What is NLP

What is NLP

What is NLP, many people ask me.

NLP is hard to explain, because it is something that needs to be experienced.

I give a different answer every time.  Most answers you give that have detail and a high level of accuracy, will be answered with a blank stare, and misunderstanding. I think it is important to use terms that people can relate to, even if you do run the risk of being a little vague, and using terms that are not so much less accurate though aren’t the official terminology. It is more important for people to have a general idea about what NLP is, than someone having no idea what you are talking about.

Here are elements in your answer you could consider:

1. General explanation using known terms that most people can relate to.

NLP is a toolbox of techniques and communication tools, taken from 3 among the most succesful and capable American psychologists, years ahead of their time. They had an extraordinary high success rate, were extremely effective and created solutions or improvements much faster than their counterparts.  This makes NLP the psychology of what works, and of advanced interpersonal communication.

I am may throw in “working with unconscious processes of the mind” or “we all have a different subjective experience, this is what NLP works with.” Depends on the person.

If anyone asks about the 3 psychotherapists: Virginia Satir (renowned for her extraordinary skill and success in family therapy), Fritz Perls (father of gestalt therapy), Milton H. Erickson (father of modern day hypnotherapy and renowned psychotherapist.)

2. Where can NLP be applied:

Examples: coaching, therapy, education, business, interpersonal relationships, health, wellness, any areas where excellence and success are required.

3. Explain what NLP is not:

NLP works with processes of the unconscious mind, making it different from traditional (dare I say old fashioned) psychology where it is more about the conscious mind. Many (definitely not all) psychologists take a talk therapy approach, where you talk about your past and your problems. Though this can be cathardic for some people, for many people it takes a long time to feel better, to achieve success and talking about problems makes most people feel bad. For example in traditional talk therapy it takes more than 20 sessions (of mental anguish) to resolve a phobia, while NLP has a much higher success rate with doing so in 10 minutes or less. NLP is about directing the brain “here” instead of “there.”  Where “here” is state of excitement, excellence, motivation, happiness, confidence, self love etc. And “there” are states that are the opposite of those. Instead of talking about problems, you talk about solutions, and use special patterns and techniques to change the way your brain codes subjective experience and information.

When someone asks about coding information in the brain, use as an example a bank robbery with 10 witnesses, each have a different account of what happened.

4. Using metaphors


The brain is a like big and complicated computer. Our mind is like software installed on that computer. Most of us have software installed of which the programming sometimes cause us to feel insecure, poor learners, incapable, unmotivated, afraid or even phobic. NLP helps you work upgrading this software, to feel confident, capable, motivated and help you achieve any goal strategically.

5. Using examples that people can relate to:


To someone with a fear of public speaking: for instance there are several NLP techniques, that will resolve your fear of public speaking, and feel confident, motivated and capable instead.

To a business person: NLP helps you set goals, achieve excellence, enhance your skills, adopt skills of people you think are good, become a master communicator, and achieve a high level of understanding of verbal -and non-verbal communication.

To someone with relationship problems: NLP helps you understand how people work, and how people communicate differently. Understanding that will give you a great insight as to how to communicate to your partner. And communicating together in a more effective way, where you can understand each other.

To a teacher: NLP understands what students do inside their head. How do they store information? What strategies do they use to for instance spell really well? And how can you teach a bad speller the same strategy or process a good speller uses? How do you teach and speak to a student in order for them to understand you better, understand and retain information.

Someone who needs change in their life: NLP has a series of techniques that help you set goals, become more motivated, helps you achieve excellence in your new projects, build additional skills. And moves people from the effect side of their life, to being on the cause side of life. Techniques that move people from a state where they feel stuck, to a place where they are unstuck.

5. Mention techniques by name/outcome:

Fast phobia cure, trauma relief pattern, language for negotiation and getting a “”yes”,  discovering root cause problems in someone’s past, technique where someone can learn to step in to feeling of excellence and confidence, technique that help you get rid of habits like nail biting or even smoking, techniques to motivate you to eat better and exercise more. Etc.

6. If you are an NLP Practitioner, let someone experience NLP. Or do a quick demonstration.  Something simple like lettting someone experience  the difference is between association and dissociation.

There is no short answer really. If I have to give one, and I don’t want to get too many questions or dazed looks:

“NLP is a modern highly developed form of psychology. Psychological techniques that are highly effective, fast, and can be learned by anyone. It is the psychology of what works, and of advanced interpersonal communication.”

More resources:

Global NLP Training Website: What is NLP?

NLP in the Press

When someone asks you what is NLP what do you tell them?

What is NLP according to you?


  1. I liked your post regarding describing NLP to others. I too find that I answer the question of “What is NLP?” differently depending on who I am talking to. I usually try to convey that it is a method of communicating with oneself and others for maximum impact.

    I like to stay very surface level, while trying to peak their curiosity. Then when they show interest, I will give more details. I find that some people need examples while others prefer theory. Its fun to use NLP while introducing the techniques to others.

    Thank you for your blog. I will follow it, and look forward to what else you post.

    Best regards,

    Mindful Measures