What Is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming, aka NLP, is a method of quickly changing a person’s behaviour to one more successful. It analyses those with a ‘successful’ method or personality and seeks to teach those less successful these ‘success traits’ in order for them to improve their success rate.
In general it teaches people to change their lives to become better, fuller and richer than their present levels.
Originally developed by psychotherapists, it started out with a strong psychotherapy bias and as such was targeted at addressing the full range of problems psychologists are likely to encounter, such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, and learning disorders.
In addition, it claimed it could increase a person’s potential for self-determination through overcoming learned limitations and emphasizing well-being and healthy functioning.
The main advantage claimed for NLP by its proponents is the speed and success rates it can achieve compared to all other techniques.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming History
Richard Bandler, as part of his student work at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the 1970s, started to recognize certain phrases and grammatical structures being repeated in a series of taped therapy sessions he was studying. These sessions were of the late Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls and the repeated words and grammatical structure Richard Brandler recognized seemed to facilitate the acceptance of Perls’ suggestions.
Bandler had the intuition that the phrases and grammatical structures he was identifying were crucial to the acceptance of Perl’s suggestions and that, if true, they could be learned relatively easily. In other words, the words, phrases and grammar everyone uses are because of mindset and attitude. Bandler also assumed that the converse could be true. That is you can change your mindset, and consequently your ‘success’, by modifying your use of language to that of a ‘winner’.
But these were only conjectures at that time so Richard Bandler took his ideas to a lecturer, one John Grinder, to discuss them. Together they studied the Perls’ tapes and also observed another therapist, Virginia Satir, and eventually produced what they termed the ‘Meta’ model. That is a model specifically for gathering information about a client and for challenging that client about his underlying thinking.
This Meta Model was presented in 1975 in two volumes, “The Structure of Magic I” which is about language and therapy and “The Structure of Magic II” which is about communication and change. Both these laid out the theory that any complex human activity had structure that others could learn assuming they were given the appropriate ‘models’.
The linguistic aspects were based on John Grinder’s pervious work which itself was based on Noam Chomsky’s transformational grammar. Ideas about human modelling were also drawn from Gregory Bateson and Alfred Korzybski. It was from this period that the expression ‘the map is not the territory’ was linked with NLP.
Gregory Bateson introduced the pair to their third model, Milton Erickson, who they studied at work and included in their two volume book. Erickson’s section was titled ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson vols I and II’ which focussed on language patterns plus some non-verbal patterns that Bandler and Grinder believed they observed in Erickson. While the Meta model is intentionally specific, the Milton model was described as ‘artfully vague’ and metaphoric. It was used in conjunction with the Meta model as a softener, in order to induce trance and to plant indirect therapeutic suggestions.
Also at this time, Bander, Grinder together with a group of students proposed other models and techniques such as, anchoring, reframing, sub modalities and representational systems.
At this time an industry was being developed about human potential improvement and this new technique ‘NLP’ fitted beautifully into this into this new endeavour. As a consequence, Grinder and Bander were marketing NLP as a business tool by the late 1970s. Their claim for NLP was that in addition to being a therapeutic method, it was also a study of communication and as such, it was teachable. Their claim was ‘if any human being can do anything, so can you’. Because of their success in this endeavour, both Bandler and Grinder gave up academic writing in order to concentrate on their business.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Academia
NLP It is used extensively in various management disciplines, team building, organisational development, conflict management and creating culture change within an organisation.
A number of legal challenges were instigated and now the situation is that Bandler and Grinder are known as the co-founders of NLP.
Unfortunately, in general there are few generally accepted academic qualifications for NLP and so the standard of teaching and use of NLP is not consistent. The UK and Australia do have NLP training as adjuncts to some of their courses, but in general NLP continues to be an open field where just about anyone can gain qualification.
Now there are many institutions offering training in NLP and it is a very lucrative business for them. The Guardian reported that in 2006 Paul McKenna produced over £1m in revenue for a seven day course given to 600 delegates. There is a vast difference in the quality of training given in this field.