enhance patterns that are helpful. This, in turn, gives Neuro-Linguistic Programming great leverage in bringing about self-improvement.
NLP has a myriad of benefits for those who lead businesses and organizations, most notably in such functions as
These benefits result from the focus on mind-body relationships in NLP. According to a key axiom of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, behavior is the most informative indicator of the mind's internal processing. NLP thus equips us to be far more astute in observing what people do and assessing the feedback their behavior gives us.
The value of this skill is immediately apparent. As communicators we can calibrate how others are processing our message. As leaders we can choose language that connects more fully with those we seek to motivate. As managers we can "read" what's going on around us with far greater precision.
In addition, we can be far more purposeful in our own actions and behaviors. We can generate the most appropriate and resourceful internal state for every situation. We can anticipate how our non-verbal language will be received by others. Indeed, one of the greatest benefits of NLP training is the ability to align non-verbal and verbal messages to give our communication maximum clout.