Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is first and foremost the study of language and how it is used to construct our realities and to govern our lives. The words and linguistic structures we choose to use, both in our internal world and externally when communicating with others actually create our world, so having the capability to create the world that you want is essentially down to language. Language has a tremendous influence on how we perceive and respond to our reality and essentially produces our behaviour. That’s a really interesting new viewpoint to take and one that lies at the very heart of NLP.
NLP was born back in the 1970’s when its creators published the first volume of their ground-breaking work, ‘The Structure of Magic’(1975). This work brought together the process of modelling excellence and the mastery of language and provided the platform to launch NLP into the incredible, life changing science as we know it today. Robert Dilts said, ‘NLP is the magic of language and the language of magic’ and I believe that he is right. Language reveals incredible insights into the structure of human nature and used effectively and with ecology, can transform thinking and create change in a most extraordinary way.
The story that follows has been gratefully borrowed from Robert Dilts in his book Sleight of Mouth. The tale illustrates how the right words used at the right time can dictate what happens next.
‘A police officer receives an urgent summons to a local residence to handle a reported incident of domestic violence. The police officer is on alert, because she knows that it is in these types of situations that she is actually in most physical danger. People, especially violent, angry people, don’t want the police interfering in their family affairs. As she approaches the apartment, the police officer hears shouting and screaming coming from inside. A man is yelling loudly and the officer hears the sound of various objects being broken along with the terrified screams of a woman. Suddenly, a television set comes crashing through the front window, smashing into pieces on the ground in front of her. The police officer rushes to the door and begins to pound on it as hard as she can. She hears an enraged male voice from inside the apartment shouting, “Who in the hell is that!” Eyeing the pieces of mangled television set spread over the ground, the police officer blurts out, “Television repairman.” There is a moment of dead silence inside the apartment. Finally, the man breaks out in laughter. He opens the door and the police officer is able to make her intervention, avoiding any further violence or physical confrontation. She later reports that those two words were as useful as months of training in hand-to-hand combat.’
In this story, just a few words changed the course of someone’s life for the better by shifting limiting beliefs to a different and richer perspective that offers a greater landscape of choice. The right words at the right time can have a very positive and powerful effect. Of course, the converse is also true. The wrong words at the wrong time can be very harmful and damaging. NLP is therefore about learning how to easily and effortlessly select the right words at the right time and to do that with unconscious competence.
One of the key principles of NLP is that ‘The map is not the territory.’ This concept was first conceived of by the founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski and is detailed in his seminal work, ‘Science and Sanity’ (1933). The concept of ‘The map is not the territory ’postulates that any map is simply a representation of the ground that it represents. It is a picture which seeks to demonstrate the nature of the geography of the land. The map can never fully and accurately represent the actual geography on the ground because the topography is dynamic and organic in a constant state of change. Each line on a map is merely a representation which approximates what was there at a single point in time, filtered through the eyes of the person that created it. The same is true when we conceptualise our reality. The reality we perceive inside our heads has passed through a complex series of psychological filters which delete, distort and generalise information, so that our representation of the world becomes unique to us as individuals. We then label our representation with language and it becomes our model of the world. Our model is not the reality that exists outside, it is our perception of it. Now this is both interesting and exciting because it means that we have ultimate control of our model of the world through our conscious use of language.
Using the thought processes of NLP it becomes possible to positively affect both our own reality and the reality of others. Imagine having the capability to enhance the lives of others every time you speak. Consider how you could affect your relationships by mastering the use of language. Your business presence will be elevated to new heights and your success will be accelerated beyond your current comprehension and your future will become your own, by embracing the magic of language and the language of magic, NLP.