NLP Works By Definition

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Today we’re going to talk about NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Do any of you already know anything about Neuro-Linguistic Programming? You’ve probably read books, taken courses or maybe seen my video courses. In some way you’ve formed an idea of what NLP is and that’s why you’re here.Above all, we’ll find out what concrete things NLP can offer you. It is said that NLP is the science of human excellence; something which aims to take us towards excellence. So the goal is extremely high, but so are the rewards. Today we’re down here, but our goal is to arrive up there. I want to achieve excellence by using the strategies of the highest achievers in the world in every field, through communication, motivation, self-esteem and leadership.

Contrary to what many people believe, (the famous ‘sceptics’ of NLP), NLP actually works. Not because there’s a great deal of study behind it, or because it’s an exact science – in fact it’s not a science – but because it’s practical. It works by definition, because NLP is something that works. What you’re going to see today is how Richard Bandler and John Grinder, (I’ve written their names down so you can remember them, even if that’s not essential, it’s just so you have the exact information), founded NLP back in the 1970s.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder were young men in their 20s or 30s, who saw and discovered new things. By observing and spending time with outstanding practitioners in the world of therapy, they discovered that they had become excellent therapists themselves, just by being in contact with them. In the same way that children learn to walk and talk, by observing other children and their parents and by being in contact with them. They learn what they need to know: to grow up and become human beings, adults.

When Bandler was a university student, he was given the job of transcribing the therapy sessions of Fritz Perls – one of the top therapists of the 1970s. Through repeatedly transcribing these sessions and being in contact with this great man, he learnt his strategies. So he didn’t learn by rationalising, or by writing, but by being in direct contact with him. Doing something which we call ‘modelling’ (modellamento), where the therapist is the model and in some way is able to transmit his beliefs and way of speaking and communicating; his mode of therapy. So by being in contact with Perls, Bandler also became an excellent therapist after a while.

John Grinder was a professor of linguistics at the university where Bandler was studying; he specialised in language and the meaning of words; the way that combinations of words were structured to give meaning to a phrase. Bandler told him that he had learnt this skill and asked for his help in understanding what he was actually doing with this knowledge by rationalising the details. He didn’t want it to be a theoretical strategy, but wanted to understand how he had become such a good therapist. He had never studied psychology and knew nothing about this form of therapy but had learnt just by being in contact with the therapist. He had even been able to achieve similar results. So he asked Grinder to help him. Because Grinder was a language expert, he was able to study Bandler’s exact linguistic form and turn this into a series of ‘models’, which in turn gave birth to NLP.

The linguistic part is extremely important because language influences neuro-association, that is our way of rationalising; how our responses are related to our impulses. Often we are programmed and our behaviour is habitual – for example, if someone treats me badly I might get irritated or answer in an aggressive way – we all have these patterns inside us. The term ‘programming’ is not ideal because it gives the impression that we can use NLP to programme the brain, which is not the case.

The term ‘programming’ came about because Bandler was fascinated by technology and so used the programming metaphor, likening the brain to a computer in order to explain the mechanisms. If our behaviour were a programme, we would be able to work on it and modify it, so this metaphor helps to explain how our brains work.

Others describe NLP as an instruction manual for the brain because it allows us to make changes, to motivate ourselves and feel more secure and understand a little about how our minds work. In fact through the study of this therapy and other models, such as those of the great neuropath Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir, the family therapist, they discovered a series of unconscious mechanisms.

These therapists didn’t realise how they were successful – they knew they were experts but didn’t know how they were able to achieve such results. John Grinder and Richard Bandler wrote a series of books, one of which was called ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson’, with a preface by Milton Erickson himself, who wrote: “Thank you to John Grinder and Richard Bandler for having explained to me what I do and what methods I use, because I didn’t know.” Let’s think of ourselves, we know how to do many things. There are things that you’re particularly good at, at school, in university, at work – in whatever field.

But do you know in which way you’re good at them? Could you explain to someone how he could achieve the same results as you in that particular area? Not always. For example, when I discovered NLP, I realised that I was good at many things; NLP gives you the ability to be able to recognise your strong points. Thanks to NLP I was also able to understand how and in what way I was good at what I was doing.

For example, whilst writing the book ‘Seduzione’, I interrogated myself and referred to my own experiences, such as how to approach a girl for example. I had never been aware of my own strategies, but NLP helped me to understand these strategies and transmit them to others. One of the questions that the founders of NLP asked themselves was “How come Milton Erickson, who is one of the best in his field, is not such a good teacher?” He teaches everything he knows, but his pupils are not able to achieve the same results. The answer was that he taught only the things he knew, not the skills he was unaware of using. He didn’t transmit his most intimate strategies or the fact that his beliefs about a client were instrumental in achieving a result, because he was unaware that he was using these tools.

I’ve seen videos of Milton Erickson and one of these featured a woman of 40 who was depressed. He cured her just by talking to her. I watched how she listened to him; she was completely immersed in the conversation. It’s true he used particular linguistic models, which are encompassed in the ‘Milton Model’ – if you’ve read NLP books on this model, you’ll have discovered that there are hidden commands, suggestions, evocative questions and so on. If you watch this video, you’ll see the Milton Model, but his attitude when he speaks to another person is completely different – perhaps it’s this, which makes the difference, not his behaviour or the language he uses. It’s the fact that at that moment, his client is the most important person in the world. Whatever they’re saying at that moment is the only thing that matters to him, nothing else exists. There’s no hypnosis, NLP or other people; just his client and what he’s saying. He’s genuinely interested and I believe it’s this attitude that makes the difference.

Bandler still teaches NLP today and says that NLP is not a collection of techniques, as the majority of people believe and the majority of trainers worldwide choose to teach. NLP is not technique, it’s attitude – an attitude of curiosity, being open to the world and to others, trust and understanding. It’s not about using technique. When I teach, I use the Milton Model and other linguistic models in order to obtain results but I always say if you’re selling a product using these models, knowing that your product isn’t suitable for the person in front of you, these models won’t work. You transmit your beliefs about the product in some way; that the product is not right for that client and so you are unable to sell it to them. Even if you are particularly talented and manage to sell it, what happens? After a while, that client realises they’ve been cheated and doesn’t come back to you. They speak badly about you, making the whole experience pointless. So attitude is extremely important.

Penny (
Penny (

Truth-seeker, ever-questioning, ever-learning, ever-researching, ever delving further and deeper, ever trying to 'figure it out'. This site is a legacy of sorts, a place to collect thoughts, notes, book summaries, & random points of interests.