What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

NLP diagram

NLP could be described as 'the owner's manual for the brain": it can help you understand yourself better and as you learn to manage yourself more effectively new horizons will open up for you and you'll achieve your full potential more easily.

The results you get depend on how much you use what you learn. The more you take action and use the tools of NLP the more you will get out of it.

The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. No one can do it for you, but if you truly want to use these powerful tools the results may well surprise you.

Who is driving the bus?

If one event is consistently followed by another we believe the first causes the second. This is the law of cause and effect. While this law is very effective in describing the behaviour of inanimate objects, it is not so good when it comes down to humans. If I kick a ball at a certain velocity I can predict where it will land but if I were to kick you what would happen? It depends on what you want. This is because you have free will and a ball doesn't.

If you put yourself at the cause end of the cause-effect equation you place the locus of control within you: you believe that you can make a difference in the world around you and that you are responsible for how you think and feel. When you are at cause not only you have the response-ability to make thing happen but also to respond rather than react to things outside of yourself.

If on the other hand if you put yourself at the effect end of the equation you carry the belief that other people (and not you) are responsible for how you feel and act. This idea is built in the English language in expressions such as "he made me angry, she made me feel... this car is winding me up".

This idea leads to believing that emotions are things that happen to you and it will make you act as if you have no responsibility for what you feel and for how you react. On the other hand, people that put themselves at effect also tend to believe that even though other people are responsible for what they do, they themselves are responsible for other people's emotions.

This way of thinking leads to giving your power away and  feelings of guilt whenever others wittingly or unwittingly manipulate us by telling us "you upset me".

So the answer to "who is driving the bus" is you! unless of course, you want to suffer the consequences of believing otherwise.

Do you drive in automatic or manual mode?

Let's stretch the driving metaphor a little more: when you drive in automatic you allow no space between what triggers you and your emotional response. Let's say that someone says something that you interpret in the light of your existing belief system as being offensive or upsetting. You tell yourself or label the incoming information as inappropriate insensitive etc. and then you respond accordingly by becoming upset/angry etc.

The process is unconscious and it happens very fast; so fast that it can look like the trigger is the cause and your emotional response is the effect. The truth is that there is a space in between the trigger and the response, and in that space lies the power of choice to choose your response: this power is what gives you freedom and makes growth possible; this is what makes you drive in manual.

How do you deal with life's blows?

When you are at effect and something doesn't go your way you are likely to ask questions such as "why ?" "why does this always happen to me?"  This question tends to lay blame on yourself or others and focuses your attention on the past. By doing this it does not help you solve the situation or feel good about it.

When you are at cause the question tends to be more something like "What's going on here"? "How's this come about?" "What can I do to change things?" "What do I want instead of this?" These questions focus on the now, and on solutions, rather than the details of problems. If you approach problems this way you are more likely to deal more effectively with difficulties and things won't bring you down as much.

The map is NOT the territory = The world you perceive is NOT reality

To make sense of the world around us we need to filter the information we receive from our senses at all times.

If we didn't we would be overwhelmed and would not be able to function because we would be lost in an overload of sensory information.

Drugs such as LSD temporarily suspend our filtering system and that is why someone on the drug can be lost in mystical contemplation of a leaf for hours on end


Our filters make it easier for us to function effectively in the world but sometimes they can also lead us astray. What are these filters?

  • deletion

we don't notice what we're not interested in

  • generalisation

we see patterns even where there aren't any. what we expect to happen is influenced by our perception of previous events. e.g. if we win twice on roulette we believe we're on a winning streak

  • distortion is divided into four types: 
  1. Confirmation bias (we pay more attention to what confirms our beliefs and downplay or ignore what contradicts them)
  2. Bandwagon effect (we're more likely to do or believe in something when we see many others do or believe in it)
  3. The illusion of control (we believe we can control or influence the outcome of something even when we can't)
  4. The Halo effect (if we like one quality or trait of a person we tend to view their other qualities or traits more favourably)

How do you deceive yourself?

NLP communication model

While we use these cognitive shortcuts to help us with our daily tasks so that we don't have to think all the time about everything we do the negative effects of these shortcuts can be that

  • we jump to conclusions (generalisation)
  • we miss relevant information (deletion)
  • we view people through the lens of prejudice (distortion)

and therefore we end up with an internal representation of reality that is misleading and not useful. 

Seeing that we are constantly filtering the world through the lens of our perception the world we perceive is NOT reality but only a filtered representation of reality: a distorted, deleted reduced and generalised reality.

The map (our filtered representation of reality) is not the territory (reality). Some people would then argue: if that is the case then how can we know reality? The simple answer is that we can't but that doesn't matter.

What matters is not that the map is true but that it is useful. 

The implications of these principles are varied:

  • what you experience is NOT reality
  • A good map is one that is useful
  • yours is not the only 'truth"

How to make NLP work for you:


See other peoples' point of view: put yourself in their shoes and see the world and yourself from their point of view


Remember that your intuitions are just guesses: to avoid the cognitive error of mind-reading (that is, acting as if you knew exactly what the other person is feeling and thinking)  always check your intuitions against what others say they feel.


Start from what makes sense to others: when influencing others to build bridges to where you want them to be, rather trying to convince them that you are right


Explore the boundaries of your map: Ask yourself "where are my limits? Actively look for counterexamples to your generalisations.


Actively look for examples where your limiting beliefs aren't true. Limiting beliefs are beliefs that are holding you back or not serving you.


Ask yourself: what would happen if you did the very thing you think you can't do but would like to do?

Perception is often projection

Expectations are how you expect yourself, other people and situations to be. Our  expectations shape our reality: we project them onto our perception of the world by

  • downgrading information that contradicts our expectations and
  • playing up information that confirms our expectations

How you feel and act is a response to how you perceive the world to be, not the world itself, and other peoples response to you is based on their perception of their own behaviour.  For example: if you are worried about calling someone because you expect to be rejected chances are you will act in a way that will get you rejected. This is what a self-fulfilling prophecy is.

 What it takes to be successful

If you want to be successful you need to change your expectations.

Ask  yourself :

  • What are you projecting out into the world that's getting in the way of your success (or of achieving your goals)?
  • What do you want to project instead?

If you believe nothing you can do can make a difference you will feel a sense of helplessness in everything you do and you will inevitably fail at everything you attempt. If you have had this limiting belief for a long time you will have collected supporting evidence to corroborate your belief and you will have filtered out the opposite. Typically you will have downplayed or discounted your inner resources. To get you thinking on a different level ask yourself:

What could you do to make things worse? If you can make things worse you can also make things better, so explore what you could do to improve things, even if just a little bit.

People who are successful believe that what they do can make a difference. They have a sense of agency.

So ask yourself what you want ( If you don't know, set yourself the goal to find out ) and expect to achieve it!

goal setting

Set goals for yourself!

If you set a goal for yourself you start paying attention to the environment around you differently. You notice bits of information and opportunities that help you move closer to your goal and you get a better sense of who you are and of whether you are moving in the right direction.

Whether you want better relationships, a raise at work or you'd like to shed a few extra pounds NLP can help you achieve your goals by showing you how to use your mind positively and effectively.

integrate NLP principles with Hypnotherapy and Coaching to support you throughout the process of change necessary to be successful in your chosen goal.

If you want to learn more about NLP I would suggest you listen to Andy Smith's Practical NLP podcasts, otherwise why not call me for a no-obligation consultation today and find out how we can work together to get you closer to what your heart desires?

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