what is nlp

What is NLP 

The latest buzzword in corporates, among students, homemakers, coaches, and more – is Neuro-linguistic programming. This has generated a curiosity among others to find out more about this life-changing technique, and a question What is NLP all about, and the history of NLP.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

As the name suggests, NLP is the correlation between neurological processing, verbal patterns, and behavioral actions. The model elucidates the systematic and psychosomatic impact of language on the body and the resulting behavioral patterns. The aim and purpose of the model are to enable long-term psychological improvements.

History of NLP

Before someone does a deep dive into what is NLP, applications of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it is imperative to understand the history.  NLP was developed as an approach to communication, and personal development, by its founders Richard Bandler, Frank Pucelik, and John Grinder (Jr.) in the 1970s.

After graduating with degrees in philosophy, mathematics, and computer science, Bandler obtained a degree in psychology. He also helped Robert Spitzer, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, New York edit The Gestalt Approach based on the Gestalt Therapy developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s.

Richard Bandler along with Frank Pucelik (The lesser-known third co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, important information in the History & if you are curious about what is NLP & the history) – started conducting Gestalt Therapy classes at the University of California, with considerable success. Frank’s traumatic time in Vietnam and his work with drug-addicted kids, while Richard’s transcribing and editing of Fritz Perls’ seminal works, led to this collaboration.

Although they saw success with the classes along with some brilliant results, the challenge they were facing was in transferring their skills to others. It was then that Richard invited one of their professors, John Grinder, to model a structure to disseminate their theories. Dr. Grinder was a professor of Linguistics at the University of California and had published several books on Noam Chomsky’s theories of transformational grammar.

Using transformational grammar, Grinder was able to elucidate many questions on why certain techniques in using language as a change, worked and others don’t. The trio then went on to host various seminars and practice groups on ‘how to use language as an agent of change’ in order to transfer their skills to the participants, while putting to test their newly discovered patterns.

Bandler had likened the human mind in its functioning to a computer, in terms of input and output. As per him, unambiguous input results in an expected output; that is to say, if positive behavior is broken down into clear components, people can easily model positive behavior. Grinder’s power of linguistics brought the understanding of ‘surface and deep structure statements’ that transform the meaning and impact of information in the brain, to this understanding.

Grinder and Bandler, based on the works of certain exceptional therapists like Virginia Satir (known as the mother of family therapy), Fritz Perls, Gregory Bateson, and Milton Erickson, formed the basis of the methodology that became the foundation of NLP.

Milton H. Erikson, also known as the ‘father of hypnotherapy’, became a very important influencer of NLP. Many fundamental skills and techniques such as the ‘Milton Model’, named in Milton’s honor, came about as a result of the ‘Eriksonian Hypnosis’.

The Fallout

The team was later joined by a creative group of students – psychologists, and psychotherapists (the co-developers) including Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, David Gordon, Robert Dilts, Steve Gilligan and others (Important part of History & what is NLP), recruited by the trio-Bandler, Grinder and Pucelik. I was fortunate to attend sessions with the co-founders and co-developers of NLP, and the History came in handy to find them out.  Through their creative genius, this group brought forward the correlation between neurological processes with verbal patterns and behavioral actions i.e. the way words and behaviors relate to underlying mental processing. They modeled various cognitive-behavioral patterns, together known as Classic NLP that were later formalized into what is now known as the modern-day NLP.

In 1977, Bandler and Pucelik had a personal fallout. After Pucelik’s removal, Bandler, Grinder, and the rest of the group of associates went separate ways. Many members of the group as a result went out on their own and took NLP in their own directions. Grinder and Bandler later settled their claims around 2001, clearing a platform for the future development of NLP as a legitimate field of endeavor.

Note: Even after four decades of the split between its co-developers, NLP is still going strong- proving its legitimacy and relevance even today.

