Is NLP Manipulative?


Frequently I get the question, or even accusation, of NLP being manipulative. NLP is absolutely manipulative. If you look up the definition of the word manipulation in the dictionary it says: “ influencing or attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purposes.“

manipulativeHowever most people hold a negative connotation when it comes to the word “manipulation:” to get someone to do something for your own personal gain where the outcome is bad for someone else. NLP can certainly be manipulative in that way too, it depends on which NLP Practitioner is using it and what the intention is. Yes, NLP can be used in marketing and sales. It can be used to get another person into bed. It can be used to get someone to agree with things they wouldn’t ordinarily agree with. This is true. But is it fair to blame NLP for that, and hold it against all NLP Practitioners? That’s like blaming the English language for misuse, or blaming your dashing good looks as the reason why someone cheated on their significant other.

It is important to understand that other NLP Practitioners want to “manipulate” the client into personal change, to switch from feeling unresourceful to feeling resourceful. These Practitioners want to help you set goals, to find out what specifically is going on with you, help you solve your problems by questioning you in the right way, fix a phobia, and inspire you with a motivational speech. Some clients want to teach better, raise their children in a more positive way, increase their performance, and so on.

So that answers the question: NLP is manipulative in a negative way when a person who is up to no good uses it. However, when it is used with a positive intention it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most effective tool for personal change. I think NLP often receives a bad rap, because some people cloak it in mystery, and it is true that some key figures in the world of NLP or who are using NLP are indeed up to no good. NLP is far less mysterious than anyone thinks, and I think NLP sometimes gets a little more credit than it deserves usually by claims that people make about their own skill set … as if NLP Practitioners who have completed training are better communicators than people who naturally communicate really well.

The licensing organization is called the “Society of NLP” not “Secret Society of NLP.” The best way to understand NLP is that it is a set of tools and communication techniques that people use naturally when they are very good at something. They do so without any training, whether they are building rapport, helping someone overcome a fear, setting a goal, and yes indeed, selling a car, too. So it is about personal development. NLP training is a way to improve your existing skill set, and the level of aptitude in communication is different for all of us. A bad communicator can become a good communicator, and a good communicator can become great. The NLP practitioner student decides what his or her specific reasons are, and who it is they are to become.


  1. Spot on Nicole. Virtually any skill (if not every) can be used for both good and not so good purposes. NLP as a set of tools can be used as any other tool, say a knife that can virtuosly carve a magnificent piece of woodden art or … well – you can fill in the blank as to the potential evil that can come from such a tool. Modeling excellence, effective win-win communication, tapping into your best potential and developing your personal success with NLP tools is positively manipulative and that is a good thing

  2. I encounter people, who consider NLP negative quite often. Its funny to me, because in reality their opinion reflects their own emotional maturity. They basically state, that if they had the ability to influence people, they would probably do so for their personal gain, be it emotional or physical.
    Once I understood that, it became much easier to understand how to deal with such beliefs in people.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree. In the end it just gives you information about the maps of those people. I think some people are also not ready, fearful of trying something different, opinions that aren’t well informed, or simply filter for the negative. All I can say is….glad that I have my own filter.