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What is NLP? The Introduction
The Basic Presuppositions of NLP

The Introduction

Most NLP’ers (i.e. someone who has learned and practices NLP) when asked “What’s NLP?” will give the stock reply that it is the “Study of Subjective experience.”

“What's that?” is usually the next question. Well let’s break down the 3 words.

Neuro refers to the Brain with its 5 senses:
- Visual
- Auditory
- Kinesthetic
- Olfactory
- Gustatory

Linguistic is our language and other non-verbal communication that humans indulge in. There is a NEURAL representation of the above senses in terms of what we experience in terms of;
- Pictures
- Sounds
- Feelings
- Tastes
- Smells
- Self-talk

The last word Programming refers to our behavior i.e. our ability to use the programs to tinker with the NEURAL representations to achieve our goals.

NLP is often referred to as the “software of the brain.”

It is a model and methodology for being able to:

 1. duplicate human excellence and

 2. learn new behaviors at an accelerated rate.

Another more user-friendly definition of NLP is:

“NLP is an attitude and a methodology that leaves behind a trial of techniques.”
This definition was offered by Richard Bandler, one of the two main co-developers of NLP. The other main co-developer was John Grinder.

NLP is first and foremost an attitude. What attitude?

It is an attitude of curiosity and attitude of willingness to experiment.

NLP is also a methodology. A methodology for modeling excellence.

What is meant by “modeling?”

Modeling is the extrication and replication of human excellence.

Both the attitude and the methodology leave in its wake a trial of techniques. NLP has provided hundreds of techniques for communication and behavioral change.

When we see someone does something exquisitely well the questions that should go through our heads are:

• How is this act possible?
• How does this person (the exemplar) do it?
• How is this act possible for me?
• How do I begin to do it?

NLP is about constant and never ending change and improvements in our professional and personal capability.

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The Basic Presuppositions of NLP

These presuppositions provide a mental framework or philosophy for looking at the world. They are not always true but give the NLP’er more choices, flexibility and therefore resourcefulness for operating in the field. We feel empowered when we assume them to be true (unless proven otherwise).


1 The map is not the territory.
What we see as the truth is just own projection based on our values, beliefs, experiences etc. Other people may not share our “truth” as they have their own maps.
2 The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
Not how well our intention is.
3 Individuals have all the resources they need to achieve their desired outcomes.
IN NLP we believe people are not damaged goods unless they are unable to utilize their own resources.
4 Every behavior is motivated by positive intention (for the person doing the behavior though not necessarily for the person on whom the behavior was done to).
This is the most controversial of these presuppositions. The employee who has just been sacked thinks the boss is an evil monster. But look from the boss’s angle. Perhaps he needs to cut costs so that the business and other more deserving employees remain afloat; perhaps the worker has not been productive or was the source of conflicts in the company.
Well, if you still doubt this presupposition, ask yourself this question: Have you ever waked up in the morning with a negative intention? Never, right?
5 People make the best choices they can with the resources they have available to them.
6 Effective communicators accept and utilize all communication presented to them. Resistance is a sign of insufficient pacing.
This is the basis of building rapport.
7 The element in a system that has the most flexibility will be the catalyst of that system (also called the law of requisite variety).
In organizations, the person with the most flexibility is called the boss. He has “authority” even to go against established policy if he thinks that’s necessary. So giving yourself flexibility is the same as giving yourself the authority.
In areas inside and outside of organizations, where can you give yourself more authority?
8 Respect each person’s model of the world.
This is a sequel of presupposition no 1 if you want to get along with others.
9 Mind affects the body; body affects the mind.
Try, yes, try getting depressed after a few minutes of jogging.
10 Individuals communicate at 2 levels – conscious and unconscious.
The unconscious communication (such as body posture, hand gestures, eye movements etc) gives you higher quality information about the person you are communicating with.
11 The highest quality information in any interaction is behavioral information.
It’s not what they say they will do or intend to do but what they actually do.
Heard of the common expression “What you are is so loud I can’t hear what you say”?
12 All behavior shown on the outside is the result of internal processes.
Our internal feelings, emotions and thinking processes can be “read” by the astute or NLP trained observer. People’s bodies don’t tell lies even if their words do.

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