Meta NLP

Michael Hall, who studied classic NLP with Richard Bandler’s later went on to co-found Neuro-Semantics or Meta NLP along with Bobby Bodenhamer in the mid-90s. Together they further researched the work done prior to Neuro-Linguistic Programming which included General Semantics (GS). Through Neuro-semantics, the duo brought the best of both Neuro-Linguistic Programming and GS, while developing numerous new patterns using the Meta-States Model. It was Michael Hall who unearthed a lot of unknown aspects of NLP-like its history and how it is an offshoot of the Human Potential Movement (Important part of History & what is NLP & how did it start) of the 1960s that talks about cultivating extraordinary human potential lying untapped in humans. Meta NLP as developed by Hall is the latest NLP code. With the latest tools, techniques, and models of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it is being continuously improved by Michael Hall.  I was fortunate to attend Meta NLP training directly with Michael as his work is exemplary, content-rich, research-based, and most important he is a great human being, a true brand ambassador of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Meta NLP.    

Why Neuro-Linguistic Programming 

Just like its parent model, the Human Potential Movement, NLP believes in an unlimited human potential in every individual, that only needs tapping. Through identifying this potential, Neuro-Linguistic Programming has shown practical ways to install these in a person’s mind. This enables an individual to display a high level of excellence that’s already inherent in them. It also looks at ways to incorporate this excellence into an individual’s subjective experiences, as defined in Robert Dilts’ work ‘Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience’. Some of the other books and articles by Dilts defining NLP and elucidating its history are, ‘The Strategies of a Genius’ and ‘Modelling using NLP’, among others.

Again, the deeper one dives into NLP, the more one realizes that it is more of experiential practice than mere theory. Its prime focus is modeling, experimenting, and testing with hands-on classes for people. Here people learn what works for them through trying out different patterns in the form of mental exercises. This helps one understand the functioning of their own brain — how it thinks and stores information. Neuro-Linguistic Programming lets you experiment with your experiences and feelings in order to understand your patterns and processes. The idea is to get you attuned with your unique mind-body-soul connection. This will enable you to easily implement the techniques and take control of your patterns and processes, as opposed to them controlling you.  The history of NLP enables a person to find authentic Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainers to train with. 

Disclaimer: Due to the lack of a central body, Neuro-Linguistic Programming has seen the mushrooming of a lot of NLP trainers. While most of these newbies can be ignorant in its history, many of them aren’t aware of the basics as well, mainly due to poor training that they received for themselves. Therefore, it’s extremely important to carry out research about authentic NLP programs, from the best NLP trainer in India / Asia and get the most out of an NLP Practitioner Program.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Application

Through undergoing and facilitating NLP, trainers and coaches are exploring its various benefits on both personal and professional fronts (for themselves and others); thereby making it a more applicable methodology to practice in one’s daily life.  NLP concepts are used in behavioral coaching these days and many coach training programs are using NLP, Emotional Intelligence, and Neuroscience in the course curriculum.  You will notice that many ICF Coach programs globally, and ICF courses in India are using a lot of NLP concepts.  


Through Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

  • Become a better communicator–apply NLP models in your life, immediately.
  • Become a superstar salesman–NLP helps you quickly create a rapport with clients.
  • Help your child spell easily—NLP’s identified structure of excellent spellers, can get your child to easily model it.
  • Overcome fears/phobias–NLP can help you obtain instant results.



Neuro-Linguistic Programming knowledge enables an individual to choose one’s goals and then achieve them by becoming self-aware, and modeling excellence in one’s thoughts, emotions, and lives. More important than knowing what is NLP or the history of NLP, is learning how to use it. And this is exactly what an experienced Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainer can help a person achieve.   

A top developer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming once said, “One question that many people ask in my class is, ‘what happens if the old fears/thoughts/tendencies return?’ and my answer remains the same-in the off-chance that the change is reversed, just do the technique again to change the pattern. Whether the change lasted 1 day or 1 hour, once you know how to make the change you can make the change again and again. The concept of Neuro-Linguistic Programming does not give you a fish; It teaches you how to fish.


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